Reading out loud

Two years ago I was in San Antonio when I got a call from an old friend, Adrian Czajkowski.

Adrian and I are old friends from university. He’s a big man, bulky and about six foot four with a beard and long hair. He loved role playing games, and would often vanish on the weekends to hit people with foam swords while rolling dice in the woods. He was a prolific writer, churning out books and poems and plays, printing them on that old bicoloured printing paper with the holes in the sides, disbursing the documents to all and sundry. He’d sit in the pub stroking his beard and writing poems. Some of the poems were good. His degree was in psychology. He got a job in a law firm, got married to an opera singer, had a kid, didn’t stop writing. After fifteen years he found a publisher, and suddenly he started to crop up in the staff picks at Waterstones.

He got ten books published in a series – high fantasy, meticulously crafted. The Shadows of the Apt. What if humans had evolved from insects and could still do insecty things? Wasp people, mantis people, spider people, beetle people. The sword fights stand out – all that time hitting people in the woods near Reading gave him fantastic blow by blow understanding of the business of chopping people up. The books are a sort of steampunkish insecty swords and guns and magic fest.

Then he started writing sci fi, and he’s bloody good at it. Last year his debut sci fi novel Children of Time won The Arthur C Clarke award. All that hard work paid off. It’s a brilliant book. Hyperevolved spiders. Here’s his website. He changed the spelling of his name to Tchaikovsky match the Russian composer, just because it’s more familiar, and despite him hating it when we were at Uni.

So I was on tour in Texas when he rang me up to tell me he was having one of his short stories read on a podcast called Starshipsofa. He said he wanted me to read it. I’d never done something like that before, but I was game to learn. Problem was I was in Texas working hard. I rented a booth at the local university for 30 minutes one lunch break, read it once uninterrupted, rehashing mistakes and got an audio file that was so big I couldn’t open it on my iPad to edit. Curses! With the deadline looming, I ended up having to sit on the hotel room loo re-reading the whole thing into my iPad mic and editing on the fly with Twisted Wave. The result was harsh, but the story was harsh so it sort of worked. It went down well even if I wasn’t thrilled with it. That was the beginning of my journey towards trying to make sense of home recording. It’s a technical business and requires equipment which I haven’t had. Thankfully it involves a lot of improvisation, which is something I do have. The second short story I read was in digs in York, with paper thin walls and a noisy street at Christmas on the other side of them. I ended up having to record it lying on my stomach with all my bedding on top of me while people kept shouting in the street. The third one I read was “The Merger” by Sunil Patel, in a noisy corridor in my block, sitting in a corner surrounded by pillows. It took hours and I had to keep rerecording because of planes, but I was getting better at editing. You learn by doing. The fourth was much the same, but my neighbour was weirded out by it and kept noisily coming to listen from the other side of the door, and peep through the peep hole. I rushed it. Then in the edit my iPad was crashing constantly and I lost patience and submitted it even though I wasn’t happy. Despite that, they’ve asked me back. The fools.

There’s no way I’m going to record to iPad if I’m at home. It’s time to step it up. I called up my old roomie from Dubrovnik, Chris. He makes it work for himself, so I slavishly bought his recommendations. They arrived today. I’ve hacked together a temporary studio in my corridor and dammit it already sounds pretty good. I’ll road test by doing one more reading for Starshipsofa, and then gradually improve and tweak the soundproofing as I go.

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My technical know-how is still sorely lacking. But I’m doing a Voiceover Kickstart course online, which is helping me compound what I do know, and get better at what I don’t. I’d recommend the free six week course to anyone who is thinking of adding this string to the bow. If things go according to plan, and I work hard in my spare time, I reckon I can tick this over to the extent I don’t have to punish myself with stuff like Ascot again. And if I go on tour, there’s always the iPad. *shiver*

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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