background noises

I’m sitting in my living room, listening to the early morning sounds.  Birds chirping, neighbors revving their truck engines, planes flying overhead, the refrigerator running…. And now that I think about it, these sounds are present throughout the day, more or less.  Sounds I am aware of because, time and again, I record audiobooks at home.  Audiobooks that I don’t want full of birds tweeting and engines revving and dogs barking.  Audiobooks in which the thumpa-thumpa of a car stereo’s too-loud bass competing with its ill-tuned engine (well-tuned to produce the most noise, that is) is simply not appropriate.  My hearing is not perfect, not by far, and I often have trouble making out speech over background noise – a cocktail party is basically a place where I have no idea what most people are saying to me.  (Not to mention, I’m not much good at small talk, which is all the talk most people in such situations seem to want to have.)  Still, my hearing is good enough -attuned enough- that little noises like these become big annoyances.

There seems to be less traffic noise in the mornings, after everyone has gone to work and before they begin to be released from it, so I tend to try to record in the mornings.  My sleep schedule has been bizarre, of late, and I’ve been sleeping starting at roughly 3AM-7AM and -despite my best efforts (hampered significantly by an ongoing and severe bout of depression) to get out of bed after only a few hours- running through the middle of the afternoon.  Today it’s further off – I put myself to bed last night at 10PM, managed to fall asleep somewhat quickly, but then my mind woke me up at 2:30AM.  I tried to sleep, I fought against waking, I felt quite … I don’t know whether I’m physically or mentally tired, but … tired, but at 3:30AM this morning, I gave up on it.  Got up.  Started laundry.  Played the Free Realms Beta for a while…

Mandy’s up now, eating a breakfast I made for her, and as I finish writing this, she’ll be getting ready for school today.  I don’t think I knew how noisy getting ready for the day is until I started recording audio books.  So, in an hour or so, she’ll be done with that and I can try to begin recording.  I’d like to get a couple of hours of recording done today, if my voice works that long.  I need to get ahead of my podcasting; trying to record at the last minute doesn’t always work, especially when I’m depressed and/or my sleep schedule is severely kinked.  Last minute is where I’m at right now, actually.  I don’t have today’s podcast episode edited yet.  Realistically, I give myself until midnight of the day I’ve said it will go up.  Preferably, it always goes up on the morning of that day.  Which, for episodes longer than a minute, means I have to have it recorded ahead of time.

((For the episodes going up on, I really need to be done ahead of time – in my experience, if I fail to have my episode uploaded & ready to go there by late Thursday night, chances are it won’t hit the site until Monday.  Which feels like I’m three days late, even if I uploaded it at 7AM Friday.  Even if it was on my own feed at 7AM Friday. feels like the “real” venue for my audiobooks.  So I really need to be ahead.  Consequently, I think I’m going to let the Podiobooks feed run a week or so behind my direct feed for the next few books.))

Recording a half-hour episode takes a lot longer than half an hour, by the way.  (Assuming I’m not doing multiple voices, which takes even longer.)  The actual recording part tends to take me about double, so about an hour.  (Last night I tried to record in the evening, since I seemed not to have a choice, and it took me over 100 minutes to record what will be about 30 minutes of text.)  Editing what I’ve recorded – selecting takes when I’ve recorded multiple takes, cutting out dead air, background noises, mouth noises and the like – takes about double that, so about two more hours.  With my new computer, mixing together the intro, outro, multiple sections of an episode & transitions between them, leveling everything so volume matches within and across episodes… actually only takes a few minutes.  I haven’t timed it, but I seem to be able to do both versions (MEPod & PB) in under half an hour, now, including compression.  Then I have to listen to the entire episode, to be sure I didn’t miss anything during the edit.  I usually do this while uploading it to both servers & writing the episode description.  So, for a typical 30-minute episode (without character voices), it takes me 4 hours of work.  All of it while listening carefully not just to my own voice, but also to tiny background noises.

This is not work I can do eight hours a day, five days a week.  And not merely because wearing the over-the-ear headphones becomes annoying well before the 4-hour mark.  I am certainly going to try to put in a few long days over the next few weeks, though.  I am certainly going to try to get the other 8 episodes of this book recorded, edited, and ready to go just as fast as I am able, and on to the next book.  Theoretically, it should only take me a total of 40 hours to complete this entire book (not to mention I’ve already got the first episode done), so why not?  The next two books in the series are each almost exactly the same length book – so three 40-hour work weeks and I should be done with the entire series, right?

Except I’m also an artist.  And I’m also writing a book on my Self Publishing experiences.  And I’m also creating a deck of Christian cards (and a book to go along with them).  And I’m also a househusband – cooking and cleaning and the like are part of my responsibilities.  And I’m also a marketer.  And a web developer.  And a blogger.  And a filmmaker.  And involved in social media.  And emotionally unstable, currently depressed & off-kilter.

It’s only 1 week until the next First Friday, when I have another Art Walk to show at.  (If you’re in the Phoenix area, come down and see me!  I’m among the ‘Roosevelt Row‘ vendors, and I’m usually near 5th & Garfield.)  I’d like to produce some more new art before that happens (though I have plenty in stock, right now – more than I could possibly show), so that cancels out part of the next week.  I’ve only just begun writing that book on MicroPublishing, and I’d like to build some momentum in the writing of it, instead of letting it perhaps wither with only a couple thousand words.  I can’t record every day (I can’t recall now which day it was, exactly, but one day this week I managed to stay up late enough that I thought I could record in the morning, after Mandy left, at the end of my waking hours – but apparently that was when Bulk Trash Pickup decided it was time to slowly and noisily scour my neighborhood.) and I can’t usually stand to work on audio all day, when I do.  Oh, and because I want to continue posting two episodes a week to my feed, I’m doing poetry episodes again – a one to two minute episode of which seems to take 30-45 minutes to create.

So maybe I’ll get ahead by a couple of episodes in the next week.  And hopefully I’ll get ahead by the rest in another week or two.  Mandy just walked out the door.  I’d better get to it.

Trying to do, perhaps, too much at once

So, I’ve been working on the audiobook version of Dragons’ Truth (available now in paperback from Modern Evil Press) for the last several weeks.  At least a full week, perhaps week and a half, was spent learning how to use the hardware and software tools I have available to reduce background noise as much as possible.  In the future (when I’ve been at this for longer, and have more experience (and more equipment.  ie: a better sound environment)) I’m sure I’ll want to re-record Dragons’ Truth.  I’m somewhat a perfectionist, and this recording isn’t as perfect as I’d like. But it will have to do, for now.

That is the conclusion I came to after the first week of fighting with the background noise.  The other few days were just me trying to get it “good enough” for now.  It’s better than a lot of the stuff that’s out there, it’s just … not as good as I’d like.  I’ve played it  for a couple of “normal” people (ie: not audiophiles) through “normal” audio players (ie: not high-end closed-ear headphones; just a regular stereo, regular earbuds) and they don’t even hear the things that bug me about it, so … it’s good enough.  Lost and Not Found, which I would like to tackle next, should be better.

I’m planning on podcasting these audiobooks, for free, through and perhaps through a Modern Evil Press feed that has everything. (Multiple books, videos, et cetera…)  There are hundreds of authors/titles already on, and a huge base of listeners, hungry for new books. The traditional model for podiobooks authors seems to be to only have a few episodes (or none) recorded ahead of when they hit the site (typically one episode a week).  The guide recommends to have 5 episodes finished before your first episode goes live, in case anything slows production down the line – no one wants an episode to be posted late, and it’s a sure way to lose traffic fast.  So, for most first-time podiobookers, based on what I’ve seen in the mentorship forum and from chatting with them on Twitter, they spend several months working on an episode or five, and then just try to stay ahead of the release schedule from then on.  I state this for contrast from what I’m doing:

Even including the 1.5 weeks lost to my insanity, I’m spending less than a month recording an entire audiobook.  I want the whole thing done, ready to go, before the first episode is available for free to the internet.  I want the completed audiobook to be available for sale before the first episode hits the internet for free.  I want to have links to where you can buy the audiobook as an MP3 CD (or AAC CD), as a set of audio CDs, or where you can subscribe to dl it for free, one episode at a time over months, and I want all three links to go up at once.  That month includes composing intro/outro/bridge music (so I don’t have to pay or credit anyone else for that), editing, mixing, test-burning CDs and designing labels and packaging for them, because I plan to do all that myself, too.

All of this is possible because of digital tools available to me relatively cheaply.  This audiobook is relatively short (it’ll probably come in at around 4.5hrs when I’m done), but with experience recording should go faster, so the next one will probably take fewer days per hour of audio, and at a higher quality.  Packaging for the LaNF audiobook, which will probably be on 10+ CDs, I don’t know about right now, but I’ve already got some good ideas about how to package D’T, and some ideas about combo-packages I can offer (buy the paperback and the MP3 CD together and save!)…  hopefully this will help with sales of everything.

Anyway, I’ve been somewhat busy lately with this one project, at the exclusion of almost all else, because I want to get this launched ASAP.  I want to get the audiobook broadcasting (podcasting) as soon as possible. But since I also want to get the entire thing done ahead of time … it’s a lot.  Oh, and people keep reminding me First Friday is THIS Friday, and am I ready?  Of course I’m not ready!  Are you coming?