Thursday, February 26, 2015

Newborn whippoorwills were calling from the hills.

Ever since Amazon recorded my novel, Three Daughters (btw, on sale all of Feb for $1.99) for Audiobook and MP3 I've had it in my head to record all my stuff and put it up on the Audible site.  In my manic "discovery" stage I'm certain that I can
            make acceptable podcasts
            including book serials
            blog post entries
            talk incessantly and begin a whole new creative life
            make money and please the world with my great ideas

The cursing angels of good ideas and delusional ideas are to blame.
The good angel said, " I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind."
The other angel said, "F**k, yes.  Jump right in and do it. Who cares if it's amateurish.  Life is antic.  They keep saying crazy Kanye is a genius.  Maybe you are, too.  Besides, talking is easier than writing.

Guess who Audible belongs to?  It belongs to my celebrity crush, Jeff Bezos, who made Amazon.  The gang at Audible or ACX which is what they call the production entity, is super friendly and the staff there urges you to phone them anytime and ask anything.  You get the idea that the audio engineers are sitting around in Timberland boots and jeans and taking a spin on their Segways every few minutes to let off steam.  When a business is too welcoming, you get suspicious. I'm pulled along BECAUSE they are encouraging diy.  Most time you are urged not to do things yourself but to call a professional.

ACX does something else that's dangerous.  They especially ENCOURAGE authors to do the recording of their own work.  They say, "Nobody knows your work better than you."  That's not necessarily true.  Some of my readers have better insight into my writing and explain the books to me. Some readers say, "This book went on and on.  It put me to sleep."  One reader was so comatose she called me Consumer Star Beer. Or maybe it was AutoFill.

My first thought about recording was:  "Uh. No."  My voice is kind of childish and uneven. According to Dr. Weil, I don't know how to breathe. (He says breathing correctly is the most important health practice.) But then: VANITY.  And because: GRAMMY FOR THE SPOKEN WORD.  If there is an opportunity to do something that might (will) come out poorly and needs (demands) some innate technical know-how, prior training and SHOULD NOT (but will) be cobbled together - I'm in.

ACX knows authors are crazy and delusional so they suggest that we send a five- minute demo for their critique to see if we are capable of making the team or should hire one of their voiceover pros.

I borrowed my son in law's digital recorder.  He showed me the on/off buttons, the replay button, the volume wheel, the usb port.  I ignored the gazillion other buttons and started up.  What else could it take? Right?

For reasons unknown - really, I don't know where this idea came from - I put a Ralph Lauren king-sized pillow on either side of the recorder for acoustical excellence.  I brought up my Kindle Single, "Thinner Thighs In Thirty Years" on the Kindle screen and began to read the first scene.  This work was meant to be delivered as a one-woman show and it was produced (strange things happen to me) by a company in Sanibel, Florida at the Periwinkle Playhouse.

Each of the fifteen or so short scenes begins with a snippet of a poignant vintage song. Yes, I sang the snippet before beginning the reading. Remember, I had been encouraged by ACX to be my own narrator.  Scene one was framed with this lyric:  "If I had to choose just one day to last my whole life through.  It would surely be that Sunday, the day that I met you."

This song is a Nat King Cole classic, That Sunday, That Summer, that also contains this lyric. "Newborn whippoorwills were calling from the hills. Summer was a-coming in but fast."  What the heck is a newborn whippoorwill?  It is a baby bird named onomatopoetically for its song.  This was the lead-in song I had chosen for a comedic monologue about divorce and new beginnings. I read the rest of the scene (about five minutes) and sent it off to ACX for appraisal.

A month later I received this response:

"I have reviewed your recently submitted sample and have a few notes.  First, I have to say, your performance was great! Very warm and friendly." At the end there was a smiley face. (WAIT! WHAT?)

There was more stuff in the e-mail about the noise floor and the QC check and mastering but he finished with:  "Again, you have done a great read." Even a person who is adept at lying to herself found this hard to accept.  How could my squeaky, sloppy speaking voice do a "great read"? The other thing he said that I paid attention to was: "your noise floor is quite low." Ralph Lauren's pillows absorbed all the noise.  Yay, I was a natural, no?  So there you have it.   I will get up early one day soon, read through all of the tech stuff, learn to edit out mistakes on a free program called Audacity.  Learn Audacity. Learn to master.  Learn to encode.  I will do all of this after the eternal snow and ice melt and the dog days of winter evaporate. 


  1. And there you have it. You keep inspiring me to do stuff. I did a few podcasts several years back, and I've always wanted to be one of those people who read books out loud for a living. In fact, I have a room full of recording equipment getting dusty. Perhaps I'll at least hold off until I have some suitable bed pillows.

    1. I'm certain you'd be great at it. You've got to go to the ACX blog. They had an open casting call for "readers" If my voice works, you would probably do well. I'm going to e-mail you the ACX link. I want you to do it.