audio, reviews

Listening to Hunter’s Chase on Audible

I had a long drive ahead to visit family, a solo road trip I wasn’t looking forward to, but then I remembered that I had downloaded the audiobook of Val Penny’s Hunter’s Chase on Audible. So, I hit play on my iPhone, and away the book’s narrator and I were traveling on the road together.

In what I recognized as an authentic Scottish accent by the narrator, I listened as DI Hunter Wilson had some serious problems to deal with in Edinburgh, Scotland like drugs flooding into the city and three related deaths. Then, there were the responsibilities of running a department.

This was not the first time I became immersed in Hunter’s Chase. I read the book when it first came out and I continued with the other four in Val Penny’s Edinburgh Crime Mysteries Series. I love a UK mystery whether it’s on a page, a screen or my phone. My preference are strong characters, like the very classy DI Hunter Wilson, and a plot that keeps me guessing. Val does that well.

Knowing how Hunter’s Chase ends didn’t lessen my enjoyment listening to it. Although a few of the Scottish pronunciations escaped me — I am American after all — I was thoroughly involved in the narration.

Thanks Val Penny for making that long trip there and back an enjoyable one.

(By the way, I am writing this post as part of the Hunter’s Chase Audible Blog Tour organized by Reading Between the Lines Book Vlog.)



Author Val Penny

Val Penny’s crime novels — Hunter’s Chase, Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force, Hunter’s Blood and Hunter’s Secret — form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by darkstroke books. Her first non-fiction book Let’s Get Published is also available now and she has most recently contributed her short story, Cats and Dogs to a charity anthology, Dark Scotland.

Val is an American author living in SW Scotland with her husband and their cat.


Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city, and he needs to find the source, but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course.

Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder, but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: Detective Constable Tim Myerscough, the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable Sir Peter Myerscough.

Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this first novel in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series.








audio, cars, French

Parlez-vous français?  Oui, in my car

That’s dans ma voiture by the way. A while back, I wrote how I am listening to audiobooks on my commute to work. Now, I am using that time to relearn French.

Why French? Well, I took it for seven years when I was a kid starting in seventh grade. I recall reading some heavy-duty French lit in high school, but I didn’t get to be truly fluent until I went to Paris when I was a college student. I will cut to the chase, but my curiosity about the Seine got me into a sticky situation with a man I met, and I was suddenly fluent enough to rescue myself. Then, I used that skill to get me through Europe for a couple of months.

But after that, I didn’t have an opportunity to use French, and so it sunk into my subconscious.

Well, until now.

Ella, my 7-year-old granddaughter, is in her second year in a French immersion program at her elementary school. When she spoke with me in French, I realize how rusty I was. (Her mother, my daughter, Emily, is taking a French course as well.)

Wouldn’t it be fun to converse in French with my smart granddaughter? Mais, oui.

So, I found a course on Audible. “Learn French for Beginners” with Paul Noble , who takes those listening through the paces for 12 hours and 38 minutes. A native-speaking French expert assists with pronunciation.

(I am excited that he has advanced courses in French on Audible, plus basics in many other languages.)

So, at the start of my 15-20-minute trip, I plug in my ear buds and use the app on my phone.

Right now, we are on the so-called language ground rules. We build sentences, and many seem appropriate if I was a traveler in a French-speaking country. It certainly wasn’t that way when I originally learned the language.

So how is going? Frankly, I surprise myself how much I recall, that the French language is indeed inside me. The words and phrases roll off the tongue. If I run into a complicated lesson, I back track and go over it again. Paul Noble says that’s fine. He is a reassuring teacher, urging his students not to worry. He says it will all make sense when we reach the end.

But my first test will be coming soon when I visit Ella later this month. Or rather …. Je vais visiter Ella.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A snapshot of me in Paris a long time ago. Sorry, it’s very small photo.

THANKS: I am thankful for the readers who have bought my books and even given reviews. Here’s a link to my books in case you are curious: Joan Livingston books on Amazon.








audio, books, reading

Reading While Driving

Nah, I’m not that stupid. So, I do the next best thing. I listen to someone read the book to me while I drive to and from work.

I love to read, and frankly, all those years when I couldn’t write, that’s how I learned when I finally got over that 25-year writer’s block. I was a regular at the public library wherever we lived, hauling home an armful of books. (I did this when I was a kid, too.)

Then, I got into collecting first editions. As I’ve written before, I typically buy these books at places that don’t value them, so I get great deals like the first edition but not first printing of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man for a buck. I shop online and go to fundraiser book sales. My most recent score was at a local library’s sale, where it appeared someone dumped their collection of Dennis Lehane’s first editions, including a signed Mystic River. My cost? A buck a piece.

But I digress.

My job as editor-in-chief at a daily newspaper — the Greenfield Recorder — takes up a lot of my time. I won’t bore you with the hours I work, but suffice it to say my reduced free time makes me choose between writing books, specifically the fourth in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, or reading them. Then, I thought, why not listen to books?

I used to listen to audio books when I had a 45-minute commute to a newsroom years back. My current commute, at eight miles, is a lot less than that, but it’s enough time. Besides, I’m tired of listening to depressing news on NPR, and the local stations don’t interest me.

So, I went to my local library, did the paperwork for my card, and checked out Stewart O’Nan’s The Odds, about a couple in financial and marital trouble who go to a casino at Niagara Falls. It took me a bit to get used to the narrator’s voice, but he kept me entertained, even doing a woman’s voice, during my commute. I’d say it was a successful experiment.

The next audiobook, Tony Hillerman’s The Sinister Pig, was a disappointment that I returned before I even finished the first disc. I couldn’t get into the marble-mouthed narrator. So, I traded it in for something else — Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover.

Our local library has a limited collection, but I can order books through the inter-library system. I am also going to try the much larger library at the city where I work.

I believe listening to someone reading a book is as good as my reading it myself. So, mission accomplished. I can use my free time to write instead.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A scene at Acadia National Park on a recent camping trip.

MY BOOKS: No, I don’t have audio books. (My attempt to do it on my own failed despite by best efforts.) But I do have books in print and digital form, including the first three books in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. Get thee to Amazon. Here’s the link: Joan Livingston books






audio, books, Professor Groovy, Writing

If At First

Heck, you can fill in the rest of that quote. I am also a big fan of ‘perseverance furthers” from the I Ching. Yes, I will stick with something until I get it done, whether it is digging a ditch, writing or publishing. My aim is for a successful conclusion. That is especially true these days.

I wrote a little while back about trying to record an audio book for Professor Groovy and Other Stories. The editing was a killer. Even so, I didn’t like the end result. So, I pulled apart my office-turned-studio and took a weeklong break. In the meantime, I did more research about breathing (yeah, you gotta breathe, but just do it naturally) and other related stuff like drinking Throat Coat Tea beforehand. It’s amazing what is available on blogs and YouTube.

As for GarageBand, I found the settings I need via the very helpful Rob Dircks, who wrote Where the Heck is Tesla. I’ve never met the guy, but he’s very generous with his help. Find info in the blog section of his website Gold Finch Publishing

Then, Friday night, I brought every piece of foam (like the seats from the couch), pillows and blankets we have into the office. Now, it looks like the bedroom some of my kids had when they were teenagers. Ah, but there’s no echo.

Saturday morning I was ready to roll. I set up tracks with the right settings. I did a few practice runs. I did better on the breathing so I didn’t sound like I was gasping at the start of each sentence. A couple of the tracks came out great, the others, not so great. I checked and found the problems in the settings.

So, on Sunday — I told you I’m persistent — I did new recordings and redid the unsatisfactory ones from the day before. I haven’t started the editing yet, but I can tell after listening, this will be a breeze compared to the first time I tried this.

And this round, I not only found I could read longer, I had done this so many times, I could recite parts of the short stories by heart, especially the start of Professor Groovy. “The sixties came just in time for Professor Edward Burke, who was meandering through middle age while everyone around him was fresh and young… ”

What else is a do-over these days? A Kindle Countdown. I tried one in May for Peace, Love, and You Know What, but got the dates mixed up so I wasn’t doing promotion until the end. Well, that was a waste, but a lesson learned.

But guess what? Another Kindle Countdown starts Wednesday, Aug. 24. The digital form of my 80,000-word novel goes on sale for 99 cents for two days — the same price as the Kindle version of Professor Groovy and Other Stories. Then, the price bumps up a buck in increments until it’s back to its normal price of $4.99 on Aug. 31. Here’s the link: Peace, Love, and You Know What

No, I don’t make a lot of money on this. But my goal is to attract readers.

Thirdly, an update on another do-over: reading my novel The Sweet Spot backwards. It is slower-going than reading it forwards, but I highly recommend it. I find that I concentrate simply on the words in that paragraph and not the plot. I am pleased at what I’ve found so far, not a lot of changes, but significant ones.

Lastly, another reading of Peace, Love, and You Know What is in the works for Sept. 17 at Brodsky Bookshop in Taos. My friend Andrew is playing The Beatles on his bassoon and, yes, there will be brownies. More later …

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: I snapped this shot of Mexican hat flowers growing in the front yard. They grow wild here.


audio, Professor Groovy

Just For The Record

Where have I been the past week? Holed up in my office-turned-recording-studio to create my first audio book — Professor Groovy and Other Stories. How am I doing? I’m getting very close to the end.

Recording Professor Groovy has been time-consuming, especially the editing part. Hence, no posts and only minimal activity on Facebook, except to see what my digital friends are up to and to signify likes, happy birthdays, plus encouragement ProfGroovy_Coverwhen needed. I have been out of the house on errands, my neighbor’s birthday party, and a friend’s house. (I brought my computer so she could hear what I’m doing.) I do try to take walks and spend some time in the vegetable garden.

My office studio remains awash in foam. The curtains are drawn. The windows are shut. The door is shut too so the cat doesn’t jump on stuff although she is allowed inside during the editing process.

As for equipment, I have the book on my iPad so I don’t have to rustle paper. The microphone has a pop filter and a cord leading to my computer. I do have to take breaks when the hot water heater on the other side of the wall fires up. But other than that, it’s a workable environment.

This has been a learning experience, recording and editing on GarageBand. I downloaded the newest version, used the recommended settings, and had a go. There were lots of practice sessions and false starts.

When I record, I stand in front of the microphone. I drink a lot of water at room temperature. I gargle with mouthwash. I avoid certain foods like dairy before recording. Still … I never thought I was a person with a mouth full of spit but there it was. Once I read to hold off drinking coffee before a recording because it is dehydrating. Well, that didn’t work. Besides I am not an opera singer.

(Meanwhile, I read a story in the New York Times that audio books are hot. Okay!)

I started with the shortest story — Ripple in the Jungle — then worked my way up in length.

That is the fastest part. The longest is editing out all the gulps, gaps, and booboos. I learned how to cut out the lousy sections and leave an appropriate amount of space between each. Luckily the internet offers lots of useful info. (Thanks especially to Rob Dircks.)

I listened to the stories this afternoon. Three sound great. Alas, Professor Groovy needs to be re-recorded. I’ve tried and tried to fix things, but I have come to the realization it’s time to cut my losses and make a do-over. It just doesn’t have the same quality. Don’t ask me why. I am still new to this.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: My desk set up for recording.

LINK: Thanks to those who have read my books. Here are links to Amazon.

Peace, Love and You Know What

Professor Groovy And Other Stories