Monday
Aug182014

P.G. Holyfield

This morning, I woke up at 5 am to go to work and saw a confusing, but ominous facebook post. When I had time to follow-up on it, I learned that P.G. Holyfield has been diagnosed with aggressive, late-stage cancer. The here-today-gone-tomorrow kind of cancer. Days-to-live kind of cancer. Sudden-massive-organ-failure kind of cancer.
 
This is wretched beyond words.
 
P.G. Holyfield is the author of a podcast novel called Murder at Avadon Hill. It was either the first or the second fullcast podcast that I ever heard (I found Avadon Hill and T. Morris's Billibub Baddings at about the same time). Before Chris Lester or Dan Sawyer, there was P.G. Holyfield, creating wonderful sound-scapes with casts of voice actors. P.G.'s work had a direct influence on how I chose to produce Cowry Catchers. I also found Beth Quist's music by following also-listens from the music that P.G. had used. I had this mental imagine of P.G. sitting in a castle-studio with ethereal music wafting around him, turning mysterious nobs and pressing buttons (that was before I actually did any fullcast production).
 
Later, I asked P.G. to do a cameo in Cowry Catchers. He was the voice of Leopaard Maijha, Gwain's father, in Book 2. His voice work was swift and professional, and he was unfailingly kind and friendly in emails.
 
I met P.G. for the first time in real life at Dragon Con 2010, about the same time that I met Norm in real life. I've since seen P.G. at just about every Balticon and Dragon Con I've attended. He was usually kitted out in dapper steam-punk attire and always had a crowd of people around him. It will be bizarre and sad not to see him at conventions anymore.
 
P.G. has three children who have been blindsided by this. His family and friends have started a GoFundMe campeign to offset medical costs and help care for his young kids. If you can spare a few bucks and want to say thank you for the ways in which he's influenced my work, go here.
 
P.G., if you get a chance to read this, thank you so much for the inspiration and entertainment you provided. Thank you for lending your lovely voice to Cowry Catchers. Thank you for putting beautiful things into the world. Whether you step off the stage tomorrow or beat all the odds and stick around for years to come, the things you’ve made will outlive you. They will continue to be bright and beautiful long after you’re gone. Thank you.
Monday
Aug112014

Additional Artwork for the Cowry Catchers Artbook

For the last few weeks, Cowry Catchers fans have been voting on 3 additional illustrations for the Cowry Catchers Art Book. There were two rounds, once among 30 sketches that were created but never finished, and then another vote among the 8 favorites from that set.

The votes were impressively even in their distribution. I'm tempted to do one final round, but I think we do have clear (though narrow) winners. They are 1-1, 2-8, and 5-1. You can view the eight finalists and winners here.

So Rah will be finishing these pieces for the artbook. One will be watercolor and the other two ink. I will leave which ones to her judgement. In addition, I am going to purchase 3-2. It's an important scene, and I originally had it illustrated by another artist, whose style is so different from Rah's that it wouldn't make sense to include it in the book. Consequently, there's a gap in the illustrations at that point.

Composition of these pieces may evolve and change as Rah works on them. This happens frequently, and I hope no one will be upset if angles and such get shifted around as the sketches evolved into finished pieces.

I did want to ask one question. I completely understand why 1-1 and 5-1 were chosen, but I am mystified as to why so many people wanted 2-8. It's a very sad, very dark point in the story. Composition for that piece is nothing spectacular. You can't even see anyone's face. I suspect this is an image that Rah will want to re-arrange. Those of you who voted for it - can you tell me why? Is it just that you wanted to see that particular moment illustrated (the broken windchimes that remind Gerard of Thessalyn's death and haunt him for the rest of the story), or was there something about the specific composition of that image which appealed to you? I'd like to keep the element you voted for, so I need to know what it was!

Wednesday
Jun252014

Cowry Catchers Complete Series Available on Audible.com!

Audible
Amazon
iTunes

Cowry Catchers re-mastered audio is finally live!!

I've spent most of my 30's working on this project, so I'm super-excited to complete this step. Unlike Prophet, Cowry Catchers had fairly extensive re-mastering before uploading to ACX. You would definitely notice if you listened to the podcast and audiobook back-to-back, although you probably won't notice if it's been a while since you listened to the podcast.

Only a handful of lines were actually re-recorded. Mostly, the touch-up involved noise-removal, a little added music, and adjustments to the levels of music and sound effects. Books 1-2 needed the most touch-up. Book 3 also had a fair amount of remastering. Books 4 and 5 are pretty much as they were.

In addition, Audible requires that each chapter fade to complete silence at the beginning and end. This is an obvious problem for musical bridges and certain kinds of sound effects, so I spent many hours editing the files so that they can fade up and down between chapters without being too disruptive.

The voice actors were paid, and all the music was licensed.

The audio book is the entire 5-book series as a single download with no intros, outros, or story-so-far's. It's 32 hours long. Audible has priced it at $29.95 for non-members. If you're a member, it's on sale for $15, and of course you can get it with a single credit (about $12). I think you also get a discount if you go through Amazon. iTunes has it listed for $26.95. Links at the top.

You can only review an Audible.com title if you own it. So if you purchase Cowry Catchers, please considering leaving a review. Audible.com listeners pay attention to those reviews for hints about the quality of the listening experience in addition to the story itself.

I hope those of you who get to hear this version find it shiny, fluffy, cuddly, and sharp.

~Abbie

Sunday
Jun222014

Project Update

Hello, Readers and Listeners.

I just got back from a 2-week vacation. Right before I left, I turned in the last of the audio for the re-mastered version of Cowry Catchers on ACX. Their QC review is pretty exhaustive. They've had it for two weeks and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they take 2 weeks more to get back to me. But for now, it's done!

That was the last of the production things that I was trying to get off my plate before writing new novels. So yesterday, I started working on the Scarlet Albatross again. :) I have ambitious goals for the next 12 months. Some of them depend on other people, others are all on me. I'll try to post updates now and then so that you can follow along. Or you can subscribe to my podcast and listen to me talk about it.

Drafting, roughly in this order:

  • The Scarlet Albatross (~80,000 words)
  • Malachi 3 (~6,000 words)
  • The Holovarus Book (~50,000 words)
  • Malachi 4 (~6,000 words)
  • Sunkissed Isles novella (~20,000 word)
  • Malachi 5 (~6,000 words)
  • Walk Upon High (~200,000 words)
  • Malachi 6 (~6,000 words)

Production (not 12-month goals, just a current todo list):

  • Paper Hunters - Have first proof. Jeff and I need to make adjustments and send for next one.
  • Hunters on iBooks - Yes, I'm embarrassed to say I still haven't done this. Dealing with iBooks is a pain.
  • Audio Hunters - Rish has Part 1 of 5 recorded and edited. I'm waiting on him and also on Bryan, who is doing some minor clean-up before my final polish of the files.
  • Cowry Catchers paid Audio - Waiting on ACX
  • Malachi 2 - waiting on illustrations and cover from Rah
  • Cowry Catchers Art Book - I need to start watching Lynda.com videos on dealing with images in InDesign.
  • Crossroads on ACX - Waiting on Dave Robison record one story for me.
In addition, I manage my own podcast and am launching a semi-secret new podcast with a friend. I also have a promotion-related todo list, but I won't bore you with those.
Thursday
Mar272014

How Long Does it Take to Create a Fullcast Audiobook?

On 3/23/14, I finished the audio for the 5th and final book in my Guild of the Cowry Catchers series. This fullcast recording includes 41 voice actors (counting me as narrator), close to 100 pieces of music, numerous sound effects and ambient noises, and over a thousand hours of production time on my part. I began this enormous project five and a half years ago at the end of 2008/beginning of 2009.

Every single one of the voice actors stuck with me through five and a half years of production. I did not have to recast any major parts. I knew it would be a lot of work, and it certainly was, but I'm tremendously proud of the results.

However, if I ever do something like this again, I will hire someone else to do at least part of the production, and I will probably do a kickstarter first to pay for at least part of it upfront and to gauge audience interest. Fullcast audiobooks are just too involved and expensive to do on spec very often. With this in mind, I carefully tracked my production time on the 5th book. I wanted to know how much time it really took to produce one of these things so that I could know how much I need to reasonably pay someone else to do parts of it. These numbers may be useful to other producers for obvious reasons.

I tracked only my own time as narrator and producer. Here then are my numbers:

Total Word Count for the Book: 70,000

Actual Audio Time Without Intros or Outros: 450 minutes (7 hours, 30 min)

21 hours, 52 min - Recording Narration (2.9 min per finished min)

28 hours, 28 min - Marking Lines/ Communicating with Voice Actors (3.8 min per finished min)

123 hours, 40 min - Voice Track (16.5 min per finished min)

62 hours, 50 min - Scoring (8.4 min per finished min)

22 hours, 30 min - Final Pass Edit/Outros/tags/Conversion/Show Notes/Art (3 min per finished min)

259 hours, 20 min - Total Production Time (34.6 min per finished min)

If you are considering hiring another person for, say, the voice track, then the breakdown will be useful. Obviously, that last number is the most important for someone who is considering producing fullcast audio all by themselves. However, it's also misleading. Here are things that I did not have to do for this book:

--learn how to narrate

--learn sound equipment

--find and test a sound-prouf environment

--learn audio editing software

--develop a library of music and sound effects

--cast major voice actors

--get to know my voice actors, their strengths and weaknesses

Time that I didn't include, but may be required if you're the author and you podcast it:

--social media to promote your book

--managing forums or wikis

--managing and trouble-shooting RSS feeds and websites

--tweaking and reformatting for sales channels

Since this was the 5th book in a fullcast series, I was working in an establish narration style with known equipment in a tested environment. I knew all of my audio editing software inside and out. I was working with voice actors I'd known for a long time (with a couple of small exceptions). At this point in my audio editing career, I have a large library of music and sound effects. I have chosen a limited pallet of musical artists for Cowry Catchers in order to maintain a specific sound. I always check for new albums from those artists and always end up using a dozen or so new pieces in each book, but I spent a lot more time searching for music and sound effects in the early books.

I am often asked at conventions how long it takes to create a fullcast audio book. I tell newbies to budget 1 hour per finished minute of audio. Audio will be roughly 1 hour per 10,000 words.

I still stand by that advice. If you are brand new to recording books, it will take you that long at the beginning. I am certain that I have spent at least 1500 hours on the entire Cowry Catcher series, especially if you count things like building the website, trouble-shooting the RSS feeds, sound-proofing rooms, managing the forums, etc.

If you're new to fullcast audio, you should budget 60 minutes per finished minute. However, at this point, 5 books in, it's taking me 34.6 minutes per finished minute. If you hire someone for a new book, it's going to take them a little more time than that, because they'll have to establish voice actors and a specific sound for the book. However, I don't think any professional should take longer than 40 minutes per finished minute. I think that's a very reasonable time expectation for a pro doing fullcast audio, even if he/she is starting from scratch with a brand new property.

If you're a producer or an author who is considering being a producer, I hope those numbers are useful to you. If you're enjoying Cowry Catchers, awesome!! Many people worked hard to bring it to you. Episode 11 of Book 5 goes live tomorrow. It will finish with 13 episodes on April 11. There's an epilogue and outtakes on April 18, and I'll probably put a few other little things in the feed before the end of the year.

I am in the process of paying all the voice actors. I have licensed all the music I used. I am going through the series now doing a little remastering and clean-up. That will probably take me a month, and then I bet it takes Audible another month to do QC. After that, the complete series should be on sale as a single download in all the usual audio places.

It's been an amazing voyage.