Monday, May 27, 2013

Rish's voice on "Twilight Audio Theater"

I wanted to share this because I recorded it a long time ago (no idea when) and heard it today, and quite enjoyed it. 

I appeared in the episode "We All Scream," in the Twilight Audio Theatre "Strange Stories" series,  which seems to have dropped recently.  In this, I play a parapsychologist who is now institutionalized after investigating a haunted house, and was the only survivor of his group.

Mike Murphy writes tons of audio dramas, and I've lent my voice to a few of them.  But it's rare that I'm given quite this much scenery to chew, and hopefully my acting is so over that top that it comes back to good again.  Up to the listener to decide, I suppose.

Strangely, I couldn't find the website that hosts the show, but the file itself was embedded on Facebook, and I'll embed it here.

Give it a listen, if ye like.  I thought it was pretty good stuff.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Audiobook Adventures: Week Eighteen

Another week, another dollar.  In theory.  I've done less this week on this audiobook stuff than I have the past few.  I'm not exactly standing under the money tree, so I'm focusing on other things.

I know a couple other folks who have gotten into this little hobby recently, and I suppose they're technically my competition (though Lauren won't be going after the same projects, I wouldn't think).  Big says he's going to do it once he moves into his new house--he's going to have a study where, with any luck, he'll be able to set up microphones permanently--and it'll be fun to see how he does on it. 

I keep thinking about putting some of my own short stories up on, and then recording them to sell on Audible when I'm in the mood.  But the doctors tell me there's a faulty connection between the part of my brain that produces ambition, and the part that gets me off my duff to actually do anything.  The good news is, the doctors are considering naming the disability after me.  The bad news is, the name they've agreed on is Rishout Doucheypussy Syndrome.

So, anything else?

Oh yeah, I did end up getting the contract to narrate the first five books in that Sci-Fi series I mentioned, and I did go ahead and contact the maintainer of a fan page dedicated to that series to ask his opinion about them.  It just seemed like a fun thing to do, and if HBO or Showtime (or the fudgin' Lifetime Network) ever decided to make a television series out of the movie JENNIFER'S BODY, I'd hope they'd email me to ask my opinion about it too.

As a first, instead of PDFs (or unreadable DOCs) of the books in question, the publisher actually sent me old Ace paperbacks of the books.  Because these are a bit historical, and potentially well-known, I'm going to try my darndest to make these readings Frank Muller-level good.

However, one of the instructions in the FAQ for producing work for Audible is not to get too carried away with character voices.  I believe the exact wording on there is "Cartoonish voices will turn off listeners."  And that gave me pause.

What, exactly, is a "cartoonish" voice?

In another book I'm narrating, the author suggested I read one alien species with an Australian accent.  If you've ever heard my Aussie accent, you know how bad it can be, but in dealing with a whole alien race from Oz, it's been a challenge to try and do different Australian accents.  Ultimately, I chose to go the more subtle route for the main voice, and picked an extremely silly voice for the others.  This, methinks, is what Audible was talking about with "cartoonish voices."

But I don't know which is better, when a reader doesn't even try to do accents and everybody sounds the same, or he/she does really bad regional accents.  Hopefully, mine lands somewhere in the middle.

Wait, no, that's not good either.  Maybe there's a third option.


P.S. That reminds me: I auditioned for a book recently where the author wanted me to do an Irish accent for one of the characters.  If you think my Aussie is bad, you should hear my Irish.  Actually, if you think my Aussie is bad, stop reading now and go didgeridoo yourself.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Rish Outfield: Into Darkness

My cousin was going to take his wife to see STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS last Thursday night, but then she got sick, and he went without her.  I had been hesitant about going (it was their date night, and I didn't have to see it opening night), but made up my mind to go along (it was opening night), and I'm glad I did because since then, there have been spoilers aplenty about the ending and the big twist that Paramount had (pretty much) successfully kept secret. 

Also, I'm glad I went because I really enjoyed the movie.

Big Anklevich is not a “Star Trek” guy. A lot of our likes and fandoms intersect, but I might have to say that our two big divergent paths are Football (Big’s favorite sport, which I despise) and “Star Trek” (which I love, and Big disdains if not outright despises). Oh wait, I forgot about “South Park.” That may be a better comparison.  For years, "Trek" was considered the nerdiest of fandoms, and those that were into it were preyed upon by Big's kind, whether in the halls of public school, or simply by words (I wonder if the males who watch "My Little Pony" are now in that boat).  Because of that, we won't be doing an episode about INTO DARKNESS on our show, as much as I would enjoy that.  So here I am.

“Star Trek” is not—and never has been—the end-all be-all of my existence. But my father was a “Trek” fan, taking me to see the first four theatrical movies, and I have watched every episode of every series since “Encounter at Farpoint” first aired. I’ve read “Trek” books (am reading one now), I’ve poured over every special feature of the DVDs, and even went to a Trek convention in 2002.

I resented the hell out of the 2009 reboot’s ad campaign of “This is not your father’s Star Trek,” because it had at its core a distaste for the Trekkers, an embrace for anybody else who might shove their way to the front of the line, and an unsubtle rejection of the die-hard fans that had made the franchise such a viable one for forty years.

Director J.J. Abrams is not a fan of “Star Trek.” He represented a trio of collaborators, one who was a dedicated fan of the franchise, one that knew nothing about it, and him, who apparently actually disliked the series. The goal in their collaboration was to find things they all could agree on, and it totally, unequivocally worked . . . in that the 2009 STAR TREK is the biggest hit at the box office of the series, and not just in cash, but in overall ticket sales.

Director Michael Bay has mentioned that he’s no fan of the Transformers.  It's remarkable, though, how the big-budget adaptation of a toy commercial could make those toy-hawking cartoons look like the best of Miyazaki.

I have a lot more love for the "Trek" franchise than the "Transformers" one.  And yet, I don’t know why I can tolerate J.J. but fudgin’ loathe Michael Bay. Except, I guess, when you look at their filmic styles.  The thing with Abrams is, in the 2009 film, and its followup, INTO DARKNESS (as well as SUPER 8 and MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE 3), he tends to hit on themes that speak to me. Bay does not. And Abrams, even without all the fuckin’ lense flares, worked for years on television, focusing on story and character and emotion, whereas Bay cut his teeth on music videos, and seems to have only gotten worse since the days of directing Meat Loaf's “I Would Do Anything For Love” video.

The characters in Abrams’s Trek films feel things, and I respond to that, not to frenetic action or flashy cars or camerawork that causes confusion and nausea, or even big, flawless, expertly-lit juggs. There is genuine human feeling in the first seven minutes of 2009’s STAR TREK, and I’d say there’s more of it there than anything Bay’s made in the last decade. Except that one Bay flick, and maybe what I’m talking about here is why I like that movie—which absolutely nobody else does—so much.

STAR TREK: THE WRATH OF KHAN is a perfect movie. I’m trying to think of a flaw, and coming up short. Perfect score, perfect special effects, great acting, incredible script. I adore that film. I can understand J.J. and Company being tempted to copy it and its formula (though in inverted and subtle ways).

A lot of “Trek” fans are upset about what J.J. has done.  My pal Jeff said, four years ago, “So, all the adventures Captain Picard and his crew, and every series after that never happened??”  Roddenberry's vision was that of a hopeful future, where the best of human ideals had outlived the worst ones which we see all the time.  There was lots of fighting, and scantily-clad ladies, and space battles, but that was probably to help the show sell, and that's what the Abrams movies tend to focus on.  And yeah, I too dismissed the 2009 movie as a cool space action flick, but not “Star Trek.”

Even so, the things Abrams does in this movie, and in the last one (though I still have trouble with the Vulcan bullies and silly coincidences and Lil Drag-racing Jimmy Kirk listening to the fuckin’ Beastie Boys), have drama and an emotional core, and seem to at least try to develop a little character, which some franchises don’t give two squats about.

Or one squat, in the worst of ‘em.

Big and I recently sat down and did an episode where I talk about having absolutely no love for the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise, and how it is doomed and I am relieved not to have to care. But in re-reading Abrams’s quote about the old “Star Trek” series (I had always understood he was more of a fan of STAR WARS, not that he was actively a hater of “Trek”), it got me thinking: what if I got put in charge of the TMNT franchise? Or a Gojira one? Or Space: 1999? Or Voltron? Or Hawkman or the Flash? Or Thundercats? Or any other cult show or series I don’t care about? Does not liking something automatically make it impossible to do something good with it?

Thing is, I know me, and if I had the Turtles franchise handed to me, I would do the best I could with it. I’d sit down with someone who loved the cartoon or comics or action figures and say, “What made you love it? And what do you love all these years later?” Or would that only muddle my thinking?

There is an alternate reality out there, not too far from our own, where I became a successful screenwriter . . . and after the huge hit that was DIE ANOTHER DAY, was given the assignment of writing the spinoff for that loathsome Jinx character.* Alterna-Rish tried really, really hard to write the best movie he could, with depth, and tension, and a heroine who was human and vulnerable and earned her happy ending. He just tried to pretend that this was a new character, regardless of what went before, and crafted the best movie he could. He was fired after the first draft and rewritten by the guys who did those Steven Seagal-teams-up-with-a-rapper films, and JINX opened in 2004, ultimately making seventy-one million dollars and a sequel greenlight from Sony.

Now I think I’m rambling. Truth is, I have about an hour of work left editing the audiobook I recorded, and I just didn’t want to do it anymore. In this, I meant to question whether someone had to love the subject matter, and I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that they do have to try. TRY. Some filmmakers don’t even do that.

Maybe Alterna-Rish got to that point in his Earth’s 2013, and he’s just a hack taking jobs for money and inserting random pop references in them because it keeps him from realizing how alone he is. Maybe he got out of the Biz and writes short stories again, and shares them with nobody because his pride was so wounded after the CONAN THE KING rewrite fiasco.

I don’t think STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS was a perfect movie, but I didn’t dislike it nearly as much as I did IRON MAN 3. And I’m a much bigger “Trek” fan than I ever have been an Iron Man fan. So why didn’t I freak out that they changed Khan’s nationality (and Carol Marcus’s as well, now that I think about it?) like I did with the silly joke they made the Mandarin into? After all, I adore Khan (I stood in line for two hours once to speak Spanish to Ricardo Montalban), and have never once read a comic book with the Mandarin in it?

Again, I guess it just comes down to what I like. They took Khan in a new direction, and even though the TOS crew didn’t meet up with him for seven more years in the original timeline, they took the time to write a line—A SINGLE LINE—to explain it away.** That’s all it takes sometimes, just a throwaway line to let someone else know that you’ve seen “Space Seed” (or THOR, or RAIDERS, or whatever it might be) and it’s like when you see one of the Davies or Moffat “Doctor Who” episodes, and they show a picture of William Hartnell or footage for a second of John Pertwee. The new “Doctor Who” is for people like me, who don’t give a crap about the 20th Century version of the series, but they’re saying they still recognize—and appreciate?—the folks like Jeff who loved the old BBC show.

They didn't kill Khan either, but left him as a possibility for a future confrontation, whereas the "Iron Man" flicks are the only ones from Marvel Studios where they actually kill the bad guys at the end of each movie.  And Carol Marcus, while I'd loved for there have been some kind of romantic tension between her and Kirk, stuck around--presumably--for the next movie, when maybe we'll get some emotional connection and/or smooching between the two.  When you've got as many characters to service as these films do, it's rare that all of them get something to do, let alone have any real development, but this one did try, better than the "Next Gen" movies managed to (as much as I enjoyed three of those).

It's difficult to put into words why one likes what they like.  It's far easier to point at things you hate, because usually there are big things that are obvious to point out, easy to exaggerate, and anyway, as a great man once said, your hate has made you powerful. 

When the new "Star Trek" movie ended, I wanted more, and was looking forward to the next adventure (and bummed that they take so much time in between movies, and we won't see much of that five-year mission).  When the new Iron Man movie ended, they had so definitively tied up loose ends, said their goodbyes, and practically burned their bridges, that I felt they'd blown the potential for a sequel almost as much as the Daredevil movie did.

No, just as badly as DAREDEVIL.  Yeah, I said it.

I think I'm going to go finish that work now.

Rish Tiberius Outfield

*This actually happened, in a parallel earth called Earth-571, where Bob Dole was elected President, Gary Coleman is still alive, reality shows never grew in popularity, “Firefly” got three seasons, but sadly, World War III happened, Pixar stopped making movies, koalas have gone extinct, and a gallon of gasoline costs nine dollars.

**Among the deleted scenes from the 2009 film is a single line spoken by Spock Prime that explains away all the convenient coincidences as being the fractured timeline trying to correct itself.  I loved that line, and wish it had been included, for exactly the same reason I appreciated the line about finding Khan and his crew.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Audiobook Adventures: Week Seventeen

How in the deuce have I been doing this for seventeen weeks?

Maybe I've been going longer than that, and forgot to post a couple of weeks.  Whoops.*

So, let's see.  I made those changes I was complaining about in the last episode.  Wait, I sure hope I complained about them.  Maybe it's been so long since I wrote one of these, I didn't.

To make a long story short, I got sent a list of changes that needed to be made (I meant to put "needed" in quotation marks there) before the book was ready to go.  Before that happened, I mentioned to the author that because of the way one's voice changes, settings change, and microphones change, it would be hard to make the audio match on any new lines she wanted me to record, and that there were times I dropped a word or two because the audio was bad and I didn't want to re-record it and have it sound bad.

Well, there were several instances on the list where the problem she wanted fixed was the audio quality changing from one sentence to the other.  And then, there were times when I had dropped a word or two from a sentence here and there. 

Are you sure I didn't complain about this already?  It feels like I have.

Regardless, I addressed every point on her list, and now there are twice as many instances of the audio quality changing, try as I might to make it all match.  I pray to Odin she's fine with that.  If not, I pray to Shiva, let me die.

Okay, what else is going on?

I haven't auditioned for anything in a couple of weeks.  Sometimes I do look at what's just gone up, and is looking for auditions, but it's almost always stuff I'm not interested in, and when it is, they're almost always hundred thousand word (I originally typed "page") novels, or worse yet, series of novels.  I have a bit on my plate--not a lot, but I'm still a lazy sack, perpetually fourteen years old--and would rather take on novellas or short stories. 

Right before writing this, I finished editing my recording of another book.  Well, I think it's finished, we'll find out what the rights owner thinks.  It's the same book I've talked about here recently, full of stories written decades ago, that I was pretty excited about, when I first got the contract for them.

Somehow, I'm able to make the fact that I'm (ostensibly) getting paid to do something fun appear like work.  I must seem like such a whiner to the, count 'em, four people reading this blog.  And I am.  If you're one my, count 'em three friends, then you know I actually enjoy complaining about things.  Even if I have to lie about it. 

Like when I said I'm getting paid to produce these audiobooks.

Rish Outfield, Audio Boy

*It has been more than a week since I posted one of these, so I think I'll cut out one paragraph and stick it in next week's.  Maybe having an already-started post will encourage me not to wait so long.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Swords & Scimitars" short story now available on

This one nearly slipped through.  While I was working my way through the novel I'd taken on, I signed up to perform a couple of short stories, which, while work, were pleasant diversions from my much more lengthy assignment.  One of these was "Swords & Scimitars"  by Cate Rowan.

This was a prequel to a longer work she had already published, giving the backstory to one of the characters, examining a little of what made him who he was in the "Alaia Chronicles," which is a series of books Rowan wrote.  Not having read those, I was at a bit of a disadvantage in knowing how to perform the characters, and she actually had me do one part over and revoice one character completely.

Here's your link: Swords & Scimitars: Alaia Chronicles.  Basically, this tells the history of Kismet, who with his brother Taso, live a leisurely life as children of a god.  After a tragic mistake sends him into exile, Kismet devotes himself to military life, and eventually is approached by two enemy leaders, each presenting a daughter as a peace offering . . . as long as Kismet will marry her.

The file is less than an hour long, and it'll be interesting if fans of  Rowan's longer works will scoop up the short story too.  It seems to work for Abbie Hilton, who gives away for free her novels, but offers short stories for a buck or two each.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Downton Blabby

I’ve been watching “Downton Abbey” the last few weeks, and I’m frankly amazed at how much I’m enjoying it.  Not because there’s any problem with the quality—quite the contrary—but because, if someone described the show to me two years ago, I’d probably have rolled my eyes and shuddered at the thought of such torture.  Of course, the me from two months ago wouldn’t have believed I’d be enjoying watching “Rev” with Jeff, about the day-to-day struggles of an English vicar in the 21st century.*
Oh, I digress.  What I was going to comment on, and try hard not to relate it to the current tug-o-war about gay marriage, is at how the lifestyles and attitudes of the characters on “Downton Abbey” are so very alien to my modern eyes.  Having grown up in America, the very concept of nobility and class is as foreign to me as hookahs and forehead dots.  It’s been an American tenant for a century, “that all men are created equal,” but it’s fascinating to see a glimpse of what I assume to be realistic English life and attitudes from a hundred years ago.
To think of yourself as lower than another because of your job or poverty is understandable, I guess, but to think of other people as simply better than you because of their parentage or title or social circle or opportunities is harder for me to grasp.  The hateful-yet-lovable character of the Dowager Countess is a staunch advocate for tradition, to the point of dismissing the possibility of women getting the right to vote as radical nonsense.  It never occurred to me that there would be any women who didn’t want suffrage, or could think equality was a bad idea, and that’s been something that I’ve tried to get my head around.  “That’s just the way it is,” isn’t an American attitude, or rather, maybe it’s just not a white male American attitude.

Wait a moment, maybe I can understand it, to a certain extent.  You see, I have a unique-ish perspective in that I have made my living as a television and film extra, and observed the way extras are treated (and indeed, considered) by most productions.  In the last production I worked on, it was lunchtime, and the cast and crew were all broken at the same time, and bussed back to base camp to eat.  The extras, of course, had to wait until all the others had been loaded up and shipped to base before they could climb aboard the shuttles, but if there was an empty seat, they might get to go with the last group of crewmembers.  Once at base camp, the extras were lined up outside the tent, waiting for actors, grips, filmmakers, producers, costume and makeup, even stand-ins, to eat their lunch, before they could join in and have their lunch.  We stood there, in suits and jackets, as the sun beat down, knowing that we were to wait because the rest of the crew was simply better than us.
It was the lead actress’s birthday that day, so cake was brought out, and the whole crew sang “Happy Birthday” to her.  We were not allowed to participate, and one of the guys in our group said, “They could let us in there to join in the singing, but then we’d only be able to pantomime.”  If you’ve been an extra before, that might make you laugh.
It was Cinco de Mayo, so there was a pretty wondrous Mexican feast prepared.  Once the crew was done (and there was no cake left), the A.D. told us we could line up, and that there was a taco line and a burrito line, and we could choose.  I, and three others, got in the taco line, only to find that there were two tortillas left.  The first extra in the line took both.  We slinked back to the burrito line, and I was prepared to be upset when I wasn’t allowed back in line, but the extras around me let me back in my place.  There was little complaining, and except for the actually-pretty-hilarious earlier jibe, no one questioned whether it was fair or right.
Extras are paid little, and sometimes—not always, no, there were several productions were people were kind and appreciative, and Sam Raimi even thanked us and shook hands with the extras—treated like little more than animated furniture.**  To some, it’s infuriating, and they didn’t last long as “background actors,” which is the lovely P.C. term for extra.  To others, it was simply the way it was.  My attitude was that it was a fairly easy way to make a paycheck, and I got to be around film sets, which is where I wanted to be anyway.  My attitude was, nobody is forcing me to do this, and there are worse things to be in this city.
One more digression: Shortly before I moved to Los Angeles, there was an extras union, that looked out for the interests of those doing that job, tried to make sure people got paid for anything they did above and beyond the typical applauding and crossing, and probably wouldn’t be amused that the tacos were all gone.  But that particular organization got swallowed up by the Screen Actors Guild sometime before the turn of the new century, and things changed, though for the better or worse I don’t personally know.  But since moving away from Hollywood, I’ve seen what non-SAG sets are like, and that is, for the most part, a bit more of a “that’s just the way it is” way of making a living.  To see children working out in the elements at eleven o’clock at night, or have babies on the set for twelve hours, does, in retrospect, make me miss the regulated ways of California.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to go on this long.  I just wanted to express that, as much as I love watching “Downtown Abbey” (there is something elegant and thoughtful about it, but also very human and relatable),  I struggle to understand the way no eye contact could be made with "a better," one must always use a title rather than a familiar name, and respect didn’t need to be earned when it could simply be born into.
And yes, there was that one time when I was around Paris Hilton, when people said, “Nobody approach her, do not speak to her unless spoken to,” that should inform me that that sort of thing has managed to hang on, even in a land far, far away.

Rish Outfield, Cowager Downtess 
*I don’t know why I so thoroughly love “Downton Abbey” but so thoroughly despise the works of Jane Austen.  It’s possible it’s simply sexism, or maybe Austen’s writings were about a slightly different era and/or locale, or it could be that DA is intended for a modern audience, and “Pride & Prejudice” was intended for the audience of its time.   Dunno.

**Oh, and there were opposite examples to my SPIDER-MAN experiences.  One TV show, in particular, was so notorious for mistreating their extras, that on my very first day in orientation, we were told, if anyone didn’t want to work on that show, they’d make a note of it and we’d never have to worry about getting booked on it (and perhaps called cockroaches by the lead actress).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Deadline Approaches

Uh oh, another writing post. 

I've been writing a lot lately, and have one just about finished.  It is supposed to be under two thousand words, though, so I may have to hack and slash, and that sort of thing usually takes as long as it would to write a whole new story.  I don't feel too creatively inspired on this one, but I don't know if that matters.

I think I mentioned this the other day, but in the story collection I'm nearly done editing, I discovered that, of the six stories in there, there were really only two stories, told three different ways each.  I thought about what it might have been like to be a writer in the 1930s and 40s, when pulp magazines were scooping up stories left and right, and one of these short story writers might well have a guarantee that every story they penned would be purchased.  I guess I could see why somebody would take one story, and rework the location and character names, and the details and red herrings, and send it out again and again.  I could see doing it myself, I suppose.  But it's still a bummer to discover that every overlong piece I read for this collection is either a variation of Story A or Story B.  Did the editor of the magazine pick up on this?  Did he even care?  Maybe he said, "I want a story just like that last one, that was a humdinger!" so he ended up with a variation on it.  Did he care about that?  How about the readers?  Was the bar lower or higher in those days?*

But I tend to tackle the same topics again and again in my writings, because they are the things that either frighten me or fascinate me.  Does someone who reads my work say, "But the themes of this story are the same as the other two stories I read by him, and the location was practically identical?"  Or am I close to it, so I recognize that stuff when nobody else would?

Imagine if you will, a girl abandoned on a deserted island, say, the only survivor of a shipwreck.  No one else is around, but monkeys and wallabies and turtles, but she lives her life the best she can.  How can this girl know if she is attractive or not?

See, that’s me being a male again.  Sorry.  But I struggle with the question of “Am I a good writer or not” all the time.  And to me, a girl alone on an island can’t really know if she’s attractive unless she’s around other people, who are either attracted to her, or aren’t.  Of course, there are shiny surfaces, and the water’s reflection to show her whether she’s pretty or isn’t, whether she’s appealing to her own perception of beauty.  So, maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.
But I do struggle with the idea of whether I’m actually a good writer or not, because if I come up with a story that captivates me, or a joke that makes me laugh, well, that could just be me.  And I could well be insane.

Take this latest story I’m working on.  It’s for a contest organized by my own podcast, and I can tell that it’s not a very good story.  Heck, it might not even be a story.  I have a setting, a relationship, and a twist in mind, and though I’m not satisfied with them, I have a deadline looming, and what I’ve got is going to have to do.  Would a real writer—a good one—be able to take this mediocre idea and craft something good (and satisfying) out of it?
I don’t know.  I tend to lean toward saying yes, but that’s because most writers I’ve known are arrogant, sometimes staggeringly so, and perhaps that’s fooled me.

Of course, I’m not on a desert island, and I happen to have known many writers, and find that they are very different in temperament, confidence, and method.  So, I can only do the best I can with the ability I have.  I did quite well in the last Dunesteef contest; if my story doesn’t shine this time around, it’s someone else’s turn.
One of the reasons for this contest was to get a few short stories we could run on the podcast that wouldn't take three weeks each to produce.  Another reason is that contests are fun, and this one seemed like it might be amusing.  The other reason, though, was that writing contests with specific requirements force people to write stories they never would have written otherwise, bending their imaginations outside of their usual arenas, rather than taking well-tread locations and trying to bend them to the contest parameters. 

I've got two more days to finish this story, then whip it into some kind of shape.  I think it's doable.

But first, I'm going to check my Facebook statuses.  And watch "Downton Abbey."  And maybe install Starcraft on this computer.  And what else?

Rish Outfield, Occasional Writer

*Part of me leans toward saying it was lower, since people were "less sophisticated" in those days, but actually, the bar was probably higher.  After all, these were people who were paying money to read stories.  A novel concept nowadays.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Audiobook Adventures: Sour Sixteen

I don't have much in the way of updates this week.  At least not when I'm starting this post.  Who knows, maybe something exciting will happen. 

It looked like it was going to a couple of days ago.  I auditioned for a book that was part of a series (the third entry),  and got a positive response from the rights holder, who wanted to hire me (or whatever you technically call not paying someone to narrate the audio version for Audible), but wanted me to commit to at least five books in the series.  Turns out the series is longer than that, and not having read any of them, I didn't want to commit prematurely. 

So I looked up the book on Wikipedia, then on Amazon, and finally, discovered two websites out there dedicated to the work of the book's author.  That was exciting to me, and I nearly emailed the site to let them know I was going to be involved in it. 

But then I remembered that this was the third book in the series, which probably meant that they had gotten someone to narrate the first book (or the first two books), but that reader wasn't willing to commit to more, hence asking me if I'd commit to at least five.  I asked the rights owner if she expected me to try to sound similar to the reader of the first two books, whether she wanted an English accent, and if I could listen to the first two books to know how to do the performance. 

The rights holder told me that nobody had performed the first and second books either, and that the job was mine if I wanted it.  I told her that I'd be happy to do the first book at whatever deadline she set, and that would give me an indication of how long to ask for each additional book.  I have to admit that I was getting excited about the prospect, even though, damn my eyes, I hadn't read any of the books other than the audition segment from the third book.  I talked to Jeff about it, and it turned out he had three of the author's books in his library already, which leads me to believe the writer is at least as famous as Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

But then I didn't hear back.  I didn't get a contract.  I didn't get an answer as to whether I should audition for the first book.  Nothing.  Knowing me, my first inclination was that I had said something in the email that was perceived as offensive or deal-breaking.  If you know me, you know it's possible*, so I hope there's just some other delay going on that has nothing to do with me, and I'll soon be on my way to fame and fortune with this project.

Okay, neither fame nor fortune, but still, a project that's worth getting excited about.

My other news for this week is that, after recording that last book, and discovering entire sections within it where the microphone simply cuts out for a minute, then cuts back in**, I decided I didn't want to record anything else with the microphone, or in the less-than-perfect condition I'm in.

I live in this world, and I understand there's not going to be a literally perfect recording environment unless I spend money and build one, but it sucks to know you're just rolling the dice when you go downstairs to record, and if I have to re-record, it's gonna sound different, whether better or worse.

So, I asked Big if it would be alright if I spent the Dunesteef's money to buy a microphone like he has, a Zoom H1.  He suggested I get one a month or so ago, but I don't do podcasts from my car like he does, and thought it was a waste of money.  But then we recorded a couple of shows with it (including one I should've edited weeks ago, sorry), and the sound quality was so good, I thought, "Eff all these microphones I've been struggling with for months now, I should just get that tiny device and be done with it."

Now I've got the device, and despite it shutting off on on us a half hour away from finishing our podcast last night, I'm pretty happy with it.  I just need to get a bigger memory card for it, and some kind of case to protect it, and I'll be back in business.  I haven't recorded any audio books with it yet, but I re-did a couple of lines yesterday that were dropped in last week's recording, and the sound quality was way better.  So that's a plus.
Also, because it's portable, I should be able to do these recordings anywhere I am, and that's good news if I'm going to keep taking on audio projects.

That's it for this week (except that a book I thought I was finished with has come back to haunt me, as I now have a list of changes I'm supposed to make before it is done.  Sigh-emoticon).  We'll see what week will bring.

Rish Outfield, Audioboy

*As I very nearly said something angry about someone criticizing my English accent in this very post, when I asked the masses if a British author would want his main character to have a British accent.

**And this was before I slammed it on the ground several times, mind you.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Audiobook Adventures: Week Fifteen

The work continues. 

One of the two projects I'm editing is a real delight, with writing I am honored to read, and would be happy to buy up for the Dunesteef.  The other . . . well, it's lots harder to slog through, and I haven't even gotten to the chapter where I really started cursing.  Still, nobody forced me to take these jobs, but that's not going to stop me from complaining about them.

I finished recording another book this week.  However, it seemed the forces of light and/or darkness were trying to keep me from it.  First, there were the aforementioned sound problems.  I hooked the microphone up on my new system again, sure that I just had the settings wrong or something, but try as I might, the horrid hiss was there, even when I had the microphone off.*  So, I now go down to the basement and record, aware that every noise from upstairs or outside is picked up, but insistent on it nonetheless (why don't I just record in here, using my brother's laptop, in a chair that's comfortable, using a desk to anchor the microphone instead of on the arm of the couch?), and aware that, for some unknown reason, one out of every two recordings will sound like I'm neck-deep in filthy water, down in a sewer somewhere ("wE aLL fLoAT dOwN hERe").

But I carry on.  A better man probably wouldn't keep doing the same thing, over and over, hoping for a new outcome.  What is it they say about that?**  I will admit that, today, I did throw a bit of a hissy fit, grabbing the microphone and slamming it against the floor two or three times (delightfully, I was recording at the time, which should be amusing for posterity).  After that, though, I felt a little better, and was able to continue on with my recording.

Today, I reached the end of the book, and it had really done a number on my voice.  I had decided to narrate this section in a gravely voice (what I think of as my Lex Luthor voice) because, as I said the last time, I discovered that this is the same story that had appeared twice before in the collection, just with all the specifics changed.  If I changed up the voice of the narrator, perhaps I could trick the three or four people who will buy it into thinking it's a different story.  I sat in the same position, with the computer on my lap, angling my body so my mouth was near the microphone, for so long, that my legs started to cramp up, and even twitched a couple of times against my will.

And that damned Gene Hackman voice was taking a great toll on my throat (to the level that my vocal chords are hurting even as I type this), but I knew there were only two chapters left, and I could put this thing to bed.  So, I said, "Testing, testing," as I always do when I start up a new recording, and went to work.  I was fairly close to done, more than halfway through the final chapter, when my nephew came in to ask me to open a container of milk for him.  I stopped the recorder, opened the milk, and sat back down to finish . . . only to discover that the entire recording was silent.

Well, not entirely silent: there were two seconds of recorded sound where I said, "Testing, testing."  After that, it was all blank.

I sighed.  I was angry, but my earlier outburst with the microphone had pretty much reset my boiler pressure, so I just sat down again and started again at the point I had recorded an hour before.  It was a little bit easier to narrate the second time, because I was familiar with the language, but my voice was even more strained, and much less willing to shout, or sound normal when I tried to do female or non-Luthor voices.

I finished the penultimate chapter, and started on the final chapter, when suddenly, I started getting very sleepy.  It happened all at once, as the recording will attest: I was reading along, then I would go silent for a moment.  Then I would continue, then my eyes would droop.  Finally, I changed position, and forced myself to barrel through.  I was so near the end!  I heightened the emotion in my performance, trying to stay awake, aware that I was a scant two pages from finished.  One page.  Half a page. 

And then, I did it.  I reached the last paragraph.  I recorded my lines, looked onto the next page (all it said on it was "The End," due to some unfortunate formatting), and went back and re-recorded it so that it felt like the end of a story instead of just the end of a paragraph.

"The End," I said.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

And then all went dark.

I know it sounds like a made up story, but no more than three seconds after reading "The End," the battery on my brother's laptop died, turning the damn machine off.  Aren't these things supposed to warn you when there's only ten or five percent of the battery left, to avoid exactly this kind of nasty surprise?

"No!" Gene Hackman growled in the dark.  I fumbled for the power cord, which I had unplugged in an attempt to get comfortable in my crouching position, and stuck it back in the machine.  It rebooted, came alive . . .

. . .  and had saved the recording in progress.  I played back the last thing it caught.  "What?" a gravely voice said, and then, "No!"

So, to my vexation, there were additional headaches at the end of this particular project (if it is the end, for I still have to edit the last few hours of work, and then we'll see what the rights owner says, since he has shown his displeasure with me in the past, on stuff that didn't sound like it was recorded from inside an aluminum coffin), and I'll be happy to put it behind me. 

Every project I've worked on (and there are fifteen listed under my profile) has had its own unique challenges and surprises.  Which is great, I suppose, since many people have jobs where every day is a carbon copy of the day before.

I hope that these journal entries have been entertaining in some way, and maybe informative about what it takes to take something I've only ever done for fun, and try to make money from it  I know there will be new hurdles in the future, but hopefully, a triumph or two.

Rish Outfield, Narrator Child

*Isn't that scariest thing?  Like one of those movies where the calls keep on coming, even after the hero has yanked the phone out of the wall?

**Oh yeah, people who say that's the definition of insanity are assholes.  I'd almost forgotten that old saying.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Rish Performs "Killer Advice" Over On Audible

As I said a week or two back, I auditioned for and got the job to narrate two stories by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  The first was "Case of the Vanishing Boy," which was quite short.  The second was longer, and was called "Killer Advice," and is now available for purchase over at

This even has cover art with my name on it, which makes me smile inside.

"Killer Advice" is a mystery story set on a space station.  When some suspicious deaths occur on a starship, it is forced to dock at an out-of-the-way station for repairs.  Everyone leaves the ship, checks into quarters . . . and the deaths continue.

I recorded this one before following Renee Chambliss's advice to always read every work through before producing it, and hence thought that the characters introduced in the first chapter were the main two characters.  It turns out that there are several characters, each of which get their own POV chapters (I recognize that a lot of writers do this, but I haven't mastered it yet), and that the guy you'd probably describe as the "hero" of the story, doesn't appear until a few chapters in.

There are lots of Mysteries, Period Mysteries, True Life Mysteries, Urban Mysteries, Supernatural Mysteries, Unsolved Mysteries, but I don't think I had ever read a Science Fiction Mystery before now.  I suppose this and the other story could both be classified as Detective stories, but they really differ in tone and locale.  The only thing they really had in common was attitude.

And quality.  I believe I said this before, but wow, Rusch's writing skills are really developed, and her talent elevates her material over most everything else I've recorded.*  That's not to say there weren't challenges in narrating her work (there are always difficulties that come up in every production), but they had nothing to do with the quality of the writing, or awkwardness of reading things aloud.

As I said before, now that I have the hang of it (or at least I did before I got this new computer and screwed everything up again), it would be a pleasure to narrate more of Ms. Rusch's stories sometime in the future.

Here's your link:

Rish Outfield, Mystery Reader

*It reminds me of when Big was telling me about his sexual misadventures as a teen, and how different it was when he started sleeping with his classmates' mothers instead of their daughters.  Apparently, there's a whole other skillset with a person of experience.