An actual book…

In my house we have a space that an estate agent would grandly call a Utility Room. It contains such exciting things as the washing machine, freezer, piles of recording gear and radio controlled models. It also has boxes and boxes of unsold paperback versions of Chosen (that’s what happens when a national book chain orders copies for every branch, shortly before going bust). Some of them are currently propping up a table. For this reason it is sometimes referred to as the Futility Room.

Mega lolz.

The solution to this mountain of books is to publish in ebook format. I’ve used the Kindle platform (it’s called KDP) for years now and it’s really good. I decide how much things sell for and can run promotions and give-aways. There’s no Futility Room full of books, the whole things just hums away in the background.

But there’s nothing quite like an actual book. A lot of people don’t like reading off a screen for one thing, plus there’s the look and ‘feel’ of a paperback. I have to confess: I’m in this camp. Ebook publishing (which includes Kindle) is a brilliant “business model” (yuk) because you don’t have storage issues, delivery costs etc. But as a reader, I just love everything about a physical book.

So it was exciting, a few weeks ago, to be invited onto a new Beta program that KDP were running, to create paperback versions of my books that would be based on the Print On Demand idea. The book doesn’t exist until someone buys one from Amazon. Then a machine (in my mind a giant contraption that hisses steam and smells of toffee) whirrs into life and prints, cuts, binds and covers one brand-new book. I saw one of those machines in the flesh a few years ago (disappointingly lacking in steam) and it was impressive. It was due to be installed in branches of Blackwells and would mainly be used for academic texts. Now Amazon seem to have invested heavily in the idea.

I jumped at the chance and started the process. I immediately discarded the idea of using the digital file of the Kindle version of The Veil as it looked weird (you get to see a mock up on screen). So I went right back to the original manuscript. After much faffing with borders and line spacing, and after the fabulous Paul Moss made me a bespoke paperback cover, I hit the Publish button.

Oops. The book that arrived in the post was massive. Turns out, I’d selected the US paperback format which is much bigger than the UK one (add your own punchline). There are some things you can tweak when the book has been Approved but size ain’t one, so I had to start from scratch. But it also gave me the chance to really get to grips with page layout and how the cover blurb looked. Yesterday, I took delivery of a much smaller, glossier copy. It just feels so nice in the hand. Those words look weird on the screen but if you love books, you’ll know what I mean. It is an actual book.

IMG_20170126_175206
So The Veil is now available to buy in a paperback from Amazon. It takes about a day to arrive but you’ll know that this book was just a twinkle in my eye only 48 hours previously. And no, it doesn’t smell of toffee.

Oh, and here’s the Link.

Winner, Winner!

Well, if you count second place (which I do, clearly).

Back in March I entered a writing competition – The Fiction Desk 2016 Short Ghost Story.

Well I won a prize! Second place (from a shortlist of 15 and around 470 total entries) and some useful cash* plus the chance to see my story, The Intruder, published in an anthology of ghost stories.

Let me just say, I’m rather pleased. A week or so before I’d received another rejection and was feeling a bit down. But now I know someone out there likes the words I hurl at the page. Huzzah!

The story itself felt a bit “special” as I was writing it. It’s about a woman who moves into a rented house with her two teenage sons and finds…

Obviously that would give it away but I like to think it marries suspense, realism and even a little bit of sadness into 4000 words.

Oh, and here’s a link to prove I’m not a fibber. Here. This one.

*Note: all cash is useful

 

 

 

 

I’m not a goner (at least at time of writing)

You could be forgiven for thinking I’ve popped my clogs, given how long it’s been since I last posted. But no, I am still alive and kicking.*

I’ve currently engaged in Operation Get Featherfall Published. I won’t go into the precise details for fear of jinxing things but I have at least gone off my backside.

Last summer I was presented with an offer from a publisher which I showed to the nice people at The Society of Authors. Their response was to the point: “We’re a little concerned with some aspects of this.” They then dissected it, clause by clause.

The result? I stepped away and became agentless after four years.

But the good news is that there are publishers out there, good ones at that, who are happy to accept direct submissions from authors. And that’s the position I’m in at the moment.

Interesting times…

 

 

*Is this tempting fate?

 

 

 

Android Owners May Rejoice…

… for on this day (well, last Thursday actually) Chosen and The Veil became available on Google Play Books. So that means even more people can read my work on their own choice on electronical magickery machines.

Fabulous.

You can find links in the Bookstore section.

 

The Kraken Sleepeth

Over the years of producing game audio, one area I only every dipped in and out of was voice work. Given my background is in radio, as a journo and newsreader, I’m certainly used to recording voices. But I’ve got to be honest and say I’ve never really been ‘into’ game voice recording on a grand scale (maybe that’s where I went wrong eh?).

But then a project came along that I couldn’t resist: recording a single character voice for “The Kraken Sleepeth”, developed by Andy Gibson aka Team Pesky. Andy is a games industry veteran who’s now running his own ship here in York. TKS (as we call it) is a twin-stick shooter cum gothic mystery that’s about to hit the Windows App Store, before a further roll-out down the line on other platforms:

“Descend into the depths of the 7 seas and Professor Eldritch`s sanity in this original twin-stick shooter. Steer the bathysphere through undersea caverns and lost cities to uncover the awful secret, long forgotten but sleeping deep beneath the world’s oceans. As the player descends light starts to fade…. Discover the secrets of ancient curses in this uniquely atmospheric shooter from Team Pesky, creators of ‘Little Acorns’.”

tks2 tks1

Andy asked if I could find an actor to play the part of the game’s protagonist, the Victorian explorer / scientist Professor Eldritch. He goes beneath the waves in his magnificent submersible machine, only to find much more than he bargained for…

After auditioning a couple of great actors we settled on Peet Torjussen, who I’ve worked with before. He provided some of the creature sounds for Little Deviants and is a fabulous comic actor. He actually does a stage turn as a character called Sir Dickie Benson, a sozzled old thespian along the lines of Peter O’Toole or Oliver Reed. Pete’s taken Dickie to Edinburgh and is well practised in the art of sounding like a slightly crazed posh fella.

Andy (l) and Peet (r)Andy (l) and Peet (r)

 

The recording was done at a hired studio. Actually it was an acoustic room normally used for musicians but it fitted my needs perfectly. I brought all my own gear: laptop running Windows 8 and Adobe Audition CC 2014 (the latest version), a Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 USB audio device, headphones plus a single Genelec 8010 for monitoring, and most important of all: an SE Z5600 tube mic.

the mic

The SE is a fabulous microphone that has a warm, rich sound and can handle anything you throw at it.With Peet’s powerful voice, complete with authentic wheezing and spluttering, I needed to bring out the big guns

It does weigh a bit, so some duct tape is needed to prop the stand up and avoid some embarrassing droop!

We recorded together in one room: Peet, me and Andy. This worked really well as we could fire feedback at Peet much more naturally. It did mean I had to monitor very carefully through my headphones though, to distance myself from the room sound.

 

The whole system worked well. The recordings were great, Peet performed brilliantly and, crucially, Andy was pleased and felt I’d over-delivered. That’s never a bad thing.

Here’s a wee taste of the Professor:

 

new auAudition came into its own: recording in Multitrack mode with markers laid down to signify a good take. Over the next day or so I went through the session, labelling each file before levelling everything out and letting Audition do its thing – extracting a few hundred files from the mix-down of the entire session. I’m a bit of an Audition evangelist but it’s with good reason.

Jerry and PeetLessons learned:

It’s sometimes as easy to take the gear to the job. Hiring a studio means you don’t need to worry about who turns off the lights. Voice recording can be a laugh.

Voice recording should be a laugh.

 

 

 

Shiny Sound Stuff – April 28th 2014

I’ve been lucky of late, getting the chance to test some rather nice gear for Audiomedia magazine. I though I’d share two highlights with you.

First to my door came some speakers from Genelec. I’ve run a set of their 8020s since 2006 (that seems like a very long time ago) and have always rated them. I’ve also had the chance, in more recent years, to test some of their much bigger brothers. The 8240s were so big they needed two people to manhandle them into place.

The 8010s conversely, are tiny. They’re designed for desktop use and to be stuffed in a bag and taken with you on the road. They have the same Genelec overall design, at least in terms of aesthetics, and build quality. But they fit in the palm of your hand.

Genelec 8010s

The full review is, at time of writing this, yet to appear in Audiomedia but I can tell you I was impressed. Really, seriously.

You do not expect speakers of this stature to put out the kind of sound that the 8010s do. They’re maybe not as jaw dropping as those 8240s of a few years back (where I may have cried a little) but they are stunning in a different sort of way.

There are plenty of places where I’ve seen larger Gennies in use and to be honest, in some of them they really would do just as well using a pair of these.

Next up, a portable sound recorder with a twist (also due in Audiomedia soon). The Tascam DR60D is designed to sit underneath a DLSR camera when shooting video. DSLRs are capable are producing fabulous moving pictures but the sound quality is, well, on the bad end of poor. After designing all the still image and video gubbins, it’s almost as if the engineers just stick a sound chip inside the body, using whatever space is left over. The onboard mics are generally of the “whole in the case” variety when some of the hotshoe mounted options do little more than polish a turd. DSLR pre-amps can make more hiss than a bag of snakes and the digital conversion is, well, not up to much.

Tascam DR60 under Nikon D5100 - ignore the weedsEnter stage left: devices like the DR60. They can both record audio “properly” and act as a mixer, feeding sound into the camera on a dedicated connection (the Camera Out socket). The user has the option of either synching up the DR60’s version of the audio in the edit suite or of using the new-improved on-camera sound. The latter has now had the benefit of using a “proper” mic, feeding into the DR60’s XLR inputs and having its level set properly (with headphone monitoring and a nice LCD meter).

Okay, so the DSLR has still done the final conversion, pre-amping and recording but it’s had a hefty leg-up. Even getting the mic off the camera and closer to the subject makes a different.

I did a comparison; making one recording of my daughter Lottie speaking. We used a Rode NTG3 shotgun (my do-it-all sidekick mic) in a Rycote grip. The DR60’s recording was really good; better than some other Tascam hardware I’ve used recently in fact. No pre-amp hiss at all. The camera version was not as good, lacking the detail and higher frequency sharpness (things like the ‘spittle’ in the voice) but… it was way better than any other attempt at DSLR audio I’ve done before, including Rode’s own VideoMic.

So you can use the DR60 as a mixer, if you want to turn round video quickly on a DSLR. But if you have the time to do a synch in post, using the DR60’s recording.

Next time: a pocket recorder with wi-fi and its own app to hook up to a smartphone.

So here’s a thing…

I write loads. Not that you’d necessarily know it from this poor unloved website.

I’m currently contributing to another book from the people who published 1001 Cars a year or so back. This one’s on a totally different subject but it’s still interesting work.

And I’ve been beavering away for Audiomedia of late – the magazine I’ve been writing for since 2002. That makes me feel old.

Just the other day I was writing a piece for them about the audio problems you get when shooting video on a DSLR camera (ie it’s rubbish). I had a good look at various bits of hardware that can make things better for you. The very next day a friend, who’s a farmer-cum-media-tart asked for advice on some video demos he wants to shoot.

“Ooh,” I thought, “I know what you need…” And so some very clever audio-for-video kit is hopefully on its way to me as I write this, for a bit of hands-on evaluation and further reflection in Audiomedia.

Which has made me think – why don’t I talk more about technology on these pages? I’ve posted a couple of things from my audio work recently (such as the clean up power of Audition and Izotope RX3 and my work on audio recorders) but I think I can do better, without compromising my magazine work.

So that’s what I’m going to do – dazzle you with my technical brilliance.

Stop laughing at the back.

Research into sound recorders

That has to rank as one of the dullest post titles ever. But…

I’m doing some research into portable recorders (the kind that I use a lot) and am looking for people who use them for different tasks. Right now I’m after users who aren’t necessarily sound-people (in a technical, not moral sense): people who might be using one for recording meetings or for legal matters.

Drop me a line if that’s you, using the email widget thing on here (if I post my email address, I’ll get loads of spam offering me dubious stuff of all kinds).

 

Thanks!

Noise Reduction Whizz Bangery

This is something I worked on the other day and was so pleased with the end result, I thought I’d share it.

I was asked to help clean up some audio: a very old recording of a song that’s being used as part of the local BBC commemorations of the start of the First World War.

I’m not sure what this was originally recorded on (wax perhaps?) but it’s pretty messy. Don’t feel the need to play to the very end!


After using a combination of Adobe Audition and Izotope RX3 I came up with this.

 

That was done on a fast turn-around and I could go on and tweak some more. I’ve done one more take, with virtually no crackle left and to be honest it sounded “too clean”, considering what it is.

Noise reduction and clean up – I love it.