I ordered proofs! It will take a couple of weeks, and if history is any guide, I'll have to do fixes, but! An Important Milestone has! been! achieved!

And you'll notice that I've put up sample chapters and prettied up my home page--oooh la la! I even posted to Facebook and Twitter...trying not to notice that the last time I've put anything up on either was 2016. Yoikes.

The reality is that I'm quite a bit busier now than I was. Like, obviously the next step is to format the e-book and release it, but...that's going to have to wait a couple of weeks as well because I've got to go focus on the family business for a bit. I'm actually really happy that production fell as it did, because tax time is usually a bit too distracting to get much writing done, but I can do things like formatting or inputting copy edits between putting out the inevitable fires. It's nice to feel like I'm making meaningful headway even though I'm not writing.

And I'm thinking about what's going to happen after the book comes out. I still want to do a large-print edition--that actually should be much easier to do now because I'm using real layout software. (And I should note that at this point, I have actually sold a few!) But I'm just not going to have the time to experiment with lots of different kinds of marketing like I did in the past. Maybe I'll run some Facebook ads and branch out to Google or Amazon, or maybe not.

The more I think about audiobooks, the more I think that's just never going to happen, especially not me doing them myself. Maybe one fine day I'll hire somebody.

What has changed, and what will change

Today was spent talking to lawyer--on the upside, this was the first lengthy lawyer conversation that did not involve metaphorical rat abatement and dangerous tree removal but rather the planning of a metaphorical dream garden, one that I can envision being a pleasure (and not too big a hassle) to take care of.

This is all very good, but the issue remains: No matter how efficient and productive my metaphorical yard becomes, I have taken on a new job. It's not a full-time job, but it is a definite time commitment.

The flip side of this is that I am really, really excited about Trials--quite possibly the most excited I have ever been since I began writing it. When I read over what was written earlier, it was the first time in memory that I really enjoyed reading it and felt like I really wanted to finish it--because it's going to be such a great book when it's done!

(Which makes me grateful I didn't decide to force myself to write it when I was miserable and depressed. Again, Accordion Crimes stands as a warning, and one that I am glad I heeded. I personally believe that you can tell if an author is engaged by a work or if they're just trudging through because they feel they have to finish it, and I really didn't want to do that to the Trang series.)

So I am thinking about ways of making production more efficient when that comes around. I think this will be the book where I pay for real layout software (renting Adobe's, methinks, rather than coughing up $850 for QuarkXPress)--that should make that process less of a drag. (I could pay someone to lay it out for me, but honestly, I think I'm too much of a control freak for that.)

You may have noticed that I abandoned working on the audiobook--it was really dull work, and I just didn't have the stomach for it. I kind of figured that I wouldn't ever finish, but now that I'm feeling more upbeat . . . I don't think I'd do all the books, but maybe just finish the first one? Sometime? I looked at Lindsay Buroker's blog, which I haven't done in a while, and I noticed that she didn't do any audiobooks after her first three--but she still gets readers from Podiobooks. So maybe that's the way to go--just make it another free edition.

When I get around to it, anyway--that's definitely way down the list. . . .


My stomach went insane again last night (note to self: If you are fighting off a bacterial GI infection, DO NOT eat a box of cookies before you go to bed. That was just stupid), so today my big accomplishment was getting groceries without falling asleep behind the wheel. (Huzzah!) And tomorrow the contractor cometh at the crack of dawn (he's fixing the bathroom--I've decided against replacing the ceiling, BTW, because I'm probably going to sell the house this year or next). And since school is starting, next week I have the kids pretty much every

Anyway, I noticed a surge in traffic to this site from The Passive Voice because ABE linked here about making audiobooks (and click the "audio" tab if that's what you're after), so now I'm thinking...audiobooks...a schedule shot to hell...audiobooks..... I couldn't tolerate the work earlier, but I'm less messed up now, so maybe I should give it a go.

I also noticed that a lot of people are coming here by Googling some combination of "minons" and "piñatas." Should that frighten me?

Progress report

Nothing like getting new readers to trigger the old guilt complex--jeez, I gotta get this next book out! Today I finished off the noise removal on Chapter 7 of the Trang audiobook, so the decks are pretty much clear, although I have a couple of lines to re-record--not so much because I flubbed as because there's mike noise. That hasn't been a problem before, but I think my standing-mike setup is less secure. Anyway, I can take care of those when I get around to recording Chapter 8. I'd like to take a break from noise removal for a spell....

Progress report

I edited Chapter 7 of the Trang audiobook today. I think standing up worked really well--not only are there fewer chair sounds, but there are fewer flubbed lines caused by my being mush-mouthed. I think standing probably not only helps with voice projection but also just plain keeps me more alert.

I know I wanted to get back into writing, but I'm feeling a little under the weather right now (nothing serious). In addition, I'm going to be doing a lot of child care this week and (probably) next.

Progress report, General Jesus edition

I finally finished noise removal on Chapter 6 of the Trang audiobook--huzzah! God, that was a whole lot of noise removal. It wasn't just the excessive length of the chapter, but also the fact that there's a lot of dialog with the aliens, and I decided to take out all breath sounds from translated speech. I was subtle about it, so it doesn't sound as artificial as the computer's speech or the Magic Man's speech--the idea is to make it slightly nonhuman. Aesthetically, I think it works, but actually doing it is a real pain in the butt!

I find it interesting how there's this whole artistic side to the audiobook--it's not something I'd ever thought about before, but there it is. Another thing that's unique to the audiobooks is how characters pronounce "General Jesus." The diplomats all use the Spanish pronunciation of "Jesus," since presumably he was Cuban, and I think they would regard that as the correct thing to do. But the SFers all use the English pronunciation. My thinking is that that is how they would have been briefed about him--you know, using the English pronunciation to emphasize that this guy is crazy and actually thinks he's this religious figure. Their job was to kill him, so there would be no effort to show him respect by using his own pronunciation--quite the contrary, the idea would be to take him down a peg verbally. Kind of like how soldiers refer to members of the Taliban as Tabbies.

Spring may not be quite as horrible as I had thought

It sounds like things may actually happen on the out-of-state elderly relative front without my having to basically spend the entire spring there, doing every last thing myself. That would be wonderful, plus it would mean that I don't have to buy some kind of portable computing device in hopes of getting anything done, which is good. I may even be able to attend Norwescon!

I'm thinking about some beta tasks to do once the Trang audiobook is done. As it turns out, recording an audiobook is a good way to find typos (at one point Cheep is called Chip--funny how hard that is to catch when you're reading silently, but how glaringly obvious it is when you're reading aloud). So I've been marking those up as I find them, and I'll clean up the e-books when that's done with.

Of course, with the new computer, how should I do the e-book files? I think in the interest of efficiency I'll just use Calibre again--I'll save the learning curve for when I convert Trials.

Speaking of new software, I want to spend a little more quality time sorting out GIMP. Obviously, if I'm doing Norwescon, I'll do some flyers, but the other, more-sophisticated project I have in mind is to re-do the lettering on the cover of Trang and Trust. I think the author name should probably be a bit larger and easier to read, plus the title lettering could stand to look a little more elaborate (which I hope is something this program lets you do--my old program was pretty limited). The tweaking should also give me some practice with GIMP, which I'm going to need when I get around to doing the Trials cover. 

What else? David Gaughran had a good post about the importance of mailing lists--it's nothing that I didn't know, but I've been very lazy about creating one of those, mainly because I just don't think I have it in me to do a full-fledged newsletter. But I could just do new-book alerts and sale alerts--that sort of thing. I'll put it on the list, anyway, along with getting on Pintrest.

Progress report

The roofers finished the roof today, although there's still gutters and some miscellany to do. I listed to the MP3 files through Chapter 5 of the Trang audiobook and found some fixes.

I also realized that I can't really create a final MP3 file, because different audio- and podiobook outlets have different requirements. It was worth generating these MP3s so that I could give them a final listen with earphones, but given how many different versions I'm going to have to generate. there's no point in doing more than a spot-check of the MP3 files I actually release.

Progress report: Compression edition

The weather remained unchanged, so I was able to finish re-recording the messed-up lines in Chapter 6 of the Trang audiobook.

And then I compressed it. Have I ever explained dynamic range compression? No, I have not, and that's because I'm not entirely sure what it is. Here's the Wikipedia article--it's full of terms like "side-chaining" and "attack and release" and "flux capacitator," so maybe you can understand it, but I can't. I just set my compression tool to what ACX tells me to and let 'er rip.

My guess from working with it is that dynamic range compression basically does what it says: If you imagine a range of sounds from very quiet ones to really loud ones, compression adjusts all those sounds so that they're all at medium level of loudness. That's helpful in getting rid of clipping and fixing any places where your voice gets timid. It also just generally helps keep the volume constant, so that nothing's inaudible but nobody's ears get blown out.

Compression is less helpful with breath sounds, which it makes louder. That's why you always do your compression before you do your noise removal.

Progress report

It's raining today--hard enough that the roofers couldn't work, but not so hard as to create a lot of noise. So I figured I'd better record while I could. I recorded Chapter 7 of the Trang audiobook, the warning for Chapter 1, and a quick fix of a flub I had come across while looking for something else on Chapter 4. I also re-recorded enough of the flubs in Chapter 6 to divide it into two halves--the first half I can work on without re-recording, but the second half will have to wait for another quiet day, because I'm bushed.

There's a person in my Meetup group who does a lot of voice work, and she suggested that it's a good idea to stand while you read. I'd already found that it's easier to read chapters if the microphone is high and you have to sit up, so I thought that sounded like worthwhile advice and did that for Chapter 7 today. I don't know that it's actually going to make me louder--that pretty much is handled by input volume and compression--but it meant less restarts because the chair made noise, and I think it's easier to stay well-placed at the microphone that way.

Obscenity, thou heaven-born maid!

So, we were discussing that stupid review by that sanctimonious idiot who didn't read the book description, and now that I've calmed down a little I think I'm OK with it staying up. I'm also totally OK with it getting yanked--the bonehead didn't actually read the book, which I think disqualifies any review. But if Amazon doesn't respond to my request for it to be pulled, I'm not going to push it.

Why not? Because three people already marked it as "helpful," and it's now the "most helpful" critical review. And you know, it IS helpful! If you are too fucking stupid to read the book description and heed the clearly-stated warning about the book's language, that review is going to help you heaps. A review complaining that the book is science fiction and written in English might also help.

If you are sufficiently literate to read the description, that review will give you a good laugh. You might even think, "Ah, so morons don't like this book. I'm not a moron--I like it already!"

I think that's better than moving the warning higher up in the description. I don't want the gist of the description to be Trang: A Novel of Obscenity, Containing Many, Many Very Bad Words. For one thing, despite what that patronizing piece of shit thinks, I did not write the book so that I can use bad words and prove that I am cool, so I don't think it's fair to the book to make the profanity sound like a major theme. For another, I once worked a job where I dealt with the general public, and my experience is that the people who are too dumb to heed a warning sign are also too dumb to heed a really big and obvious warning sign.

I am, however, going to record a language advisory and put it in the first chapter of the Trang audiobook. That strikes me as prudent--people who like to listen to stuff hopefully will process spoken information a little better. Although I'm sure some won't.

(If you're curious, what really frosts my shorts about this is that I feel like I've met people who don't like profanity halfway. I put a warning in there because I don't feel like it's my place to judge a bunch of people I don't know whose attitude toward language differs from mine. And what do I get in return? I get repeatedly insulted by a complete stranger.

Fucking asshole.)

Progress report

Today was kind of a bass-ackwards day for progress, in part because I really wanted to start writing again today but that just was not going to happen. So instead I listened to the MP3 files of chapters 1 & 2 of Trang, which sounded fine, and decided to go over chapter 3 one last time before converting it into an MP3. The good news is that chapter 3 was much cleaner than 1 & 2 were--let's hear it for getting up the learning curve. The bad news is that I realized I had done the metadata wrong with the MP3 files, so I had to convert 1 & 2 again, which defeated the purpose of listening to the "final" product and making sure nothing was wrong with it.

I think I'll just wait on giving everything a listen in MP3 form--at this point I'm getting too familiar with the material, and I had to start chapter 2 over again because I was tuning it out. (Because of the way today was, I had to multitask, so the moral of the story is not to multitask checking audio files with anything that requires concentration.) So far I haven't found any new and exciting glitches caused by the conversion process, but you know that the one file I don't listen to will be the one that's gibberish....

Progress report: Fun with noise removal edition

I was doing noise removal today--I wasn't able to get it all done and I realized that I had flubbed a line that will have to be re-recorded and compressed, but I made a good start.

I've mentioned that you have to be careful with noise removal when you have multiple characters talking--you don't want breath sounds between characters, but you do want to leave them in while a character is talking. The problem this time around is that Patch's dopy voice apparently invited some heavy mouth breathing. So with him I'm using a very slight noise removal so at least he doesn't sound like he's having an asthma attack in the middle of a briefing. (And no, his lungs haven't been ruined by smoking pot--he uses a patch, of course!)

When I did the computerized voice that follows Philippe on his trip to Titan, I went ahead and took out all the breath noises, leaving hard cut-offs between words, and it sounds appropriately artificial. I'm going to do the same thing with the Magic Man. In theory, all the translated voices should sound artificial, but I think that would drive people crazy, so the translated voices will just be relatively calm and generic. The exception is going to be the Magic Man--I think it makes sense to make his voice fairly...uncomfortable. Listening to him shouldn't be pleasant.

Progress report

I was watching a kidlet for a couple of days, but today I was able to edit Chapter 4 of the Trang audiobook. I only had to re-record a few things, so I did that, put them in, and compressed it. That just leaves the noise reduction to be done.

As I mentioned, there are a lot of character voices in this chapter. I was poking around looking for advice on those--don't bother. Person A explains that they HATE character voices, Person B explains that they LOVE character voices, and Masturbating Romance Reader explains that women shouldn't do audiobooks at all, because female voices just don't "work" for her. (My feeling is that I have so many characters and so much dialog that I really have to use character voices, otherwise it's too confusing. And I do NOT want to know whether or not my voice "works" for you, thank you very much.)

Progress report

I re-recorded the necessary lines for Chapter 3 of Trang, did the compression, and started in with the noise removal. When I was recording it, the washing machine was running, but I didn't think it would make enough noise to matter. And it doesn't--kind of. You can't really hear it, but you can see the spin cycle come on and off if you look at the voice recording. And if I do a complete noise removal in-between words when the spin cycle is on, then you notice it--it sounds cut-off. So I used more-subtle noise removal, and that worked fine.

It's early days yet, but so far I'm liking the point system I created for myself--it helps keep me focused on priority tasks when many other things are also competing for my attention. One thing I like about it is that I feel like it's adequately flexible to be useful when things are crazy. For example, next week I've got children half the time, so I just looked at the calendar, figured out how many days are available for me to work on book stuff, and adjusted the points I need to earn accordingly.

Progress report, talking funny edition

I had the girl yesterday, but today I finished off Chapter 2 of Trang. I made a point of listening to what was there before and matching my voice to it--it's not like there aren't a couple of places where it's fairly obvious (at least to me) that things were recorded at different times, but this last batch actually matches pretty well.

The other thing I was playing at was noise removal. One of the issues I've been having is that I sometimes exhale with the last word of a sentence ("Have a nice dahhyhhhhh"--among my other vocal shortcomings, I also have a breathy voice). That makes it hard to cut out the breathing sound without having a really obvious cut-off (you either have a partial breath sound, which sounds really weird, or you lose the last letter of the word, which is obviously unacceptable). But I realized that you can set noise removal so that it only decreases the noise instead of eliminating it. I still have a couple of obvious cut-offs from earlier, but this time I was able to eliminate the problem breath sounds without making conspicuous cut-offs by taking this more subtle approach.

What's really interesting is that when a character voice is speaking, it sounds more natural to leave in the breath sounds, because that's how people talk. But when you switch between character voices, it makes it so much harder to follow if you leave the breath sounds in. I think unconsciously you think the character is taking a breath to talk, and then it's confusion when a different character or the narrator suddenly starts talking--it's like, Where did that guy come from?!

Jim Self mentioned that Joanna Penn has interviewed podcasters/audio book people, so I was looking at that, and this interview with Brendan Foley amused me. He said:

You . . . become aware of how localized your speech is. As an Irish man I gave the UK director and sound man a few giggles when pronouncing tree hundread and tirty tree!”.

Oh, God, can I ever relate. It's been a quarter of a century since I lived in California, but my audiobooks are going to be Cali accents on parade!

Progress report

I finished the noise removal on chapter 2 of Trang. But I'm thinking now that there are a couple of spots where I want to dub in--in one place "of" sounds way too much like "and" (I tried pasting in another "of" from elsewhere in the chapter, but it doesn't really work), and in one place a character interrupts, and it's not in his voice but really needs to be.

The last one is a place where I pronounced "sloshed" as "shloshed," the result of a lifetime of making fun of the way drunk people talk. ("Wha sheems to be the problem, oshifer? I'm sotally tober!") I considered leaving it "shloshed," and if it was Shanti I probably would, but it's Philippe, so, sadly, no.

Progress report

I dubbed in the messed-up lines and did an audio compression on chapter 2 of Trang--it went fine (and the compression took care of that pesky clipping all right), but I decided to give it a listen-through. Well, I'm happy I did--there's a character in that chapter who gives a speech early on. He's the only character talking then, so I just did it in my voice, but later on, several characters are talking, so he took on more of a character voice. It was a subtle voice adjustment, so I didn't think it mattered, but it really does: Even a subtle character voice has far more continuity (it's always soft, or it's always deep) than my natural speaking voice. So I re-recorded his speech, compressed it, and edited it in.

I'll do noise removal next. So far, it definitely seems like there's no point in doing noise removal before compression--I haven't see any drawback to waiting, and if you do it before, you just wind up doing it twice.

Progress report

It wasn't raining (!!--how can that be?) so I recorded chapter 2 of Trang. One thing I noticed with the first chapter was that if I re-recorded a line at a later time, you can kind of tell, even with the compression and whatnot (I'm guessing it's because of a million little factors, like how close I am to the microphone and how messed up my sinuses are at the moment). So I gave chapter 2 a listen right after I recorded it and tried to do the necessary re-recording at more or less the same time. We'll see if that helps. I am clipping a lot with one character voice--he's an intoxicated loudmouth--but I'm hoping that compression will clean that up.

And as you may have guessed, I am at this point regretting having one character be an assistant undersecretary of technology trade standards and having another named Shridar Bhattacharjee. (Oddly enough, I kept getting that name right and then screwing up "Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize!")