Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Audiobook Adventures: Chapter 29

As the year winds down, and the holidays take up more and more of my time, I imagine I'll long for this period, when I record or edit a three or four times a week with practically no deadline pressure.

That's not to say that I don't have multiple commitments and deadlines looming--I do, but they're all pretty much doable.  As usual, the major projects are the two remaining Dumarest books, but I've got a handful of short stories I've also taken on, not because I need the money (what money?), but because I wanted to do them.  If I actually made a living doing this, that would probably be the ideal situation for me.

So far, the fourth Dumarest book has been pretty smooth sailing.  It's still got the long chapters to deal with, but it does seem pretty straightforward, with fewer characters (so far) that show up once and never again.  I am, however, really struggling with one of the character voices.  I decided to cowboy up and try an accent I'm not very confident with, and in the editing, it sounds awful. 

Like, Mila Kunis in OZ, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL awful.

But I am committed to it, and unless the publisher says, "Holy Narnia, Rish, that one voice is just too terrible to allow out to listeners; I'm gonna have to ask you to re-voice," that's the one I'm going with.  There was a Voice & Dialects course in college that I really wanted to take, figuring it would help me with my acting, but it was scheduled opposite a film class that was also only offered at that time, and I was already leaning toward Film instead of Theater, so I never took it.  Sometimes I wish I had, though, since that might've helped me out with my voicework.

So, I finished the third E.C. Tubb book, and submitted it the day before the deadline, only to find out a couple of days later that I had only uploaded part of the first chapter.  I'm not entirely sure how that happens (we're required to submit the first fifteen minutes of every project and wait for notes before proceeding, so it's possible I used the wrong file when compiling the whole book), but the omitted section was familiar to me, so I had to go through my files (luckily, I hadn't deleted any yet*) and find the rest of the reading to edit in.  Technically, I did miss my deadline because of that, but I'm not counting it.

These books are sort of keeping me from my solo podcasts, The Rish Outcast and the Podcast That Dares Not Speak Its Name, both of which have episodes recorded but not edited.  I also hoped to do a Christmas episode of TPTDNSIN, and with work, Dunesteef, and the other stuff, that's looking less and less likely. 

Too bad.  It was a really lousy story too.

I think I mentioned in the last post that one of the projects by a famous SF author fell through, after I had auditioned and won the part/gig, didn't I?  That was a bit sad, but I am happy to mention here that I did get the job to do the Ray Bradbury story, and that has to be the highest-profile author I've done since starting this hobby, head and shoulders above the other writers, at least as far as recognizability.  I have a little under a week to get started on that one, so by the time this sees print (virtual print, at least), I should have recorded it.

Then I'll press on with the fourth Dumarest book, and see if I can't get the others done as well.

Rish Outfield, Audiobook Boy

*Actually, I HAD deleted all these files, but as I hadn't emptied my Recycle Bin, they were still sitting there.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Rish Performs "Toyman" (Dumarest 3) on Audible

Somehow, "Toyman" is already available to purchase, despite me having finished it only a couple of weeks ago.  At this rate, book five will be for sale before I've finished recording it.

So, after the events of "Derai," Earl Dumarest should be on his own again, but he isn't.  In between books, he had another adventure, and has found himself stuck on the world of Toy, where the wealthy elite, or Stockholders, struggle for power against the Toymaster, the ruler of the planet, and the holder of the most stock.  Earl has encountered an ally in Legrain, another combatant in the Toymaster's war games, and has found himself on the losing side.  The rules say that all the combatants must win . . . or die.

That's how the book starts, and I'll not complain about that now, except to say that E.C. Tubb is good at writing action sequences and fights, and it would've been nice to start with that.  Instead, poor Earl finds himself on the bottom of the heap once again, finding a lot of new enemies on the planet Toy, and very few friends. 

Like the other books in the series so far, there's a lot of political intrigue, with Stockholders conspiring against the Toymaster, hoping to unseat him, and put someone a bit more decent and responsible in his place.  One of the Stockholders, Leon, allies himself with Quara, the Toymaster's sister, and eventually, Earl Dumarest gets wrapped up in it as well.

Here you go.  Toyman Link.

These are enjoyable books, and there are instances of great writing in every one, but on the other hand, there are repeated uses of the word "iritably," which my mouth is not capable of speaking.  So there's that.

At this point in time, I have two more books left on my contract, and then we'll see what happens.  Book Four is due in a few days, and Book Five is due at the end of next month.  Once those are done, I've no idea what kind of projects I'll take on, or if I'll be offered more Dumarest of Terra books.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Have a Little Pride

I got an email today that vexed me.  It wasn't a huge deal, but with my personality, I could easily have made it a big deal.  After all, a single negative feedback on an eBay transaction can ruin my whole day.*

A month or two back, I did a search for books that were looking for auditions, and a familiar title came up.  It was for a book by a three-named author that I had heard about a couple of years ago, one on the way up, and I had even read a story or two by him in my travels.  This was one of those writers that I've complained about before that require, if you audition to get his narrating gig, that you perform an entire chapter as your audition, which ends up being way too much work for most narrators (and for Audible's rules, by the way, not that they'll do anything about it), and I was hesitant.

Big Anklevich had actually read the book in question, though, so I asked him for his advice.  Should I should audition or not for this thing, and whether the book was even worth the work I'd put into it.  He told me something pretty wonderful: "I think you'd really like it.  It's the sort of book you would write yourself."

So I auditioned.  That entails reading, recording, editing, and cleaning the sound, then sending it to the author or rights holder, and waiting.  I've auditioned for a ton of projects, and while I've certainly gotten more rejections lately than I did when I first started (since I was so much less discriminating in those days, and even auditioned for a couple of textbooks I shudder at the very memory of now), I don't wait with baited breath hoping I nail every part I try out for.**

So today, when I got an email from the writer, it did not surprise me that I didn't get the gig.  Most times, I just get an automatic rejection email that says the part went to someone else.  Every once in a while, the writer or agent will tell me they went in another direction, but thanked me for my audition, and both of those are fine, really.

But this one was different.  This was the first time I've ever got a personalized rejection from a writer that explained why I wasn't good enough to do his or her book.  This was the first time I've ever had a writer insult me in their rejection.

He described the way I deliver all my lines, and I won't copy it here word-for-word, because . . . well, I have no real reason not to, but I will say that he compared my narration voice to a Disney animated character well-known for having a terrible, enjoyment-shattering voice.

That he prefaced it with "I realize you spent a long time creating your audition" was all the worse somehow, because I don't think a lot of the writers out there understand that asking potential narrators to do a fifteen minute sample (or the one from six months ago that actually required the auditioner to record the whole story) is a great deal of work.

In the man's defense, he did add that my voice might be perfect for some other writer's book, just not for his.

So, for about two minutes, my feelings were hurt.  I started to ask myself if he wasn't right, and if I had been delusional to think anybody would want to hear me perform a book or short story, and if maybe I shouldn't consider . . .

But then, an interesting thought went into my head.  A magical phrase, it sounded a little bit like "Buck sim," and it made my shame and disappointment all but disappear.

I have worked hard, since I was eight or nine years old, to do the best readings I can, giving every narration my all, to the best of my ability, even if I'm not fond of the material I've been given.  And I've been doing it for so long, I think I've gotten pretty good.  Oh, eff it, better than good.

Somehow, I've developed a healthy (and out of character) pride in the audiobook work I do, to the point where I try to elevate the material in front of me, if not simply to do it justice.  I'd like to be up there on the short list of the people you'd want performing your story or novel, and wouldn't mind doing voicework here or there for the rest of my life.  It doesn't make any sense, but it's far easier for me to objectively stamp my narrating work as High Grade, than it is to do the same for my writing.  Must be a different portion of my brain or something.

And I think, were he alive, Ray Bradbury would get a kick out of the work I did on his alien invasion short story.  So, there's that.

In the end, I think I actually dodged a bullet.  Regardless of the quality of the man's novel, would I really want to dedicate twenty to forty hours of editing and recording to a book written by a douchebag?

Maybe this is progress.

Rish Outfield, Audiobook Guy

*Since writing this, I discovered that my little sister is very much like me in this regar.  If someone says something unkind to her, or she makes a mistake, or a person in her care dies, she carries it around for a long time, dwelling on it, replaying it in her head, blaming herself or regretting what she did or said or may have contributed to the situation.  That makes me feel for her, since it's no damned fun living your life like that.

**With the exception of the Ray Bradbury story I went after.  Because, hey, that was Ray Bradbury.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Rish Performs "Very Superstitious" on Audible.com

Sometimes, when someone produces a Dunesteef episode for us where I'm the narrator, and I think the reading is particularly strong, it's hard to know if the story is extraordinarily good, or if it's just me, and I'm a demigod among audiobook readers.  It's an occupational hazard, I suppose.

Derek Palmer's story "Double Vision" was the first story we ran on our show, back when we didn't know that you had to do sound removal, and that making an edited mp3 of an mp3 and then saving it as an mp3 would degrade the sound.  But I still like that story, and would like to do it again, if someone told me I had suddenly gained thirty extra years on my lifespan or something.  We've done a couple other stories by that author, including the one everybody hated.  I hope he took that better than I did.

So, here I am, doing a reading on Audible of one of his stories.

"Very Superstitious" is a story about a teenage girl, Ally, who is so out of control that her mother sends her to New Mexico* to stay with her backward, religious cousins and their strict, conservative parents.  She balks at the silly rules in the household, like not watching television on Sunday, never showing their underwear, and leaving reeds outside the house so the Bice, a sort of boogeyman, will leave their daughters alone.  Religious people are so stupid and backward.

Except, it turns out, that there are others in town that also believe in the Bice.  Non-religious people.

I like this story a lot.  It's hard to talk about this one objectively, but there were a couple of moments I found pretty friggin' scary, and if that makes me sound like a self-serving corporate tool, then I'm making progress in life.

Here's the link http://www.audible.com/pd/Teens/Very-Superstitious-Audiobook/B00FSSK6K8/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1384228938&sr=1-1 if you'd like to go over there and pick up that one, and I'd be (hestitantly) interested in your thoughts on it.

Rish Outfield, Bice Hunter

*Maybe she was from New Mexico and they sent her somewhere else, I'm not sure.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Couple of Stories To Plug

So, I have been encouraged, for more 'n a year now, to share some of my stories on Smashwords, which is a website like Amazon, but dedicated solely to books and stories.  I kept putting it off, but once I saw how easy it was, I decided to try to upload one story a week, grabbing pieces almost at random, and finding typos and/or things to fix in every single one.*

As you know, it's hard for me to muster the backbone to put my writing up in a public forum where it will inevitably be judged, but I did manage to stick up a couple of my works there recently, and I guess I will now take a moment to plug a couple of them.  After all, if only one in ten strangers like what they read, that's still potentially seven hundred million folks out there who will know who I am.

Of course, I struggle with math even more than I do with writing, so that number may be a bit off.

I thought it would be wise to put a few of my stories on there for free, especially if they had appeared before, like on my blog or a flash fiction site.  However, both Dean Wesley Smith and Heath Ledger's Joker suggest that if you do something well, you never do it for free.  As far as I know, only one of those two is considered insane.


1.  A Slight Delay (2013)  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/371828
For an airline passenger, an unexpected wait on the tarmac takes a turn for the strange.
I wrote this as a gag on the Dunesteef message boards this month, when folks were talking about things that are and aren't scary.  Much like my moth story (written and produced for the 13 Nights of Halloween), I tried to come up with a scenario (however bizarre) where a man in a bunny costume could be frightening.

2.  The Awful Tale of the Minnesota Diarrhea Ghost (2013)https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/368531
In this tiny tale (really, the title is about half the length of the story), Grandpa sits down his two grandsons and tells them just enough about the Minnesota Diarrhea Ghost. 
This really was a joke, written in a series of IMs to try and make Big Anklevich laugh.
It did not work.


1.  Office Visit (2003)  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/362484
Genie and Sally are two young girls living in a small American town, not too long ago.  When a new dentist moves into town, people begin to behave strangely about him, causing the girls to become suspicious.  Nothing ominous could happen in their peaceful little home, could it?
This is a lengthy story I wrote a decade back, during my series of Horror and Urban Fantasy stories set in smalltown America.  It very nearly got podcast by a horror site in 2011.  It's pretty likely it will end up airing in Full Cast audio on the Dunesteef soon, but here's your chance to read it first.

2.  Say Uncle (2013) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/376129
Uncle Cal is driving his two year old nephew around, when the boy begins speaking in full sentences. Somehow little Alex is the messenger of adult Alex, in an unpleasant future that, just maybe, can be averted.
I wrote this little Sci-Fi Drama earlier this year, with the express purpose of doing it on our show.  Due to a number of obstacles, that has not (yet) happened, but it may still work in text, right? 

I have four or five more tales I plan to get up there before the year is out.  As I mentioned previously, I find the idea of producing cover art for each of these particularly damning, creatively.  A couple of the images I've stuck on my stories have been pretty vanilla, to put it delicately.  But I could take a week to put together an image for one story, or I could upload one in twenty minutes, do revision on a story for next week, and begin writing a third one.  That seems like math even I can do.

Most of these stories can also be found on Amazon.com, though they (like Dean Wesley Joker) seem to have a problem with giving stories away for free.  I've also put a slightly rewritten version of "On Dusty Wings" up there, trying to fix the plotholes that seemed apparent when read aloud.  That's at this link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/366914


Rish Outfield, Book Peddler

*A story I grabbed from 2009 the other day was nearly ready to go before I discovered that the first two pages are just the original notes on the story, including a bunch of ideas that never made it in.  The story proper began about halfway through page three.  Needless to say, that one has not yet seen print.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Rish Performs "The Karnikov Card" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch on Audible

So, I've another Rusch story to promote.  It's called "The Karnikov Card," and it tells of SF convention sleuth Spade's encounter with a huge movie star, who turns out to also be a pretty huge villain.  This is number four in the Spade/Paladin series, and, if I recall, is the longest one.  I have little to say about this one, since it's the first one of hers that--

Whoops, I can't sat that.
What I will say is, these stories get a bit easier for me with every one, mostly because I keep racking up experience every month, and the specific challenges of each project toughen up my narrating muscles.  If I wanted to, I could take on more of these, have a full schedule, and be forced to do it every day.  Imagine my muscles then.

There is one more Spade/Paladin story forthcoming (which I haven't started on yet), but this is the newest so far.  You can find it here: http://www.audible.com/pd/Mysteries-Thrillers/The-Karnikov-Card-Audiobook/B00GC5BX5I/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1383932079&sr=1-1

Friday, November 01, 2013

Audiobook Adventures: Chapter 28

Wow, twenty-eight installments of these.  Y'know, twenty-eight is how old we've decided Big Anklevich is . . . forever.

I finished my third Dumarest book, and am about to start on the fourth, unwilling to let the deadline creep up on me the way it did on this last one.  If I can figure out the main female character's voice, I'll begin soon.

So, remember how I mentioned there was a Bradbury story up for auditions, and I felt like I had to try for it, despite having looming deadlines I wasn't going to reach?  Well, I saw a piece by Theodore Sturgeon go up, and I felt very much the same there.  Sturgeon was a well-known Sci-Fi writer of years past, and I only know him because of his work on "Star Trek."  He wrote my favorite episode of the series, "Amok Time," so I auditioned for the story, and it turns out I got that one.  That's pretty cool.  I'll let you know how that goes.

I've mentioned that I try to describe the voices I give characters in my notes, so that I'll be able to do them the same way when they show up again.  Sometimes, it's as simple as "Old Spock," "Professor McGonagal," or "Morgan Freeman," but they can get a bit surreal, like "Tight-lipped American woman," or "Italian Liam Neeson," or "the guy who did the voice for Piglet."  Actually, that last one was a pretty good description, because while I'm sure it sounds nothing like the actor who voiced Piglet in all those "Winnie the Pooh" things*, it tells me how to voice the character the same every time.

And that's a good trick for doing this kind of work.  Even if you don't do an impression of, say, Jeffrey Combs, my face goes a certain way when I'm trying to talk like him, and the voice comes out differently simply because of that.  You'll probably never know which guy was supposed to be Jeffrey Combs, but he's not gonna sound like the other characters.

I got an offer this week from a publisher to narrate a book by a famous(?) Sci-Fi writer of the past.  I put the question mark in because, while I recognized his name, I've never read anything by him, could cite any of his titles, or even know how to pronounce his first name.  I read the sample they sent me, and afterward, didn't know what to do.  While I know that, career-wise, it's way better to perform the work of famous writers rather than unknown ones, the writing itself really, really vexed me.

It went a little something like this...

Hglathath was regent of all Copernyiah, in the Trygroifth region, son and heir to all that the great Kjiastia left his people.  He was a wise ruler, advised on one side by Valmoroor the sorcerer, and his goodly wife Gynschi on the other.  His three children, Koobl, Bunchiast, and Dave would all inherit a third of the kingdom, each of which has an equally unpronouncible name.

A silly example, maybe.  And perhaps oversimplifying my issue with the writing, but I sent the actual paragraphs to Big, and they made what I wrote just now seem like Dick & Jane readers.  I, personally, hate Sci-Fi and Fantasy writing like this, and if you like it, you can burn in the fires of Quadiodor, where the great beast Amalagothorianyh dwells with his cast out followers, the Bilginiathy.

To me, I have to be able to, above enjoying it, appreciating it, or admiring it, understand what I'm reading, in order to do an effective performance.  Audiobook narration, to me, is not something a computer can do.  I'm not reading a textbook here, I'm not simply copying spoken word from written word.  I'm acting it, I'm translating it, I'm interpreting it, in a way, and trying to make it come alive in a way that will elevate the material, as arrogant as that sounds.

I've listened to quite a few audiobooks in the last seven years, and the best ones are the ones where you forget that there's a single person reading the book for you, but that when the daughter speaks, you know it's her even before the text tells you it's her.  When someone is angry, you feel that they're angry, even without the text saying, "He growled angrily."  When someone is emotional, when someone is whispering, when someone is thinking, your mind knows that's the case because of the performance, rather than depending on the author to spell it out.  Because authors don't write for audio.  They write in text, and it's so easy to have characters argue on paper and keep them straight.  But a narrator's job is to make it obvious which character is speaking when, so that when the author leaves out, "Adam asked," the listener doesn't miss it.

It friggin' blows my mind that I am not simply stating the obvious, and that everyone else feels the same way.  But hey, people are different.  Some folks are able to keep nonsensical names, places, creatures, and terms straight in their head, and such things do not derail the listening experience.  On the other side, my friend Jeff has no tolerance for audiobooks, and I wouldn't be surprised if he likened what I'm doing to creating Cliffs Notes for great literature.

So, I couldn't accept the offer of doing the book, because I wouldn't be able to give it my all, give an individual voice or personality to each of the characters, and, frankly, I fear the work would go so slowly that I would rue the day I ever agreed to it.

I struggle enough as it is with E.C. Tubb's language, and he writes in English.