House Gremlins


This title should probably be “house gremlins” because these gremlins were everywhere. It’s just been one of those weeks where no matter how focused or on track I attempt to stay, something happens to take away my focus. First there was my contact lens that mysteriously disappeared leading to an hour of cleaning out the trap under my sink and scouring the floor, before finding the lens improbably sitting in the same side of the lens case as my other lens. I won’t go into it, but the series of unlikely events that had to have occurred for that to happen is astounding. But at least I didn’t have to shell out for a new lens.

There’s also been the issue with Twisted Wave which occurred now and again during the previous week but ramped up this week. Every other time I try to use my punch and roll script, it wants to do a cross fade. I suspect this is a side-effect of my upgrading to Sierra, but it is annoying. Luckily, I think I’ve maybe got it figured out, so it only happens a handful of times an hour.

Then today, my trusty Sennhesier 201’s decided to fail. It’s most likely an easy fix, but one I didn’t have time for this morning, so I ended up recording with earbuds, and will be getting replacements in the next day or so. For the record, I love the 201s. I know people love the Sony 7506 but these Sennheiser’s are comfortable (I wear them for 4-5 hours a day), they give a flat response for monitoring, and yes, they’re cheap. But durable! I’ve had these for nearly 4 years, which isn’t a bad run at all, especially since a little soldering should make them good as new.

As for what I’ve been working on, I’ve been busy this week recording a new scifi space opera, which I’ll have more info about soon. In the meantime, now is as good a time as any to talk about a new audiobook that will hopefully be out in the next few weeks. It’s a narration I’m doing of Pride and Prejudice. I have to admit, I’m very nervous about this production. This book is beloved by so many that I really hope I got it right.

One thing I know for sure, however, is that the cover (by Emma Lysy) kicks butt. Wouldn’t you agree?

The House Guest and the Audiobook Narrator


This has been a crazy few weeks for me. I have to keep reminding myself that I only just got back from vacation a few weeks ago! With work and website issues and other things piling up, it’s been busy. And it would have been even busier had I not given myself a sanity check last week. You see, I was supposed to have a friend stay over. My friend was going to Emerald City ComiCon, and would be crashing at our house for nearly a week.

Having house guests when you work from home is not ideal. When your work space is your home, and is suddenly filled with distractions, it makes it very difficult to be productive. And for my job, I need quiet. 100% silence. When I record an audiobook I turn off the heat and the refrigerator, and my dog has known since he was a puppy that when I go into the TARDIS he has to be quiet (my chatty cat is another matter).

I can’t work while I have visitors in the house. Not when I’m recording audiobooks. It’s a distraction. Audiobooks take a tremendous amount of concentration, and I’m in the booth for several hours a day, with breaks every 60-90 minutes. I’m exhausted during those breaks. Breaks are for hydration and meditation. Definitely not for entertaining.

Previously, every time I’ve had someone stay with me, I’ve made sure it wasn’t while I was on a tight deadline. I would shift my schedule to spend time with my guests. But when you have someone staying with you for a week, that’s just not practical. I can’t take more than 2-3 days off. I run my own business. Originally when my friend had mentioned the convention my schedule was pretty flexible. But things change, and as a matter-of-fact a really big job (that I won’t go into details about because it might not happen) came along that required me to shift my entire schedule. Suddenly I had no time, because I needed to get ahead on the book I was currently working on, so I could schedule this project. And for a few days, I thought I could juggle entertaining while recording.

Thankfully last week, I realised this was too much. I can’t work with someone else in the house. I was stressed about this major job. I really didn’t need the added hassle of having visitors. Having someone in your personal space morning and night, for days in a row, is stressful. Then there’s the planned dinners. Driving people around. It’s a lot of work. So now my friend is staying at a hotel. We’ll still be able to see each other, but when I’m able to make the time. .

So what does this mean for future visitors? I’m not sure. I’m thinking I may have to implement a three-night rule. Or warn people that they need to set aside money for a hotel just in case. What I do know is that audiobook narrators and house guests really don’t mix.

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

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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

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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….

Take Your Business Seriously, Because No One Else Will

Okay, I’m in-between projects right now, so I finally have a chance to play catch up. This has included getting rid of pesky unwanted pop-up ads that kept appearing on my site. My apologies to anyone who had to deal with that. It turns out it was a piece of code in a plugin I was using. Needless to say, I disabled the plugin, but it took me two hours to go through the code and research before I finally figured it out. I was getting ready to hire someone to remove it, because really it does come across as unprofessional. Thankfully I realised what the problem was and now it’s gone. Yay!

An interesting thing happened a few weeks ago. I was talking to an author about narrating an audiobook. The audiobook was being crowd-funded, and she needed a sample for the Kickstarter page before the book went up. I went to my usual forums to ask what a good price would be. I already figured as a courtesy I would charge a fee, but deduct it from the full price of the audiobook. It seemed prudent to charge something because this wasn’t a pre-existing client, and who knows what might happen.

The responses shocked me. Some were supportive but I found there were far too many narrators arguing to work for free. Some of the things being said were “you don’t charge for auditions, why would you charge for this?” Well, that’s true. But this isn’t an audition. The person already wants to hire me, and besides, this is going into a public space. An audition requires very little preparation from me, but this needs to more or less be a retail-quality sample.

It was interesting to see the divide in comments. Those who, like me, are voice actors (not just narrators) saw it as quite reasonable to charge something. Those who were only narrators thought I should do it for free. It became plainly obvious that because audiobook narrators on ACX are so used to doing the first 15 minutes sample on-spec, they didn’t see any problem providing a 1-2 minute sample for this author to use for free, before the book was recorded.

This attitude is something I find worrisome. Between the first 15 minute (which I have no problem with in general) and royalty share, the attitude is prevailing that working for free is okay. It’s not. If you don’t value your work, why should anyone else? Moreover, I have bills to pay. It didn’t help that that week happened to be the same week my dog broke his front canine tooth, which is going to cost nearly $1000 to extract. Of course I’m not going to work for free for a job that may or may not happen. This is a business.

It should also be noted that there was at least one author on this forum who suggested that if I really felt passionate about the project, I shouldn’t charge anything for the sample. To that I say again, I do not feel so passionate about someone else’s work, that I am willing to work for free. To be honest, I don’t have room in my life to be passionate about every author’s work that comes my way. When we talk passion I think of my passion towards my family. Towards animals. Towards travel. Those are the things I’m passionate about, and I need to be paid to fuel my passions.

This isn’t to mean that I don’t enjoy an author’s work, or that I won’t do a good job narrating the book. It doesn’t mean that I’m not excited to narrating this book. But in the end, it’s a job, and it should be treated as such.

On an interesting note, I was recently going through my list of audiobook publishers I had compiled a year ago, only to find that I’m already on the books of one of them (Deyan Audio) and was approached earlier this month to be on the books of another major audiobook publisher!