Friday, February 28, 2014

Audiobook Adventures: "Love . . . Exciting And New"

Cum aboard, we're expecting you.

Guess I'm gonna go ahead and finish this post, since it's been two months since I started it.

A year ago, when I first started trying to do audiobooks, I thought about maybe doing a couple of pieces of Erotica.  It seemed like someone who was a casual reader (or not a reader at all) might enjoy listening to sexual exploits rather than just watching them on the internet, so I figured I'd give it a try.

Oh, maybe we should define Erotica here.  I suppose we're talking about depictions of physical love, instead of just romantic love, flirting, newly-developed feelings, etc..  Porn, I guess.  Just so there's no confusion.

The thing is, porn is, at least to me, a form of fantasy, of male wish fulfillment.  The way a perfect world would work.  Your mileage may vary, of course.

And the Romance genre (at least the traditional, Harlequin-style Romance) is much the same, a form of fantasy, of female wish fulfillment.  The kind of life one dreams of having.

The project I'm currently working on (nearly done, now) is a Romance book, written by a woman, and ostensibly intended for women.  But it's not exactly a paperback with Fabio on the cover.  I think the author would describe it as Erotic Romance, or there may be another, better term for this subgenre.

It has a different feel from the other Romance I've performed in the past year.  And it feels different from Erotica as well.  The writer has at least five of these out there, with handsome, wealthy, clever protagonists* and meet-cute scenarios with women who spread their arms (and legs) for them.

This one is written much like a typical romantic scenario, where a man and a woman meet, feel attraction for one another, get together, then obstacles arise and they go their separate ways, only to come back together at the end.  It shifts between the point of view of the male character and the female one, but it's pretty emotionally exaggerated, and feels like the female POV outweighs the male one.  Which is fine . . .

. . .  except that there is an enormous amount of full-on, descriptive, explicit sex.  Literally the first moment the male and female characters meet (this is in Chapter One, mind you), they create the beast with two backs.  And it's not just a quick paragraph of how "Carly's eyes closed as their bodies became one, the joy of their intimacy filling her from top to bottom.  No more was she a young, innocent girl of forty-three . . . she was now a woman."  It really buries not the lead, giving us a Vivid Entertainment's eye view of every well-lit detail.

Narratively, I would not have imagined a story would work that way.  As author, you'd want to do what you can to keep the couple apart, undermining the audience's expectations but forcing them to keep hoping things will work out, all the while inserting new obstacles so foreign and unnatural, you'd think "Dawson's Creek" went on for eighteen seasons.  But porn has different logic, different rules than regular storytelling, I suppose.

And I don't know if it works or not.  Which is a humble way of saying that it totally doesn't work.  It's so incongruous that it's like one of those movies where somebody has gone in afterwards and added explicit stuff (like HALLOWEEN 2 for gore or CALIGULA for sex), or that story the pastor used to tell about how the sex scene in TOP GUN was such an afterthought that Kelly McGillis's hair isn't even the right color anymore.

There are genuine characters in the book, and interactions that feel pretty real, and some emotion that feels earned.  There is also some silly Hallmark Channel/Lifetime Television For Women And Gay Men melodrama too, but I figured that was par for the course.  When the happy ending comes in the last chapter, I felt pretty good about it, but then there came one more "happy ending" in the massage sense that made me shake my head with discomfort.**

I talked to Big about it, and it was difficult to convey my problem with the narrative without simply spelling out in no uncertain terms what went on in the story's coda.  It made me feel like a prude, one who resorted to spelling certain objectionable words and shuddering after I did it.  And Big could understand reading a book like that himself (with the doors locked and the curtains drawn), but not finding his wife reading.

I really don't know who this kind of book is for, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate it when it works.  The author has made a name for herself writing this sort of thing, and her Amazon pages are overflowing with gushing five-star reviews, written (assumedly) by women who devoured her books and can't wait for the next one.*** 

I'd really like to talk to a woman like this, one who hasn't been beaten down by puritanical society to see intercourse as an evil somehow equal to the taking of human life.  Just to gauge her thoughts on this. 

Most Erotica on Audible is performed by women, and I totally get that.  If I wanted to listen to explicit tale of a girl's first foray into Sapphic Summer Camp, I'd totally want it narrated by a woman.  There are several Gay-themed stories and books looking for narrators every time I look at the list, and those are naturally to be recorded by men. 

I felt a bit awkward during this one, but haven't gotten any complaints from the author.  I was a bit embarrassed to be delivering the lines--and performance, since I'm acting out the female parts as well--but I hope that doesn't show.  It's still good work if you can get it, and I gave it my all nevertheless.

In the meantime, I am happy to spend the money I was paid to narrate this particular book, and I hope several people who are looking for this sort of thing find exactly what they were after in my performance.  If so, maybe I'll get to narrate one or two more of these puzzling tales of Modern Erotic Romance.

Rish Outfield, Smut Reader

*Apparently the wish fulfilment of many, according to user comments.

**I figured when I began this project that I'd have to record the audiobook under a pseudonym, which is sad since I ought to be promoting my work any way I can.  But then there would be a chapter that just felt like a typical book, a book my mom might be reading, and I'd think, "No, this is fine; I'm gonna re-record the intro using my own name."  But then there'd be another three or four page play-by-play of the two lovers gettin' it on, and I'd think, "Oh.  Oh yeah.  Now I remember."

***They can't all be plants, can they?  Not when a hundred illiterate assholes can bash J.K. Rowling's latest book while admitting that they haven't read it themselves, and those reviews don't get taken down.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ghostbusters . . . Minus One

When I was living in Los Angeles, I was driving home from work one evening when I saw a man walking alone along the sidewalk toward the Fox lot.  As I drove past, I thought, "Hey, I know that guy."  I did a U-turn when I could, then slowed as I passed him.  I called out my window, "Mister Ramis, do you need a ride somewhere?"  He smiled and said "No thanks, I'm fine."  And I drove on.

That was my one experience with Harold Ramis, besides the ones everybody else shares.  It occurred to me then, and many times afterward, that if he had agreed to my help (I assumed his car was broken down and he was headed to Century City, though he could well have just been taking a walk*), that would have made for a really cool story.  Eventually, I combined it with an experience I had had earlier with a former "Saturday Night Live" cast member, who was either drunk or tripping out, and wrote it into a story I believe I called "Hero Worship," about a kid like me who gives his movie idol a drive home.

Harold Ramis died this week.  He was sixty-nine, and though most people know him from playing Doctor Egon Spengler, he did direct GROUNDHOG DAY and ANALYZE THIS and CADDYSHACK and NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION (which surprised the heck out of me).  Even so, when he died, I couldn't help but think of him saying, "I collect spores, mold, and fungus."  Not much of an obituary, I know.
Still, as I get older, it's gonna be more and more likely that the celebrities who die are going to be the ones who were important to me in my formative years.  When I was a kid, the only people who died were old folks and the occasional rock musician.  Now, though, people are dying that don't seem elderly to me, often not much older than I have become. 

I really ought to say something more about Ramis, but now I'm just generally sad.

Actually, I just got something.  Somebody on Facebook today posted a quote from Ramis (he got it from his rabbi, but he was the one who told it in a speech), and I really dug it.  He said, "You should start each day with a note in each pocket.  One note says, 'The world was created just for me' and the other says, 'I'm a speck of dust in a meaningless universe.'  Keep them both, because neither are true and both are true."  Nice.

Rish Outfield

*This is doubtful, though, because as everyone knows, nobody walks in L.A..

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Rish's story "The Gold Bug" on the "Journey Into" podcast

Our buddy Marshal Latham has a contest every year on his show, "The Journey Into..." podcast, in honor of Edgar Allan Poe.  The rule of the contest (the only rule, other than length) is that it has to take the title of a Poe story or poem, and has to, I don't know, be in his style or milieu.

I considered entering the contest last time, thinking immediately of a time when our family traveled to California, and I saw the same car (with a copy of Hustler magazine in its window) both in Redlands and Santa Monica, California (despite the two being two hours distant from one another).  I didn't know what story I could make out of that, except that I could make the car a VW beetle, and call the story "The Gold Bug."

I missed it that year, but went ahead and wrote a story with that title for the next one, and it's available over there in audio form right now.  It tells the tale of an eleven year old boy encountering a mysterious car on a family vacation, and is narrated by Pat Krane of the "That TV Show" and "Convert To Raid" podcasts.
Writing is a funny thing.  As a would-be screenwriter, I often had premises or ideas for fantastic scenes that I knew would work (or make great movies or sequences in them), but the challenge was creating a framework around the scenes, or a narrative from the premise itself.  That is much harder, and most of the time (if I had to guess, I'd say 65% to 75% of the time), I realize that the work it's going to take to make a script out of an idea, or to come up with a series of events leading up to those brilliant scenes would not be worth it, not on spec, anyway.

I still hold to the theory that there is a bang-up story in the car with the dirty magazine in the window, but I'm not sure if "The Gold Bug" is that story.  Regardless, it was one of the winners of the contest (and Marshal swears he did not see the authors' names when he judged it), so it's conceivable that someone out there will like it.  Check it out here:

Rish Outfield, Goldbugger

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy(?) Valentine's Day From Fake Sean Connery

On this, the worst day of the year, Sir Fake Sean Connery pays Rish a visit . . . ostensibly to cheer him up.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Rish Outcast 5: All Night Gas

Rish brings his short story "All Night Gas" to somewhat life in this episode.  Afterward, he ruminates on superheroes and saviors, the need for them, the need to be rescued.  Sigh.

Music was "Colorless Aura" and "Return of Lazarus" by Kevin McLeod, courtesy of

Right click HERE to download the episode, select Save Link As, and save the file to your hard drive.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Audiobook Adventures: Chapter 35

Well, it has come time to decide whether I want to do more of the Dumarest books or not.  And I can't decide.

A few months back, I spoke to someone who heard from another audiobook producer that they were doing books in this series, and I felt disappointed and a bit betrayed.  But then, the end of 2013 came, and it was really, really hard for me to get the last two books done.  And there were a ton of questionable revisions that came due in the fourth book, which further put me off.*

I missed my deadline on "Kalin" by a week or so, and my deadline on "The Jester At Scar" by three weeks.  Within a couple of days, I got a message regarding the next five books in the series.  I haven't responded yet.

I took on a couple of other projects at the start of the new year.  One of them is a sequel to a book I did when I first started this whole thing, and the author was kind enough to suggest ACX pay me a stipend for this one.  I am excited to start on that one, and I'm sure I can do a better job with Book Two than I did with Book One.**

Before that, though, I have to finish a project I took on, for pay, but with only two weeks before the deadline.  I had very little trouble recording the book (though I was surprised by how long it was, despite the word count), but the editing is slow going.  I know I say it a lot, but wow, the editing on these things is a bear.  I have edited hundreds of Dunesteefs and That Gets My Goats, and almost without exception, those are a pleasure to work on.  But audiobooks are different, and require a higher level of concentration, and another mindset from podcast editing.  It may be that it uses another part of my brain, but it always takes so unaccountably long to do, and almost always puts me to sleep. 

It still beats digging ditches, don't get me wrong.

I think, for my next post, I'll talk a bit about the paid project I just mentioned . . . erotica.

Rish Outfield, Audioboy

*Did I mention that in an earlier post?  There are sometimes typos or word-substitutions in these paperbacks, and I tend to try to fix them if I find them.  But then I was actually asked (only in Book Four) to change them back to the incorrect texts.  Ultimately, I emailed the publisher and asked her advice, and ended up only changing the things that were legitimate mistakes on my part.

**This is simply from doing this for a while, figuring out the best way to record and edit, and the fact that I have a microphone set up that sounds better than the one I did the first book on.  Hopefully, it'll be easier to edit than the last one too . . . since I know there's a paycheck involved.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman R.I.P.

So, Philip Seymour Hoffman died today. I haven't seen a great many of his films, but he was pretty beloved in film circles, and he was only forty-six years old, while Vin Diesel will probably live to see his nineties.
Hoffman, a critical darling, won an Oscar for playing Truman Capote, but it was rare for him to play the lead in a film (especially something in the mainstream).

There's an alternate reality out there, where 2008's THE DARK KNIGHT wasn't nearly the hit it was here, but was also merely the second film in Christopher Nolan's five-film series, culminating in 2016's BATMAN ENDS.  In that reality, the third film, THE DARK KNIGHT HUNTED, featured both Eric Bana as The Black Mask and Philip Seymour Hoffman as The Penguin (along with that great scene-stealing cameo by Heath Ledger as the Joker).  A good flick, from what I've heard.

In our own reality, the film that stands out for me, the one that makes me like Hoffman's work as a whole is in 2000's ALMOST FAMOUS, where he plays cynical rock writer Lester Bangs.

I'm sure I mentioned it when Roger Ebert died, but his review of ALMOST FAMOUS made me scrape together what (very) little money I had during that time, and go see the film.  The two scenes that made the biggest impact on me were the one where everyone in the bus shares a joyful moment singing "Tiny Dancer," and the one where poor William Miller calls Lester Bangs, needing a friend after his dreams fall apart.

I try, less often than I should, but I am so far from one of the cool kids, that catching my own reflection can sometimes be shocking.  For every Saturday night spent among friends or in social occasions, there are another twenty, watching "Saturday Night Live" by myself, laughing (hopefully) hard enough that I don't notice how lonely I am.

This exchange between Bangs (Hoffman) and Miller (Patrick Fugit) speaks to me so deeply that I see it as Truth (with a capital T) in the way that an old black lady memorizes a Bible passage and recites it when the going gets the toughest.  And I recognize that that's self-indulgent, and pretty darn myopic, but boy, do I love that "when you're uncool" speech.

If I could write something that . . . that right, I think I might be cool.

Rish Outfield

Audiobook Adventures 34: Kalin: A Battle of Voices

So, as I was explaining in my earlier blog post (a month or more ago now) about the E.C. Tubb book "Kalin," I had a real headache with a) the voice I chose for the character of Kalin, and b) the accent I have given her (which sound like it's one and the same, but both is and isn't).  It's so complicated, I figured I'd dedicate a whole post to it.

From the first chapter of the book, I decided to give Kalin a unique accent (unique for me anyway, as I tend to do five or six different "stock" voices for background characters, and try to keep celebrities in mind for specific parts, such as a bad Terence Stamp or Anthony Hopkins impression, which may not sound like them to you, but help to keep the voice consistent, which is way more important than sounding like General Zod or Hannibal Lecter is).  I haven't sold a lot of these audiobooks, but I imagine that someone who buys one or two might buy them all, since there is something of a fanbase out there (at least enough to find websites and collections and essays and forum discussions about them).  Maybe they'll appreciate if the love interests don't always sound alike.

I've learned the hard way in 2013 that I really should read the projects through before I start the narration, and I now do that with short stories, but can't quite muster the energy required to do it for novels.  So, for each of these Dumarest books, I have sought out summaries online, and found a cool site that has all the books summed up in pretty good detail.*  Whenever possible, I will do this from now on, trying to avoid the kinds of mistakes I've previously made.

In that overview of "Kalin," it was explained that--spoilers ahead if you're actually interested in reading Book Four--Kalin is not actually Kalin, but a character called Keelan, who was nearly killed and saved through the use of a symbiote which transferred her mind into the body we know as Kalin.  Her actual body is still on her homeworld, in a comatose state, and though we don't find that out till the end of the book, we meet her two brothers early on, and having read the summary, I gave the brothers (and indeed, everybody on her world) similar accents to Kalin.**

I cannot predict the reasons why E.C. Tubb writes the way that he does, unless he does it like Stephen King often preaches about, and simply makes the books up as he goes along, not knowing where each is going, and then just published them with absolutely no attempt to go back and give it a cohesive structure.  For example, in the middle of the book, a bunch of characters are sitting around a fire, each discussing their plight, and one is referred to as "a man in the shadows."  I tried to give this guy an appropriately villainous voice and accent, thinking immediately of him as a sort of puppetmaster, someone who operated from the shadows.  Only in editing did I realize that none of these characters ever appear again, and that sinister one was described as the man in the shadows simply because Tubb didn't need to ever give him a name.  Sigh. 

Anyhow, in "Kalin," it seems that the whole Kalin/Keelan thing is misdirection, so you don't realize that the comatose girl and her brothers are related to her.  This is compounded when, at another point in the book, a man is introduced searching for his long-lost daughter.

Immediately, the reader knows that this man has to be Kalin's father, because she is the only female character in the damned book.  But I had read the overview, and I knew that this man turns out to be the father of Mallini, the body in which Kalin/Keelan is inhabiting.  I gave this man an American accent (a sort of New York tough guy voice, though he turns out to be a nice guy in the end***), and went on with my life until I reached the end of the book.

At the end, the girl in the coma communicates mentally with Earl Dumarest.  She is, physically, the body of Kalin, the girl with the funky accent, but mentally, she's Mallini, whose father has an American voice.  So, when this happens, I had no idea what to go with. 

Again, spoilers if I've not stated it...  Coma Girl (Keelan) is dying, and her voice is described as so strained and in pain that it sounds as though an old woman is speaking.  I had recorded for two hours when I got to the end of the book, and it was easy to put just a bit of pressure on my vocal cords and sound like a scratchy Jimmy Stewart filibustering in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.  Vocally, it's probably the best work I have ever done (but what do I know?), but I still couldn't figure out how to perform her voice.  She's the actual, physical body of Kalin, who grew up on the world of the accents, but she is not the body we have gotten to know throughout the book, which speaks in that accent.  She could speak like Keelan/Kalin or she could speak like Mallini.

I performed it both ways, with both accents, doing the horrible screechy old/young woman voice for each.

In the end, I think it has to be the American version, because I--Rish Outfield the narrator and editor--am interpreting that the book is saying that Mallini's mind went into the comatose body of Keelan, even though who really knows what happened?  Also, I'm sure E.C. Tubb, when he wrote it, envisioned everybody to have the same accent (probably something British), so it was incidental whose voice she spoke in.

Artistically, I think the voice should be the American one, since that's how I've chosen to interpret the text.  Narratively, though, I wonder if it would be confusing to have a different voice talk to Earl in his mind than the one we've come to associate with Kalin . . . who this both is and isn't.  What would be narratively correct might be confusing to a listener, and what would be immediately recognizable to the ear, might not make sense, if this sort of thing can make sense.**** 

I fear I may not have explained this well enough either.  The thing is, they're BOTH Keelan and BOTH Mallini, inextricably linked mentally, even though one body is healthy and one is severely damaged.

If you'd like to listen to it, you can judge for yourself.  If you'd rather not have the ending of the book spoiled, I totally understand.

Rish Outfield, Audiobook Boy

*Of course, had I read the book first, I would've avoided the Hispanic accent problem I mentioned before, but I actually get very little reading done anymore, as my spare time is taken with audiobooks and podcasting.

**In the very first book, "The Winds of Gath," I decided that the people of each world should all have the same accent, just to simplify things, and that has been a great help to me in my readings, as each of these E.C. Tubb books have taken place on three to five worlds, none of which are the same.  In fact, infuriatingly, there have been only two actual repeated characters in any of the books so far (Earl Dumarest and, technically, his memory of the unnamed Captain who rescued/adopted him as a child), and then the voice of the Master Cyclan, which is a hive mind I have chosen to give the voice of Old Spock.  But I digress.

***Except that he never does show up again.  Again, the weird structure of the writing introduces the character as important, but jettisons him, then has somebody else explain at the end his importance.  Like if it were a TV series, and the actor that played him died along the way.  I cannot fathom how this works to a narrative's advantage, or that there might be people out there who appreciate this.

****Did you ever notice that Counsellor Troi had an alien accent on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," but her mother spoke in an American one (so it must have been her dad who spoke like that), and then, when they finally introduced her father, he too spoke with a bloody American accent?  Maybe those jocks were right in taunting and beating up us Star Trek fans all those years.