October is being celebrated as Queer Romance Month. Authors, bloggers and readers are coming together to post about reading and writing queer romance, and to tell some personal stories, and share fiction. You can find links to the daily posts on the Queer Romance Month home page: http://www.queerromancemonth.com/
My post is up today, about writing outside of my own experiences. I’ve always believed in the power of fiction to both help us understand ourselves, and to give us the chance to walk in someone else’s shoes. And nowhere more so than in LGBTQ fiction. But taking the plunge as an author can be a little scary. You can find my post here: http://www.queerromancemonth.com/kaje-harper-2015/
Don’t forget to click the link on the home page to enter the rafflecopter for an ebook giveaway too.
After delays to bring out my Don’t Read in the Closet free novel, and for narrator Kaleo Griffith to do publicity for his recently released movie, we are in the home stretch of the audio book.
So what comes next?
Kaleo and his sound engineer have delivered the complete audio file of the book to the ACX page, for me to listen to. It ended up running just shy of seven and a half hours, for a 64K story. (Not too far off the estimate of seven hours. That’s important for planning, if you contract to pay an hourly rate to your narrator.)
Now we listen to each chapter, and chart on the script and recording time, any errors we want to fix before release. You are allowed two rounds of edits, but judging by what I’ve gone though so far on mine, one should be enough, barring a problem with one of the fixes. It’s very cleanly recorded.
I’m loving Kaleo’s narration, his voices, and the way he reads my words with the right touches, pauses, and emphasis to make the meaning clear. (Even when my sentences aren’t perfect. The toughest part of listening is wanting to tweak my own story. Again…)
But seriously, I’ve never been able to read my own stuff out loud, even when the audience was limited to the dog. But listening to Kaleo… I actually found myself not wanting to put it aside to do other things. And then I hit a sex scene and… it was… hot?! It was, actually… yeah. *big grin because this audio thing is better than I thought.*
So, audio editing round:
A while ago, after the first 15 minute sample was done, we’d asked another narrator, Sean Crisden, (who was wonderful about answering our newbie questions, and is a great narrator too) about fixing mistakes. I’m going to just copy his answer here, because it was a big help:
“Edits (or “pick-ups” as they’re commonly referred to as in snazzy audiobook lingo) are absolutely to be expected. Unless there is some agreement to the contrary (which I have never seen let alone heard of) stating that the narrator will not do any revisions then it is indeed a given that there will be pick-ups. I’ve only had two books in my entire career that didn’t require at least a handful of pick-ups and even then I felt that the proofers missed something. It’s extremely rare for a narrator not to make an error with hours of text.
“Most typically, pick-ups are for mispronunciations, jumbled word order, stumbling or enunciation. It is also common to see them for mouth noise (those annoying clicks and pops), “gasping” breaths and/or miscellaneous noises (chair squeak, barking dog, lawnmower etc.).
“As for “reading direction” and tone, you have to remember that as a voice-seeker, you select a narrator for their particular style of narration and the choices that that narrator makes. In essence, you hire them for their art and performance which is uniquely theirs. So a bit of trust is involved in the resulting interpretation and expression of the story.
“Micromanagement and handholding can become cumbersome for both parties, akin to a director and screenwriter telling a star actor how to deliver every line. Of course, there are moments when a narrator or actor can make a choice that simply does not work. That’s when tact and teamwork to create the best work possible come into play for everyone.
“It is always best to provide any notes to the narrator prior to the narration beginning. Typically they are few and far between as a well written manuscript will need little external guidance if the narrator reads it and preps appropriately. Similarly, the narrator should pre-read the entire manuscript and create their own prep notes to research for any pronunciation questions or queries in general should they have any. It saves everyone work on the back end and there are fewer pick-ups.
“If your narrator is mispronouncing something, absolutely provide that feedback to him. It will save time to do it early with only 15 minutes of audio rather than hours to comb through and correct later.
“To make it easier, read along with the text as you listen and proof. Make a list or spreadsheet to document errors that you hear. When you hear an error, list the page number of the text where it occurs, the audio file name/number, the time code from the audio where the error occurs (minutes and seconds) and the correction note(s). You may also want to type out the sentence in which the error occurs.
“Technical errors of course should be noted for re-record (mispronunciation, jumbled words, enunciation, etc.) as should glaring noises (creaks, thumps, barking, etc.). However I encourage you to be judicious in your error selection when it involves things like mouth noise, breaths and of course the narrator’s delivery and interpretation of the story.
“Particularly mouth noise and breathing should be noted and removed where they are a noticeable distraction and not simply because they occur as both are tied inextricably to human speech. I’m still surprised at the number of audiobook producers who remove all breaths from the narration. For me it ends up sounding much less organic and human and more like a robot telling me a story which I find highly undesirable. Of course, you may prefer it and the choice is certainly yours. Loud clicks, tongue-slaps and gasping breaths should of course be removed as they can be distracting unless for some reasons used as a part of the story itself.
“To summarize, pick-ups are always to be expected and you are well within normal operating procedure to request them.”
Isn’t that a great answer, from someone who wasn’t even our narrator on this book? So helpful. <3
Anyway, as I listen to our book, Kaleo Griffith clearly has a very capable sound engineer, so the recording I'm listening to has very few noises, clicks, whatever. Plus it's amazingly error-free. (Not completely, but very clean.)
And again, my producer, Jonathan Penn, makes my project better – I'm catching a rare error, or change of emphasis. Jonathan is diligently classifying his catches into three levels of seriousness and has picked up a couple more. Still very few, but he has a better ear. (Maybe he's not squinting at the tweaks he wishes he could make, as he reads along. :)
Once we match and agree on our list of pick-ups, we’ll send it to Kaleo. Then we get back the corrected version.
I’m really excited – the project is almost done, and should be out before GRL.
With luck, my next post will be about the release :) *crosses fingers hoping I didn’t just jinx it*
GRL is on my mind…
I just got my plane tickets, and today I’m on a great blog site – “Gay. Guy. Reading. and Friends”– talking about anticipation, and my writing.
And enter to win a free ebook of anything on my backlist.
Hope to see you on the blog!
Comments here on my own blog will be answered, but do not qualify for the drawing.
Chasing Death Metal Dreams, my free novel for the Love is an Open Road event is now out. You can find the story posted here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/17032945-chasing-death-metal-dream-by-kaje-harper-8-1
Since it is 93K, the lovely event organizers have also made it immediately available for download. You can get a copy in .pdf, .epub or .mobi here: http://www.mmromancegroup.com/chasing-death-metal-dreams-by-kaje-harper/
Carlos Medina has spent years of sweat, pain, effort, and money becoming the man he is. He writes original songs, plays lead guitar, and wears his death metal front-man persona like armor. With an excellent drummer and a talented bassist, his band, KnifeSwitch, has what it takes to succeed, if they can just catch a break. But it’s been a long road already, and there’s still a mountain left to climb. Carlos isn’t looking for anything more in his personal life than an occasional hook-up with a hot guy, preferably outside the less-than-gay-friendly metal scene.
Nate Goldstein has no intention of dating a musician. His twin brother fronts a band, and he knows band guys are all busy, broke, and obsessed with their music. But Carlos catches his artist’s eye. Nate is wary – he has a history of picking the wrong guys. Still, he might be willing to break some personal rules to find out what’s behind Carlos’s dark gaze and imaginative lyrics.
Getting together the first time is easy and fun. The second time is more complicated. And when music, ambition, and personalities clash, the guys will have to decide if they have a future worth fighting for.
This story was written for Melissa’s prompt– A young bare-chested man stands staring boldly outward from below his raised arms, hands pressed together in his black hair, elbows winged out, colorful dagger tattoos on his forearms. Another tattoo near his neck forms swirl of dark curves with “Boy” over his left collarbone. His biceps are strong, his stomach and pecs flat, his nipples small, above a thin treasure trail leading downward. Below each nipple is the unmistakable, long-healed scar of top surgery.
I was sent to the US at the age of 10 by my father who could not accept me. You see I was misgendered at birth and I started fighting against my body at a young age. My father sent me to live with my cousin’s family along with enough money to pay my way for a few years. Little does he know he helped to fund the many surgeries and hormones to fulfill my dream of having my outside gender match the gender my brain has always known myself to be.
What do you think Author? Not many know of his secret. He is a gay man. Is he in a gang? Is he in a band? How will he find love? How will he be accepted?
The picture caught my imagination. So many people helped me write it and I’m grateful to every one of them. I hope readers will enjoy where I took Carlos and Nate in this book.
I have heard now that my Don’t Read in the Closet summer free novel, “Chasing Death Metal Dreams” is formatted and ready – it should release on the M/M Romance Group’s Love is an Open Road Stories sometime in the next couple of weeks. (I’ll post when it does, of course, and there will be a download link.)
This book, more than any I’ve written, made me step out of my comfortable space. Carlos and Nate are young gay men – but that’s by now at least a familiar stretch. But Carlos is also transgender, Hispanic, and a metal musician. And those are new spaces for me.
Anyone who writes a story, at least any that isn’t a first-person autobiography, has to move outside themselves and get into the head of a character who is not a carbon copy of themselves. It’s one of the joys and challenges of writing fiction – trying to walk in another person’s shoes.
The challenge is always there in any new story – to be addressed with a combination of imagination, research, empathy, and good advice. (*insert enormous gratitude for generous beta readers here.*) But while some aspects of writing fiction about lives we’ve never lived are more of a technical challenge – historical accuracy, for instance – others are more of an emotional challenge.
When we present a character who belongs to a group that seems marginalized, or at risk, the stakes feel higher. So for Carlos, the metal music scene has its passionate devotees who will no doubt find my mistakes, but I’m not very worried about those errors. They may irritate, but will hurt no one.
The transgender F2M part of the story feels more presumptuous. I had trans beta readers, but I’m still very aware that I’m presenting one, fictionalized, look at a guy who represents a frequently-maligned and misrepresented group. Will I offend someone living the truth of my fiction? Will I perpetuate stereotypes? Cause a potential ally to take the wrong track?
Carlos, to fit the wonderful prompt request, represents the most familiar, easy-to-parse version of trans – the guy who knew from early childhood that he was a boy, and whose struggle is to live that truth as a man. Am I therefore perpetuating the myth that all transgender folk know as kids who they really are? (Many don’t or can’t articulate the incongruity they feel, even as teens or young adults.) Or that they all want to land squarely into the stereotypical center of their identified gender?
And then the Hispanic culture was another stretch. (Again, a huge thanks to my Hispanic beta readers!!) But even with their help, did I get the wrong feel? I surrounded Carlos with Caucasian characters, partly to cut down on dealing with Spanish in emotional scenes. Was that isolation a betrayal by reducing sympathetic minority secondary characters?
Readers will have to see for themselves. As always, my errors will be my own. But it feels more risky than, say, messing up Mac’s police culture, or Daniel’s Navy experiences.
And yet, that’s one thing I love about this summer event – the prompts push me into writing spaces I might otherwise hesitate to try. If we all played it safe, so may good stories would never come to life.
The DRitC crew don’t give out definite release dates for the stories. So I don’t know exactly when my readers will get to meet Nate and Carlos. (And the band, and the cat :) ) But I’m told it will be in the next two weeks. I’m looking forward to it.
And we have a signed contract. :)
The narrator Jonathan and I chose for Into Deep Waters is Kaleo Griffith. He’s an actor and a voice artist, with quite a few audio books to his credit (mostly M/F). He’s also starring in an upcoming feature film Six Gun Savior with Eric Roberts, which premiers next month. And he’s not half bad to look at…
Of course that played no role in choosing Kaleo. (Really – I carefully didn’t look at pictures and bio till afterward.)
I actually chose Kaleo as our narrator because, amid all the good auditions, his most closely fit my vision of how Jacob and Daniel would sound, both as young men and as old guys. I also appreciated the way he made me not just hear but feel the more intense narrative passages. Kaleo told me afterward that he actually read almost all of the book before doing his audition. That extra effort showed, I think, in his approach to scenes – knowing how they fit into the story made him give the right quality to his tone.
I’m excited to see him get started, which may happen as early as next week. Right now Jonathan Penn is working on preparing the book text for audio. As newbies to audio, we’re finding some things that need altering. There are times when I use placement on the page and italics to separate out internal thoughts from other parts of dialogue. There are scene breaks that say “****”. So part of the job is deciding where such things need elaborating or tagging for the listener. It’s interesting.
I do want to say there were several other very good auditions. I’d like to give a little shout out, for other self-pub authors thinking about audio, to Buddy Hatton, who was one of the unsolicited auditions we received. He made our top 5, and had a lower hourly rate than most others. If you are inviting auditions, especially if your characters are older, not in their teens, you might add him to your invited list. I really appreciated the time all the narrators gave in sending us their work.
So there we are – next step is sending in the finished script, and seeing what Kaleo does with it. I can’t wait to hear it!
This is all new to me – I’m using ACX to handle the auditions, contracting, etc. Or I should say, Jonathan Penn is, on my behalf, because wow, it’s so much easier with help.
It turns out that the second step, after deciding to take the plunge, and choosing some narrators who might be good, is to audition them. For this you have to create an audition script from the book.
*Point one that we found out in the process – your script should only be about 5 minutes long.
We started with a longer one, and had to cut it back. With Jonathan’s help, I decided that our audition script needed to include several things.
– a scene with narrative and conversation from the beginning, to check on the “Young Daniel” and “Young Jacob” voices, and narration pace
– an emotional scene, for what is sometimes an emotional book. (I picked a bit of the scene in the water, for those familiar with the story.)
– a sex scene (because yeah, some narrators do not give good sex ;) )
– an older-guys scene, to see if the narrator can age the voices into their 80’s well
Jonathan went even further, and made note of a couple of small points
– an obvious typo – did the narrator catch it and fix it, or read it as written?
– a word that has idiosyncratic pronunciation
– a descriptive phrase that was a bit awkward
Then we loaded the script, invited the 10 narrators we hoped to hear from, and figured we’d get a few nibbles.
To my delight, we got 9 of the 10 invitees sending in audition readings (and the tenth – Charlie David – was interested but not available in the time frame; so flattering to have all of them bother to respond :) We also got 4 other auditions sent in from people we didn’t invite, and 3 of them were also very good. This is where Jonathan made it easy on me – he did an initial ranking of the 13 auditions on a bunch of aspects. Then he sent me the ranking chart and the auditions I wanted to hear. I did the same kind of ratings on my top 5, with my own criteria and we compared notes.
No one was perfect – the guy with the best sex scenes didn’t age the voices as well. The guy with the best voices had melodramatic narration. The guy with the most wonderful, emotional narration had less ideal sex scenes. Of course, it could never be that simple.
And of course, of the top 5 narrators, Jonathan’s 1st choice was my 5th.
But we worked through the points of who we liked and why. We also looked at costs. You can either offer a royalty-sharing scheme, or up-front, hourly rates. My 63K story will take about 7 hours. The guys we looked at charge between $110 and over $300 per hour. I can understand why royalty-sharing would appeal to authors, but it is a gamble for narrators who have to do the work up front. I had decided to offer to pay the hourly rate, because I wasn’t sure any of the great narrators I wanted for this story (which is dear to my heart) would choose to royalty-share, given the uncertainty of an audio book based on a free novel.
So I gulped a little at the cost (and hoped hard that I’ll make it back), and took hourly rates into account. We also looked at availability, since patience isn’t my strong point. Most of the guys said they could do it in August, one said the end of July, one not till September. In the end, we picked a guy who was my number 1 and Jonathan’s number 2, and mid-range in cost. A guy whose reading made me feel the emotions of Daniel as he found Joseph, in that water. Someone I’m excited to hear read the rest of the story.
The next step was to offer a contract. And once the contract is signed, we’ll wait until the narrator has a block of free time, and he’ll do a first recording, which we then get to listen to and edit. I expect attentive listening will be tough for me – I can’t even read my own work aloud. But at the same time, I can’t wait to hear what this guy does with the story. It’ll be about a month.
I’ll keep you posted.