Monthly Archives: December 2012

Hapax-the-Podcast is DONE

Hapax is done. Thirteen months, nineteen episodes, four principal voice actors, two cameos, and innumerable hours of recording and editing later, it’s done.

I’ve already discussed some of the things I’ve learned. It still hasn’t really sunk in. It’s over, and it’s a little bittersweet. This has been part of my life for thirteen months—I’ve been working on the podcast since before Dragon Moon Press picked up the novel. As happy as I am to have some of that time freed up again, the thought of not podcasting leaves a void.

Hence the prequel, sometime in 2013…

But it’s been quite the journey. That’s the main thing running through my head. It’s been quite the journey, from that first idea through to typing this. Challenging, and time-demanding, and occasionally frustrating, and occasionally tedious, and sometimes terrifying…but so wonderful and absolutely worth it. You go into podcasting because you love it. The work is literally its own reward.

I love it.

Yes, I have had one heck of a lucky streak. Over the last year, I have absolutely been in the right place at the right time. I have had a lot of help, from people (some of my own heroes among them) kind enough to take me under their wings.

I also worked hard. I have a hard time self-plugging, and I tend to demur and redirect the attention.

But right here, right now? Screw it: I worked so damn hard for this. And thank goodness, too, because if I hadn’t, writing this would not be nearly so rewarding.

In November 2011, I took a chance. Actually, I took many. I was scared, but I did it anyway. Faith over fear.

That’s kind of one of the major themes in Hapax, isn’t it?

It’s been a pleasure, and it’s not the end. Again, my plans have been thrown into jeopardy, but the prequel will come. There’s more story to tell here…and then, looking even further forward, there are always new worlds to explore.

Ready?

Still Writing…

I have never been so completely drained.

I’m really sorry to be harping on this. This should not be the blog of “Poor Sad KT is Poor and Sad.” Likewise, I don’t want my relationships with the people around me to devolve into “Poor Sad KT.” That gets old fast, and it’s no fun for anyone, me included.

But this is a blog about writing. And recent events are affecting my writing.

The first week after my father’s death I didn’t feel much of anything. I made funeral arrangements, I went to work, and I saw friends, all under this weird anaesthetized cloud that had enough spikes of sadness to convince me that I had passed through the initial shock.

In retrospect, I don’t think I had.

Now that Christmas is over, it’s starting to feel more real. I still haven’t cried very much, and I’ve barely cried in front of other people, but the pain feels weightier, deeper, sharper.

As I secretly suspected I might, I finished Chapter 18 of Hapax-the-Podcast on time. Chapter 19 is ready to go live on Sunday.

But when it comes to The Next One rewrites…my fingers feel too heavy. I can’t focus long enough to sit down and examine, dissect, and stitch together each chapter. Well, sometimes I can once I actually sit at the keyboard, but this immense apathy makes it difficult to get there. Editing the last two episodes of Hapax-the-Podcast required very little thought on my part. They were pretty much done; I was just slotting new narration in.

TNO needs me to be creative. I’m not just doing line edits here; I’m tossing whole scenes and chapters, and writing new ones from scratch. Plus, family dynamics play a huge part in this story. How can I write a family going to pieces when my own is going through this?

Deep breath.

I can do it because I am a writer, dammit. I can do it because I remember my dad’s face at both launches for Hapax. I am so incredibly tired (the fact that my MC and I both suffer nightmares is not necessarily a coincidence), and yes, my pace will probably be slower for a little while…

But the basic rules haven’t changed. Bottom in chair. Breathe. Page by page, line by line, and word by word.

It’s accepting that the grief will be here for a while, and renegotiating my life and writing around this new reality. Honestly, there are no easy answers. I’m really just trying to make myself feel better. But my dad had a vague idea of what TNO is about—and apparently, that vague idea was enough to make him gush all the way to his final game.

And that is a motive to combat the apathy.

Onwards.

Things I Learned Podcasting

Hapax-the-Podcast finishes next Sunday. Considering that it’s been over a year since I started my podcasting journey, it seems like a good time to pause and reflect on the things I’ve learned on the other side of the mic.

Think you’re speaking slowly? Yeah. Go slower.

This was my main pitfall, and the reason I had to redo the narration while releasing episodes. I speak quickly in day-to-day life. Plus, with my general excitability and the remnants of an early childhood speech problem, my speech isn’t always the most clear (I reckon this is why I tend towards cold anger—once I’m agitated, my “r’s” turn back into “w’s,” and it kind of defeats the purpose).

All of which to say that narrating was the hardest part of the process for me. Not only did I have to really, really watch my enunciation, I had to keep pace firmly in mind. The best piece of advice I heard was, “Go slowly enough that you sound stupid to your own ears.”

I did. I sounded stupid. But on the playback, it sounded just about right. I know I still have more work to do—but I know I’m much better than a year ago.

Part of the dream: a “podcaster’s” voice.

Podcasters have distinct voices, but there tends to be a subtle difference between their “podcasting” voice, and their everyday speaking voice. Listening to recordings taken at various points over the last year, I’m maybe-just-kind-of starting to hear my own “podcasting voice” develop, particularly in the latter half of the story. I think it’s a bit like voice changes in adolescence: you can’t really force it, but it will grow in with time and practice.

When I read my tribute at my father’s funeral, there were some podcast listeners in the church who later told me how unnerving it was to hear that voice, in that context.

As awful as it was, hearing that gives me hope. I’ll probably sound like I’m twelve for a few more decades—but that’s ok. And my dad would be proud.

Learning as you go…

Ok. Time to be honest. When I first approached my actors and committed myself to actually doing this, I had very little idea of what I was doing. I knew how I wanted the end product to eventually sound; getting there was a different matter.

I was fortunate enough to get some amazing help and advice along the way. But there was still a lot of learning by trial and error. Learning by doing is necessary, you just need to be prepared for a lot of “learning by redoing” as well.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve recorded Chapter One….And honestly, if I had the time, I wouldn’t mind redoing it once more….

One project, many roles

Somewhat related to the point above. If you’re just starting out, and you’ve never done anything similar, there is a learning curve. You’re not just the writer, you’re (usually) a voice talent, a producer, a director, a sound mixer, an editor, a tech person, a webmaster, and a promoter.

That’s a lot, especially if you’re lacking experience in some of these roles.

Again, learning by doing. My cast was patient while I learned how to direct. I was patient while I tried to figure out feeds. The community has been patient as I learn to be part of it.

The writing/podcasting/web worlds consist of circles within circles

So, there’s this web series you may have heard of, called NaNoWriMo: the Musical. And yes, there has been some good cross-promotion there…but really, I bring it up to illustrate a point.

The guy who wrote the music for NaNo is named Errol. I met him because Blythe, who voice acts in Hapax, also acted in NaNo and invited me along as an extra. Errol knows one of the clergy at the church where I sing, because she and her husband both enjoy geekdom and run their own podcast. Errol also knows J.M. Frey, who is one of my fellow authors at Dragon Moon Press.

Through Dragon Moon, I met Erik Buchanan: another Dragon Moon author. He knows someone who was involved in writing a play for the War of 1812 celebrations this year…a play in which Blythe acted.

Once you get hooked in, you’ll be amazed at the connections that appear.

Podcasting is a LOT of work

Talk to any podcaster, and you’ll hear this refrain over and over: “It is a lot of fun, but a LOT of work.”

Yes. A thousand times yes.

Podcasting is a lot of fun. Getting involved in it was probably one of the best things I’ve done. I have loved (almost) every minute of it.

But it is a LOT of work. I was warned about this, but you tend to brush it off, saying, “Sure, yes, I know.”

Until you realize how much time goes into every minute of finished podcast. Totally worth it, but, for the record: A LOT OF WORK. I’m looking forward to a short break before we start production on The Next One…but I already know it’s going to feel weird.

If you ask nicely, people are generally awesome

I have had so much help along the way. First, there were my actors. Only Gavin had actually read Hapax previously, and so he was the only one with any inkling of what he was getting himself into. Then, there were the podcasters I asked for advice, help, and promo spots. And of course, my various betas and guinea pigs.

Approaching all of these people was usually terrifying. But, as I’ve mentioned, the community is wonderful…so long as you ask nicely.

This seems like a good time to say, “Thank you,” to all of you. Without you (yes, you), the Hapax could not have been heard.

Stay tuned.

A Sad Interlude

For those who have not yet heard, my father passed away suddenly on the night of Sunday, December 16th, 2012. As people have pointed out, I’m not very old myself, so he must have been quite young.

He was.

This was completely unexpected. This was the phone call that you never expect to get, the phone call that only happens to other people. Unfortunately, to paraphrase Calvin and Hobbes, we’re all “someone else, to someone else.”

There will be time for processing and grieving in the days, weeks, and months ahead. This is really just a note to say that all my various projects have entered into a state of flux. There are two episodes remaining in Hapax-the-Podcast. It is possible, but unlikely, that they will be released on schedule (although, frankly, I do tend to throw myself into work at times like this, so who knows).

Hapax is not on hiatus. I’m just asking that you don’t hold any expectations for now.

Likewise for The Next One…although again, work helps me.

If any good can come from this, it’s recognizing afresh that there are some pretty incredible people in my life. Since Sunday, I have received many hugs, many thoughts, and many prayers. People have fed me, driven me places, and just held me. My extended family, my choir ladies and clergy, my friends, and the writing/podcasting community… you have all been so, so wonderful, and I’m deeply grateful for you. My mom, sister, and I could not make it through this without you all.

It’s difficult for me to be vulnerable. It’s difficult for me to ask for help, to say, “Actually, yes, I need people right now.”

But people have been there. People have said, “I’m here. I don’t know what to do, but I’m here.”

I don’t know what to do either. I think that simply being there is enough: hugs, thoughts, texts, and prayers.

So, to recap.

I am with my family. I am so grateful to have such an amazing network of support. My various projects will be done when they are done.

And while we should have had longer, I am so grateful for the twenty-one-and-a-half years I had with my dad.

The Great Juggling Act

If nothing else, the past year has been a lesson in time management.

Managing time effectively isn’t really new to me. The difference is that, for the past seventeen years, school has always been Priority No. 1. It made things easy: school came first, and everything else just kind of fell into place around it.

Not so this year. The three major demands on my time (school, dayjob, writing/podcasting) all duked it out for the top spot, all demanding about the same level of attention and importance. This isn’t a unique situation. Heaps of people have families, jobs, school, and writing. There are tons of writers who wear many different hats. So how do you balance it all?

I’m still trying to figure this out. But I’ve discovered a few things.

Accept that your list of priorities is constantly updating itself.

Just because school isn’t always the top spot doesn’t mean that it never is. Right now, with my exams less than a week away, studying is taking precedence over The Next One, which I’m aiming to finish rewriting by early January. However, I work tomorrow night, which means that I have to upload Hapax-the-Podcast tonight, which means that this morning, finishing up Chapter 17 took precedence over studying.

Everything gets attention. The trick is figuring out what needs the most attention when.

Cut back where you can.

This can be hard, because often, the non-essential things are fun. And you don’t want to cut back too much, because the non-essential things help keep you sane. That being said, an “I’ll do it if I can” attitude helps. I liked choir…but I don’t get paid, I don’t pay them tuition, and there are plenty of other sopranos. Although I like singing, the consequences of putting it on the chopping block are relatively small.

Have some firm expectations.

I need to produce one podcast episode a week. End of story. It needs to go out. While in New Zealand, I was so homesick (and jobless) that I promised myself I would just never refuse a call from work. End of story. I get the call, I hop on the subway.

This goes back to the updating priority list. In a way, though, it’s easier to plan around certain immutable things. Knowing I need to upload a chapter by Sunday at 12:01 am makes it easier to schedule my week. Likewise, it’s a lot easier to simply assume I’ll be working particular days, and then treat non-calls as bonus time, than it is to pray I won’t get called in.

Ask for help.

My professors this term were amazing. I am so incredibly grateful that they were as understanding as they were. Every one of them was so supportive of my literary endeavours. Professors and bosses are people, too. Simply explaining the situation and asking for advice/consideration can go a long way towards easing the strain.

Accept that you will be tired.

But when you’re juggling this much, you will be tired. Even when you have time to socialize, you may need to sleep instead. It does suck. Let’s be honest—watching audio playback march across your screen at 3:00 a.m. isn’t fun. Forcing your eyes to stay open as you do your readings on the commute to work is kind of miserable. But sometimes, it’s necessary. Knowing that upfront makes it a lot easier to accept.

Besides, it’s not like you’ll never sleep again.

It worked during the Industrial Revolution, and it (mostly) works for me.

And that would more-or-less be how I survived this term. Next term, I won’t work, and I won’t be producing a podcast episode every week, but I will have a full courseload and ongoing writing stuff. Will it be the same kind of juggling act?

I guess we’ll find out.

Of Books and Traditions

Most people have traditions around this time of year. I certainly do—I like routines anyway (slight OCD tendencies? Me? Never!), so the idea of tradition works quite well for me. Some are pretty standard: Advent calendar, Christmas Day at my grandmother’s, NORAD Santa Tracker, etc. Some are a little more personal.

For as long as I can remember, I have read Richard Scrimger’s Of Mice and Nutcrackers every holiday season. It’s a middle-grade book, and although it’s apparently a sequel, it stands alone (I haven’t read the first one). Essentially, it follows seventh-grader Jane Peeler as she directs her class’s production of The Nutcracker while dealing with strained friendships, her dad’s pneumonia, and her cursing, chain-smoking grandma.

It holds a special place in my heart.

Obviously, it’s a childhood favourite. I don’t remember when I first read it, but I remember thinking Jane was really old. So, I was probably around eight or nine.

I’m twenty-one now, and I still love it.

It’s a genuine story, with some remarkably clever writing. The cursing grandma? Scrimger neatly uses “sound-alikes” to show her “bad words.” Get the shell out of bed, ham stairs, and so forth. Let’s be honest, some kids probably know what he means, but that’s okay. They’re in on the joke.

But there was one that took me quite a few years to get. At one point, the grandma yells at an incompetent driver: “Hey, axle!

Axle.

Think about that for a minute.

Yes, he went there. And I respect him so much for it.

It also took a few years to figure out why Jane’s little brother avoids pork chops and ham throughout the book. Likewise, a few years to catch the sly in-text references to Scrimger’s other books. I love that. I love that the main thrust of the story is accessible to kids the first time, but that all these nuances emerge with successive readings. Sure, some of the characters are fairly one-dimensional (The Mean Teacher), but most of them are surprisingly complex. If I were to ever try my hand at kidlit, this is how I’d like to do it.

But of course, I also love it because it’s so strongly linked to the holidays for me. Over the years, it has become part of my preparations for Christmas. I savour it, reading a chapter a day, timing it so that I reach the part where the principal says, “…fourteen days until Christmas” on December 11th (yes, I’m a nerd).

I don’t know if or when I’ll ever have kids. If I do, Of Mice and Nutcrackers will certainly make an appearance.

But I’ll let them decode the grandma’s dialogue on their own.

How about you? Any beloved children’s books, or books that get better with subsequent readings?

Meeting Characters

I’m never quite sure how to describe the process of creating characters to people. It generally makes me sound insane.

For starters, I’m not sure how much I like the term “creating” characters. Realistically, that is what’s happening, but it doesn’t feel that way. It’s a bit like watching those old Polaroid photos develop. Out of the swirling grey mist comes features, some recognizable right away, some not, and hey, that thing you thought was an arm turns out to be a sword, and some details sharpen while you’re looking elsewhere, and then suddenly you see the image in its entirety.

That’s one way to describe it.

But really, for me it’s always felt more like I’m “meeting” my characters. There’s an initial encounter, usually completely out of the blue. That’s what happened with River—I caught a glimpse of a scene that never made it into the final cut. Sometimes, just like with real people in my life, I don’t remember meeting them for the first time. It feels like they’ve just always been there. Like Serafine.

Then, there’s a period of “getting to know you.” Again, just like with real people in my life, this tends to be a “tell me about yourself” kind of thing. I’ll ask my characters questions. I’ll let them ask me questions. So yes, if ever you see me on the bus or in a building with a slightly glazed look, chances are good that either a) my blood sugar is crashing, or b) I’m carrying on a conversation with fictional people in my head.

For writer-types (and actor-types, I imagine), it’s not as crazy as it sounds.

And it’s good for getting to know characters as more complete people. The reader doesn’t have to know everything you discover, but if you know your characters that well, it will show. The tricky thing is when characters are reticent. Serafine never really stopped talking once she started; there’s a character in The Next One who has taken a long time to open up (this is why my December is going to exam prep and rewrites).

I guess it’s been on my mind because I am making more progress on The Next Next One (aka The One That Has Nothing To Do With Hapax). One character seems to actively dislike me. One has terrified me. And another—well, we’re going to have fun, I’m sure.

I like writing. J