And Now, The Audiobooks!

Several months ago, I got an email from Amazon Kindle Publishing. Would I be interested in becoming a beta test author for their new audiobook generating platform, Virtual Voice Studio? I was skeptical.

How could any computer voice capture the tonality and personality of a live narrator? I worried my books would come across as cartoonish robo-voiced streams of monotonal, mechanical gibberish. “Danger! Danger! Will Robinson.” But the first snippet I heard convinced me the technology had advanced light years beyond what I’d heard before.

Still, Amazon seemed to be promising too much. At no cost to me, I would be given access to an on-line studio, enabling me to create audiobook versions of as many of my ebooks as I’d like. I decided I’d take a chance and be one of their guinea pigs, if audio versions of my stories would be the end result.

The outcome of the experiment was a great success, as far as I can tell. I love the quality of the books. I think you’ll be impressed, too. I now have three brand spanking new audiobook titles listed along with my ebook and paperback versions on Amazon. They’re at these links:

Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall

Dinosaur Wars: Counterattack

Dinosaur Wars: Blood on the Moon

I intend to follow these with audio versions of my mystery, medical thriller, and natural disaster books as well.

Take a look at one of the links above. Each screen has a whole new category for my book as seen in the upper right corner, above. There’s also a button under the book image marked “Virtual Voice Sample.” Click one and before you know it, you’ll be listening to a 5-minute excerpt of the book. Have a good listen to the narrative performance. It’s as smooth and natural as any real, live human reader could produce, even though it was generated by a robo-voice using AI-generated speech patterns.

You don’t need to be online with Amazon to listen to these books. They can be played by many audio reader programs, including free ones like iTunes, Apple’s QuickTime, or a variety of Microsoft audio player choices. You probably have one on your computer, iphone, or tablet already, which will automatically play these audiobooks. The books are essentially the same as buying an audio CD, DVD, or mp4 version.

My fellow authors should take special note. Whereas the creation of quality audiobooks used to cost thousands of dollars per book, or much more to get top-end production quality or a famous voice narrating the work, now the cost is far cheaper. How about zero dollars? That’s one of the beauties of this robo-voice conversion process. It’s fully automated, and happens near-instantaneously, given the audiobook versions are created at the speed of a computer calculation.

Not only that, but pay close attention, fellow authors, because there’s more. You’ve all heard the advice to have someone read your book aloud to help you catch typos and other errors? That wisdom comes to powerful new fruition in Virtual Voice Studio. How about a reader who has infinite time and patience, and can be paused with the click of a button? In three consecutive ebooks now, I have experienced the delight of sitting back, resting my old, tired eyes, and letting my youthful narrator do the reading (I chose him from among seven male and female voices). And should a typo come along, the voice faithfully reproduced it, causing me to rouse myself and click the pause button. What a way to edit!

My books had already all been tortuously combed by me and my professional editors. But there, right before my ears, were more than a dozen newfound typos in each book! In my opinion, it was worth making these audio versions simply to catch that new batch of typos. I doubled back on each book in turn, killing the typos and uploading revised ebook and paperback versions of the text. Then back to Virtual Voice Studio to finish the audio process. Fabulous!

And yet there is more. You’ve probably also been advised that reading out loud can help you catch awkward phrasing in your prose or stilted or phony sounding dialog. Well, thanks again Virtual Voice! Such prosaic deficiencies are instantly obvious, and again, hitting pause stops them in their tracks to be replaced with better, more life-like language.

In case you missed it, I am entirely thrilled with Virtual Voice Studio, and its output as well. It’s a new day in audiobook creation, and reader enjoyment too.

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Space Case

Meet my latest publication. It’s a short story called, “Space Case.”

It’s a murder mystery courtroom drama science fiction action adventure gothic horror thriller. Or something like that.

It was hard to jampack so much into such a small space. But I’m pretty certain I got everything in its proper place. How can I be so sure? Well, you see, Space Case is already a winner. I entered it in a major literary contest and it took top honors. Which in turn won it a place in an impending anthology featuring some of the leading crime fiction writers of our times. I was thrilled. This would be my ticket to hobnobbing with the big names, and a chance at anything up to and including New York Times Bestseller status. All the signs of success were there. But—

Life has its cruel twists. Good fortune slipped through my fingers.

I won’t give many details or place any blame. But publication delay followed publication delay. Personal tragedy struck the volume editor’s family. Finally, three years after my supposed breakthrough, it was finished. There would be no anthology. Too much time had elapsed. Folks moved on, authors and editors alike.

And so did I. According to my standard practice, I picked myself up by the bootstraps. I fashioned my erstwhile prize-winning story into an e-book version, complete with cover art I made myself. Tell me, does that robot look cute? Scary? Both? If you’re channeling ‘weird’ or ‘creepy,’ then I think you’ve got the idea.

Several rounds of text editing and it was off to my publishers at Smashwords and Amazon Kindle. Shortly afterward versions for Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo followed. At last, Space Case was published! And I’m happy with how it turned out. You can check it out HERE.

The Devil Makes Work

Meanwhile, the long wait before I released Space Case hadn’t been time spent idly. I didn’t mope around for three years biting my nails and waiting for some good news. I moved right along at a fast clip. I wrote and published Megaflood, a murder mystery romance novel set against the apocalyptic Ice Age floods that swept Eastern Washington 14,000 years ago. I re-released my short story “Kit Daniels Dinosaur Girl” about a young woman whose hopes for Hollywood stardom depend on her not getting stomped, gored, or eaten by her dinosaurian costars.

And the biggest adventure of all is what’s truly been ravaging my publication output—my World War II novel, Guadalcanal Avengers. Based on the real-life exploits of my Uncle Herbert Hopp, it’s a military action-adventure romance set in the South Pacific, the same time and place James Michener set his Pulitzer Prize winning tale. Writing and researching this book obsessed me through long hours upon days upon weeks upon months upon years of digging up World War II facts and hammering them out on the keyboard. That, plus a large body of history and anecdotes drawn from interviews of old Navy sailors and Marines, and my family members who lived through the events as well. I drew out some pretty amazing details by talking to my sources on numerous occasions. All of them have passed away in the course of time, but not before I wrote copious notes on their reminiscences. The resulting hard-won scenes bring to life the realities faced by American air warriors dueling their Japanese counterparts in the skies over the Solomon Islands in early 1943.

All this effort has consumed prodigious amounts of time and slowed my output dramatically compared to previous years. But when this magnum opus is finished, it’ll brim with rich details and in-depth characterizations of people and places now long gone, but not forgotten. It will quite possibly be the very last World War II story based on conversations with those who actually lived through it.

I caution myself that the novel is getting ‘McMurtified,’ by which I mean lo-o-o-ng, and overflowing with diverse characters, conflicts, and subplots. This hefty tome might even come to rival Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize winning Lonesome Dove, if I can manage to carry it off. That’s my intent, anyway.

Now then, if the literary fates and powers would be so kind, please consider this: I already won a handsome prize that was taken away from me by cruel chance. How about a little sympathy this time around?

Meanwhile, I’ll just keep writing and writing and writing…

While we’re at it, does anyone know an expert knowledgeable in Japanese culture and traditions in the WWII time frame? Or a native speaker of the Solomon Islands dialect, Pijin? If you do, please send them my way, or vice versa. Thanks!

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Megaflood — The Good Reviews Keep Coming In

It’s great to see reviews of Megaflood written by people who really liked my story and took the time to say so. An example:

“Perfect mixture of cataclysmic history, DNA science mystery, and Native storytelling at its finest! Author Thomas P. Hopp has delivered yet another superlative, page-turning thriller in his Northwest Tales series. With a combination of the very real geologic history of cataclysmic events surrounding the Missoula Floods that swept across the American West obliterating everything in their path, along with descriptions of Native encounters with mammoths and sabertooth cats, a modern science DNA mystery, and tribal relationships. This book is storytelling at its finest, where science meets natural history and the spiritual.”

And here’s a nice headline:

“Cave lions, sabertooth tigers, and shortfaced bears… oh my!”

And review that takes off on it:

“As another reviewer astutely noted, this book is amply stocked with ferocious beasts. And the connection to The Wizard of Oz is entirely appropriate. Both stories revolved around natural disasters: a tornado for Dorothy, and an epic flood for Denawe, the heroine of this story. And like Dorothy, Denawe is helped along her treacherous journey by friends and allies she meets along the way. Not only that, but her journey involves a wizard, in this case the old shaman Hokah, who lives in a distant cave surrounded by magic charms and animal spirits.

“Whether Hopp ‘borrowed’ some of these ideas from The Wizard of Oz or made them up on his own is no matter. What’s important is that this story wings along on a mix of scary and comical events as the misbegotten band of male and female heroes make their way from one gripping scene to the next. And the setting! Not the mystical dreamland of Oz, but the real environment of Ice Age North America, the way it was 14,000 years ago.

“Little nuances, like how Temokin made a ‘courting flute’ to play for his beloved Denawe, bring the culture of the times to light brilliantly, as do scenes of tribal dances, weddings, and funerals. These are based on known facts but brought to life by Hopp’s fine writing skill. Only time will tell whether this book will take its place alongside L. Frank Baum’s Oz and works of other great writers. But one thing is certain: it’s a gem.”

Words like those warm an author’s heart. And when written as an Amazon Reader Review, or on any other bookseller’s site, they also help to move sales of the book. So if you’ve read part or all of Megaflood and have been meaning to write a review, why not take the time now? I’ll be deeply grateful, and the booksellers’ mighty computers may push Megaflood a little harder. That way everybody’s happy. Here’s a LINK that will get you back to whatever bookstore sold you your copy.

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Seattle Tsunami – My Book Had It Right

My novel The Great Seattle Earthquake dramatizes what would happen if a quake of magnitude 7.8 should strike the Seattle Fault. I researched the book heavily before writing, and it looks like I got it right. A report, newly released by Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources, describes a quake of 7.5 and the incredible inundation that would strike the city’s waterfront several minutes later.

Although the map is a little too detailed for easy reading, let me point out that the wave would reach heights of 23 feet in Seattle’s Central Waterfront, and a whopping 42 feet at the Great Ferris Wheel! Wow! That’s almost worse than I had written about. Almost.

Actually, I’d say my own personal tsunami “model,” which I made up to help me imagine the human dramas that would take place, was a pretty good estimate of how bad things could get. So it’s also fair to say my book, published in 2019, remains an accurate dramatization of the horrors and heroisms of that day.

Washington DNR has done their duty to shake up the complacency of people who live on or near the Seattle Fault. But they need some help driving home just how tough it could be for waterfront homeowners, first responders, baseball stadium crowds, people traveling on freeway bridges or–gulp–entering the waterfront Highway 99 tunnel. All this and much more is dramatized in great detail in my novel. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it might be time to, huh? Here’s a LINK to booksellers who can provide a copy for you.

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You Go, Cavegirl!

As my new novel, Megaflood, climbs sales charts at Amazon and other major booksellers, I’d like to take time to thank the person most responsible for the book’s meteoric success: its heroine, Denawe.

She’s the young woman, not yet sixteen years old, who faces one challenge after another, from abduction to battling a fierce sabertooth cat to fleeing in the company of her love, Temokin, from fierce warriors bent on their destruction. Then comes the ultimate threat of all, an apocalyptic flood that swept half the State of Washington during the Ice Ages 14,000 years ago!

The image above evokes the beauty of a girl who embarks on an adventure far beyond what the average female of our times–or any times–might expect to experience. No, the bronze bust wasn’t cast to commemorate my story. It’s a statue of Sacagawea, the legendary guide of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1805. But Denawe would have looked much like her. Both women were natives of the Pacific Northwest, separated by only 14,000 years, a geological twinkling of an eye.

And the two heroines have much more in common. Both were abducted from their tribes and marched far away to be slaves and someone’s personal property in villages far from home. Sacagawea was horse traded to the fur trader Toussaint Charbonneau and became his wife. Denawe, too, is subject of a bidding war, with mammoth ivory, the hide of a colossal short-faced bear, and an amulet carved from a sabertooth tiger fang as part of the bride price.

But these two women, Sacagawea and Denawe, were much more than mere objects of barter. They stood on their own and made their way boldly in the world. History tells us how Sacagawea guided the Lewis and Clark party over the snow-clad Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. My story tells how Denawe joined together with her young warrior love to lead the Mammoth People on a path to salvation in the face of an annihilating flood.

Here’s the rest of that statue, a state monument in Sacagawea’s homeland near Salmon Idaho. Here, the two heroines diverge a little. Sacagawea carried her infant son with her on her journey, while Denawe was as yet unmarried. But never fear–matters of that nature can change in a hurry. So, does Denawe become a wife and mother in the course of my book? Read it, and find out!

Megaflood is available at all major booksellers’ websites in ebook and paperback versions. Click this link to go to a page where the different sellers are listed. If you’ve already got your copy, please remember to review it on Amazon or other booksellers’s pages. Those reviews are deeply appreciated by us authors, and can help encourage the booksellers’ crunching computers to try and sell more books. Thanks!

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Megaflood Unleashed

Megaflood is here! The ebook and paperback versions of my new natural disaster thriller are being released today. You can find them at all major outlets, from Amazon to Apple Books, to Barnes and Noble, and more. If you took advantage of the discounted presale opportunity, your ebook account already has a copy waiting. If not, it’s easy to grab one using the link above.

You’ll find something to love about this book whether you’re a fan of mystery, action adventure, science fiction, or romance. Want a story set in a far-off, exotic time and place? How about Ice Age Washington State, a frozen world quite unlike present-day environs. Want to meet a young pair who fall in love in the midst of an apocalyptic catastrophe? Then follow Temokin and Denawe, two young tribe members whose love grows with each danger they face. Want rip-roaring adventure? Try facing down a snarling sabertooth tiger or a rampaging bull mammoth with these young heroes.

All this is drawn up against a background of meticulously researched science. As you read, you’ll learn the latest knowledge about Ice Age North America, its landscape, wildlife, and the hardy people who met and overcame innumerable challenges to survive in a harsh world—until the day they faced the greatest threat of all, the Megaflood. This novel envisions the awesome power of a flood so huge it carried as much water as one of the Great Lakes, all unleashed in a single day!

Follow this LINK to a page where you’ll find the ebook and paperback listed at all the major booksellers.Thanks. I hope you enjoy my story!

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The Sabertooth Amulet

This amulet, discovered on a body in a bog in my new novel Megaflood, is a central clue to happenings 14,000 years ago. Not only is it a priceless artifact and focus of present-day conflict between tribes and museum researchers, but it’s also a clue to an ancient murder mystery and a symbol of timeless love that lasts beyond the ages.

Megaflood is a genre-busting combination of mystery, action, adventure, and paranormal romance, all of which revolve around this mystical charm, a sabertooth tiger carved on its own fang. The Sabertooth Amulet was actually my working title as I researched and wrote this story. Extensive research on ancient Native Americans, shamanism, and Ice Age floods was one reason why the book was three years in the making. Whew!

As I said, the sabertooth amulet symbolizes, among other things, the love of two young people for one another. Megaflood—like most of my novels—is about a marriage. That’s right, even though giant threatening animals and hostile warriors often take center stage, no less important is the love that grows between Temokin and Denawe, an equally matched male-female pair of heroes. Together, they confront huge beasts and the treachery of a jealous chieftain, not to mention an apocalyptic Ice Age flood. Through it all, the charm symbolizes their bond growing stronger with each crisis. Kind of like a good marriage, right?

Most of my novels and short stories feature romantic pairs sharing equally in the heroics. So, whether your preferences run to strong male leads or strong female leads or both, your wish is fulfilled. Here’s a list:

This LINK will guide you to information about these books and stories, if any of them strike your fancy.Meanwhile, Megaflood is available for pre-order and will be released on May 1, 2022. So, if a mystery/romance/action/adventure story suits your reading preferences, why not click over to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books or other outlets and reserve your copy today? At $3.99, it’s $1 off the list price. You won’t be charged until the book ships, and you’ll be among the first to get it. Furthermore, by pre-ordering, you’ll help me make the day-of-release book sales more impressive to Amazon’s computers, which in turn will cause them to show the book to more potential customers. Thanks for your help, and I hope you enjoy the story!

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MEGAFLOOD – First Look at the Cover

I got my first physical copy of Megaflood today. There’s nothing like the thrill of holding the product of so much hard work in hand. The cover is a thing of beauty and, like the story itself, required much background research and detailed crafting. Historical accuracy (prehistorical?) is key in a novel that is as much about a time and place as it is about people and events. Everything had to be scientifically verifiable, and I must say, few art projects have ever consumed so much of my time and effort.

Every part of the cover addresses an aspect of life in those times. Glaciers flowing down from the Okanogan Highlands of Eastern Washington are no mere fancy. They represent the massive ice inundation that, in the Ice Age 14,000 years ago, blocked the flow of the mighty Columbia River and diverted it east and south to carve out the stupendous gorges of Grand Coulee. Vertical cliffs of layered volcanic rocks remain there to this day. They figure dramatically in the story as inhabitants desperately seek safety above floods a thousand times greater than anything seen in modern times.

Zeroing in on the center of the cover, the mammoth-hide tipis of Two Falls Village face certain destruction by an oncoming wall of water. The deluge will sweep away everything—and everyone—unless a hero can lead the people to safety.

Animals shared the fate of humans. Even titanic Columbian mammoths, the largest elephants of all, stood no chance against a wall of water many times their height. Other great animals would perish was well, from colossal short-faced bears, to giant ground sloths, to cave lions, to sabertooth cats. The last of these is represented on the cover by its likeness carved on its own fang, an amulet charm worn by the young hero Temokin and dedicated to his love, Denawe, who helped him overcome the snarling beast to which the fang originally belonged.

I’ll write more about the amulet, and the people and places touched on here, in my next post. Meanwhile let your mind soar over this dramatic scene, like Thunder Eagle at the top of the cover. What an awesome spectacle must have played out below him! Many villagers believed it was Thunder Eagle himself who set loose the deluge to clear evil, sinning people from the land. Only those of the greatest virtue would survive this ultimate test of nature.

Megaflood is available for pre-order and will be released on May 1, 2022. So, if a mystery/romance/action/adventure story suits your reading preferences, why not click over to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books or other outlets and reserve your copy today? At $3.99, it’s $1 off the list price. You won’t be charged until the book ships, and you’ll be among the first to get it. Furthermore, by pre-ordering, you’ll help me make the day-of-release book sales more impressive to Amazon’s computers, which in turn will cause them to show the book to more potential customers. Thanks for your help, and I hope you enjoy the story!

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A 14,000-Year-Old Murder Mystery

Talk about an exotic setting for a mystery! The desert cliff shown here was once a waterfall three hundred times the size of Niagara that roared with the entire volume of the mile-wide Columbia River. This rampart is just one of two great circular cataracts that existed in Eastern Washington during the Ice Age. Part of the second can be seen to the right.

People who lived here must have been in awe of its thunderous roar. Native Americans of a long-forgotten tribe had only recently crossed from Siberia into North America. And where there are people, can murder lurk far behind?

My latest novel, Megaflood, is set against this 14,000-year-old backdrop. And as if that weren’t dramatic enough, the Ice Age animals that lived alongside the people were equally stupendous. Giant pachyderms came in three sizes: huge (the Wooly Mammoth), colossal (the Mastodon), and titanic (the Columbian Mammoth), the last of which made an elephant look like a pup. And that’s not to mention the Giant Ground Sloth and the Short-Faced Bear, which were elephant-sized as well. Let’s see, did I leave out anybody? Oh. Yeah. How about ravenous Cave Lions and Sabertooth Cats? Me-YOW!

It was my task as author to bring all this astonishing science and history into focus while telling the tale of two young people, outcasts in this foreboding landscape due to their forbidden love. Fleeing a wrathful chieftain, they plunged straight into even greater danger.

This is one of my most ambitious books to date, weaving an intricate path from modern archeologists exhuming a body from a cranberry bog in Chinook, Washington, to an ancient saga where heroic characters move through a world of sweeping beauty and face perilous threats, all in true-to-life detail. Megaflood is available for pre-order and will be released on May 1, 2022. So, if a mystery/romance/action/adventure story suits your reading preferences, why not click over to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books or other outlets and reserve your copy today? At $3.99, it’s $1 off the list price. You won’t be charged until the book ships, and you’ll be among the first to get it. Furthermore, by pre-ordering, you’ll help me make the day-of-release book sales more impressive to Amazon’s computers, which in turn will cause them to show the book to more potential customers. Thanks for your help, and I hope you enjoy the story!

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Roly-Poly Dinosaurs

Here’s a fun one: a roly-poly armored dinosaur. As far as I know, no one has ever published a picture of this creature in its rolled-up pose—until now. If you don’t believe me, google “ankylosaur images” and see if you can find one like it. If you do, I’d be glad to hear about it.

I was researching ankylosaurs for my latest science fiction short story (more about that below) and the deeper I dug into the scientific literature, the more I realized the world’s paleontological experts had missed this concept entirely. In over a century of portraying ankylosaurs, no one has ever published an image of the animals rolled up like this. Yet I am convinced this trick came naturally to them, curling up for defense against Tyrannosaurus rex and other king-sized threats.

Modern day armored creatures do it. Armadillos, hedgehogs, pangolins, and even lowly pill bugs do it when threatened by predators. So why not the ultimate in armored creatures, the ankylosaurs?

The maneuver has an interesting name: volvation. It’s based on the Latin word volvere, to roll, and the concept that the animal rolls itself up into a ball. Some, like pill bugs or the Brazilian three-banded armadillo can roll up so tightly they offer nothing to predators except solid armored surfaces. I wondered if ankylosaurs could do the same, so I made these sketches to attempt to understand the possibilities.

As you can see, I found a way to arrange all the component parts of an ankylosaur into a pretty solid structure, especially in this second sketch, where the animal is locked down so tightly there are only armored surfaces to be seen. Click on the images for a closer look.

At this point I was pretty-well convinced ankylosaurs could carry off this maneuver if it was needed. But I wanted to dig deeper. I borrowed a skeletal diagram from a scientific publication and rearranged the bones from their normal walking pose to the rolled up one below. And everything fit.

So then, how was I to get word out about my idea?

I chose to gather all these images into one publication and offer a bonus to go with them: a short science fiction story I call “The Ankylosaur Adventure,” with a roly-poly ankylosaur starring on the cover along with some unfortunate humans. I followed the story with a discussion of the science that guided my creation of the artwork shown here. Finally, I added a bibliography of research articles that gave me insights into these intriguing creatures and their neat defensive trick—volvation!

P.S. The images are necessarily compressed in Kindle, Apple, and other ebook formats, lowering their resolution. They’re good at that size, but for higher quality images, I suggest the Smashwords pdf version, or contact me for even higher resolution images. I might even be compelled to present a guest blog or a live video conference on the subject.

P.P.S. A heads up on a separate subject: I plan to release another of my Northwest Tales novels in April. It features an Ice Age megaflood in Washington State, among the largest natural disasters the earth has ever seen! Stay tuned for more info.

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