The Author’s Voice: Podcasting for the uninitiated.

Trials and tribulations of a podcasting virgin.

Image: audio player icon.Podcast: Download (6 mins/6mb)

Casting about for promotional ideas and unwittingly egged on by Joanna Penn of thecreativepenn.com (who I blame for the consequences…), it occurred to me that I might try a podcast; readings from my novels say, in my own voice. Not, that is, that I expect anyone particularly wants to hear my voice, but at any rate it seemed less trouble to do the readings myself than to hire a professional narrator (Oh! the hubris! The arrogance! Will this man never learn…?).

Fired with enthusiasm it occurred to me that readers might also like to hear my blog posts read aloud, of which this is the first. Let me know via the comments whether you think this a good idea. I’ll quite understand if you don’t.

You can get the result by clicking the link above or from my downloads page. It’s free of charge and runs for about 6½ minutes. Play it now by simply clicking the appropriate link, which will open your player gizmo thingy automatically, or you can download it to play later by RIGHT clicking the link and choosing SAVE TARGET AS.

Image: Save Target As...I’ve had fun making this first podcast but I have to tell you it’s not so easy as you might think. Doubtless any ten-year-old could have done it in minutes, and of course it is simple enough to click the sound recording gizmo on a laptop and speak for a time, but I found the result of that not up to the standard I set for myself, partly, as it turned out, because I had previously stuck an Elastoplast over the lens on my laptop (coz, like, I don’t trust the b*st&?ds not to be spying on me, y’know…) and it turned out the plaster had also covered the miniscule microphone hole. I mean, honestly! What moron designed the blessed thing with such a silly little lughole for the mic, and then placed it right next to the camera lens where anyone might want to stick an Elastoplast? Tsk!

Of course I can hardly hope to achieve the quality of a recording studio, but I did want the result to be at least passable. So I plugged in a proper microphone, loaded up an audio editing app, and set-to learning how to use it.

My efforts were pretty comical at first. The audio editing app lived on a desktop PC, the hard drive and fan of which hummed intrusively in the background. So I dismantled the whole kit and caboodle, commandeered another room for a studio leaving the intrusive hard drive in the living room with a closed door between it and my “studio”, and connected the microphone with a cable. That got rid of the intrusive hum, but the studio room introduced a disconcerting echo because of its hard surfaces. Impractical to cover them, so dismantle the kit again and relocate upstairs with the PC in a bedroom and the microphone on the carpeted landing at the head of the stairs. Better, but still something amiss with the sound quality. The solution to that was to drape a thick blanket over the bathroom door close to the microphone to absorb the remaining echo.

And then I had to learn how to speak into the microphone. Too close and you get a lot of popping noises with every P you utter, and I learned to turn away from the mike for every S so that I don’t sound like a distorted Hissing Sid. All that took maybe 30 or 40 “takes” to learn all the intricacies.

OK, got that right; ready to start the recording proper. Take 1: Half way into the first piece someone shouts up the stairs, “Charles, your tea’s ready…” Blood and sand! Start again. Half way through the next effort a neighbour fires up his lawn mower outside my “studio” window. Start again. Take 3, the local police helicopter shows up, hovering a hundred feet above my house. Hell’s bells! They’re not after me, surely? Nope. A siren comes screaming down the nearby motorway and the fuzz head south in hot pursuit of some other scabby pestiferous miscreant.

Calm settles. This time I fluff my words. Can’t get my mouth around them. Sound like a drunk. Hey ho! Take heaven-knows-how-many (I think maybe 100 or so at ten minutes each: that’s 16 hours work to produce a twenty minute recording) and I have something that’s passable – just. At least, I have a basic set of recordings, each piece in a separate WAV file. Now they must be edited and joined into a coherent whole and converted to MP3 and… and it’s at this stage I realised that each recording sounds a little different to the next. My voice was pitched higher or lower than in the piece preceding; I forgot to hang the blanket so that one piece sounded muffled and the next like I was in church; the volume was too loud, too quiet, a P popped unnoticed, an S sounded hissingly Sewellish where I wanted a warm and friendly Sh(urely)…

Kudos to all the proper voice actors out there who do this for a living, say I through gritted teeth. But now I understand my father’s frustration when he made a home movie in 1961. It was 8mm silent film in those days: no convenient video or digital editing. He made the sound track in mum’s bedroom with the family Dansette record player (remember those?) and an old Walter reel-to-reel tape recorder, cussing mightily every time grandma shuffled up the stairs to the loo or someone slammed the living room door. Respect, Dad. You did a brilliant job. I still watch that film from time to time, a wonderful family holiday on the Norfolk Broads. I have it transferred to video now of course. The colours are not so intense as on the original film stock but the sound track is synced as it never was in Dad’s day. What’s that you youngsters say? What’s video? Yes, well, someday I’ll get around to transferring it to MP3 or 4 or whatever is current at the time.

Meantime, that home movie has scenes in it that might easily be taken for scenes described in my novels, though of course my stories are fiction; nothing to do with that movie at all. But I guess that’s a tiny insight into where this writer at least, gets his ideas.

Concerning that wretched Elastoplast, I did eventually remove it and the final recording was indeed made right here on my laptop using its miniscule built-in mic. God’s Teeth and Rolling Eyeballs! What a palaver! If only I’d had that ten year old handy to guide me; would have saved a shed load of trouble. Do listen to the podcasts – those are freebies – and if you’re a mystery and romantic suspense lover do buy my novels. I hope you enjoy them all. That’s what puts food on my table.

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