The Small Stuff


Yikes, has it really been so long since I last posted? Ack! Well, it’s a good things, in that i’ve been pretty busy lately. I worked on several audiobooks, including Pride and Prejudice, The Last Valkyrie by Dietmar Wehr which I recorded for Audible Studios, and book three in the Dark Queens series by Jovee Winters. I recorded The Tinkerer’s Daughter by Jamie Sedgewick for Tantor Media, which will hopefully be coming out in a few weeks. Oh, and I recorded two more titles in the Ministry of Curiosities series by C.J. Archer, which again will hopefully be out in a few weeks.

I also got to attend an animation workshop with Bob Bergen, which I helped to plan. It was exhausting but so much fun. I still have to go through my notes, because there was so many little nuggets of information, and I can only retain so much of it. All in all, it’s been a good but busy few months.

Right now i’m getting ready for a big conference, and I have to admit, it has stressed me out. Y’see, i’m so used to living in my TARDIS that meetings large groups of narrators and publishers can be a little much for me. It’s left me snapping about stupid things, like what bag to bring, or the fact that the beautiful TARDIS business card holder I ordered never arrived. And then I got a little reminder today that this is just all small stuff. Yeah, I’m not booked out to the end of the year yet (like I was by this time last year) and I’m behind on my blog, but it’s not important. What’s important is the people you meet, the experiences you have, and the memories you take with you. I don’t know about anybody else, but I don’t want to waste another second worrying about what bag to take. I’m gonna go enjoy the sunshine with the people I love. And so should you!

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

time to evaluate concept clock closeup isolated on white background with red and black words

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.

woman-screaming

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!


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.

Happy New Year!

goals
I think I can still technically say Happy New Year. We’re only halfway through January! I got awfully busy towards the end of the year, finishing up sequels to both the Demon of Darkling Reach series (which is now out) and The First Ordinance series. After that, all my good intentions for the holidays went by the wayside, although I did manage to not check for auditions once during all my time off. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been wrestling with taxes and focussing on the year ahead.

Some of the things I discovered while doing the taxes, was that I can make a full-time living doing this. Or I did last year, anyway. With that in mind, my plan is to expand on that, and diversify, diversify, diversify.

The large majority of my work came from audiobooks. Like a good 80-something percent. So naturally I want to work on that. Do more video games. I’d like to start going to some of the video game developer meetups here in Seattle, for a start. But I also was to do more corporate work. I did a bunch of corporate narration last year, but most of it were from clients coming to me. I didn’t take the time to research and seek out clients. I hear that English Neutral voice is still popular, so I really need to start working on that area of my career.

I’m also looking at ways to diversify within audiobooks. I do the bulk of my work through ACX, and although that has become more my seeking out great books rather than auditioning for what’s available, I still need to branch out. Last year I was hired by one non-ACX publisher, and placed on the books of another major audiobook publisher. So for now, I’m going to look at expanding on that. One of the ways I want to do that is to (finally) go to APAC. I’ve talked about going to this audiobook publishers conference for a while, but I’m finally committing. I even joined the APA. I’m looking forward to meeting both fellow narrators and publishers, and just learning more about this industry. Oh yes. And I want to get more coaching. After listening to almost 20 hours of Kate Mulgrew’s gorgeous narration of N0S4A2 all I know is want to get more coaching so I can be that phenomenal.

There are other goals I’m working towards. A video game demo. Even a commercial demo, because really I ought to have one. Not to mention doing stuff that scares me. For instance, this weekend I plan to do an improv class. Terrifying. At least for me! I haven’t done improv in a long time, mostly because my last experience was not a great one. But improv is great for voice over and even better for the soul, so here goes nothing. But for the record, I’d rather go indoor skydiving!

That’s about all that’s been going on here. But Be sure to check out both The White Queen by PJ Fox and Finder by Connie Suttle.

100% Genuine Snake Oil

Snake-oil
I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve joined a Seattle VO meetup group. This has put me into contact with a lot of brand new VO talent looking to get coaching and break into the business. It’s a wonderful little group, all willing to share information. “Mr. LA Coach is in town next weekend for a workshop at XYZ Studios.” “Ms NY coach will be doing private sessions and you can even record your demo if you have a few thousand dollars laying around.” Okay, so maybe this kind of information isn’t helpful. If anything, I find it downright disturbing because you suddenly become aware of the sheer number of people who will happily take your money and leave you with the promise of a career.

Just in my few years training in VO I’ve had a coach contact me advertising his latest class with a reminder that he’s getting ready to help cast a major project so maybe if I sign up for the course, I can get hired too. I had another VO talent who I had contacted in regards to how she handled her British and American demos, who bombards me on a weekly basis with email about this course and that course that she’s selling. Even coaches who are supposedly beloved by professionals for taking them to “the next level” don’t seem above coaching beginners and producing their demos. I even saw a VO talent, with only two years in the business, teaching classes online, charging for basic information that is readily available online for free.

This isn’t to say that all coaches are like this. If you attend a Bob Bergen class for instance, he won’t even let you take another class for two years. Personally, I still remember working with Mary-McDonald Lewis, as we wrapped up the intro to voice over class she was teaching. She urged all of us in the class to continue studying with different coaches and not even think of making a demo for two years. Is that two years a hard and fast rule? No. Not necessarily. But she’s right that we shouldn’t make a demo until we’re absolutely ready. This business is harsh. You don’t get a second chance to make that first impression, and you have to be able to compete with the pros in LA who have tons of experience.

So how do we get that training? Well, for starters, by being discerning. Research, research, research. Lately, it seems, a lot of LA actors are discovering that Seattle is near enough away to come here for the weekend and teach a class. This is great news if that person is a working voice talent. But if that person has a small handful of video games under his belt and is more famous for his on camera work, maybe that isn’t the best way to spend $200. Ask around. Really ask around. Private message people. Nobody wants to openly bad mouth folks in this business, but they’ll be a bit more open about their experiences with certain coaches if they know it’s not available for the world to see.

But remember, it’s not just about coaching. We learn in all kinds of different ways. Some of those ways include practising with other voice talent so you coach each other. I actually hope we get to do more of this at our Seattle meetup group. If you don’t know any talent nearby, go to Edge Studios and record some of the practice scripts and put them up for evaluation. Also, go to voice bank and listen to demos from the pros. Record yourself reading copy, and listen critically. Compare yourself to the pros, and try to get a sense of what they are doing that you’re not doing. Voice Bank’s Voice Registry also has a great weekly workout session, which is a relatively cheap $84. The point is, coaching is great, if you can find a good coach you trust, who will bring the best out of you, but it takes more than money to get a voice over career started, and you may regret that four thousand dollars you spent on a demo when you consider that the average non-union voice talent earns about $4500 a year.

In other news, Intertwine, the time travel romance I recorded at the beginning of the year, hit number 11 on Audible (may have even gone higher than that, I only just discovered the stats) and was last seen planted between two Diana Gabaldon titles. I’m pretty chuffed, I must say! In the meantime, The Sea Queen by Jovee Winters is getting ready to be released on Audible, and I’m ging to be starting recording on book two of The Black Prince triology.