FILE NOT FOUND (Oh, FFS!)

FILE NOT FOUND (Oh, FFS!)

My last post was too long ago, and in it, I bemoaned broken hardware. But my Ortho Surgeon friend fixed my microphone, and I was back at recording two weeks ago, not knowing more troubles were on the horizon.

While I was away at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference I allowed my IT Dept. (husband) to make a full backup of my machine, install the newest iOS, and schedule a trip to the Mac store. All this despite my fear that the learning curve of software updates would decrease my productivity or that I might be without a computer for work that needed to get done.

Regularly scheduled maintenance is no one’s favorite phrase, but one of my ports died (the one I use for my USB mic), and the screen was being jittery in a way that made me glad I don’t have migraines or epilepsy. Then the machine crashed in the middle of a recording session.

I had hoped that the update might fix several annoying issues. It didn’t. And neither did a trip to the Mac Store. Well, I have other USB ports.

So last night I got ready to record, and plugged in my mic, and went to pull up the last chapter I had been recording when the Mac crashed suddenly in the middle…

Gone. All Gone. The recording work I did during my last session was kaput. Not on the drive, not on the backups.

Setbacks like this are the hallmark of amateur productions, and I’m disheartened that even after decades of careful checking and re-checking and personal procedures and checklists to prevent exactly this…I am still fallible. Fallibility SUCKS.

So, let’s move on from the fact that I am going to need to clear my schedule and double-down on recording time this week to make my deadlines, and instead focus on those tips I got from Kathy Garver.

Tip # 1 – gestures! 

In my session after the microphone got fixed, but before the Mac crashed for no apparent reason, I was LOVING the gestures! They were really helping me to ZOOM through dialog keeping the voices clear. Now let’s hope that having chosen specific hand movements for each character, notated them in my narrator doc, and practiced them for several chapters…re-creating them will be easy as eating pie. (Which I won’t do because I’d like to lose a few pounds before gaining them back on the cruise ship this summer).

Tip # 2 – warmups! 

This is one I had already been doing, but in my haste, Kathy caught me starting to record prior to physical warmups. I do do this…almost all the time…but she reminded me that just a few minutes of working out the kinks, the clanks, and the clicks helps energise a performer and help them be ready to bring the BODY to bear on the voice work.

For me personally, this is especially true of my chin and jaw. I hold a lot of tension in my jaw, talker that I am. Making a list of movements and never starting work without completing them is the sign of a “professional.” There are no shortcuts when it comes to physicality.

Join me for Tip # 3 next week, plus more stuff I learned at the conference this week.

 

 

 

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All dressed down in my recording duds…

And nowhere to go tonight, because:

1. My hardware is broken.


This screw that holds the thingie that holds my shock mount that holds my mic is busticated. Unclear how that happened.

I *JUST* adjusted it, for the first time in…over a year…on Sunday. Hmmmm.

When I got into the studio today the mic was flopped down. I’m super bummed because I just finished spending my work hours over the last day updating my narrator notes.

I needed to incorporate all the AWESOME 1:1 coaching I got from Kathy Garver this past weekend.

Kathy was an instructor of mine at Voice One in SF, specifically for audiobooks. By inviting her for a mini SB overnight, I was able to tempt her to visit. She took some extra time on a trip to L.A. to spend a couple of hours providing me with coaching.

I work alone and I’m a relative newbie, so it can be hard to evaluate my work and identify how to continuously improve. I asked Kathy to listen to my audiobooks as she drove, and provide professional feedback. When she arrived, I plied her with traditional SB fare (Harry’s Plaza Cafe), the company of friends, and an evening of SB Improv.

2. I am also having a fight with my Kindle app. It keeps telling me that my narration document can’t be uploaded, or converted, or some such nonsense. It will resolve eventually, but the mysterious process by which my Word Doc becomes a Kindle-readable file is clearly snafu-d and there’s nothing I can do but try again and wait.

Based on Kathy’s feedback, I’m trying out 6 new things to improve my audiobooks. Over the next few posts, I will share them, starting with GESTURES. The feedback from her was that sometimes, character’s voices become inconsistent, or fade out. During scenes, different characters will start out nicely different, but by the end of a scene, or when they come back in a later scene, the characters are not as easily distinguishable.

To combat this, I’m designating a gesture of some kind to go along with each character. I “know” that to inhabit the characters I have to change my posture, stance, head position. Usually, a lot of movements make up a character and character voice. Which means that if I’ve made it too complex, it is easy to forget something during the rapid pace of recording, and when the body slides…the voice slides…and if I am not careful, every character sounds just like me.

Bad Form. So to try simplifying and making the voice transitions sharper, I have gone through and picked unique gestures – all hand related – to do as I voice characters. Woo-Hoo! Learning and improving! I’ve practiced the gestures and voices and added hints to myself in my Narration Notes…

 

…the Narration Notes that I can’t open in my Kindle App and that even if I could, I can’t read and record because I have no way to keep my microphone pointing toward my mouth, not my toes.

So ends a disappointing work night for me. Tomorrow is another day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tenacious Accountabillibuddies Build Empires

Tenacious Accountabillibuddies Build Empires

Say This Three Times Fast: “Tenacious Accountabillibuddies Build Empires!”

by Silver Webb

Yvette Keller (FLOF) and Angela Borda (Silver Webb)

 

They say, “do what you love and the money will follow.” Well, some people say that.

My mother says, “You should get a job at the bank and work your way up to manager.” I am here to affirm that it is perfectly possible to do what you love, pour your passion into your art, and find that no money follows, not even a penny.

But it is also possible to become a paid writer or artist. The catch is that it takes an enormous amount of effort. Like more work than you will ever put into a 9-to-5 job. I am a blogger, food writer, novelist, and editor. Some of these things pay. Some do not. And they are the reason I am lucky to get seven hours of sleep a night. I have been working on my current novel for five years, and at some point in the near future, my friends are going to band together and *pay* me to stop working on it.

I also blog about my life adventures (visit me at silverwebb.com), eating good food, taking pretty pictures, and turning it into a narrative that I hope readers enjoy. That might be the sum story of me. An editor who has the delightful hobby of writing.

But. BUT! I have two things going for me that assure that my path ascends higher: a refusal to give up and an accountabillibuddy named Yvette Keller, who has kindly invited me to write this guest blog here on her website.

The tenacity part is self-evident. It takes tenacity to query 60 agents about your book. Tenacity to keep revising and writing, even in the face of “your book is not a good fit for the agency at this time.” And more tenacity to keep pitching article ideas to editors.

I was fortunate enough (or tenacious enough, you decide) to develop a working relationship with the editor of a local food magazine, and over the last year and a half have become a regular, paid contributor. It wasn’t anything more dramatic than sending an email asking if I could write an article for him…but that one reply with “sure you can write an article” came after a lot of “no” emails from agents and editors. Now I am writing some new articles on spec that I will begin to pitch to national magazines. I expect there will be a lot of “no’s”…but if I keep at it, I bet you there will be one “yes” and then another and then another.

So, that’s tenacity sorted. My other secret weapon, as mentioned, is my accountabillibuddy Yvette. She is my buddy in accountability. It sounds terribly unglamorous, like something you have in a 12-step program. And it *is* terribly unglamorous in that empires are built on heavy bricks that you have to keep laying day-by-by. But it is wonderful to have support.

We coordinate and discuss our goals, check in on each other’s progress, brainstorm on ways those goals can happen more quickly, offer help when we can, read each other’s work, give feedback, and encourage the heck out of each other to keep going. At least once a week we sit down and evaluate, usually with tea and treats in hand. If you read Yvette’s fabulous newsletter or my blog (where Yvette goes by the moniker First Lady of Frosting, or FLOF), you’ll also get the picture that we have a lot of fun! Usually baking, occasionally sipping cider, often in costume, and always, always writing.

 

Celebrating success is a critical component of being accountabilibuddies!

Over the last year, with tenacity and a LOT of work, Yvette turned a great voice and a microphone into a career of audio book narrator, created her amazing website, published one of her short stories, polished even more stories, edited books, blogged every week, and constructed the bones of her forthcoming novel. And that’s just Year One. I couldn’t be prouder of her, or more thankful.

So that’s my advice for anyone reading this who has talent and a dream. Work hard. Be tenacious. And find yourself a buddy to help you build that empire!

 

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Team Momentum

Available now on Amazon, a book workshopped in my writing group!

If you enjoyed The Laundry Files novels by Charles Stross, you’ll enjoy this new book by Richard Hein. Richard’s work is darkly hilarious and his plot twists surprising. It was fun reading the draft and I’m impressed by his polishing.

Here’s the Blurb (I helped with that too!):

Samuel Walker loved being a Seneschal with the Ordo Felix Culpa, keeping the world safe from things that go bump in the night — especially when he got to bump them back. That was before he was given the choice of exile into a normal life or a bullet to the head.

Now in the corporate world, he fights red tape instead of demonic, alien creatures from other dimensions. So when Kate arrives, chased by monsters and carrying a message from her murdered brother, Samuel has no choice but to venture back into OFC’s line of fire.

Maybe this time, with the Archangel Michael on his side, he can go back to the life he prefers/was trained for. It’s going to be a struggle to keep Kate alive and evade punishment for the trail of blood he left behind, but if he can pull it off, Samuel might find that the world is a better place than he thought and absolutely worth dying for.

 

Sounds great, huh?! It is so much fun when someone you support goes live with a book. Or a sculpture you provided train tracks for. Or a painting when you donated the paint! (See the theme?) Helping! ME! MEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEME!

I participate in up to five writing groups. Why? I haven’t said anything like this for about ten years (the last time I job-searched), but I hold a professional certification in team building.

That’s right, I took a series of classes and workshops, practiced and participated, all so that I would be officially acknowledged as someone who can turn a group of people into a team. It’s something I’ve been doing naturally since I started kindergarten. Once I had a group to work my wiles on, I became the adorable little dictator who decides what game to play, casts the roles, and then directs how the story plays out. A Natural Leader. Firstborn, of course.

But in my writing life, I’m a total newb. No books published. Only one short story. And a LOOOOOONG way to go as far as my confidence is concerned. Still, misery…newbieness…loves company. And the reality is that I have Skillz; they just aren’t fiction writing skills….yet.

So, while I leech off of my betters…better writers…I offer them a recompense in administrative, emotional, and team-building support. Because those things are easy for me and…can be lacking….sometimes…in writing groups. It takes a leader or facilitator to set up a structure and point everyone in the right direction.

I do it because I LOVE doing it and because it builds momentum; builds community. When Richard is successful, I am that much closer to being successful. As a team, a group, we can do so much more–make so much more–than I can all alone.

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Cuisine & Confessions: 7 Fingers of the Hand

Cuisine & Confessions: 7 Fingers of the Hand

Watching Cirque isn’t normally my bag (I will not say circus. There is zero resemblance to Barnum or Bailey here). I saw a deeply traumatizing Cirque du Soleil show in San Jose once, and have avoided the performance style ever since.

So when I tell you that Cuisine & Confessions by 7 Fingers of the Hand cirque troupe should be on your life bucket list, you can trust that you won’t be seeing “just another” costume, music, tumbling, flying trapeze extravaganza.

This show is more than excellent clowning and physical daring-do: It is full of stories that spill the guts, sweat, tears, and yes, love, of the performers out for the audience to see. There’s no holding back. Each performer’s viewpoint has been turned into a unique expression of the intertwined nature of community, family, and food.

The day before the performance, UCSB Arts & Lectures sent out a document titled 10 Fun Facts About Cuisine & Confessions. I didn’t get to read it until after the performance, but there were some very interesting items:

 

1) The stories are true. Cuisine & Confessions was built on the real-life personal stories of each cast member. Creation began with extensive storytelling sessions, and directors Shana Carroll and Sébastien Soldevila extracted facts, themes, and images and wove them throughout each act.

 

I didn’t know whether what I was watching was true or truthfully acted (or both). But I never in a single moment of the two-hour performance doubted that what I was watching was dredged directly from some individual person’s soul. It was too raw, real, and intense. Even if I hadn’t learned that it came directly from the performers, I was sure it came from a particular individual’s real experience of the world, and thus, a relatable, point of view that I could learn from.

As with the very best live theater, the show swings back and forth from serious to sporting. To give an example of what I mean, take a musical number about a perfect omelet, made by a one-night-stand-stranger. This is a fun and sexy staging filled with excellent clowning, including the juggling of eggs, oversized whisks, and giant stainless steel bowls. It is easy to envy the lucky audience member on the stage, surrounded by the exuberant cast waiting on them hand-and-foot.

 

2) All the music is original. The entire soundtrack was created specifically for the show. Notably, New York jazz club owner and pianist Spike Wilner came up to Montreal for extensive recording sessions, providing a bank of piano music to choose from during creation. (Director Sébastien Soldevila is also musical director.)

 

Playful movement and music are repeated over the course of the evening as we dance to re-imagined Bolero and even a wholly re-arranged classic hit from Grease “The One That I Want.” And the upbeat music is just as beautiful as the quiet and sorrowful pieces, building off of stories so true that the audience can’t help but revel in the sadness. In contrast, the varied stories and the diverse types of dance and tumbling feel like a celebration. It creates an incredible theatrical experience.

 

8) They keep a “to-do” list, too. Observant theatergoers will see a “to-do” list written out on a chalkboard as part of the kitchen set. This is actually a list of numbers performed in the show, and cast members cross off items as they are completed during each performance.

 

There are two things that constantly threaten to be spilled in this show: food and blood. While it feels nerve-wracking and death-defying, these acrobats, gymnasts, dancers, performers are waaaaaaaaay too good to so much as tear a cuticle while tumbling, leaping, climbing, and spinning as if gravity was a thing they had read about someplace. The aerial silk, the Chinese pole, the choreographed flinging and catching of bodies in constant motion…each number seems easy enough at the beginning, and then quickly becomes unbelievably heart-stopping.

The show feels like something immense that has been simplified, pared down, peeled only to the choicest morsel. But that is the deception of perfection.

How simple can it be to design props that are as flexible as the bodies of the performers using them? A series of wooden boxes that are a dinette in one scene, become 8 chairs in another. The same pieces also act as a series of wooden frames that can be stacked as “hoops” for acrobats to leap through. The tables used for cutting and cooking are at multiple heights, hiding or revealing props and tools as needed like any good kitchen does. What other pot racks (tempting as it always is to use them as monkey bars) can actually be used as monkey bars?!

If you don’t believe me that a lifetime without seeing these performers is a deprived life indeed, I will add a few last tempting details. The performers cook. Pasta, sauce, and banana bread are all offered at the end of the show. And you can eat, and not clean up – they wash all the dishes in the working sink that is part of their set!

The whole audience is encouraged to participate, by setting a timer for the banana bread. The last 36 minutes of the show tick by. The smell of baking INSIDE the theater gets more and more heavenly. No matter how off-the-cuff and playful the final numbers seem, as the smell increases, everyone begins to worry about whether the music and moves will be suddenly interrupted by the echo of a thousand phone alarms ringing in every tone known to Apple and Android. But the performance is so perfectly choreographed that the finale ends, the dancers gather for a bow, and having forgotten momentarily about the bread in the oven, the audience stands, clapping, whistling, and appreciating…just as the timers go off in a cacophony of sounds. Amazing, and timed down to the minute – maybe even second.

Many years after I learned to hate “cirque” at that terribly traumatizing show (faced with falling tightrope artists and mangled tumblers) Teatro Zinzanni in San Francisco redeemed the art for me. But until I experienced Cuisines and Confessions, I still felt reluctant to encounter the artform. Now I can safely say I would go out of my way to experience the work of this team, over and over. See them anytime and anyplace you can!

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Reading Aloud: Tips Prepared for The Braille Institute of Santa Barbara

As part of the Library Week Open House, I’ll be speaking at the Braille Institute of Santa Barbara about being an audiobook narrator. The interview and discussion are open to the public, and if you’re at loose ends Thursday afternoon, please drop by!

 

 

The institute asked me to write up three tips for reading aloud to kids and adults, and I figured why not share them with my blog peeps, too?

Three Tips for Reading Out Loud to Kids

1) Repetition: Kids (of all ages) love repetition. This is why we love to sing along with the chorus; it may be why it is such fun to hear a favorite quote from a movie and be able to blurt out the next line! We love it when we can anticipate language, and then get the reward of hearing what we wanted to hear. So when reading to kids, find the repetition and make it dramatic. If possible….

2) Participation: …Encourage kids to fill in the blanks! One of my favorite, very long, Shel Silverstein poems, “Peanut Butter Sandwich” basically has a repeated “chorus” of (you guessed it) PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH! There’s nothing more fun than saying it together, every time it comes along.

3) Attention: Reading with children is about more than an entertaining story or teaching them to read. It is about giving them your undivided attention. If you are merely reading to them because you “have to” and it is part of the “routine,” they know it. So anytime you pick up a book, be ready to give the book, and therefore your audience, your undivided attention. Take a very deep breath. Decide to do nothing else. Enjoy just that one, simple thing and do it really well – no multi-tasking! Don’t even THINK about what’s next on your list. All your energy should be on the words (maybe pictures) and your listener.

Three Tips for Reading Out Loud to Adults

1) Know your audience: Ask the person you’re reading for what they like. Do they want a performance with voices? Do they want the reader to emote? Are they trying to learn something? Do they just like the sound of your voice? This is a lovely way to talk to someone about what they need in that moment. Reading aloud to someone is a special gift of time and shared intimacy, but listeners and readers don’t always want the same thing all the time from reading. A quick check-in can ensure the interaction is pleasant for both the reader and listener.

2) Choose good material: Read something that interests both the reader and listener. You’ll enjoy reading it more if you like it, so practice being curious. If you have no interest in the material, then be fascinated with the language itself. Each word, sentence, punctuation, and context must be clear to your listener. They should be able to HEAR commas, semicolons, and parentheses.

3) Hydration: drink lots and lots of water at least 4 hours before reading for any length of time. Have warm water handy and drink it at chapter breaks. Well-hydrated vocal cords are happy vocal cords!

I can think of TONS more tips for making reading aloud more fun, but do you have any favorites? Please let me know in the comments!
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Guest Post: Local Travel

This week I’m the guest blogger over at Eva Barrow’s blog. You may recall that last month Eva shared with me about starting her Literary Journal, Imitation Fruit, on it’s 10th anniversary of publication.

I’m returning the favor by sharing images and thoughts about Mesa Lane Steps. Please go check out the cycles of change at my local beach, plus BONUS: Cute dog pictures!

Olieo and his favorite “float” toy during the king tides – Photo by Yvette Keller

 

 

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The New Dirk Gently Series!

I’m super excited that this weekend Mark and I are going to watch the new Dirk Gently Series! Of all of Douglas Adams’ books, the ones about Dirk were my favorites.

Stay tuned to read a full review. Click here to watch along with us!

 

UPDATE: Ugh. I can’t recommend this series unless you have a strong stomach and really liked the movies Memento and Pulp Fiction. But if that’s you, watch away.

It has So. Much. Gore. Everyone gets kidnapped, shot, stabbed, electrocuted, or punched. The only characters who remain clean and unblooded are the corgi and the kitten.

Let’s start out superficial because the series does have that going for it; the actors are nice to look at if you can take your sexy liberally smeared with blood. Samuel Barnett, who plays Dirk, is very serious eye candy if your type is clean cut, nerdy boys with soulful eyes and streaky red highlights. Similarly,  Jade Eshete, who plays Farah, is so divinely gorgeous that I half expected her to be the daughter of Bowie and Iman (she’s not). And who doesn’t love the pathetic suffering of Elijah Wood, even filthy, depressed, and with patchy facial hair. The fact that the corgi and kitten are adorable goes without saying, right?

The main idea of the series–the fundamental interconnectedness of all things–gets repeated over and over, but fails to hang together. Several of the central conceits are not believable, and all the character relationships are over-the-top reacting to each other with heavy-handed drama.

As a devotee of the novels, I feel like someone read through the Dirk books and wrote down every awesome thing that happened; one thing on each of a hundred 3×5 cards.  Then they threw them up in the air. The way they landed was the order they had to be used to construct the plot, with the addition of a government cover-up, a made up disease, and body swapping. Complexity beyond the edge of nonsense. Unbelievable to the point of uninteresting to try to follow.

The acting is absolutely top-notch. Amazing, considering that the writing goes from occasionally funny and clever all the way to broken nose. You know broken nose; that’s what happens when you’re on-the-nose moralizing like a brick in the face through a plate glass window.

For this fan of the books, it is the worst combination of recognizing every awesome idea Douglas Adams wrote, dissected and re-attached to create a monstrous, unrelated story. It is an ugly show, barely lurching around, and I fear it will die a horrible death, unloved.

Tragic really, since it came from such noble, comedic origins.

 

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Editing and Writing

It is a Manic Monday, and da-yam! I’ve been productive.

Check out the launch of my new page, and consider picking up one of the three books I’ve edited this year. Or, if you need some editing for a project yourself, there’s a handy new tool for you to quickly check in and get a quote on some professional feedback.

 

While my focus has been on making extant writing better, my friend and client, Shéa, has been blogging away about new content. I can’t wait to follow her basic advice and start a one-notebook, one-novel, process. Not sure what I mean? Check out her post to be inspired, and get a re-start on that book you’re in the middle of…or meaning to write, or….?

General Plot Info

Many times over the years I’ve been asked, “How do you write?” I understand because, even after all these years, it’s something I find fascinating about other writers. There…

 

Source: How I Lost My Pants: Plotting Murder, Mayhem, and (sometimes) Magic

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Halle Berry’s Fierce Mane of Curls

Halle Berry’s Fierce Mane of Curls

Seriously, my favorite fashion of the Oscars was Halle Berry’s hair, especially after reading this article from InStyle.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 26: Actor Halle Berry attends the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

I’m a total curl addict, and her mane was so perfect, the golden highlights and chocolate low lights accenting the precise coils. It was so impeccable that I was sure it was a wig! But that’s because I’m an ignorant white girl.

The In Style piece, uses the word “fro,” and I thought, “Oh! Of coarse! (pun intended) Halle Barry is black!”

I used to try French braiding black hair when I played post on the high school basketball team, and I remember the difference in texture and sculpt-ability. I would curse at poor Mandisa’s hair, trying desperately to smooth and contain it, while it laughed in my face, snapping hairbands effortlessly, and doing what it damn well pleased.

I loved Barry’s hairstyle so hard because, in my world aesthetic, it managed to be, and do, all the things a perfect Up-Do should be and should do: Balance the figure, enhance the face, communicate with the fashion, entice the observer to want to touch it,  move (or not) appropriately, smell good (if at all possible), and last but never least, FEEL AMAZING. The last quality is key because we’ve seen (or even been) that person trying out a new style who just can’t stop messing with their hair – no, No!

Barry didn’t just glow last night, she was a fireball of gorgeous burning across the red carpet, and I’m giving her hair stylist props for being a big part of that. As a team, they took the time to play, and work with her natural attributes.  Credit to her for going big and bold and embodying so much beauty.

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