Audiobooks – Branching out

So far, I have narrated two parts of the Nature’s Magic series, two parts of the Jack Windrush series and the first part of the Blandford Candy series – YA fantasy and historical fiction – nothing wrong with that, but I am always conscious of being pigeon-holed and will be seeking to branch out into other genres next year.

After seeing Count Arthur Strong last week (see below) I bumped into an old acting friend and we got talking about our current projects. To cut a long story short, he self-published a book earlier this year and, after some discussions, we’ve decided to collaborate on producing it as an audiobook.

It’s called The Vampire Hunter’s Field Manual: A Survivor’s Guide to Narcissistic Abuse, written by Matt Davis. As a title, it’s a bit of a mouthful, but bear with me. Here it is on Amazon:

 

Matt has an academic grounding in psychology and has taught it extensively in schools and FE colleges. He has also had experience of the book’s subject, hence the inspiration to write it. It took him a year but the audiobook should take slightly less than that – I’m hoping to get it out by the end of February 2020.

Narcissistic abuse is not an uncommon experience, for many people. I did not know much about it but I understand this to be an important project and a service to an old acting friend. Matt refers to narcissistic abusers as ‘vampires’ (hence the title – sorry, fans of the blood-sucking kind).

Here’s an extract from the book on its subject matter:

Vampires are incapable of Love, Empathy, Compassion and Reciprocity because they see other people as objects. 

 The capacity for Love, Empathy, Compassion and Reciprocity develop during childhood. Since the Vampire is developmentally arrested, they never developed the capacity for these things. The abuse, trauma and/or neglect they experienced resulted in a developmental arrest during a critical phase in their emotional development. In the normal development of a child, the idea that other people exist in their own right is something that is learned through experience.

Young children start out by seeing people as objects, no different from their toys. It’s why you don’t leave toddlers and dogs together unattended. As they develop, children gradually come to recognise that people and objects are different, which can take many years to learn fully. People have feelings, just as they do. Objects don’t. The gradual understanding that people and objects are different is part of normal development but the development of the Vampire is massively hindered by abuse, trauma and/or neglect, potentially on an on-going basis. This prevents the development of the understanding that people and objects are different in any meaningful way. pp19-20

It’s a weighty tome – approx 104k words – but extremely well-written, engaging and at times, very funny. I’m really looking forward to getting on with this project and hopefully engaging with a new audience. We’re also aiming it at self-help/counselling groups.

I’ll use this blog as a record of progress and eventual publication – watch this space.

 

Audiobooks – narration technique – part 2

 

I am currently finishing up my fifth and most recent project – The Last Roundhead, by Jemahl Evans – and as ever, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the production process, to identify issues and improve performance.

Here’s a plug for the book:

 

 

I’m hoping that the audiobook will get on sale before Christmas – on Amazon, Audible and iTunes.

I have noticed that my voice has changed, compared to my earlier efforts this year. I think this may be due to several things:

  • Microphone technique – having spent (too) many hours in taking out mouth noises and inappropriate breaths in post production, I’ve had to take a serious look at being properly prepared for a recording session and have settled on taking a mug of hot water into the booth with me. This prevents a dry mouth and dry throat producing strange noises that only the mic seems to pick up. Rumbling stomach noises are another matter, however.
  • Rehearsing the script – where possible, I now read the script out loud before recording, to identify tricky emphases and phrases, and mark up the script accordingly. This saves a lot of time during post-production.
  • Being more relaxed – one crazy misapprehension I had when I first started recording was that, once the ‘record’ button is pressed, an imaginary red light went on in my head and I was nervous of disturbing the performance. True, it is a performance but in the booth I am the audience and the performer and I have control – if I need to, I’ll have a drink, burp, cough, clear my throat and carry on.
  • Practice – the production of five books on the trot has been great practice in breathing, relaxing, enunciation and pronunciation, as well as stretching my abilities. With each book, I can only aim to improve.
  • Pauses and pacing – I am more aware of this, having compared my current with my former efforts. This is an aspect that I am still getting used to, but I have to constantly remind myself to listen to the recording from the point of the view of the customer. Is the production pleasant to listen to? is a question that is separate from enjoying the story, in that the narration should not get in the way and should, as far as possible, serve the story and honour the author.

 

I also thought it might be interesting to include a couple of pics of the recording space I currently use (I hesitate to call it a ‘studio’ for obvious reasons). It’s basically an awkwardly-shaped cupboard under the stairs. Here is a ‘before’ pic:

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With a bit of carpeting, acoustic tiling and some decent kit (Rode NT1 condenser mic, if you must know), I now work with this:

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It seems to work fine for me but I’d like to replace the screen at some point. A larger recording space would depend on either moving house or one of the children moving out

I’ll have to think about raising the rent….

Count Arthur Strong rules…

Last night I went to see the actor Steve Delaney perform his character Count Arthur Strong, at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. It has to be one of the greatest comic creations of modern times alongside, in my opinion, Alan Partridge and many of Steve Coogan’s other creations. I managed to meet up with him after the show:

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From a performance point of view, I was impressed by the amount of energy and invention that went into it. OK, he’s not everyone’s cup of tea and many people just don’t get it – an ex-variety hall performer, suffering from some form of dementia, or at least a severe form of malapropism/tourette’s, with a generous helping of Dunning/Kruger effect thrown in. Sounds weird put like that, but I guess you just have to be there.

He just didn’t stop moving, jerking around the stage as if he had an electric coat hanger caught in the back of his jacket. A stream of (well-rehearsed, I should imagine) unconscious word-association based on space-themed confectionery was the high point of the show.

Above all, it was innocent humour – no nastiness and the swearing kept to a very British 1950’s minimum.

As I said, I guess you just had to be there.

 

Audiobooks – narration technique (part 1)

I thought I might write a few words on how my learning and thinking about narration technique has changed since I started down this road earlier this year. But first, some basics.

On commencing a project, a narrator has several priorities and obligations to meet. The way I see it, the narrator firstly is obligated to the listener, secondly the author, thirdly to him or herself and, last but not least, to the company publishing the audiobook.

The listener is the customer, the person handing over cash in one form or another, for an enjoyable experience, an experience that one hopes will transport them to an imaginary world. The end product has to be a professional, seamless experience, in which the narrator’s vocal performance does justice to the work of the author. It must not get in the way or distract the listener from the story. There are some narrators who could read a phone directory and still attract an audience, their voices being their fortune, as it were. We’re not all like that, unfortunately, and have to work that much harder at the craft (not that such pro’s don’t work hard, of course).

The narrator or audio performer is obligated to honour the author’s work and to perform it well. And it is a performance, in that the narrator takes the elements of story, atmosphere, mood and character and weaves them into an enjoyable listening experience. The author has already laid out these elements and the narrator must find them, interpret them and develop them for a listening audience.

Thirdly, the narrator cannot be satisfied with ‘that’ll do’. If the narrator adopts the attitude of an artist – becomes an artist – second best is unacceptable. It follows that, even though the narrator is starting from a low base point, he or she is obliged to move forward and acquire and develop skills and techniques, in order to fulfil their role.

Finally, the publisher has exacting demands on what is essentially a commercial product, so that it meets certain standards related to quality and technical consistency. A bad product reflects badly on the narrator, author and publisher.

So…big talk from a relative beginner like me, isn’t it? Yes, but I think it’s important to acknowledge these basics, as a framework on which to hang a nascent audiobook career.

Part 2 of this particular blog will follow as soon as I’ve completed my quota of recording and editing today, but if you wished to see some samples of this ‘nascent career’ please have a look at Audible or iTunes for my work. Links are shown below.

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https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Unsuspecting-Witch-Audiobook/B07TKCT2PM?qid=1572251910&sr=1-1&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=MGBBM3JRXCJC43RA770W&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1

 

the inquisitive witch cover

 

https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Unsuspecting-Witch-Audiobook/B07TKCT2PM?pf_rd_p=284b47b1-a5db-4711-9667-612f2ac7458e&pf_rd_r=Y4E0P6R7XH31VR9ST2T1&ref=a_series_Na_c5_lProduct_1_1

 

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https://www.audible.com/pd/Windrush-Audiobook/B07VWYDQG1?qid=1572252026&sr=1-2&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=Y3TGPQBK9YDNMGA0ZV90&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_2

 

To be published this week:

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On sale in December 2019 and January 2020:

The Last Roundhead – book 1 of the Sir Blandford Candy series, by Jemahl Evans. Books 2, 3,& 4 will follow next year.

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Windrush – Blood Price – book 3 in the Jack Windrush series, by Malcolm Archibald. Books 4, 5 & 6 will also follow next year.

Windrush book 4

 

Special guests

Not really an acting story (well, sort of) and I guess I’m basking in reflected glory here, but my daughter recently served a special guest at the hotel where she works.

Sophie and DJD

Dame Judi was staying at the hotel in Sussex with Isla Fisher, whilst filming nearby.

 

 

Audiobooks: plans for the future

My work in producing audiobooks so far has been a great learning experience. I was attracted to it because, first and foremost, I am an actor who enjoys reading and performing. This goes for stage work as well as books. It’s been a year since I gave up the day job, in the hopes of obtaining paid acting work and I have been moderately successful, but only moderately. This has consisted of a brief but successful run of ‘Skerryvore’ at the Barnstaple Fringe Festival, a longer run of ‘Twelfth Night’ at the Ellen Terry Barn Theatre in Smallhythe, a very short run at the Brighton Scratch Nights this week and an upcoming live performance of a radio play in Hastings in December. But it’s not enough to pay the bills, so that’s why I thought I would branch out into voiceover and audiobooks.

Again, some moderate success. In July I got a couple of voiceover jobs but since then I’ve had three audiobooks published, with a fourth to be published, I hope, this week. Fortunately, these are not one-offs: the Nature’s Magic series should have a third instalment coming out soon; I have contracts for four more Windrush books and, if the first Candy book is a success, there will be three more of those. My aim is to build up a fairly decent back catalogue of 12-13 books by summer next year. However, I need to put in some variety as historical fiction is not as popular as biography or romantic fiction (or erotic fiction, but let’s not go there). A broad spectrum of genres is what I’m aiming for and I’ll put an update on here every so often.

Brighton Scratch Nights

This week I have taken part in the presentation of new writing at the Brighton Scratch Nights held at the Rialto Theatre in Brighton. Some friends who run a theatre company (‘George Lassos the Moon’)  asked me to play one of the roles in a new play called ‘Sammy’, written by Christopher Owen. Have a look here for further details:

http://www.rialtotheatre.co.uk/whats-on/theatre-events/the-brighton-scratch-night

It’s an intriguing piece, addressing issues such as Pro-life, religious views on the treatment of apparently untreatable childhood illnesses and the dilemmas parents have to face in terribly difficult circumstances. I don’t think we won the popularity contest but our performances were strong, on the whole. The winner’s piece will be developed and presented at the Brighton Fringe Festival next year.

Here’s a link for a review:

The Brighton Scratch Night 2019

It was an interesting experience – the Rialto is a tiny theatre and the first night was made even more interesting by six theatre groups all vying for dressing rooms, prop storage and rehearsal space.