New Release: The Body in The Bathtub!

New Release: The Body in The Bathtub!

Happy Friday! Have a new audiobook!

The Body in The Bathtub written by Shea Macleod and narrated by Yvette Keller is now available!


Bunco night seems like a safe bet, until someone finds a dead body in the bathtub. With her friends in shock and topping the local detective’s suspect list, Viola Roberts decides it’s time once again to take matters into her own hands.

With her usual snark and disregard for the rules, Viola investigates everything from a cupcake-eating contest to the sordid affairs of the deceased’s husband. All while fending off her mother’s matchmaking attempts. She’s pretty sure she knows whodunit, but with her bunco ladies being targeted by a killer, Viola may have to decide between being right, or ending up dead.


Also, if you sign up for my newsletter you will receive the exclusive Body in The Bathtub Blooper Reel with your February Newsletter!


The Speed of Narration

The Speed of Narration

Forums are such an interesting place to hang out (when you have the time). This week I participated in an interesting thread about listeners who speed up their audiobooks. It’s a good topic for me to think about as I edit The Body In The Bathtub, due out at the end of this month.

Some people love the chipmunk effect.

Others want it faster than normal, but still sounding like a human.

When I “Accuracy Check” on my recordings, I listen at 1.85x. This is a comfortable speed for me to hear the words on the audio and also read along, seeing every word on the page, just to hear that I read ’em right.

Editing happens at 1.0x of course so that the timing sounds right to someone straight-up-listening. It is during this editing pass that I catch “acting” errors. Those happen sometimes when I choose bad interpretations of the words and only realize just how bad it is when I hear it on the recording. Then as the director, I have to send me, the actor back to the microphone to do a “pickup.” I also catch timing errors here (which I can fix easily).

But when I do my final QA, or “Quality Assurance” check, I listen at both 1.0x and 1.5x (because I know I’ve certainly sped up audiobooks before).

What speed do you listen at? Does it change depending on genre, topic, or narrator?

I would NEVER speed up Zachary Quinto reading The Dispatcher because I can’t get enough of his voice (The book, by Scalzi, is great, BTW).

I couldn’t get through On Writing by Stephen King without a speed change (it has nuggets of wisdom, but parts of that book are not fun to slog through).

Martha Stewert’s The Martha Rules is only palatable at higher speed rates. It is so monotone at regular speed that it is hard to believe she isn’t an android.

Do you have audiobook hits or misses that you love, in whole, or in part because of the speed of narration?


Finnemore Fridays: Interfaith Conference

Thanksgiving is about friends and family coming together, sharing a meal and gratitude, regardless of their disparate beliefs or points of view.

I adore the smarty-pants nature of this Finnemore sketch that brings beings together, called “Interfaith Conference.” It is especially poignant right now, after the end of Daylight Savings Time, when the sun simply up and disappears all of a sudden, middle of the afternoon, without seeming to work a full day. Kind of like contractors.

Nope. I’m not bitter. Not me. Have a laugh. Laughing is all I have…<sob, sob, sob>

Series 3-4, Track 10, 4:22



Finnemore Fridays: Alchemy

We don’t talk about this kind of thing in our culture, but recently, I made a bit of money. The way I did it was very 2000’s, terribly old-fashioned: I “won” the startup lottery – a small bet I placed on a company I worked for in one of my past lives.

Good thing too, because the living room remodel was over budget, leaving the kitchen remodel with a shortfall. My unexpected windfall has plugged the financial gap between projects, for which I am extremely thankful. The money was needed, it arrived, it is spent, like it never happened.

This does happen in the world sometimes: You get exactly what you need when you need it. There’s no knowing when, no control, no way to include it in planning or the risk/benefit analysis. You have to jump and hope.

Or, believe that a grand and glorious conspiracy of Alchemy is on your side. Sometimes I believe this, but I know it will only serve me if I do good in the world.

So to all the friends I’ve ever loaned or given money too, all the causes I’ve donated for: Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve. It makes it easier to say, “I deserve this good financial luck. I did good, and it always comes back around.”

Series 2, Track 4, 13:00




Finnemore Fridays: Fairies versus Princesses

I trust that everyone had a lovely Halloween! Now you are all free to focus on making sure your ballots are in: It is time to vote!

I’m writing this two weeks ago from when you are reading it, so I can tell you I turned my ballot in. I put it in the mail about two hours from then.

It is an exciting moment in our little town of Santa Barbara because we are choosing a new mayor! That means voting for the person who most closely shares your vision for what the town should be like.

Santa Barbara’s big issues are the same ones that plague many other idyllic CA towns:

  • Retail businesses are lagging due to online shopping.
  • Housing supply is low, demand is fierce, and our town’s unique architectural history must be preserved.
  • Our desirable climate attracts a transient population that detracts from the experience of the tourists arriving on cruise ships to add money to the local economy.

Or, possibly not the same issues.

At the bottom of it all is the fact that everyone wants to make money and no one wants to look like the bad guy for putting profits over people (or trying to profit off of people). Capitalism for ya.

So this week, you go have a listen to a Finnemore sketch about competition and cutthroat business practices, and I will have been finishing filling in the little bubbles on my ballot. Hopefully inspiring you to do the same.


It is your civic responsibility.





Finnemore Fridays: Messengers out of Sync

This week my kitchen remodel Project Manager put the lead carpenter in charge of “day to day” for my kitchen remodel. At first, I thought this would be great. The guy doing-the-doing would be the guy organizing what gets done. No middleman.

But that isn’t how it worked. The Lead would have a conversation with the PM and would ignore something he said, and I would remind him, and then he’d have a conversation with me, and then the PM didn’t seem to know about it, and maybe the electrician was coming, but maybe he wasn’t, and maybe kitchen layout needed to happen first or maybe cutting drywall…

This week has been extremely stressful. A game of telephone or, perhaps, a John Finnemore sketch about messengers out of sync:

Series 2, Track 4, 3:20




Finnemore Fridays: When in Rome

Impostor syndrome has me down today. Worry that no one will ever like anything I write, because I’m not a real writer (or not a real good one), and everything has been done, and I should bin it all and get a ‘real job.’

As the sketch points out, Rome wasn’t built in a day. So when my dog took me for a walk, I asked myself, as I often do, “If you decide to have fun, and enjoy writing very bad stuff, that never ever gets sold or published, for the rest of your life, will you be happy?”

My answer was still “yes.” Yes, I just enjoy the sounds of words in my head. Yes, I am not going to stop describing things internally. Yes, wondering about the in-progress stories all around me, constantly entertains and entices me. Yes, I trust that one day I’ll get good enough to translate my intentions to the written word.

But not by following anyone’s footsteps, doing what’s always been done, or trying to be anyone except who I am. I am someone who is a little down today, so I’m taking the afternoon off to focus on something else.

Something Funny.



Trust the Process. Follow the Process. Do NOT skip any step in the process.

Trust the Process. Follow the Process. Do NOT skip any step in the process.

In my work-life, I continue to learn the difference between an amateur voice actor and a professional one. Amateurs may “know” what to do, but haven’t repeated the process enough times (or recently enough) to do a task without a checklist, cheat sheet, or laborious pre-work.

Professionals have gone through the process so frequently and fastidiously that they couldn’t skip a step even if they wanted to. They get a sinking feeling in their guts that tells them, “Hey! Heads-up! Something’s missing…”

On my last gig, anyone wanna guess which bucket I fell into face first?

Luckily for me, the client was happy with the outcome and there’s no need for them to see the inner-workings (or failings) of this amateur.

What did I do that was so awful? I neglected a step in the process.

I didn’t ask for a description of the “voice,” “attitude,” or “emotion” the client wanted to convey with different sections of the training. Just one little step. One simple question, and a word or two to write on the top of my script. That step would have made the content I recorded and edited go faster, smoother, and be more consistent.

Huge oversight (though in my defense, there were extremely extenuating circumstances). And it meant that when I finally got the actual script (as opposed to the sample script) some content was more difficult to record than it should have been.

I was seeing some content for the first time, and the rest I hadn’t seen in over two months. When I got ready to capture and turn around MP3s in less than a week…I stood alone in my recording booth, holding my head while my stomach turned to jelly. I didn’t have any direction around what the lines were supposed to sound like.

Now, I’d turned in an audition, and I…could go back and listen to that. But doing every script the way I had in the introductory clips would have been…really strange. My many years of experience whispered to me that the client had hired me, but hadn’t fully considered how off-putting a continuously “friendly” attitude would sound saying lines like, “That answer is incorrect. Try again.” Shades of Hal.

Because this was a first-time client, with the potential for future work, I made an investment decision. My initial session was shorter than planned, with different takes, at different speeds, and with different attitudes. Essentially, a second audition.

I edited and sent those to the client and waited for additional direction. This ate up extra time and ultimately made the project cost a bit more, due to additional editing on my end and review time for their staff.

The project came in at the higher end of the allocated budget. I prefer projects to come in at the low end (repeat clients!), but several issues, including missing content, and typos I was asked to re-record, meant that I put in more hours than a professional who caught the issues up front might have spent.

That, dear readers, is why it is critical to negotiate your fees properly. If you correctly estimate your work hours, then add a worst-case-scenario buffer, and negotiate that as your not-to-exceed limit, the client knows exactly what they are on the hook for. You’re in business after all, and you should be paid fairly for actual work you do, especially when unexpected things come up, or something in the script is wrong and you have to re-record.

In case you’re curious, I’ve shared my industrial VO checklist below. I’m sure that as an amateur I’m still missing a few steps, so I’d love to know if you do things differently.


  • receive audition script and (if possible) ask about the target audience and any direction
  • decide on the person, placement, pose, pace, and attitude for the audition (WRITE IT ALL DOWN!)
  • record & send the audition
  • get hired (YAY!)
  • receive/review script
  • negotiate hourly, or a not to exceed project fee based on the full script
  • have a trusted advisor put a second set of eyes on the contract (if you don’t have an agent)
  • skim the script so you understand the full scope
  • practice any difficult parts of the script out loud
  • note names, technical terms, user activities (for training)
  • note shifts where the VO needs to convey different attitudes
  • ask questions about anything unclear including pronunciations and abbreviations (do they *really* want, “double yew double yew double yew,” or are we finally beyond that?)
  • ask the client to provide at least three words to describe the attitude(s) of the person delivering the information
  • have fun recording!
  • edit, master, and send
  • get final sign off and send the invoice


Competence Strikes Again!

One year ago I wrote the following content. Now that I have a bona-fide website and blog, I am revising and sharing it here.

I am feeling a little competent about something and want to share:

For each character I “voice” (meaning I change my voice slightly in some way to distinguish between characters) I lay down a track with their name on it in a separate audio file. My audio mentor, Phil Mayes taught me to do this so that when the character shows up later in the book, I can go listen to what they’ve said at the beginning and mimic/recalibrate myself. (SIDE NOTE: I also make actual notes in a spreadsheet about how to stand, hold my mouth and what their voice FEELS like.)

I was just laying down a voice track for a new male character and I noticed, because they are all in the same file next to each other, that the vocal signatures –what the waveforms look like– are VERY different from each other.

I can actually SEE in my file that the characters are different. The pacing of their words is different. The roundness of speech is different. And each character has an internal consistency that is visual.

I’m not saying that sometimes I won’t slip and not quite do a voice 100%…it can be hard to remember that Kyle says sure with two syllables, “Shoo-wer” instead of “Sure” like Viola, but I feel good about training myself to be better and better, and notice these things over time!

If anyone I know does audiobook narration or audio-editing work and has more tips like this for me, everything is always welcome!


Practicing (ONLY) Six Techniques

Practicing (ONLY) Six Techniques
Warmups in the Booth

Recording for The Body in The Bathtub is well underway. With each book I record, I sincerely try to get better at the process. Farther away from mediocre. More on that later.

As I’ve written, before I started this latest book, I asked for some coaching from Kathy Garver. From her feedback, I picked six (of a million possible) tools and techniques to practice:

Tip #1 – GESTURES assigned to each character (in addition to voice placement, physicality, etc.) The idea here is that the gesture will remind me to QUICKLY access the character, as I switch back and forth during dialog.

Tip #2 – WARMUPS (for my jaw especially) to loosen up my physical performance.

Tip #3 – MOUTH OPEN & NOSE BREATHS are the next tips I am working on. With Kathy watching me, she could point out that I automatically close my mouth when I stop talking, instead of leaving it hanging open. That’s the sort of critically useful feedback a narrator needs and can’t really get working alone. Because I can’t see myself, I wasn’t aware that opening and closing my lips makes a teenie bit of noise. Noise I might be tempted to edit out. To avoid editing, I’m practicing leaving my mouth open when I’m recording, ready for the next line.

NOTE FOR MY FRIENDS: If you see me doing this at a party, please quote Mary Poppins at me under your breath: “Michael, we are not a codfish.”

Leaving my mouth gaping helps with breathing, though not strictly the nose breathing that Kathy recommended I try. For some reason, it is hard for me to breathe in through my nose when I am doing audiobook work. I have that amateur bad habit of sucking air deep into my lungs, which makes NOISE and has to be edited out (by me). That adds time and work. To reduce this, Kathy encouraged me to take little nose-breaths.

This is a bit of an issue, for several reasons. First, I broke my nose learning to ride a bike when I was a kid. I haven’t had it fixed, so my nasal passages are off-kilter. One works much better than the other, but even nose breaths make a little noise when I breathe, because of the blockage.

Second, I don’t get nearly as much air via my nose (I assume because of the deviated septum), and third, I have to really THINK about breathing that way. I’m training my body to do the opposite of what I previously trained it to do when learning to SCUBA dive. So in one lifetime, I have tried training myself to ONLY mouth-breathe, ONLY nose-breathe, and to circular-breathe (which I used to be able to do when I whistled).

I’m practicing the nose-breathing, but I do think it is adding time to my recording. Which is OK, I’m still learning, and I need to allow myself time (but I hope it isn’t TOO much time. I’ve got self-imposed deadlines).

Also, using my nose to breathe is hard because I usually use this amazing technique for breath support that I learned during a singing class. This video by Madeline Harvey helped me FINALLY understand that damn turkey-basting metaphor. HINT: It is about sucking in, not squeezing out.

If you truly use all of your breath and create a vacuum with your diaphragm, you can suck air in fully, quickly, and silently. This gives me HUGE air reserves, for very very very very very very very very long sentences, and reduces the total number of breaths I need.

Ultimately, as all of this technique settles in, I’ll just breathe however it is most comfortable. Until then, my audiobook recording is a lot about airflow.


Tip #4 – ATTITUDE is a quick way to get to characterization in a scene. Just asking “What is my character’s attitude?” is a helpful way to understand them and figure out what is happening…and therefore with their voice and dialog. I’ve learned this half-dozen times at least. Sadly for me, I’m an amateur and I honestly just forget to ask myself this question sometimes.

For at least 70% of the narration, I think it isn’t a big deal. I am reading words, with nice emphasis, and finding all the set-ups and punch lines. If my comedic timing is good, and every word is correct, and the dialog makes sense…that’s close enough, right?

Sure, if I want to STAY an amateur. But let’s face it, I want to be in the Audiobook Narration HALL OF FAME!!! (BTW, That doesn’t exist. Well, I don’t THINK it exists). Seriously, I want to be just as conscientious about creating great narration as I will someday be about writing great stories. As Monte Schultz said in his opening remarks to the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference this week, “Why would someone choose to be mediocre?”

Uh. To pay the rent? Duh, Monte.

So yeah, I have permission from myself to be mediocre as long as I need to in order to pay my mortgage. I can be mediocre while I’m getting better because nobody can be immediately awesome the first time they try.

Though, only because I’m terribly honest, I will point out I was called “outstanding” in my very first audiobook. It’s good to remember there’s always someone out there whose itch you perfectly scratch, and Thank All The Gods For That!



Tip #5 – Character Sheets

Tip #6 – Through Line – Mystery!