Recording the BEAUTIFUL SORROWS Audiobook, Part 1

In September of 2012, Shock Totem released my short story collection, Beautiful Sorrows. We released it at Killercon here in Las Vegas. Woo! Vegas!

The gorgeous cover was created by Yannick Bouchard

Just recently we decided to do an Audiobook of Beautiful Sorrows and decided to invite you along. Because this is a new venture for all of us, and it’s fun. Exciting. And just downright awesome!

The first step was to beg my rock star friend Mason Bundschuch for help. It’s useful to have a rock star friend, because he had all of the recording equipment that we needed. I hear that you can record your own audio books on Audacity if you so desire, but it’s really nice to have some professional equipment. He has a computer program, a great mic, and a puff guard to minimize the sounds of my breath.

Our first session took place in Mason’s upstairs studio in their new house. First he recorded some of the room’s “quiet.” Apparently every room has a different sound of quiet, due to the sound of the lights, etc. I find this to be an intriguing concept. He’ll use this recording of quiet if he needs to fill in some gaps later. I held my book nervously, feeling sort of like an idiot. Mason wore headphones and cued me in. I took a deep breath and began to read the first story.

“Broken” is two sentences long, which was pretty easy. I read it twice for good measure. Because. Editing. Because I’m from a small town and occasionally I relapse into a rural drawl. I’ve lost my diction since I quit theater. This drives Mason crazy.

I start reading the second story, “Black Mary.” A motorcycle drives down the street not far from us. Mason cues me to stop. We wait until it’s quiet. Back up about half a paragraph, give the tape a few seconds of silence, and start again.

The air conditioner turns on. Which is nice, because it’s sweltering. But it’s also loud and we stop recording again. Go sit on the stairs and listen to the kids play downstairs. As soon as the air condition turns off, Mason’s wife shushes the kidlets and we run back into the studio.

I read too quickly. I force myself to slow down. I realize that there are words in my work that I’m afraid I’m mispronouncing, especially the names of different flowers. If I mess up, I wait a few seconds and repeat the phrase again. We can fix that in editing.

It takes two hours to go through three stories. The kids are unruly downstairs. The air conditioner decides that it’ll buzz forever. We discover that Mason lives on Moped Alley.

He’ll listen to the recording and see how it sounds. If the room works, or if we need to set the equipment up in the closet next time, which is probably what will happen. Oh, the glamor!  He’ll listen to my diction, to see if I’m reading clearly enough. He’ll probably ask me to re-record it. He’ll point out certain phrases that I need to work on. Really, he’s sort of a harpy in the very best of ways.

These are a few things that I learned from this first session:

1. Good equipment is essential.

2. Always have a glass of water handy.

3. Print can get hard to read after a while, especially in a book. You can print it out in a larger font, but then you have to worry about rustling the pages. Every little sound gets picked up. You’ll realize that you’re a jittery thing that sounds like you’re talking with marbles in your mouth.

4. It’s extremely fulfilling to read your own work. You know what you want to say, and the way that you want to present it. This has always been a dream of mine. It’s fantastic to actually start doing it.

I’ll fill you guys in as the project commences, and get some more technical information from Mason. The last piece in this series will be an easy how-to so you can record your own audiobook, if you so choose!

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