Cutting To The Chase
‘What of the audiobook of Book 1 and the next sequel,’ I hear you ask. ‘Do get to the point.’ Indeed. During the last month of radio silence, I assure you I have not been idle. Before I amaze you with just how far the recording of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth has progressed, I shall supply you with some helpful context.
The Rhythm of Reading
The context is pre-editing. Yes, I do have a splendid sound engineer in the US; however, before the recording wings its way to his inbox, I need to edit out the reading mistakes. For example:
‘” Once upon a type” ‘… ah … let me read that again …’ “Once upon a dime” ‘… once more:’ “Once upon a time …”’
You get the idea. So I just have to delete the wrong versions and splice the two good ends together (digitally). Simple, yes? Actually, it is rather more complicated.
When we read aloud, and you may have done this with stories to children, we allow strategic pauses. This is most noticeable between paragraphs, scene breaks or chapters. But also for effect. Here’s an example:
The Dramatic Pause
‘“On her sixteenth birthday, the princess shall prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die!” uttered the sorceress.’
Here we would naturally pause before reading:
‘A horrified hush fell upon the court.’
Make that pause too long, and the impact dissipates; too short, and the drama of the moment is lost.
So when splicing the two ends together on either side of the deleted section, there is some fine-tuning to be done. This involves listening and adjusting, listening and adjusting. And it takes time. So, as far as pre-editing is concerned, I am now up to chapter 8 out of 47 chapters.
Revealing the Numbers
That said, chapter 1 is left until the end, when, hopefully, I shall be significantly improved in my reading through sheer practice, and one other chapter, which I shall confide shortly. So that is 6 out of 47, which is (unearths ancient calculator) 12.76%.
However, the most important thing is to get the reading in the can, as it were. And now, hopefully, to impress you … 75%!
What I Didn’t Plan For
The rogue chapter, so to speak, is (looks for book) Chapter 13: Dr Bergstrom’s Invention and The Power of Petite. Spoiler alert for those of you yet to read this. This is where Amanda receives her wand from a Swedish magical scientist. It introduces that new character and includes some actual Swedish. Here’s the catch. When I wrote it, I had no idea that one day I would have to read it. Aloud. For an audiobook.
“It’s Got To Be …”
I’m not sure about ‘perfect’, but good enough so that Swedish speakers or readers who have contact with Swedish or Swedes find it credible and do not raise their hands in horror at the desecration of their language. I have listened to some instructive YouTubes on performing the Swedish accent, but this isn’t the same as personal tuition.
Fortunately, I have a Danish friend who is sufficiently well acquainted with the Swedish accent to be able to coach me. From this week, he will have time to go through the chapter to prepare for my reading. I hope that all of you with a Swedish connection who listen to the book will be happy with the result.
Before The Dawn
In the title of this Letter To Readers, you will have noticed the word ‘Night’. Yes, indeed, I have been burning the midnight oil in the worthy cause of bringing The Sound of Amanda Cadabra to my esteemed listeners-to-be. To be more precise, between 4 am and 6 am when possible.
This is when there is, usually, silence, which is, as we know, golden. And you don’t appreciate just how golden until it is a scarce commodity. It does take a certain amount of enthusiasm to leave a warm bed and rise to the English pre-dawn winter temperatures, hydrate, set up and … perform. Nevertheless, my desire to bring you the finished product and the promising progress inspires me.
However, as I am editing, I hear the occasional need for a retake of a word which may not be clear. Just a few, to be glued into place. Also, my kind Danish Swedish coach has agreed to listen to the completed recording to ensure everything is in order before it is dispatched across The Pond.
I do have a time-frame in mind but not set in stone. I hope to complete the recording in the next two weeks. Then it’s over to the editing desk. My aspiration is (aspiration, please note) to complete that by the end of February. Once it is with the excellent sound engineer, it is a question of how long it will be before it is ready to submit to ACX, who mediate audiobooks for Amazon. (I am getting excited just writing about that stage!) and how much time they will need to process it. I gather that they take about 2 weeks. There is one more component: the cover art. That will be in the purview of our talented illustrator Daniel, who will adapt the book cover. I intend to send the request to him this week.
In summary, I am hoping for publication this season. I shall keep you posted. I tend to do interim alerts on my Holly Bell Author page on Facebook.
500 Thank Yous
Which brings me neatly to my abundant cause for appreciation. During the flurry of the launch of Book 8, Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs, and the, er, excitement of my computer upgrade, a significant landmark was reached. The number of followers on the Holly Bell Author Facebook page reached and passed 500.
This was an intensely emotional moment. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to every one of you, whether reader, reader-to-be or supporter, who has joined my page. Please know that you are not a number to me; you are a valued person, most likely with many other calls on your schedule, many interests, and books to read, and your time spent with me on my page is treasured. So, thank dear Readers. I have made a special post there to say this, and just in case you have yet to see it, my thanks are expressed here, to make doubly sure that you know that your contribution to the Amanda Cadabra journey is noted and appreciated.
Yes, indeed, it is still in progress. Every now and again, I get a trickle of inspiration, an idea, a seed. It is forming, gestating. Working title? So far: Book 9. And it’s set mainly in Cornwall. It has at least one murder. I know where that takes place. Whodunit? I have a fair idea about that too. I have also envisaged a grand scene with involves considerable suspense. But I must not get too carried away. I have an audiobook to finish first!
That’s all for the moment. I shall be back with more audio progress and the fruits of a field trip I intend to make as soon as I have a radiantly sunny, ice-free day. Meanwhile …
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
and Large Print
As I confided a few weeks ago, I was reembarking on a project to bring the books to you in an extra dimension. It began three years ago, when I wheeled out the old horn and wax cylinder in response to a request from readers: sound. In other words, audiobooks.
That was the Vision, which expanded with each additional sequel. So what happened?
Here’s a bit of audiobook background so that you’re in the know. To have an audiobook published through Amazon, whereon the series dwells in ebook and paperback formats, you must go through a company called ACX. Think: receptionist to doctor, PA to boss, or priest to deity. The quality standards are as high as you can get.
The Sound Barrier – An Audio Mystery
ACX wants you to succeed in your recordings and pull out all the stops to help you get it right. (Here’s a link if you’d like to explore the idea for yourself: ACX.) I recorded a sample from Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth in the early days and sent it in. It snagged on the vital ‘noise floor’. In short, there was a hiss and gurgle running like a backing track. The question was, what was causing it?
I went to the company that made my microphone, and they kindly replaced it for me. No change. Hiss, gurgle. They gave me a refund, and I upgraded. Same issue. The company, Rode, could not have been more helpful. There were things they suggested to try.
Testing, Testing – On The Trail
I acquired an isolation shield, which is a sponge semi-amphitheatre wall, about a foot high that on a stand that sits behind the mic. The issue persisted. Rode replaced the mic. No change. I recorded when the neighbours were out, with all appliances switched off. No change. Rode suggested I try recording in the car on a quiet street to test if the problem was environmental. This was a step forward. It made no difference but nevertheless, environmental issues could be ruled out.
That brings us to 2022 and the time of Book 7, Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree. As launch neared, I pondered having another crack at solving the mystery of the snake-and-water backing singers. I did an emotional test run. I imagined working on the audio project. Joy factor: 2 out of 10. I imagined writing the next book. Joy factor: 10 out of 10. I wrote Book 8.
Narrowing It Down
During the penning of the aforementioned oeuvre, I did, however, give some thought to the mystery. It seemed that there could be only one culprit: the computer on which I was recording. Actually, I have two machines and was getting the issue on both. Therefore the test would be to hire a different, and upgraded, computer for a week and do some test recordings.
Meanwhile, Book 8 progressed, Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs. Some four weeks ago, launch day arrived.
And then …
A day or two later, it became clear that my iMac was in urgent need of a long-awaited upgrade. A certain vital app would no longer run, and the desktop was heating up enough to double as a hot plate that would have turned out a respectably cooked egg and bacon. I spoke to Apple, who put me in touch with an approved repairer not far away. I paused only to create the post-launch thank you post and video, booked an appointment and heaved my mighty desktop thence.
With 5-star service, the computer was soon upgraded with a shiny new hard drive. I can no longer imagine making breakfast on it, as it is currently, and joyfully, running cool to warm. And so … I could now do the all-important audio test. With the upgraded hardware and audio app …. Would there be an improvement?
Before dawn, when all was silent, I rose and stealthily prepared my mic, computer, and environment and, as a test, read the first chapter of Book 7 (which I have yet to mould into the fit-to-be-heard video for you, but it’s in the pipeline.)
Breathless with anticipation, I played it back. It was the cleanest sound I’d produced in three years! There was just a soft intermittant hiss. I edited out the reading mistakes from the first three minutes and sent off the sample to a skilled sound engineer, whom I shall call Mike, in the US. I waited …
In the watches of the following night, on account of the time difference, I heard back from Mike. He had done a thorough job on the sample, removing any breaths, mouth noise, background noise, and adjusted the pacing a little to produce a perfect recording. Mike attached a spreadsheet showing it would pass ACX standards. He was also reassuring about my setup, saying that the intermittent hiss was just the USB mic effect and he could take care of it. It was too late to call friends with the news, and I had to content myself with a little dance and celebratory cocoa.
And so … I have now begun recording Book 1. Progress so far? About 10% of the way through. It’s a slow business. For every hour of recording there can be up to three hours of editing. I need plenty of breaks, and timing is of the essence: when the neighbours are out or asleep, and when there is no street noise. If possible, I would like to finish by the end of next month. We shall see. One day I shall dwell in a five (at least) detached establishment of my own Grand Designing somewhere in the north of London. Meanwhile, I have charming neighbours with whom to share borders. They make only normal sounds emanating from everyday life, but even those need to be absent for a sufficiently clean recording.
The audioboook project has moved from beached to into the stream. How fast flowing, we shall see. I shall be posting my progress on the Holly Bell Facebook page and landmarks here.
A Christmas Present
For those of you in search of a last-minute present for a loved one with a fondness for a cozy mystery, the paperback edition Book 1 in the cozy mystery series, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, is discounted by 25% from today until Wednesday. (Most of the rest of the price goes towards the printing cost.) This is my Winter Festival gift to you. Hope it helps out. There is another project in the wings relating to the first in the series about which I shall bring you more news in the new year.
Book 9, having delivered itself of the first chapter and a good part of the plot, has gone for reviving nap. This is fortunate as it allows me to concentrate on the audio recording.
Thank you for sharing the audiobook journey with me. With luck and a following wind, we are now possibly weeks away from the fulfilment of the sound and the first manifestation of the Vision.
Back soon with Yuletide wishes and Sound news,
Until then …
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
and Large Print