Spotlight & Excerpt: These Gossamer Strings + Giveaway

These Gossamer Strings blog announcement

Cover - These Gossamer Strings

These Gossamer Strings
Series: The Last Gift #3
by Allegra Pescatore
Genre: Gaslamp/Epic Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Adult
Pages: 729
Published: July 12, 2022
Publisher: Ao Collective Publishing

Book Blurb:
A Silence is Broken. The River Beckons. The Forgotten Wait.

With eighteen days until her tribunal and Water Rite, Elenor must find a way to save her doena and keep her throne. The threat of war looms larger and only an alliance through marriage has the potential to save it. But who to trust when all her closest allies have secrets of their own?

The past is creeping up on them, a web of maneuvers and lies spreading back to before the fall of the DomEmpire. Gabriel can feel it constricting around them, drawing him ever closer to a future he never wanted. Confronting the truth of his heritage may be the only way to save Lirin, but at what cost?

Perhaps one the desert has already paid. Shaken after the death of the Red, the Mondaer must choose their path forward. Protect the new Gatekeeper and Incarnate as they have always done, or embrace a future without reliance on Gifts? Fedrik and Fay’s safety depends on the answer, and it’s not looking good. Would they be better off trusting Daemon, or is North right that he intends to use them as a weapon?

These Gossamer Strings is the final installment of the first arc of the Last Gift Series. Threads torn asunder are weaving back together and the Gatekeeper is coming for his Incarnate.

Content/Trigger Warnings (on page):

Domestic abuse
Graphic violence
Mild gore
Character death
Human experimentation
Deliberate character gaslighting
Drug dependency
Abuse of power by people in positions of privilege

Content/Trigger Warnings (Alluded to):

Non-graphic mentions of child abuse

Have Fun Stormin’ The Castle • #DisabilityPride • The Noble Sport of Urchin Tossing



“I can’t believe you suggested this, or that I agreed to it,” Fedrik said, as the mock dragon rose higher into the sky. It was close to midnight. The sheer walls of the Sandhewn City were cast into stark shadows by the narrow rays of moonlight piercing the gloom of the canyon. Other than the beating of the mock’s wings, the night was silent—devoid of the crickets and birds of Lirin, or the humid heat that always kept Fedrik awake. He wanted to take advantage of the crisp chill and quiet to sleep, but after a fruitless week of training, this was what they had come up with.

“Trust me, I’m kicking myself for it too,” Fay squeaked, holding onto the saddle, eyes squeezed tightly shut. “But we’ve talked about it for days. The only time we know for sure your Gift stopped working is when we landed in the Mondaer and Leo branded us. Which means that at some point while we were falling, your Gift turned off or weakened enough for mine to return and take control. It’s the best lead we have, and we’ve tried all the pieces separately. All that’s left is trying them together.”

“I still think we should have waited ’til morning,” he replied, raising his voice over the whoosh of leathery wings gaining altitude.

“And have Suela shouting at us the whole time or lecturing me even though I’m literally doing what she told me and facing my fears? No way. You and I have always worked best on our own. We can figure this out. I hope. That, or we’ll break our necks.”

“That’s not reassuring, Avilor. I like my neck unbroken.”

They rose higher, Fedrik’s hands sweating with nerves on the guide ropes of the green mock. Denzel’s dragon had been the only one who hadn’t hissed when he’d gone to saddle one up for this idiotic plan, so it was the one they were riding. With the way it had stared at them the whole time, though, Fedrik had to wonder whether the reason Shanty hadn’t hissed was because she was considering how best to eat them.

Against all sane advice, they each only had one set of straps on, the latches loose for easy removal. They were hovering above a portion of the Sandhewn City buried in a dune, a long slope running down toward the stream at the base. A rope securely tied them together at the waist, and in an attempt not to die or get too injured in this stunt, they were both wearing as much padding as they had been able to find.

Fedrik wasn’t convinced it would be enough. “I would feel much happier if we had helmets on, like at the Academy.”

“Yeah, well, I’d feel much happier if we weren’t stuck on a dragon in a fucking sandpit, but I guess I care about helping you or something equally dumb, so shut up. Ready?”

No, he was not, but since it was Fayrian Avilor suggesting jumping off the back of a diving mock to try to get Fedrik out of this mess, he couldn’t exactly refuse. “Ready.”

“For this to work, you’re going to have to call it or it won’t be like last time. I’m going to squeeze my eyes shut and try not to break your eardrums.”

Hands shaking, she reached down to unclasp the last of the straps around their legs. Fedrik thought he heard her cursing under her breath and was tempted to do likewise. Completely unrestrained on the back of a mock he didn’t know, Fedrik reached around Fay to clutch the saddle, wiggling his boots more firmly into the stirrups. “I’m going to regret this.”

Without giving himself time to back out, he dug his heels into the sides of the mock and yelled, “Dive.”

The green screeched, tucked its wings in, and did just that. The angle was so sharp and steep Fay wasn’t the only one to scream. Every muscle in his body went taut as he tried desperately to dig his knees in enough to keep them in the saddle. At first he closed his eyes against the wind, but snapped them open when he remembered that he was the one who was supposed to jump. 

The ground was coming up at them at an alarming speed. This is stupid. This is so fucking stu—

Fedrik unhooked his feet from the stirrups, grabbed Fay firmly around the waist, and a second before Shanty snapped her wings open, launched them both into freefall. Fay flailed, shrieking at the top of her lungs. They hit the sand so hard all the air was forced from his chest, her terrified shout cutting out as well. He didn’t have time to take in how much it fucking hurt, though, because they were rolling. Fedrik tried to keep his hold on Fay, but they had hit the sandy slope at an angle and his arm didn’t bend that way. They tumbled, bumping into each other as dust billowed up, getting in his mouth and nose with each frantic gasp of air, until they landed in a heap at the bottom of the hill.

Fedrik wheezed, Fay’s elbow digging into his throat. He was entirely unable to ask her if she was alive. He wasn’t sure he was alive, either, come to think of it.

“D’t wr’k?”

“What?” he managed to splutter, spitting out sand. Everything hurt but nothing hurt worse than anything else, so either no bones were broken, or all of them were.

“Did it fucking work?” she repeated, a little clearer but still interrupted by several hacking coughs.

“You tell me.” Fedrik pushed her arm away, struggling to sit up.

A moment of silence, during which he supposed she was searching for her Gift, then she let out a groan.


“Nothing.” Fay sat up, rubbing the back of her neck. Her face was scrunched into a frown. “Shit.”

Fedrik decided to flop back onto the sand instead of joining her. “Well, no one can say we didn’t try. Hurt?”

“Very bruised, but I don’t think anything is irreparably damaged. I guess maybe this is good, right? Means we don’t have to jump off a dragon every time we want to get your Gift under control.”

“What if it can’t be?” Fedrik stared up at the clear night sky. “We’ve been at it for days, Fayrian, and nothing. Not once has anything we’ve tried even come close to working. We did it by accident, but what if that was because my Gift was still growing? What if it’s impossible?”

She smacked his already aching thigh. “Listen to yourself, Tellen. We’ve been at it for mere days. It took me years to get control of my Gift.”

“Well, we don’t have years. I bet we don’t even have weeks. I killed their God, Avilor. How soon before one of the Mondaer who keeps flying food down to us hears of it, and decides to poison me? Or a whole army comes hunting for vengeance. If we don’t figure this out fast, I’m dead, and you too, probably, for helping me.”

Fay let out a long sigh, then flopped down next to him. “Then we keep trying anything and everything we can think of until it works. Maybe we’re missing something.”

“We went over the fall from that mock with a fine-toothed comb and accounted for everything we reasonably could. If the determining factor was a night-long ride on a wild mock dragon, I doubt that’s any more actionable than no solution at all,” Fedrik said, feeling contrary. “I’m tired, Fay. We should call it a night.”

“More like you’re grumpy and depressed. I get it. Why do you think I was so surly all the time in school? Figuring out magic while dealing with the never-ending desire to commit murder isn’t a fun combination, and yours is significantly worse in both respects than mine.” Fay pushed up on one elbow, hair falling out of her bun and shining in the moonlight. “How can I help?”

“Have a feather bed, a meal that doesn’t taste foreign, and a sense of normalcy hidden away somewhere?” he asked, with a sigh. “Or enough drugs to knock me out so I don’t spend all night dreaming about her?”

“Alas, none of those, but if you want me to bash you over the head with a rock, I could probably be convinced to oblige.”

“Damn it.”

“What?” Fay asked, looking around as though expecting something to jump out at them.

“Rock bashing. I hadn’t thought of that. One more way my mind is probably going to visualize killing Elenor now. Thanks a lot.” He closed his eyes with a groan. “I don’t know if I’m strong enough for this. I don’t think I’ll be able to ever have the sort of relationship with her that Suela wants me to. I don’t want to be filled with this much hatred for the rest of my life and have to fight for every minute of self-control, just to keep the woman who got my parents killed alive. If it were you, or Gabe, the effort might be worth it, but—”

“Fedrik,” Fay’s sharp tone broke through his monologue. “You’ve presumably been a Gatekeeper since Hardor, which means before your parents died. You gave up everything to bring her to us, for her protection. You were worried sick for her the entire barge trip out of the city, just as much as you were for Gabriel. At the risk of sounding pro-Elenor Lirion—which I by no means am—have you considered that part of the reason you’ve taken this so hard is because she’s your Incarnate? For all you know, she had nothing to do with it. Or if she did, she might be as torn up about it as you are. People can do dumb things with unintended consequences, but not be monsters. Both you and I are proof of that.”

Fedrik cracked his eyes open to glare at her. “I’m starting to regret asking you to keep me from killing her. I was thinking more rope and less mature-Fayrian-trying-to-reason-with-me.”

“When have I ever given you what you wanted, Tellen?” she asked with a small laugh, then flicked his nose. “My point is that Suela spent all week repeating that once you found your Incarnate and learned to care for each other, the desire to kill would get easier to deal with. Well, you already care for Lirion, even if you’re pissed at her at the moment. You said you thought of her as a sister. Well, you were part of my family back at the Academy, then you killed my dad. It might have taken a while, but I eventually found a way to forgive you for it. Considering that you are orders of magnitude more patient and reasonable than me, you’ll be able to do the same with her.”

He didn’t like this new, more thoughtful Fayrian. At the same time, he couldn’t help but reach for her hand. Fedrik brought her knuckles to his lips, planting a kiss on the rough, sand-covered scabs. Fay had never had a lady’s hands. They were calloused, scarred, and almost always nicked and bruised. It was one of the reasons he loved her. “I hope you’re right.”

About the Author:

Author Photo 1Allegra grew up in a small village in northern Tuscany as the daughter of two artists. She was raised on the works of J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Phillip Pullman, Frank Herbert, and many others, all read aloud to her while she drew and played make-believe. She began to write at the age of eight and hasn’t stopped since.

After many moves and dozens of countries visited, she now lives in a cozy cottage in Western PA. She is accompanied in her current adventures by husband Job, co-conspirator and long-time writing partner Tobias, and a small army of furry and scaly pets. When not writing or daydreaming, Allegra rules her kitchen with an iron first and feeds everyone who walks through her door. She also gardens, dabbles in various art forms, and spins stories for her tabletop gaming group.

As a disabled woman and staunch LGBTQ ally, Allegra hopes to write engaging, diverse, and representative Fantasy and Science Fiction, where people who do not often see themselves center stage get the chance to shine.

Her debut book, Where Shadows Lie, was an SPFBO Semi-Finalist and is a CIBA award finalist. It is the first book of The Last Gift series, and the first title of Project Ao, by Ao Collective Publishing. Other titles in Project Ao include NACL: Eye of the Storm (2021 SPFBO Semi-Finalist) and A Bond of Thread.


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Starts: September 1, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: September 7, 2022 at 11:59pm EST
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Spotlight & Guest Post: Whispers of Stone + Giveaway

Whispers of Stone blog announcement

Cover - Whispers of Stone

Whispers of Stone
by Allegra Pescatore
Series: The Last Wish #2
Genre: Gaslamp/Epic Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Adult
Pages: 529
Published: January 2022
Publisher: AO Collective Publishing (Self Published)

Content/Trigger Warnings:

  • Shown on page: Ableism, Racism, Rape (non-graphic, non-violent), Drug/alcohol use (medically necessary), Child abduction
  • Alluded to: Self harm, Homophobia, Child harm

A God is Dead. A Queen is Missing. Secrets are Unraveling.

On trial for the murder of the King, Elenor and Gabriel must become allies if they want to survive. His magic is spiraling out of control, awakening a mystery hidden in the very walls of the palace. She has one month to pass her Water Rite and find a way out of the marriage her parents set up. But things are about to get much more complicated.

Between sadistic family members intent on taking Elenor’s throne, Tirit Mindel breathing down Gabriel’s neck, and a Golden Dragon appearing in the sky above the Mondaer Desert with an ominous warning, more than the Kingdom of Lirin is at stake.

If that weren’t bad enough, time is ticking down for Fedrik and Fay as well. With the desert turning against them and Daemon as a questionable new ally, figuring out how to control Fedrik’s Gift has become a matter of life and death.

Picking up in the fallout of Where Shadows Lie, Whispers of Stone is the long-awaited and non-stop second installment of The Last Gift. Dive back into the world of Dracona and hold onto your hats. Things are about to get… salty.


Author’s Note: While the Last Gift may be read as a stand-alone series, it is meant to be read alongside the other books of Project Ao.

The Suggested Reading Order is:

Where Shadows Lie

NACL: Eye of the Storm

Whispers of Stone

These Gossamer Strings

NACL: Storm Surge (Forthcoming)

Guest Post:

Breathing Life Into Sequels

I sat down at my computer to write an upbeat guest post about sequel writing. I certainly have enough to say about the subject, given that the last year of my life has been lived entirely in the soul-crushing imposter-syndrome-land of Sequeltopia. However, as I look back on the last twelve months, words seem to fail me.

It’s been hard.

I somehow didn’t expect that going in. I figured: the difficult part is over, right? The worldbuilding is laid out, the readers who liked book one already cared about the characters, and all I have to do is entertain.

Oh, what a fool I was.

Now, part of the reason it was so hard is my own miasma of health conditions. In the summer of 2021, I started having trouble breathing. Asthma that was under control for years suddenly spiraled into an all-consuming battle for every single breath. It wasn’t the war many Covid patients fought in. I’m still alive, and never once had to be admitted into the hospital, but never-the-less, my life started feeling as though it were fractured into the space between every successive breath. I was living on the razor’s edge between anxiety and exhaustion as I fell further and further behind on my deadlines.

This did not create an environment conducive to getting words written.

Do you ever drive to work, get there, and realize that you don’t remember a single thing about the drive? That was how my life felt. I’d get into bed after a long day, open my manuscript, and blankly think back on my day, desperately trying to grasp onto anything that might inspire the words to come.

But sequels are hard.

I had all these threads up in the air: plots that needed conclusions and questions that needed answers. Not only that, but I’d made a massive change at the end of Where Shadows Lie two weeks before publishing and had no idea how I’d deal with the ripples. Characters were dead who were supposed to be alive, for goodness sake! If you’ve read my books, you know they are politically dense with intricate plots. So there I was, playing three-dimensional fantasy political chess with less than two brain cells to rub together. It wasn’t working. I desperately needed a plan.

So I threw the plan I had out the window and fell back on that old but true adage: write what you know.

What I knew was that I couldn’t breathe, or think, or function. Neither, therefore—I reasoned—should my main character. Enter, the new plot!

It’s funny how sometimes, things just click. I’d spent all of book one foreshadowing that my main character couldn’t take too much stress. So why not let her—a disabled, chronically ill woman—deal with some of the same nonsense I was? And so, I wrote.

I wrote about how frustrating it is to have that buzzing noise in the back of your head when trying to think. How terrifying it is to have responsibilities weighing on your shoulders when you know that you aren’t holding it together. Sure, Elenor had to deal with a kingdom in trouble and an evil aunt, whereas I was struggling with getting to work in the mornings and remembering to breathe, but the emotions were much the same.

I poured my frustration, my fears, and my pain into her and the other characters who have become so dear to me over the years. Fortunately, as soon as the ball got rolling, some old, well-loved habits kicked in to keep it going. I leaned on my love of causal chains, playing simple ‘if this, then that’ games with the plot. That moved things forward in a logical direction, while my good ol’ workaholism kept me typing away every night despite my health problems. When my brain wouldn’t function, my coauthors and family helped, letting me bounce ideas off of them. Most of all, though, what drove me forward was the simple fact that I was too tired to get in my own way.

I was anxious about breathing, not whether the sequel I was writing was good. Looking back, I think there’s a lesson to be learned in that. Not—to be clear—that I suggest writing a book in the middle of a health crisis. Nor would I endorse letting words get in the way of rest. But getting out of my own way was the best choice I could have made.

I let go of my attachment to writing a sequel that would recapture what I did in Where Shadows Lie, and instead let Whispers of Stone… breathe.

As it turns out, that’s all I really needed.

It’s now been six months since the release of Whispers of Stone. Today, the third book of the series is out too. Each of them has been an entirely different experience, as was the sequel to A Bond of Thread which I’m currently revising. So in the end, I’m forced to draw a simple conclusion: every book—first, fiftieth, stand-alone, or sequel—is a journey, and the only way to find out what kind it’ll be is to get out of your own way and start typing.

Author Bio & Information:

Author Photo 1Allegra grew up in a small village in northern Tuscany as the daughter of two artists. She was raised on the works of J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Phillip Pullman, Frank Herbert, and many others, all read aloud to her while she drew and played make-believe. She began to write at the age of eight and hasn’t stopped since.

After many moves and dozens of countries visited, she now lives in a cozy cottage in Western PA. She is accompanied in her current adventures by husband Job, co-conspirator and long-time writing partner Tobias, and a small army of furry and scaly pets. When not writing or daydreaming, Allegra rules her kitchen with an iron first and feeds everyone who walks through her door. She also gardens, dabbles in various art forms, and spins stories for her tabletop gaming group.

As a disabled woman and staunch LGBTQ ally, Allegra hopes to write engaging, diverse, and representative Fantasy and Science Fiction, where people who do not often see themselves center stage get the chance to shine.

Her debut book, Where Shadows Lie, was an SPFBO Semi-Finalist and is a CIBA award finalist. It is the first book of The Last Gift series, and the first title of Project Ao, by Ao Collective Publishing. Other titles in Project Ao include NACL: Eye of the Storm (2021 SPFBO Semi-Finalist) and A Bond of Thread.


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Ends: July 13, 2022 at 11:59pm EST

Audiobook Spotlight & Interviews: The Cruel Gods + Excerpt

The Thirteenth Hour Banner (1)

Title: The Cruel Gods

Author: Trudie Skies

Narrator: RJ Bayley

Length: 19 hours and 22 minutes

Series: The Cruel Gods, Book 1

Producer: Audiobook Empire

Publisher: Trudie Skies

Released: May 16, 2022

Genre: Gaslamp Fantasy


Cruel gods rule the steam-powered city of Chime, demanding worship and tribute from their mortal subjects. Kayl lost her faith in them long ago, and now seeks to protect vulnerable and downtrodden mortals from their gods’ whims. But when Kayl discovers powers that she didn’t know she had—and destroys a mortal’s soul by accident—she becomes Chime’s most wanted.

Quen’s job was to pursue sinners, until the visions started. Haunted by foreboding images of his beloved city’s destruction, Quen hunts soul-sucking creatures made of aether who prey on its citizens—and Kayl is his number one target.

To ensure Chime’s future, Kayl and Quen must discover the truth of Kayl’s divine abilities before the gods take matters into their own hands.

For a city that bows to cruel gods, it’ll take godless heathens to save it.

The Thirteenth Hour is the first book in The Cruel Gods series—a gaslamp fantasy featuring magical portals, gothic cosmic deities, quaint Britishisms, and steampunk vibes. This is an adult book containing strong language and mature themes that some listeners may find disturbing. For a full list of content warnings, visit Trudie Skies’s website.

Q&A with Author Trudie Skies
  • Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
    • I’m still completely new to audiobooks, though I’ve written technically five books by now, three of them published. I’d been aware of how popular audiobooks are and how much more accessible they are for certain readers. But I was also aware of how expensive they can be to produce. I didn’t think creating an audiobook would be on the cards for The Thirteenth Hour, at least not within the first year of its release, but then a friend introduced me to RJ Bayley, who explained the process in a way that sounded possible.
    • With RJ’s advice and guidance, we created a contract and signed up to Audiobook Empire. From the author side, there wasn’t much I needed to do, which freed my hands to let RJ do all the hard work while I kept on writing!
    • And then one day, BAM! The audiobook was done! And it was divine.
  • Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?
    • Nah, I think all fictional books have the potential to be amazing audiobooks, but it comes down to the narrator, and how they bring that world and its characters alive. Though even non-fiction books would benefit a reader who needs, say, a cookbook that can be narrated.
  • Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
    • Honestly, it wasn’t something I thought about when writing, though the writing style of The Thirteenth Hour is well suited to narration, I think, due to the first-person voice throughout. The only difficulty comes with voices that the characters may be hearing inside their heads, but RJ managed that, and the other races, really well with differing voices and accents.
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • A good friend of mine from the blogging community recommended RJ! At the time, I hadn’t been seriously considering doing an audiobook, but many bloggers had wonderful things to say about RJ and his talents. We shared a few DM’s on Twitter where RJ went over process with me, as I was still new to audiobooks. RJ was so friendly to talk with, that I thought screw it, let’s do it! And that’s one of the best YOLO’s I’ve ever done!
  • How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
    • RJ has an incredibly detailed guide on how he creates his audiobooks and what would be helpful for me as an author to send over, such as descriptions of my characters, what they may sound like, as well as the theme and tone of the book and any playlist which accompanies it. I sent him over a detailed description of the various characters and races from The Thirteenth Hour in return!
    • Because The Thirteenth Hour has twelve unique races and gods, I described what their personalities were like, and then gave RJ the freedom to go wild with their voices and accents. He has an impressive range of voices, and I was blown away by the finished version!
  • Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
    • I take a lot of inspiration from video games. The Thirteenth Hour is set within an Edwardian British-inspired world, and I’ve tried to fit in as many Britishisms as I could, almost aggressively so. There’re a few specific references to things like Mr Kipling and the London Underground.
  • How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
    • I play a lot of video games! Probably too many. As I mentioned above, video games are a source of inspiration for me – The Thirteenth Hour has elements from Final Fantasy and The Elder Scrolls – but games are also a way to relax.
  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
    • What I love about audiobooks is the ability to listen while working or doing housework, which instantly makes both far more enjoyable.
  • Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    • Yes! I can’t say for spoilers, but toward the end of the book, things start getting emotionally intense, and RJ’s performance really brought those emotions to life that I think sounds better through his performance than my written word.
    • Also, there is a scene where a character sings really badly. Words can only do so much to capture the awfulness of that singing, but RJ, being a professional, really delivered!
  • What’s next for you?
    • Right now, I’m finishing up the sequel to The Thirteenth Hour, which is called The Children of Chaos. Then I’ll be launching into the third and final book of the trilogy, though I expect I will be writing stories within this world for years to come. Join me in Chime!

Q&A with Narrator RJ Bayley
  • How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance?
    • I completely stumbled into it. I was working a normal job before I got chronically ill and was diagnosed with diabetes. That made my depression incredibly bad and I went through some psychosis. I had to go off work long-term sick and eventually lost my job. The next few months were spent applying for jobs I didn’t really want and then, also-depressingly, getting rejected for them anyway. It was my wife who mentioned a friend of hers narrated audiobooks through ACX. Doing community radio, I had a microphone and knew my way around Audacity so I gave it a shot. I got the first or second book I auditioned for, at a PFH rate, so I decided it was worth really pursuing as a career. It turned my world around; in part, it, and therefore my wife, saved my life.
  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
    • I’m an avid listener. Unfortunately I am your stereotypical millennial who is addicted to my phone. When I try to sit down with a book my mind eventually wanders to my mobile, even if it’s the greatest book ever written. Audiobooks are a different matter. I can zone right into them but keep my hands occupied, be it walking my dogs, doing chores or painting my Warhammer 40,000 models. Usually while listening to a Warhammer 40,000 audiobook! I joke that I literally have to be paid to sit down and read a book.
  • What would you say are your strongest narration abilities?
    • People have said I’m really good at making character voices distinct, so probably that. I like to narrate books in a way that I’d want to hear them, so I want the audience to know exactly which character is talking when, even without dialogue tags. I often pick up interesting voices I like from movies, video games, TV or real life and put them in my back pocket so I can give them to an appropriate character in a project.
  • What about this title compelled you to audition as narrator?
    • It was a combination of the series title and the cover. The cover artwork is absolutely gorgeous which drew my eye. Seeing the series is called ‘The Cruel Gods’ massively appealed to me as there’s little more epic than having gods as your antagonist. Reading the blurb and a sample of the book and discovering what a clearly very talented writer Trudie is, I knew I had to try and narrate this. I feel like I got a sense of her ethics in the sample and synopsis, and I think we’re quite similar in a lot of our outlooks, so that also made me want this project.
  • How did you decide how each character should sound in this title?
    • I usually send authors I work with a Welcome Pack. Part of this is a character info sheet, where they can fill in how they see the character, how they think they should sound, their education level, things like that. All of that helps inform how the major characters will sound. Trudie returned an extremely helpful one, including character portraits, which was amazing for my narration. Trudie’s audiobook gave me even more to work with, however. Her characters are from cultures who generally lean hard into certain traits, such as sinfulness or earthiness, so I was able to match them with accents I associate with those traits, be that sincerely or playfully.
  • Do you read reviews for your audiobooks?
    • Yes. Not regularly, but I like to see how what I’m doing is being perceived. Luckily they’re mostly nice!
  • If so, which ones stand out to you most, positive or negative?
    • It’s the positive ones. They’re really good for my self-esteem and they confirm that my approach works for a lot of listeners. I get that typical artist thing, where I find myself wondering ‘is this rubbish? Am I screwing this up? Am I a rubbish narrator?’, so it’s nice to read that’s not usually the case.
  • What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    • I would ask them if they think that’s true for the visually impaired or others who can’t read, and if they’d say the same to those people. It’s been proven that different folks take in information better in different formats. I and many others happen to find the best way to absorb something is aurally. If I forced myself to read a book rather than listen to it I wouldn’t absorb the book as well – even if I wasn’t distracted by a screen! Obviously this isn’t true for books I’m working on, as that’s a very different process than just reading for fun.
  • What bits of advice would you give to aspiring audiobook narrators?
    • Don’t be afraid to forge your own path. It’s easy to visit some industry audiobook narrator social media groups and get told ‘there is only one correct way of doing things and any other way is the wrong way.’ That’s rubbish. Test common wisdom. If you come up with a quicker way of doing something that gives equal or even better results, then congratulations, you’re an innovator. Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to come up with fresh solutions.
  • What’s next for you?
    • I’m extremely fortunate that my next several projects are all with the wonderful people of Audiobook Empire. I’ve just finished narrating the first The Confessions of Pavane book, The Dragonbone sword by Steven Savile and Steve Lockley, so I’ve got the pickups to come back for that one. I’m also about to start the first Dragon Spirits book by L.L. MacRae, The Iron Crown. That’s a big ol’ epic, so I’m excited to tuck into that.

Trudie Skies has been living inside fantasy worlds ever since she discovered that reality doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Through the magic of books, she wishes to share these worlds of hope and heroes with other weary souls. Living in North East England, Trudie spends most of her free time daydreaming about clouds, devouring whatever fantasy books or video games she can get her hands on, and chasing after her troublesome dogs, who would like to reassure you they are very good boys.

Her debut YA fantasy series, Sand Dancer, was published through Uproar Books. Trudie is now writing adult gaslamp fantasy with her new series, The Cruel Gods.

An accomplished full-time voice actor and audiobook narrator with 4 years of experience.

RJ’s voice has been described by peers as a ‘well-weighted baritone, balanced & deep at the same time.’

Natually he’s got a mild Yorkshire lilt that’s trustworthy and relatable. He’s extremely adaptable however and capable of many convincing accents, or anything you throw at him really.

RJ’s broadcast quality studio consists of a fully acoustically treated room, RØDE NT-1A microphone, Reaper digital audio workstation and Izotope RX7 for clean-up and mastering for that high end sound.

So far he’s narrated over 30 audiobooks with more currently in production. As a VO he’s been the voice of brands such as Nickelodeon, Johnson and Johnson, Network Rail, Aegon, Accord and more.

He’s friendly, reliable, professional, takes direction well and always makes sure you’re happy with your narration.

He maintains he’s not trying to ruin his own career by deafening himself with heavy metal on his dog walks.

At Audiobook Empire, audio reigns supreme, narrators are hailed as heroes, and headphones are worn with pride.

Marrying pomp and circumstance with quality you can count on, Audiobook Empire is a full-service production house that produces and promotes audiobooks with gusto.

Give your audiobook the imperial treatment by producing it with Audiobook Empire.



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