Aloha!

I spent the past couple of weeks on Oahu for some much needed time off. Time to reconnect with myself, my husband and feel the earth beneath my feet. For me, there is no better place to do that than Hawaii. The Hawaiian islands mean a lot to me for many reasons. It was my home for four years, and it’s never stopped being my home, not really. We get back there whenever we can, and after slipping out of tight shoes and into “slippahs”, a part of me feels like I slip back into my old life too.

I can’t stress enough how important vacations are, especially if you’re self-employed. And I’m not talking about one of those vacations where you have your Apogee mic and ipad in your carry-on, although I do those kinds of trips too. I’m talking about the kind of vacation where you switch off. No auditions, no email at all. “But, but, but….what about all the potential work i’ll lose out on”? Trust me, there’ll be more work eventually. Remember what your job is actually about. How can you, as an actor, represent real life, when you’re stuck in a booth all the time?  Our job is to represent life, and no amount of movie watching and game playing is going to replace real experiences.

Personally, I really want to move back to Hawaii because I feel a little more in touch with what’s important when I’m there. I spend way too many hours in a 16 square foot booth, so when I get out, I want to feel the sand between my toes. I want to feel the ocean. I want to get in a kayak and feel strong and alive. Whether I’m looking up and seeing the surface of the water some 15 feet above my head while scuba diving, or watching leviathans glide by my kayak as I hold my breath and wait for them to move on, these are experiences that I can take into the booth and use to help inform my next performance.

And I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, my trips to Hawaii have always taught me the importance of patience and making my own luck, as what happened this trip when we paddled out for a third time into the bay, and finally saw sea turtle after sea turtle, when before there had been none. It’s a reminder to me that the only way to get lucky is to keep putting yourself out there: PREPARATION, PREPARATION, PREPARATION.

As for life in the Emerald City, it’s been a little chaotic: Plumbing issues, and, ahem, website issues. Oh, and while I was gone, this little gem came out:

New Year, New You. Sort of.


Happy New Year!
Like many people, I’ve spent a good bit of time thinking about how I want to handle the coming year, and reflecting on where my business has been going work-wise.
 
Financially, it’s going well. I’ve managed to continually increase my business. Although despite the fact that I made 50% more income last year than the previous year, it was almost entirely from audiobooks, so that is something I need to work on.
 
This has meant going back to the drawing board as far as my marketing plan. This year I hope to try a few new things, which will include more of an online presence (because it’s so much more satisfying when work finds you) as well as more physical networking at meetups, conferences, conventions etc. It’s a necessary skill, but not one I feel entirely comfortable with yet. I’ve been back to work at my interactive demo, which is a work in progress, as I continue to refine my skills under the tutelage of my wonderful coach, DB. Lastly, this also means managing my schedule better so that i can make time for marketing even when I’m working on a tight audiobook deadline.


 
As it’s the beginning of the year, I also find myself thinking about health. One thing I’ve focused on is the tension I carry in my shoulders. You see, I’m a huncher, I tend to carry all of my stress in my shoulders.  This became apparent to me after going to see several masseuses. They all said the same thing. My shoulders and neck are so tight! First thing is first, I needed to stop hunching. I actually began this process a few months. I got a holder for my iPad that I could attach to my mic stand, so my head and eyes could generally remain level when reading copy. In addition, every moment I can, I try stop hunching. But the big change has been the Yamuna ball. I discovered it on a yoga site I subscribe to, and it has been transformative. I admit, I tried to use substitutes, but having seen the effects of Yamuna body rolling, I went ahead and visited the Yamuna USA site and picked up a Yamuna gold ball which is amazing. I use it at least twice a day, sometimes more often than that, if I’m feeling a lot of tension in my shoulders.  By rolling the ball into my back, neck and shoulders (I also highly recommend the smaller black ball for shoulder work) it relaxes my whole neck and jaw area. My shoulders look physically  less hunched, and my jaw feels less tight. I also love that I’m starting to see it affect my yoga too. One position I could never do was reclining hero pose. My hamstrings are just too tight for it to be comfortable even for a few seconds. But since rolling with the Yamuna ball along the backs of my legs, I’ve begun to be able to hold the position, which is amazing.

As for resolutions, well, I don’t tend to have New Year’s resolutions myself, because I like to challenge myself throughout the year. For instance, I recently completed 45 days of making art every day. It was tough to find the time for it, but I really think it helped get me to think more creatively. But one resolution I definitely have this year, is to try new things and be prepared to fail. A lot. Failure is a part of life, but most of us are ill-equipped to handle it. The thing is, sometimes brilliance comes out of failure. So that’s my goal. To fail astoundingly but elegantly.  

The End of Another Productive Year!

Wow the month just flew by! The whole year did for that matter. I released not one, not two but three new audiobooks all of which are available for sale right now- audiobooks make great Christmas gifts by the way!

The first to come out was book two in Jovee Winters’ Dark Queens series, titled The Passionate Queen, a retelling of the Queen of Hearts story from Alice in Wonderland, featuring both new and familiar characters.

The second is book two in The Ministry of Curiosities series by C.J. Archer titled Her Majesty’s Necromancer (I just completed recording book three also, but that won’t be available until the end of January).

Lastly, book three in the Awakening series by Lisa M. Lilly called The Conflagration. This was the closest I’ve ever come to not pre-reading a book. I had pre-read it much earlier when Lisa asked me to help proof it, so I made notes back then, which meant that even I had forgotten certain plot details. It was enjoyable to (re)discover the story at the same time as my listeners.

It’s been a really busy and yet fruitful year. Admittedly, not as fruitful as I would like. I’m always hungry for more, what can I say? It’s my fault, I still need to balance my marketing and recording time better. I was booked out until the end of the year since May which is crazy. Even crazier: attending APAC for the first time and getting to meet so many audiobook narrator A-listers. I still can’t believe I did that. I met some great people, learned a LOT, and honestly can’t wait to go again. Hello New York City!!

Let’s see, what else is on the agenda for next year? Hopefully some audiobook coaching, as well as a new video game demo featuring all my new skills, and I’m actually going to be helping out with a workshop in July which is so exciting! Aside from that though, I’m not sure what I have work-wise lined up for next year. At least nothing definite. Which is scary, as I’ve shared before. The next few days for me will be working on that business plan some more, doing taxes and putting together a proper marketing and blogging calendar for next year.

Stay tuned!

Taking Stock

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Gosh it has been a busy few weeks for me, and will continue like that for a little while longer as we reach the ACX deadline for submitting audiobooks so they can be available in time for Christmas. Over the past few weeks I have recorded book two in the Ministry of Curiosities series by C.J. Archer which will hopefully be coming out soon. I recorded The Passionate Queen by Jovee Winters, and I am in the middle of recording book three in Lisa Lilly’s Awakening series.

Unfortunately, due to my busyness I haven’t been able to audition or market much, and because of that, combined with having a title that would have taken me into January fall off my schedule, I am quickly realising that in a few weeks I am not going to have any work, and this leaves me, frankly, a little nervous.

The vast majority of my work this year has been audiobooks, which means, not only am I wondering how to book more work in general, but I’ve found myself looking for new types of work I can add to my voice over repertoire, because as we all know, income streams can dry up, including this audiobook gold rush.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling realising you got so busy that you forgot to market yourself and you’re about to be out of work. I have some big life plans in the next year or so, and they hinge on me being able to keep up my income.

One of the steps I have taken to move beyond audiobook work has been to work with a coach on preparing a new interactive demo, so I can book more video game work. So far, it’s going amazingly well. She’s tough but fair, and really made me feel comfortable that I have what it takes for this genre. It also has been taking up a lot of my time, but I think this is one seed that will blossom quite well.

Other areas I would like to work more in include elearning, museum tours… Truth is, I’m pretty open to most areas of voice over. I’m even considering actually putting together a commercial demo.

Over the next few days, I am going to be reassessing my business plan and deciding how I want to proceed now and into next year. It’s too easy to get complacent, which is probably the worst thing a freelancer can do. But, as usual, when the work dries up, I have to try and remember not to let that tiny panicky voice take over, and instead focus on learning some new skills and try to enjoy the downtime.

However, that downtime won’t be for a little while, and in the meantime, here’s a sampling from my latest work. Enjoy!

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

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Hello! Fear seems to be an appropriate topic, since it is now October. Fear holds us in place. It keeps us from reaching our goals. It also stops us from letting go of the things in life that aren’t working. It’s something we all deal with every day. These are just a few of my fears…

Fear of letting go of control.
A few weeks back my husband and I took a couple of days vacation. We decided to go stay up in a no kidding hobbit hole near Chelan. It was wonderful. But I was scared. I feared letting go of work, something I badly needed to do. Even on the day we left, I found myself with a number of tasks requiring my attention: an invoice needing to be issued, a contract needing to be signed, and an audiobook needing to be uploaded. All of these things I eventually chose to put off until after I came back. But it was difficult. “It wouldn’t take too long to do these now,” my fear reasoned. For me this was a slippery slope, and thankfully my gut knew it. If I did these seemingly minor stuff, I would be eroding that line between work and personal life I badly needed to establish for my own well-being. But for just a moment, my fear of control and seeming unprofessional ruled me.

Fear of taking the next step.
Another way fear tried to wrestle its way into my life recently was when I decided I needed to take the next step in my career and get more coaching. It’s so silly to even think about, but I was a jumble of nerves at the thought of coaching. That little voice in my head said “what if I really suck? What if those half a dozen game companies that have hired me don’t know what they’re doing, and I’ll find out I’m really not cut out for this? What if…? What if…?” In the end, everything was fine. But even if it wasn’t, so what? So I would learn sooner rather than later, not to waste my time. Isn’t that a good thing? Fear doesn’t think that way though.

Fear of losing my voice.
After a particularly gruelling game session on Monday I lost my voice. It was stupid and avoidable, but by Monday afternoon I had a croak which remained until Wednesday. I knew my voice would come back in a couple of days. I knew I just needed to drink lots of soothing herbal tea and steam my vocal folds. But my fear (and WebMD) told me acute laryngitis can sometimes last a couple of weeks, and what if that happened? I’ve got back-to-back audiobooks! I didn’t let the fear overpower me, but it was there in the back of my mind…

Unfortunately the only thing you can really do about fear is not let it rule you. Meditation and breathing have helped me a lot. I not only find it calming but it helps me to recognise the fear when it rears its ugly head. Recognition is key because fear can disguise itself. It might look like procrastination, or even practicality, and you have to discern whether what’s holding you back is real or the fear talking. What tools do you use to conquer fear?

In other news, I have two new audiobooks that just came out. Betrayals’ Price is the first book in a series by fantasy author Lisa Blackwood. Meanwhile, WhiteWing, the last book in the First Ordinance series also just came out. Have a listen!


The Last Straw

satrw

Hello!

It’s been a super busy summer for me, both personally and professionally. Omega by Lizzy Ford came out a few weeks backs.

Since then, I finished the whopping 17-hour sequel to Aranya, Shadow Dragon by Marc Secchia and I also recently wrapped Betrayal’s Price by Lisa Blackwood. Both are really fun fantasy pieces that have stretched me, either with accents, or trying to create new, more animalistic voices. With Betrayal’s Price I had to create a birdlike race, a wolflike race, even talking horses! I’ve said this before but World of Warcraft videos have really helped me with coming up with ideas for voices!

Speaking of character voices, I’m also getting ready to record the final book in the First Ordinance series, which wraps things up very nicely. I think listeners will really like how everything comes together in the end. This is the first book where I’ve recorded the series from beginning to end, and it’s been such an interesting experience to live with all these (150-ish) characters for so long!

In other news, I recently discovered these amazing straw exercises in order to help stretch your vocal cords and warm up your voice. The idea is you basically do scales and sing songs through a straw. The thinner the better. Ideally you would use a cocktail-size straw, although you may find that you need to use a bigger straw at first. It really forces you to work your abs and helps your breathing so you’re not running out of air in the middle of sentences. My goal in life is always to make my editor’s job easier! I’ll be honest, I’m still pretty bad at the straw exercises. It takes a lot of work for me to do those high notes on a scale, but I definitely sense a difference. The first time I tried with the cocktail straw, I could barely get a sound out, and now…. well, I make noises anyway. I do a lot of other vocal warm up exercises, which I’ll have to save for a later post, in the meantime I’ll leave you with this video from Ingo Titze teaching the straw exercises.

Surviving the Summer Sniffles

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Gosh, it seems as though I’m playing catch up again. Summer is halfway done, although if you’re in Seattle, it’s only just begun, it seems. Which of course means I catch a cold. Actually my hubby caught a cold, which made me extremely likely to catch his, despite my crazy obsession with Purell and antibacterial wipes. I suppose I could have annexed him to the other side of the house. But I kinda like him.

As a voice actor, being laid up with a cold causes a bit of a wrinkle in my schedule. Thankfully, this is the first cold I’ve had in a year and a half. Not bad when you consider the average person gets 2-4 colds per year. True, I talk in a box all day, but still, not a bad score…

How do I avoid a cold? Preventative measures are crucial. I neti pot every day. It helps open up my sinuses for recording. And if I’m around someone with a cold, I neti pot twice a day. I use a solution of salt and xylitol that an ENT recommended, which tends to work for my immune system most of the time. I also use Purell often when I’m out and about. And when I fly- yep, I’m the crazy person with the anti-bacterial wipes, wiping down the headrest, arms rests and all around the tray table. I’m sure I look like some kind of freak. Plus, I always have my nasal spray handy. It’s the best thing for that dry, icky airplane air that keeps circulating germs around. It’s also the best way to flush out any germs wanting to take up residence in your nasal passages.

All of which still means I could catch a cold, as this week proved. If that happens, my first line of defence is lemon water with some salt, to correct the PH in my body. Usually, that and extra neti potting gets rid of the sniffles instantly, but if the cold really hits, and my throat is sore and I’m coughing, I love me some nin jiom pei pa koa which is a Chinese herbal cough syrup. It’s very soothing and tastes a lot better than cough syrup or even throat coat. I just pour a tablespoon into a cup of hot water and record at my leisure-assuming I’m up for recording.

My latest new (to me) discovery is using a steam inhaler. I’d heard from several vocal therapists that really the only way to hydrate your vocal folds is to breathe in steam. Even so, I didn’t bother getting one until this past week. The last time I had a cold, I had a pretty bad cough for several weeks that just would not go away, even with antibiotics. It left my vocal folds stressed out, and meant it took a tremendous amount of energy just to narrate for an hour or two. Now admittedly, aside from recording the first 15 minutes for Betrayal’s Price (by Lisa Blackwood), I haven’t actually tried to see how the steam affects my vocal cords. I’m trying to rest my voice for a day or two before getting in the booth. But so far, just for congestion, the steam inhaler has worked great. Before I bought the inhaler, I honestly couldn’t see myself using steam except when I had stressed my vocal cords,which is thankfully pretty rare. Now, I can see myself using it almost every day. It’s so easy to plug in and use for 5-15 minutes in the morning while I’m checking mail, and preparing for the day.

In other news, before I got sick, I’d been busy in the booth recording back-to-back audiobooks. The first, Omega by Lizzy Ford should hopefully be released in the next couple of weeks. It was such a fun book to record. A unique world, and such fun, sharp dialogue. The other book, is still in the process of being edited. That was also a very fun book to do. It’s the sequel to Aranya, Shadow Dragon by Marc Secchia. What a fun book. But oy vey, coming back to the characters and trying to remember accents and character voices after a year and a half was interesting. There’s also a whole lot of dragon voices in this book. Which just gave me an excuse to research World of Warcraft dragon voices on You Tube, because, why not?! 🙂

Adventures at APAC

apac
Well it’s been a really full couple of weeks for me. A few days after my last post, I hopped on a plane to Orlando to visit family. We spent several days at Disney World, took my father-in-law indoor skydiving, and also attended a family wedding. Then it was time to hop on another plane to Chicago for the Audio Publisher’s Association Conference. We must be the only people to get to an airport three hours early and still almost miss our flight due to the wonky way the terminals are set up at the Orlando airport. Because the eating options looked limited in our terminal we went to another terminal and then couldn’t get back without going through security again. That was a scary few minutes, but we did eventually make it to our hotel in Chicago later that night.

Monday was spent doing a workshop organized by the great Johnny Heller. It was really a who’s who of the audiobook narrator industry. Scott Brick, Simon Vance, Hillary Huber and Tavia Gilbert were just a few of the people teaching at the event. I have honestly never been in a room with that many (over 100) voice actors before, so many names and faces I recognized, as well as many I didn’t. It was exhilarating.

Afterwards there was the APA mixer, followed the next day by APAC. I have to admit, I was iffy about attending the breakfast mixer and keynote speech. I didn’t really think I would get much out of it, and I’d been sleeping bad pretty much the whole trip, so I wanted to get some rest. I ended up getting up early and going anyway, and I’m so glad I did. Even though the keynote speech was about video content, it really had some interesting things to say about the industry and how to connect to our listeners. The panels themselves were fantastic. I sat in on an excellent vocal health panel, and even got to do a bit of yoga and meditation in another panel. I talked to a few publishers along the way, and a whole lot of very lovely narrators, many of whom were first-times just like me. Apparently holding APAC in Chicago this year meant that more of us West Coasters finally decided to make the trip.

After the conference, I skipped the APAC after party to go have dinner with Lisa Lilly author of The Unbelievers. It was really wonderful to finally meet her in person, especially since we’ve been friends for a while now.

Since I love to travel, I made seeing Chicago a priority on Wednesday and spent most of the day at the Field Museum. The weather was foggy and dreary, so it was a great indoor activity, and as a history nut, I loved it. I got to see their terracotta army display, which really blew my mind. If you get the chance to go to the Field Museum in Chicago, plan to spend at least a half-day there. And plan to do a lot of walking!

All in all, APAC was a huge success. No, I didn’t get signed up with one of the big five publishers or anything like that. But that wasn’t my intention. I came there to learn, and hopefully meet some people, and I did that in spades. True the mixer was a little too overwhelming for me. 250 narrators and publishers in a bar making small talk is obviously not something I’m comfortable with. But it’s something I can work on.

I’m still parsing through all the wonderful nuggets of information I learned from the conference. Although I do have a few thoughts of my own: For one thing, I learned that next time I really need to go to the conference first, and then see family afterwards. I was so tired from the Orlando portion, that APAC wiped me out. I’d also probably spend a day or two longer, to get oriented, and maybe go to Book Expo, which looked really cool from what I could see. What else? I would probably pack some granola and almond milk to take with me. Yes, they feed you at APAC, but since it’s stuff I don’t normally eat, it was just one more thing (along with lack of sleep, exercise and proper mediation) that left me feeling “off”. I would take pictures. I think I literally have only one piece of photographic evidence that I was at APAC and that’s only thanks to Kevin Kraft who decided it was selfie time at the mixer. Lastly, I would definitely try and make time for some of the non-performance track panels. There were several panels aimed at publishers; many that looked really interesting. Yes, I added a few extra tools to my belt at the “yoga panel” but I think it’s also important to keep up with what’s happening on the business side of things too.

Well, that’s my adventure at APAC. If you’re an aspiring audiobook narrator I would absolutely recommend attending. It’s overwhelming and exhausting, but you learn a ton, and meet some of the most welcoming people in voice over.

Quick Update

Gosh where has the last month gone? I can’t believe we’re almost halfway through the year. Yikes. Everything is blooming in Seattle, and it even got to the mid 80s the other day. I actually had to turn on the AC for my booth! It’s been a busy month too.  I had two new audiobooks come out: Gray Man Rising by PE Padilla and the third book in the First Ordinance series, BlackWing by Connie Suttle.

I also recorded two new audiobooks: Pirate Bound by Carysa Locke and I’m just finishing up the fourth book in the First Ordinance series SpellBreaker, both of those should be available around June.

With all that going on, I did still manage to take some time out to go to Emerald City Comicon where I was lucky enough to get a pro pass this year. I attended several VO panels, including the always entertaining Nolan North. I had hoped to meet some authors at the convention and maybe build some business relationships, but there weren’t as many independent authors there as I would have liked, although I did get intel on some new game and publishing ventures that I’ll be following up on.

All of these audiobooks this past month has meant I haven’t been too great with the marketing, although I have started to approach a overseas few elearning companies. I’ve gotten some good responses, so the seeds are still getting sown, just not as quickly as I’d like, and alas, the next month looks to be just as crazy. Which isn’t so bad….

Luck Follows Preparation

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I’ve been away from the booth for a couple of weeks re-charging my batteries in Maui. Hawaii is a second home for me. After spending four years living there (and starting my voice over career there) I never really got it out of my system. So of course, when I’m looking for a place to slow down it’s my first choice for a vacation.

Yes indeed, even a freelancer can and should take a vacation. As a European I find the American attitude to vacations strange. Most of my American friends haven’t taken a vacation in years, which blows my mind. Vacations are proven to help you mentally and emotionally, it makes you more open-minded and independent. So yes, even though I run my own business, it’s important for me to unplug. I admit, I didn’t get to unplug as much as I’d wanted to. I needed to stay available because of an upcoming conference that needed arranging, and as it turned out, I had other personal reasons that meant I couldn’t turn off my email and Facebook completely. But it was still nice not to have to be available.

So what did I do on vacation? I read a lot and watched whales. One day we went paddling and had three humpback whales wander close to our kayak. It was a truly memorable experience, but one, I admit, that has happened to us before. I got to thinking about that. Were we lucky to have had whales appear by our kayak on multiple occasions? Yes. But was it pure luck that got us there? Not precisely.

One of the books I read on the plane had a line that has stuck with me: Luck follows preparation. That is pretty much how it was for us. It’s difficult to go seeking an encounter with a humpback whale, and frankly dangerous. But if you prepare; if you keep putting yourself out there, in the water, with an open mind and your eyes and ears open, ready to see what can happen you’ve got a better shot at seeing whales. In the same way, it’s very rare to get plucked out of nowhere to voice a role for a major game or audiobook. However, if you keep preparing, training, meeting people, putting yourself out there, it can happen.

Suffice it to say we were very reluctant to go home. But go home we did, and I’m back in the booth. One piece of good news I had when I got home was that I had received my Audible Approved status. It’s a seal of approval ACX awards based on your audio samples, how many titles you’ve done and the overall quality of your work. I don’t know at this time how that translates as far as getting work, but it does hopefully offer some reassurance to authors seeking out narrators to collaborate with.
And on that note, I shall say mahalo for reading this and aloha nui loa, until next time!

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