Audiobook Review: Dutybound – Mark Aaron Alvarez II

Author: Mark Aaron Alvarez II

Narrators: Veronica Pace, Ramon De Campo

Length: 12 hours and 35 minutes

Series: The Light Wings Epic Series, Book 1

Publisher: Books Fluent

Released: Jan. 31, 2022

Genre: Fantasy

As long as there is Light, there is hope! When young Lucia Sannon, the High Maiden of Moz, receives a gift from her long-lost father, her whole world changes. Lucia and the other heirs of nobility are forced to face the sins of their forefathers and bring their world from the brink of darkness. With the help of the Light Wings and its power, Lucia must heed the call to assemble the Light’s virtues and lead them into battle against the very sins that seek to destroy their world. But finding the four virtues will not be easy, for much of the knowledge is lost and the understanding of one’s own morality is the only key to unlocking the power each of them holds within. A story of faith and morality, Dutybound will lead you through a journey of self-discovery, as our heroes face conflict from outside and within themselves. Duty, desire, envy, hope, hate, love, pride, and temperance all are challenged within this series, in an epic tale that is sure to have you pondering your own true nature.
Mark A. Alvarez II is a Hispanic-American born in Houston, Texas. He’s a graduate of Texas State University, where he studied public relations and mass communication. He was an apprentice at the NEW Apprenticeship where he was certified in digital marketing. He is the CEO of Light Wings Promotions LLC, a digital marketing and creative branding agency in San Antonio, Texas, where Mark currently resides.

Zak Forsman describes her as a “fearless artist with boundless enthusiasm for doing good work.” Veronica’s consistent work on independent films, national commercials like Ameriprise and Comcast (alongside Amy Poehler) and most recently in Roswell, Walker, and other productions solidify her as an actor with range, vulnerability and a profound understanding of her craft and instrument. She is also a talented as a singer/songwriter, and her sultry voice will bring life to any audiobook she narrates.
Q&A with Author Mark A. Alvarez II
  1. Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
    1. The idea to turn Dutybound into an audiobook didn’t come well after its initial publication. When writing it at first, I never thought it would be an audiobook, but I thought this would be a great opportunity to use audio to expand upon and enhance the cultural experience of Dutybound.
  2. How did you select your narrator?
    1. I would say selecting the narrators for Dutybound was one of the more challenging aspects of creating the audiobook. Dutybound was always envisioned as a gothic-fantasy, inspired by my latinx roots and upbringing. So it was important that Dutybound’s narrators could easily communicate the names of my characters and fantasy settings in a dialect that was very spanish-inspired. Veronica and Ramon both have incredible range and brought to the table an energy that accurately reflected the cultural vision I had for Dutybound. There was no question. These two are masters of their craft.
  3. 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?
    1. It was important that my narrators pronounce certain names appropriately. With many of the names in my book being directly inspired by the Spanish language, I sought narrators who would be able to bring out this cultural aspect of my narrative. I provided notes on my characters, pronunciations and other aspects of the world’s setting to prepare them for their performances. And boy do I think they deliver. Both Veronica and Ramon did amazingly, portraying the growth of my characters and overall, brining the world of Terestria to life.
  4. Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
    1. Dutybound is very allegorical. Culturally, I drew inspiration from the theocracies of the old world and the gothic period of our world’s history. Similarly, the themes of morality and faith derived from my upbringing in the church. The light that Lucia uses for instance, or the virtues, were written to be reflections of the holy spirit, manifested within different belief systems. Lucia’s virtue represents faith in a higher power. Leo’s virtue represents faith in one’s own will, or themselves. Luzanna’s virtue represents faith in mankind, logic and reason. It was important for me to not stick to writing about one particular belief system because Dutybound is more than a story about faith. It’s a tale of morality at its core. The sins and virtues are represented by mythical creatures from a variety of cultures and faiths so that we can keep these philosophies connected, as the sources that carried morality throughhistory. Other inspirations were my desires to develop my idea for a role-playing game, similar to that of the Final Fantasy, Fire Emblem, and the Legend of Zelda videogame series. These games always held elements of philosophy and carried themes of virtue and morality as part of their world’s mythos. When writing Dutybound and creating Terestria, it was clear to me that in order to create my world, I needed to start by creating a mythos, an ideology, and a system of ethics for each of my provinces to abide by. That way it would be easier to build my characters from the inside out.
  5. How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
    1. My passion for this story is boundless. It was always a story I wanted to tell and in many ways I made it a key part of my identity. I reworked the Light WIngs Epic many times and with each iteration it grew closer and closer to the vision I held within my head. Dutybound is only the beginning. My follow-up raises the stakes and takes things to a grander scale as this conflict spreads to the farthest corners of Terestria. The burnout never really comes because I have sort of always known where this story is headed. And I can always work towards that. Keeping the vision alive has always been my main prerogative. That’s why I’ve taken to other mediums, such as art, music, and poetry as means to add to my world and develop my personal craft.
  6. Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    1. Obviously, capturing Lucia’s aptitude as an artist and singer is uniquely captured within the audiobook. Not only does Veronica lend us her musical talents, but she is able to sing Lucia’s hymns in character with ease and add an entirely new experience to the table for Dutybound listeners and readers alike. Music played a huge part in developing the tone, pacing, and rhythm of my story’s narrative. Getting to deliver a musical experience is endearing to me because no one knows how instrumental music is to my writing process and Veronica’s voice really emphasizes its influence.
  7. What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    1. Listening to an audiobook can be just as worthwhile an experience as reading a book. Though the experience may differ, I understand both medium’s appeal. I personally like to read along to audiobooks because you get both and can read aloud certain parts to interpret them differently.
  8. What gets you out of a writing slump? What about a reading slump?
    1. Music is my remedy for writer’s block. It never fails me. Music helps me set up scenes in my head, sets the pacing of my writing itself, and it even contributes to the tone and mood of my setting. Music also helps me read. I love reading to music, especially scores of videogames and movies. It provides for a better escape.
  9. In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?
    1. I think writing a stand alone novel would, for me, be more difficult. My epic was actually intended to be a stand alone, but when typing my source material, the first part of my novel came to be well over 300 pages. So, I decided it was best to split it. The pros of creating a stand alone would of course be that it’s a singular body of work that feels complete upon finishing, but in fantasy that doesn’t work too well. If you are going to create a whole new world, you might as well write A LOT about it because that’s what will make it more engrossing. The cons though of writing a series come with the amount of time it takes to build your world. But that also makes it all the more worthwhile, because I love building and adding to my world because it truly feels like my own. It’s my obsession and I can write within that world forever if I felt like it.
  10. What’s your favorite:
    1. Food: Street tacos
    2. Song: Edge of Dawn from Fire Emblem: Three Houses
    3. Book: A Song of Ice & Fire
    4. Television show: Game of Thrones
    5. Movie: Risky Business
    6. Band: The Midnight
    7. Sports team: Houston Texans
    8. City: Miami, Florida
  11. What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
    1. I think more aspiring authors ought to get their work out sooner instead of waiting til they’re “ready”. Truth is, you never will be. So, don’t fear criticism. Because in the end, writing isn’t about fame or prestige. The best books are the ones you feel the author is invested into just as much as you are. Every writer is in some ways self-conscious of their own writing style, but that shouldn’t stop them. You will never know what makes your writing shine if you never allow it to. Writing, just like any other art form, is subjective. And you never know who your writing style will appeal to. In all realness, aspiring authors must learn to be vulnerable. After all, what is writing if not being our utmost vulnerable and allowing people to peek into our souls.
  12. What’s next for you?
    1. Currently I’m working on my follow-up to Dutybound, Bloodbound: Light Wings Epic Vol. II. I’m also publishing original poetry and gaming content on my Instagram for all those who’d like to follow Dutybound. I’d like to someday publish a poetry collection alongside my series, with themes similar to those of the Light Wings Epic. Also, I’m working on character designs for my sequel. I really, really, really want illustrations in my next book. So, I’m drawing a lot. Hopefully, we’ll have a peek at Ethan, one of our twin heirs of Argania soon. Armarisa, his sister, is still fresh in my mind but I plan on drawing her shortly after Ethan’s design is finished.
  Dutybound: 4.79/5 Stars! Have you ever had a book that you wanted to stop, but you couldn’t put it down because you were too invested in the characters and what was happening to them? Well, this audiobook was that type of book for me. The story keeps the message of hope even when the times seem like a lost cause. The audiobook’s focus is that through lots of hope, faith, and determination, a person and make it through anything. Never lose hope. When life makes you sad, have hope. This book will help people who need a motivator inside of a story. It will also help people show them that hope is real and can make all the difference. I enjoyed this audiobook it made me feel more hopeful, and even in difficulties, I believe that it will get better. Veronica Pace, Ramon De Campo 4.89/5 Stars! The author chose two gifted voices for this story, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else reading to me. As someone who has had listened to many audiobooks, and performers, I can tell these are proficient and talented, and I hope to hear more from them!I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Books Fluent. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
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Due to chronic illnesses that I am working through, I thought that this post was posted earlier, but I didn’t check it, and I am so sorry. I apologize to Mark Aaron Alvarez II and also to the audiobookworm team! Thank you for understanding.

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