Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

Rish Outfield: The Audiobook Adventure Continues

As I mentioned last week, I'm still struggling with this mad quest to do audiobooks for money.  I have to admit that I pretty much fell into despair this week, when
1) the microphone jack on my computer stopped working, and then when I thought I'd gotten it going again,
2) there would be an inexplicable buzzing sound in the background of my recordings, one that only showed up on the recordings, but not when I was reading the books.
3) I spent hours cleaning up my fifteen minutes for my first book, and sent it in, only to have the agent mark down the timecode every time the buzzing could still be heard.
4) I was sure there was a short somewhere in the mic cord, so Big kindly bought me another one when we were together on Monday. The damn buzzing sound continued.
5) So, I asked Big if I could borrow his microphone, but it wouldn't work without his heavy-duty mixer.
6) I did my work over again, starting from the beginning, recording with the mic settings way up so I could lower the volume and mask the damn buzzing (henceforth referred to as TDB) if it came again . . . which it did.
7) The resulting recording, which went way farther than the first fifteen minutes of the book, ended up sounding worse to my ears than the first one did, but at least you couldn't hear TDB. I sent it in anyway, though now I wonder if I had lost all sense by doing that.
8) Of course I got a rejection email from the author's agent, where she said, "The sound quality is nowhere near the levels we expected it to be, and is inconsistent with the quality expected by" For some reason, I went pretty much crazy over this email, and typed up a response that went something like, "Yes, I understand. I apologize for wasting so much of MY time."

But before I sent it, I went for a drive, seething and angry at the world. I had really, really tried to do this thing. And when I wasn't trying to keep the kids from screaming or running around or banging on my door, the phone was ringing, someone would turn the TV on, loud enough for the mic to hear it (perhaps even over the buzzing noise?).

I called Big on the phone and told him I was so frustrated I wanted to burn my bridges, and that I was going to Best Buy to buy another cord for the back of my computer, but if that didn't work, I would throw everything against the wall. He told me, "Just make sure you don't throw my microphone against the wall."

This made me even more furious, and I told him to go ahead and air the last episode of our show, because I was done with anything even remotely related to recording or podcasting. It was childish, sure, but I had warned him I was about to burn bridges.

I did get the plug at Best Buy, and hooked it up, and immediately, the sound quality seemed way better . . . but it did--inexplicably go out completely the next day.  My guess is, there's a short in my microphone jack, or in the mixer itself, because there's no rhyme or reason as to when things go wrong.

It can be difficult enough to perform the written word when the equipment works perfectly, as in this shudder-inducing example:
But one of the authors actually okayed my submitted work, and that really buoyed up my confidence.  He liked my audition, liked the voices I chose to do for his characters, and accepted the first fifteen minutes without complaints or delay.  I never did respond to the rejection I got from the agent, and instead have been focusing on this guy's book.

I've been recording late at night, when everybody else has gone to sleep, but my voice tends to start getting strained or my brain starts to no longer process words at around the two o'clock/two-thirty mark.  During the day, I try to edit what I've recorded, though I'll admit that it's less fun than editing Dunesteef episodes or readings for other podcasts (mostly because I probably see this as a job rather than something I'm doing for passion).

I'm now on page eighty-four, which isn't even halfway through, but I think it'll get done (barring any recurrence of TDB), and someday I can be on here asking people to go out and buy my reading.  Fruitlessly asking, of course.

Rish Outfield, Narrator

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Babysitter of the Week

I still enjoy driving around with my nephew Kayden, even though now that he is five (and hyperactive), I find it more of a challenge to deal with him than I used to.  This week, I took him for a drive to go look for Skylanders (I remember Joe Quesada, the recent Editor In Chief of Marvel, saying that "Comic books are basically crack, but for kids."  But apparently, these Skylanders games/figures are that for the 21st Century), and we were playing a rhyming game where I'd say a word, and he'd have to come up with rhymes for it.

I'd been trying to get him to actually figure out rhymes for over a year, but he's just now figured it out.  I'd say, "Tree," and he'd say, "Tree.  Bee.  Fee.  Key."  And the like until he'd say nonsense words and we'd go on to the next word.

So, we were driving along.  I said, "House," and he said, "House.  Louse.  Mouse.  Kowse.  Towse."  I said, "Hat," and he said, "Hat.  Cat.  Bat.  Tat.  Fat."

Suddenly, the van in front of me simply stopped in the middle of the road, so it could turn right, instead of slowing, signalling, and turning right as human beings are supposed to drive.  I will admit that I was not paying attention, so it seemed much more sudden to me.  I slammed on the brakes, and because of the slush on the road, we skidded a foot or two, coming to a stop maybe four inches away from hitting into the van.

The van never even noticed this happened, and went on its merry way.

"Shit!" I muttered.

"Shit," Kayden said from the back.  "Bit.  Mitt.  Kit.  Fit."

Uncle Rish Outfield

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Rish Outfield, Audiobook Reader

So, I think I mentioned recently that I had a conversation (or rather, witnessed one, since I didn't know what they were talking about) with Renee Chambliss and Bryan Lincoln about their professional audiobook reading.  I was greatly impressed, but even more so, I was thinking, "Why the devil aren't I doing this for a living?  I've been recording audiobooks for over a decade now, and while I may not be Scott Brick, this is something I could do, and do well."

Of course, I may have spoken prematurely.

After those days in Vegas, around such creative people who were actually doing things with their minds and voices, I found myself feeling at least a tad bit ambitious, and actually tried to get some work reading/narrating/performing the words of others.  There's a list of books that are done and published that want someone to read them/perform them for, and you can create a profile, upload audio samples, and audition for parts.  It ended up taking a bit of time, but I was confident (for once) that the work would come.

In fact, I mentioned it to Big the other day that he too should be doing this, since he has the experience and talent, and a hell of a better microphone set-up than I do.

And I'd have said the sound quality was much less important than the reader (at the one technical panel I attended at NMX, the speaker said, "Nobody will ever listen to your podcast and say, 'Wow, they have great sound quality! I'm going to keep listening and see if their content improves.'"), but having gone over my recordings with a fine tooth ear, I'm actually Level One nervous again about sending the stuff in.

Oh wait, I've gotten ahead of myself.  So, I sent in two auditions the first day, and two more on the second.  I heard nothing more, so I sent in three or four more since then (which is a grind, since my PC won't read the files they've saved their auditions in, so I have to download them to my desktop, email them to myself, open the email on my craptop, read the audition from the craptop while recording on my PC).  Maybe I should listen to a couple to see if the readers a--

Ah, who am I kidding?  I know I'm at least as good as any random reader on, if not better, since I'm a voice actor anyway, and have been editing audio every week for years now (they say you've gotta do something for a thousand hours to become an expert at it, right?).

I actually did get a couple of rejections.  The first one was nice, and said she liked my reading, but the book is in a series, and she's already paying someone else to read the first book, so she'd like them all to have consistency (which I totally understand).  The second rejection was, crazily-enough, from a writer we'd done a story by on the Dunesteef.  He made no comment on that, nor my reading, but simply said the rights were tied up and he wasn't in a position to assign anybody to record his book right now.

Then, I got an acceptance letter, from a writer I'd actually heard of (to be honest, I think recognizing her name made me decide to see what the book was about, rather than just judging by the title alone).  She liked my reading*, and asked if I would also consider reading the first book in a mystery series she has going, hoping that my voice would suit the whole run.

Well, this would make anybody else on earth happy, I would imagine, but I was worried about committing to two audiobooks at the same time, especially since the last time I'd tried narrating an entire book, I'd given up in the middle, after a year or so.  I didn't know how much work it would be to record, then to edit, and how much time I'd have to do them in (Renee mentioned having a book due in two days, and needing to read for over twelve hours straight to meet her deadline, and I'll admit, it frightened me).

But when I looked at the contract, I have until the ides of bloody March to get the books in, so I was fretting over nothing.

The second step after obtaining the text to be read is to record a sample of (exactly?) fifteen minutes, get it into perfect shape, and send it in so they can make notes or request/demand changes.

There are a bunch of posted rules (i.e., hoops) set up for how to record, how to perform, how to save, how to edit, how to clean up the sound, and how one must space out speaking and silence (for example, there should be exactly one-half second before you start to speak on every file, and an interminable 3.5 seconds in between you saying "Chapter One" and "The psychotic toddler had taken yet another victim . . .").

This is a case where my own experience ends up helping me not at all.  I'm used to doing work for myself, or for other podcasts.  If it's up to my standards, chances are, it'll be up to theirs.**  But this is for other people, who are wanting to sell the recordings, and who may care much less about whether I can convincingly sound like an old man than whether you can hear me take a breath between dialogue.

Bryan Lincoln warned me to toe the line, that my stuff had to be of top-notch sound quality, because I'd be competing with professional audiobook readers, in an airtight studio with those egg carton things on the walls, and a jagoff in the control room fiddling with a hundred knobs and thinking about billing rates.

So, I followed their rules, and right before sending the fifteen minute sample of the first book, I decided to go though it, listening carefully, and making it fit exactly into their listed specifications.

What I discovered was, that aside from the clicks, slurps, and breathing sounds I apparently make every time I read something (which I've never before discovered, for some reason), there was also an intermittent buzzing sound that could be heard, on and off, throughout the whole recording.

On my own show, I wouldn't give a single crap, but now, I was paranoid.  Could I use background noise to mask the buzzing?  Could I edit it out in some way?  Could I re-record a sentence here or there to offset it?  Could I turn the volume down on the recording for the parts where that sound could be heard?  And could I send the sample in as-is (despite now spending an extra hour just trying to sweeten the fifteen minute sample), hoping they'd be listening for the quality of the reading rather than the quality of the recording . . . or did I need to sit down and do the whole thing a second time, making sure that whatever was making the buzzing (a short in the microphone cord is my chief suspect) was no longer there?

Well, I still haven't decided.

I went through the first fifteen minutes of the second reading, and it had no buzzing (though it had a buttload of clicks and breaths that I lift out, grimacing every time), and sent it in, figuring I'd wait to hear notes on the "clean" sample before even trying to get my "dirty" sample passed.

In the meantime, I figured I'd audition for one more book--this one apparently written by a seventeen year old who just discovered the magic of gory description--believing (rather arrogantly) that this guy will not mind a little buzzing and breathing.

I'll keep you posted. 


Maybe not.

We'll see.

Rish "Narrated By" Outfield

*And here's a rub, I never actually communicated with the author, but with her agent.  So every time I asked a question about pronunciation, or tone, or accents, I knew that my message was getting forwarded on to the "talent," as it were, then back to the agent, then back to me.  Unless agents just do it all nowadays, which it's totally possible they do.

**Of course, I'm reminded of the short story I edited for another show, where I put the spooky sounds of wind and rain in the background for ambience, only to have the editor of the show say, "There was a lot of background noise in your recording, coming from outside your studio, but after a bit of work, I got rid of it all."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Babysitter of the (New) Year

I'm at my mom's house, babysitting my nephews.  The two year old is what they used to call Skeletor, a "lord of destruction."  Last week, he got into my sister's mascara, and wrote all over the wall and himself with it.  Over the weekend, he got a Sharpie from Bossk knows where and used it to write on the banister, himself, and the couch (I got into a screaming match with my sister over that, since his thirteen year old babysitter was in the room with him at the time).  And now it's my turn. 

Already, he has tipped over his formula can (which he's too old for anyway), dumped out every one of my mom's nightstand drawers, stolen (and consumed) the bag of cookies I keep in case of emergency, tipped over his apple juice onto the floor, unrolled a tin foil container all about the house, and put several Super Hero Squad figures and his mother's iPod in his mouth.

But all that can be shrugged off.  I'm blogging now (instead of watching him) because the boys (now five and two) wanted to eat an apple.  I sliced half of it up for them, then put the knife up on the counter where they couldn't get it.  "If you want more, let me know and I'll slice more pieces for you," I said, unnecessarily adding, "DON'T try to cut it yourself."

I was on the computer, writing up my NMX blog, when the two year old came running toward me, a knife in his hand.  He couldn't reach the small blade I'd used to cut the apple, so he'd taken a desk chair, pushed it into the kitchen, climbed onto it, opened drawers until he found another knife.

It was like one of my scariest fever dreams: a small child running at me, brandishing a knife half the size of his whole body.  Instead of fearing for my own life, though, I immediately thought of what might have happened had he held it by the blade, or worse, tripped and fell while bringing it to me to cut more apple.
And me, being the worst uncle in the world, I told him to hold still while I took a picture.

These kids are doomed.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Media Expo Trip 3

So, immediately after Renee's panel was our panel (actually, it was lunch, but immediately after lunch was our panel), which was entitled "Using Comedy To Humanize Characters and Hook Listeners in Audio Fiction."  For more than a decade now, I've been going to conventions (granted, mostly movie, TV, and comic book shows) and thinking, "Wow, I'd like to be up there on a panel.  Someday, I'll be sitting there, with a placard with my name on it in front of me, and even more importantly, I'LL be the one with one of those fancy water pitchers filled with an unending supply of ice water.  Someday, Jennifer, someday."

Well . . .
The truth is, that water thing was pretty effin' cool.  Though I'm not sure I should have stuffed the pitcher and glasses in my backpack when the panel was over.  I'm still getting the hang of these things.

I joked later that there were STILL people lining up not to come to our panel, but it was a bit disappointing to see so few folks in the audience.  I guess I should be grateful anybody showed up at all, since our subject matter was among the few panels not about monetizing and buzz-words and using new social media to snag millions of hits to your website and the like.  Plus, at the same time as our panel was the Free iPads Handed Out By Supermodel Nymphomaniac With Two Vaginas, so that was unfortunate.

I kid, but Abbie prepared some good questions, and Renee had an audio/visual presentation complete with "Seinfeld" clips, and nobody saw either of them.

So, the last panel of the last day (before the Keynote, which I am told is a proper noun now), was our panel on Comedy.  The panel itself went well, I think.  If we made the audience laugh, we succeeded at least partially, and who knows, if the room had been full, it might have been harder to please people, and if half of them had left, it would've been a bit of a mood-dampener.  As it stands, there were a few walkouts, which mathematically, probably accounted for a third of the total attendees (Abbie singled one of them out, making the point that any time you try to be funny, somebody's bound to get offended).
Abbie (wisely) organized a rehearsal session with us the day before, so we could plan out what we'd say when, but I felt bad for Marshal, Renee, and Bryan because they ended up hearing our shtick twice.  When the panel was just about to start, and nobody we didn't know had shown up, a middle-aged man in a blue shirt came in and sat down near the back.  I told Lauren, "That guy is my audience.  If I can make him laugh, then I have succeeded."

I think I took it a bit too far, at least when I asked him in the middle of the panel, if he'd be my dad.

Here's a photo of our audience:
That's only partially a joke.  Even so, when the panel was over, the man who'd invited Abbie to the conference approached us, seemingly pleased, and asked us if we'd do it again.  To my surprise, nobody said, "Hell no, New Media Expo guy!"

After that was a keynote speech, which I'll admit I was keen to attend.  They were doing a taping of a TV show called "Inventing the Future with Robert Tercek," and one of his guests was Chris Hardwicke, who impressed me at the Superman panel at last year's Comic-Con.

But this taping/presentation/keynote was a bit hollow, a lot of flash with almost no substance.  I know a couple of the guys (we all sat together at a table) absolutely hated the hour we wasted there, and I have to admit that, since there were other things we could have been recording, we'd have been better off running back to Abbie's room and recording something for Marshal's show, or the story Big prepared, or played Twister or something.

Even so, because the mics Bryan and I had used the night before recording Scribe's story were not on, we had to take a few minutes and re-do those.  Then we recorded a sketch I wrote for an upcoming show, which the people in the room really seemed to like (so I will probably write more), and all of us did a bit of after-story chat for the Dunesteef episode we'd recorded on Monday night.

One thing that I forgot to mention was that there was a company called Gunnar that had a booth selling something called "digital performance eyewear," which are basically sunglasses that you wear when in front of a computer monitor.  They protect your eyes from glare and eyestrain and chiggers, and have cool yellow lenses that remind me of Bono at his most pretentious. 

What's more, if you were a speaker at the Expo, you got a free pair!  All of us signed our lives away for a pair of these glasses, and even though they were out of the men's style when I finally got some, Lauren said the women's made me look like Gary Oldman, so I grabbed me one of those.  I like Gary Oldman.

I don't know if these glasses are the greatest thing since bread slices, but it was a blast wearing them and pretending we were someone else--  Okay, maybe I was the only person who pretended he was someone else while wearing them, but I thought they were neat.
After that, I drove Marshal to the airport while everyone else walked the mile or so to the Imperial Palace hotel and casino, where we had been told there was karaoke.  Unfortunately, Abbie started getting really sick, so she stayed home, and as far as I know, she's lying there still, moaning and ill, as alone as Rish Outfield on a national holiday.

For his job, Marshal had to go to Ontario, Canada, on the same day as his panel, so that shows the level of dedication he carries around with him.  Marshal is a really nice guy, soft-spoken and patient.  I wished I could do something to help his podcast get more listeners, but I can barely get an episode of my own out every month.

I dropped him off and headed back to the Strip, looking for the Imperial Palace (which I actually saw for a split-second while driving, but couldn't find on foot).  I met the others, who had been wandering around trying to find the building, but no one would give them directions unless they bought something or Lauren took her top off, and when she finally did, the directions were no good.

She bought something, I mean.  Not the other thing.

Everybody except me has a phone that will do everything from correct your spelling to check your prostate, so eventually we followed a map to where the Imperial Palace resides (it is back behind a bunch of inaccessible buildings under renovation, and--I kid you not--has absolutely no signs on the outdoor entrance telling you that's where you are.

What's worse, there was no karaoke there, and Big had invited people to come hang out with us there, never realizing we'd be over an hour late, and that the karaoke bar we were meeting at did not exist.*  We remembered the boob lady telling us about the karaoke at Ellis "Old Las Vegas" Island, so we loaded into my car and went there.  Where we should have gone to begin with, since a) they actually had karaoke, and b) their building was also visible to people who do not speak Elvish.

I parked there, and a drunk dude came up to me and said, "That's a great car, man.  I lost my virginity in that car!"  I had no idea what was the appropriate response to that, so I congratulated him and told him I'd make sure to wipe down the seats. 

Apparently, that was the correct answer.

The Ellis Island is a little casino with a buffet, a bar, and a small alcove where people smoke and drink and sing karaoke, in that order.  I love karaoke, having apparently drawn that ability out of a hat at the end of my last life, having left "ability to keep a job" and "ability to talk to girls" in the hat.  There was a tiny stage, and no less than six wide-screen monitors with lyrics on them about the place, as well as a couple of extra TVs that only played old music videos with the sound cut off.  There weren't a lot of open--no wait, let me rephrase.  There were no open seats when we got there, so we stood around for a few minutes until people left, and some of us sat, eventually overtaking three tables when they got vacated.

The DJ at the Ellis Island had a lot of rules, which he repeated twice each that I heard.  One of them was no cursing, and no drinking on stage.  Despite an odor so foul it reminded me of a terminal cancer patient's catheter bag, apparently the Ellis Island is a family establishment.  This DJ was also, in my experience, the least-happy with his job person I've ever seen doing it.  In most situations, the DJ will sing his own songs, laugh, or help out with backing vocals, and in every situation, will applaud the people who did well and try to amp up whoever's about to go next.  This guy was straight out of a Charles Addams drawing, moping about up there, reiterating the many inane rules, and anxiously chucking the song of the next person up if they took longer than ten seconds to get on the stage.  He even did so with me, at one point, despite the fact that our entire group was sitting close enough to hear him call my name, which somebody would have noticed.

The guy was so sour, I was actually amused when he'd announce "Jody just gave me a dollar tip, ladies and gentlemen.  Those have been few and far between, by the way," or some such passive-aggressive swipe.  I could see somebody making even that entertaining, if they said, "Wow, a dollar?  A whole dollar?  Now little Angie can finally get her teeth fixed!" or some such thing, but this guy just made it sound like a drudgery to play the songs for us, and when someone gave him a tip, it was like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.
Renee Chambliss & L. Scribe Harris & Glasses

Oh, and the people who got up to sing were no slouches.  Even in karaoke contests, I don't know that I've heard such a consistently-great group of amateur singers.  Usually you'll get two or three really terrible and/or drunk guys who absolutely destroy a song to bolster your confidence, and rarely some chick who belts out Ella Fitzgerald like a professional and makes you go, "Boy, I'd hate to be the one who follows her."  But on this night, our little group could barely hold its own, let alone dominate in the singing department.

Which doesn't really matter, I realize.  You go there to sing and have a good time (which we did), not to lay down a demo track for your new album.  And I'd say Renee, Scribe, Big and I all had fun sitting around the table, singing along with whatever was being done from the stage, even without waiting for our own song to play.  Bryan, I'm not so sure.  The guy's musical taste seems limited to stuff they don't play in chain-smoking, alcoholic family karaoke bars, and I got the feeling that he didn't get as excited as the rest of us when Wham! starting asking us to wake them up before we went-went.
But he also could have been extremely tired, I don't know.

I got up and sang "Your Song" by Elton John and "Oh Sherrie" by Steve Perry, Big sang "Rio" by Duran Duran (which he insisted was not because we had been at the Rio that day), Scribe sang "Foolish Games" by Jewel and a Rihanna song I didn't know but liked a lot more without Rihanna singing it, and Renee sang "La Bamba" by Los Lobos.  Bryan sang "Rainbow Connection" by Kermit D. Frog.

Oh wait, that part was a dream.  Bryan didn't get up and sing.
I enjoyed the evening, and everybody was pretty exhausted when we went back to the Rio.  We said our goodbyes, and Big and I went back to my aunt's house to sleep.

We slept in a while the next morning, then got up and let my aunt feed us before heading home.  We did look for a charger for Big's tablet, but no one seemed to carry them (even Best Buy), but figured we could chat for a while.  I was not looking forward to the below-freezing-at-the-warmest-point-in-the-day weather waiting for us, and must have subconsciously been thinking of this when I pulled us into a one-way road heading the wrong way trying to get onto the freeway.

Unfortunately, no one was hurt, and we backed up and turned around, getting back in the right direction in no time.  Which doesn't mean Big won't bring it up again and again until the end of time.  But hey, I'd do the same for him.  That's what friends are for, Dionne Warwick.
The drive homeward was less productive, in that we couldn't record anything for the show.  My guess is, that when we get together again to record, neither of us will want to talk about things the way we would have when stuck in the car for seven hours.

It was a nice couple of days, in my estimation.  We had fun, got to meet some great folks, and were left with very little to complain about (though I have tried in these pages).  I appreciate Abbie for inviting us, Big for being willing to rearrange his crazy schedule so we could go, and my mom for swapping cars with me, especially since the heater in my Mazda P.O.S.-3 has been going out.

I'm not saying we should jump at the opportunity to go to another of these, but things could've gone worse . . . and they didn't.

How's that for a silver lining?

Rish "Mister Brightside" Outfield

*Luckily, the same amount of people showed up to meet us as showed up at my last birthday party, so absolutely no outsiders were inconvenienced.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Media Expo Trip 2

Okay, Day 2.

Because of the time change, it was fairly easy for me to wake up the next morning, so we could go to a panel.  Of course, I'm talking about getting to a panel at 10:30am, which isn't the same as the nine o'clock panels I skipped both days.

Big, sadly discovered that he had forgotten the charger for his cellphone and his tablet at home.  Luckily, my charger worked for his phone, but nothing worked for the tablet.  We went to three stores, and none of them had something that could charge a Samsung Galaxy, so there would be no further podcasting during the drive.

We did, however, make plans to do some podcasting in Abbie's hotel room, and Big had brought four microphones to do so (in addition to the mics Abbie and Renee brought along).  It would be hard to find time to get all the recordings in, as well as go to all the panels, and find a karaoke bar before our trip was through.  But more on that later.

So, the first panel we went to was about creating a podcast just using your iPad, and the speaker works for LibSyn, which hosts the Dunesteef.  This guy was extraordinarily well-prepared, and boasted several times that he had over eighty slides.  He was a fountain of information, and unfortunately, I haven't got an iPad, nor am likely to get one, so a lot of his instruction fell upon deaf eyes.  He did, though, talk a bit about podcasting versus blogging, and had some shocking statistics to share with us.

He said that the internet is aflood with bloggers, but not so much with podcasters, especially female podcasters.  He cited the ratio as being 900 to 1 bloggers to podcasters, and when it came to female bloggers to podcasters, the number jumps to 3600 to 1.  Furthermore, while 51% of all bloggers are female, only 12.5% of podcasters are female, so if you want to stand out from the other bloggers (and you also have breasts), you might want to add a podcast to your blog.

Well, this inspired me, but not because I too am starting to develop breasts.  I recently discovered that 2012 was at an end, and I'd never blogged about Spider-man's fiftieth birthday, so I started a post about that a couple of weeks ago, and never finished it (mostly because I knew it would take a long time, and I didn't think I had that in spades).  However, it occurred to me that if I just started recording audio of my feelings about Spidey, I could get it all said in much less time, plus, be specialer than all the other millions of bloggers out there.  So I vow to record that this week sometime.

When I first started going to conventions, I'd circle the panels I'd like to go to in the programme.  Later, I'd print out a schedule with just the panels on it I wanted to see.  With this, there were generally four to six panels going on each hour, but it was kind of hard for me to find ones I really wanted to go to.

Luckily, the others in our group decided we had time to rehearse our panel, and do a recording with everybody gathered together in Abbie's room.  For some reason--either because I was prepared first, or because I was very, very lucky--the reading we did was of one of my stories.  I had thought about the group, and knowing there would be at least two female readers, had brought my story "Office Visit," which almost got published a year ago, and is a story I really like.
While the microphones were being set up, I assigned parts, and really only Abbie and I ended up with something minor to do.  I asked Bryan Lincoln to narrate the story so I could sit and listen, maybe give direction, but very, very little ended up being necessary.  And I don't know if the story is just awesome, or if being in a room like that, hearing such talented people perform it made it WAAAAAY better than it would have otherwise been, but I was thrilled with the experience.
In fact, I said later, that I wanted all future story readings to go as swimmingly as this one did, and to have a permanent group of players like Orson Welles did in his Mercury Theater days, that I could work with to make real magic, until, that is, they got sick of me and I went off to Hollywoodland.

It turned out, I was the only person with a car . . . in the whole city.  No, wait, I misread that.  I had the only car in our group, but there were too many of us to all go somewhere together in it.  Five of us could fit in the car, though, and I, Marshal, Abbie, Lauren, and Big loaded in and went off in search of a pizza place.  We found a nice sit-down pizza restaurant (which there's a dearth of in my town), and ate some together.  Everybody got along extremely well, and as far as I know, there was no bickering, hissyfits, or fighting among us (although I did see some scratchmarks on Big's back the next morning, so he may have had a heated argument with one of the girls*).
Afterward, we reconvened in Abbie's room to record a story Lauren had written.  It had a title ("A Divided Heart") that she seemed keen to change, but is going to appear on her own podcast someday soon.  This one had Big as the narrator, and the consensus is that it was too late at night to properly podcast, because this one didn't go quite so smoothly.  Worse yet, we discovered that two of the microphones weren't on or working, and those lines had to be re-recorded the next day.

Bryan went to a New Media Expo-related event instead, and I ought to say something about that.  I am a slacker, and Big would be an even bigger one if allowed, but Bryan Lincoln is not.  This guy is totally ambitious and anxious to better himself, get to know people who could help him down the line, and go without sleep so he can pay attention to the panels I'm too lazy to attend.

And this guy is smart, too.  Not just Big Anklevich smart, mind you, but like, multiple degrees in physics kind of smart.  I'm not sure what I could achieve with a brain like that (my uneducated guess: not a heck of a lot), but I got the feeling he had to dumb down his conversation when around me, so as not to let on that he's qualified to be a Superman villain.  And I mentioned that he's handsome, right?
While I'm at it, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Abbie is also really intelligent and educated.  But she was raised religious, so that somewhat cancels that out.

We went home quite late, and as far as I know, there were no rodents in Big's bed.  There was a panel at nine by Scott Sigler about . . . hell, I imagine it was about driving the most unique users in your target economic bracket to your monetized site using these sixteen nonsensical business platform catchphrases.  Hence, it was a packed house.  My alarm went off to get us/me up in time to get there on time, but I hit Off instead of Snooze, apparently, and woke up too late to do anything but go look for Galaxy Tab chargers and attend Renee's panel.

Renee Chambliss headed up a panel on using tone and emotion to create a compelling fiction podcast.  It consisted of her, Bryan Lincoln, and Marshal Latham.
They talked about how to prepare your voice for recording, techniques for doing a professional-sounding reading, and fixing errors and inconsistencies.  It was an informative, well-prepared panel, and very few attended.  One of those few (a genius Bryan knew who does a science podcast about the brain) said it had been a mistake to put the dread word "fiction" in the title of the panel, as it kept away a bunch of podcasters who might have found the information useful for their own money-grubbing enterprises.

Oh, by the way, if I sound bitter, I'm not.  Well, I am bitter, let's not gild the lily (whatever that means), but not about this particular Vegas trip.  The New Media Expo is what it is, as much as I despise people who use that worthless phrase, and it's not all about creating original, quality, or even entertaining content.  And it was great to hang out with six people who did value and appreciate that.

And you know, I probably could have benefited from attending some of the business-oriented panels.  Thor knows I have little going for me in that arena, and maybe somebody would have said something in one of them that would have spurred me on to bigger and braver things.

Or I might have at least drawn some impressive doodles in my notepad.

Rish "Pod Fader" Outfield

*This is a joke.  It was Bryan that gave him the scratch marks.

Friday, January 11, 2013

New Media Expo Trip 1

So, here we go.  The trip took us four days, but a lot of that was driving, so I think I can manage this in three posts.  Let's get started, I don't have all day.

Actually, I do have all day.  Thanks for reminding me.

Big's car is not registered (and hasn't been since midway through the Jimmy Carter administration), so I had to drive the two of us down to Vegas.  He had, however, thought to bring his spiffy new Samsung Galaxy Tablet, with which he's been recording his own solo podcast this year.  The weather has been abominable these past two weeks, and we were happy to escape the five degree weather and head to lovely Las Vegas.

On the way, we talked a great deal (about movies, stories, the podcast, and womanfolk), but we also used his tablet to record a little for the podcast.  We knew the quality wouldn't be great, but I listened to his show (called "The Anklecast"), and it was still listenable, so we figured the content would matter more than the crystal clear signal.

Big has been really excited about writing lately, setting goals and working toward them.  It's laudable, and even though I currently have no goals to speak of, when someone around you is trying to better themselves, it's hard not to want to do the same.  One big goal that both of us need to work on this year is to put out some of our stories--ourselves--online where people can buy them.  I have long been worried about that sort of thing, but he described a scenario where somebody bought those stories, and that encouraged me to upload more, and somebody bought those as well.  That would be both exciting and nice, and I really think that all it would take is a single positive experience to get me hooked on doing it again and again.

Speaking of hooked, literally everybody (which means, "figuratively everybody") at the Expo had either an iPad or a SmartPhone they could surf the internet on.  It made me want to get one.  Of course, I felt the same way when we were in the Rio casino and I saw all the waitresses with their skimpy Amazonian outfits on.

It's not an extremely long trip, to get to Las Vegas, and I enjoy driving, but I'll admit my back started to hurt before too long. 

The Expo itself was at the Rio Pavilion, which was specifically made for conventions, yet still attached to the Hotel and Casino, which is right off the freeway, and only half a mile or so from the Strip.  We tried to get there before five o'clock, when the cutoff for picking up our badges was.  We made it with fifteen minutes to spare, only to see no one in line, and two bored-looking employees studying their iPhones with disinterest.

Due to Big's daughter having a birthday, we had missed all but the speed dating portion of the first day of the convention, and all I know about speed dating is that they do it in 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, and that I hate the very fugging concept of it.  I don't even know if I'm supposed to capitalize Speed and Dating, so I shall never mention it again.  Ever.

Seriously, if I ever bring it up again, call me on it.

But I guess I should explain what the New Media Expo is.  As far as I know, it's a yearly gathering of bloggers, podcasters, and web video people, who talk about technology and revenue, and use words like "monetization" and "niche-encompassing." In other words, it's a great deal about the business side of internet-based content, not so much about the creative aspect. But the organizers of the convention wanted to change all that, so they invited big names like Scott Sigler and Veronica Belmont to come out and, hopefully, increase the traffic in those areas.

That's where we came in, speaking in the Content Creation category of the schedule. We were ridiculously outnumbered, of course, and I have absolutely no marketing or schmoozing ability whatsoever. At one point, we got in the lift with a stranger, who, seeing our badges, told us we had thirty seconds to give him our "elevator pitch."

Big held him down while I punched him in the stomach and genitals.  Big got his wallet.  It paid for all our meals.

Anyway, Abbie Hilton's group were all staying at the Rio, so we went up to their room and got to meet Bryan Lincoln, Renee Chambliss, Lauren "Scribe" Harris, and see Abbie, who we'd met before.  It's strange that a collection of producers of audio would be such a good-looking bunch, since no one need see their faces.  Everybody was jet-lagged (Big and I were the only ones who drove), and tired and ill, so we didn't stay long.

There was one important thing I got out of the little time we chatted on the first evening: both Renee and Bryan have been recording audiobooks for pay and putting them out on  I've wanted to do that for years and years, and was a major contributor to my doing a podcast in the first place, so I listened with great interest to how they went about it, and vowed (at least until the heat of the moment passed, anyway) that I too would throw my voice in the ring, as soon as I got back home.

As I've said before, it's nice to be around ambitious people, as it makes me want to be more ambitious, and this group was nothing if not enthusiastic about writing, producing, and earning from their creative endeavors.  Hear, hear.

We went for a walk, the group of us, going over to Las Vegas Boulevard (on foot), and eating at Denny's. Lauren revealed she does an excellent Gollum impression, and must have brought up STAR WARS five or six different times. Nerd catnip, kids.

Two years ago, we came to Vegas to usher in the new year, and I had remembered staying at the Mirage hotel. They had had a karaoke bar amid the gambling halls, so we went there to make sure. Part of me thought it might have been the Sahara we stayed at, but my sister insisted it was the Mirage. Well, the interior of the Mirage was totally unfamiliar to me, and they not only claimed to not have a karaoke bar, but that it was 1961 and karaoke had not yet been invented. Sammy Davis Junior agreed with them, blinking both his eyes.

Big and I inquired about karaoke from a hostess with the mostest (at least in her blouse), and she actually looked it up on the internet to tell us where we could go. She said there was karaoke at the Imperial Palace casino, but that we could go to the Ellis Island, if we wanted to experience Old Las Vegas. She kept using that phrase, "Old Las Vegas" (as if it meant something other than organized crime), and I tried to keep count of how many time she said it, but I'm afraid she was too pretty for any math or concentration.

The weather in Vegas was pretty darn great. It was in the fifties that first night, and in the sixties the next two. When you come from below freezing temperatures, it feels a bit like paradise. At least to me.

I have several relatives who live in Vegas, so the two of us opted to stay with my aunt and uncle, who had prepared the guest room, and a converted garage room for me and Big, respectively.  Big has already told and retold this story, but he made something of an unpleasant discovery when trying to go to sleep that night.  There was a bad smell in the bed, and he got the sensation of creepy crawlies, so he turned on the light, and found a dead mouse under the covers with him.

He alerted me, and I woke my aunt, who felt very embarrassed about the whole thing.  I told her it was no big deal, but then we remembered the time my Uncle Len found those dead hookers under the mattress in that motel room in Reno, and we all had a bit of a laugh.

Actually, my aunt is a very nice woman, and I hope she didn't feel terrible about it, since it was just Big Anklevich . . . who has gone to bed with much worse in his time.

Rish Outfield

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"I spoke at the NMX, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt"

Okay, that's not totally true.

I got several t-shirts.  And one of them amuses me.

Abigail Hilton often invites Big and me to go o'er to the East Coast and attend conventions, or be on panels.  But Big and I are poor, midwestern podcasters, and such dreams are beyond us.

So, it was good news when she got asked to head up a panel for the New Media Expo in nearby Las Vegas, Nevada, and offered us a spot on it.  By our math, it wasn't going to cost us much at all to go (but later I discovered that not only did Big have to take time off from work, but his wife did too, since he wouldn't be home to watch the brats).

I'm not sure whether to go into detail in my blog about it, or whether to just write up a quick summary.  The summary would be easier to write (and to read, and really, who cares about my three days "in the middle of the Nevada desert?"), but the detailed account might be better in the long run, in case I forget, or never get invited to speak on another panel.  Plus, the damn Expo was all about blogs and podcasts and going above and beyond, so maybe I will do the longer one.

Friday, January 04, 2013

FixFlix 39

Absolutely nobody's been bugging me about these, but it occurred to me it'd been about six months since I did one of these.  I really ought to work a little harder.*

*I realize that if I actually did this, I would cease to be me, so it's sort of a rhetorical vow to work harder.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

2013 . . . the final frontier

So, it's a new year, which oddly keeps happening around this time every eleven to thirteen months or so, and I ushered it in by losing less money in the casino than my brother-in-law and three siblings.  I guess, in a way, that's a positive.

Oh, and speaking of positive, you know my friend Big Anklevich?  This guy is super-psyched up about the new year, about resolutions, about changing his life, about kick-starting his writing career, and finally curtailing his baby-making career.  To hear him yesterday, you'd have thought the heavens opened up and the Mighty Thor himself had spoken to him in godly bass tones: "Big, thou must do thy best in this new year, shake off the ponderous chains that doth bind thee, and embrace this second chance I have granted thee.  Oh, and hast thou seen me sans my t-shirt?  'Tis a marvelous vision, wouldn't thou agree?"

Since I'm a pessimistic, unhappy person, I often hate to see my friends with positivity and joy in their hearts, but this guy has really been trying the last couple of days.  He has written, talked about writing, and thought about writing every single day, and even announced his lofty goals for all to see on his blog, and his very own podcast.  He may well be one of those sports-loving guys who believes that the victories in life go to whoever wants them badly enough.

I'm not that way.  I'd much rather wallow in my quicksand-filled septic tank of self-pity and bitterness, and take as many people with me.  But it would be pretty neat to put myself out there a little more, try and sell my work, and see if I could peer through my chloroform-soaked headwrap once or twice a year.

I don't know if I'm more talented than the next guy, I really don't.  I know that there are some seriously untalented guys out there, however, that possess self-confidence far beyond my own.  I'm not sure how one gains that confidence, but I could certainly try to develop some from time to time.

Maybe I'll mention this to Mr. Anklevich, see what he thinks.  And I could stand to encourage the guy a little more . . . in case Thor's off chasing Natalie Portman again.  He does that.

Rish "Baby New Year" Outfield