Sunday, December 19, 2021

Gear Post

When I was blogging about my photography regularly, I’d do an annual gear-update post.  I thought I’d try the same here – mostly because it’s fun, but it can be informative for others who stumble across my natterings, if they are starting to look into vocal audio 🙂
My gear and software haven’t changed much in the past 3 years, and my set-up runs toward ‘elegant, simple, [costs some dollars],’ so it doesn’t take long to write about!

I record onto a 2012 Mac mini, nothing fancy (I think my screen dates to about 2012, too).  As I’ve written about recently, I’ve got quite an ergo set-up, with three 3-button floor pedals, left and right handed vertical mice, and a Kinesis keyboard. 

I tend to acquire used audio hardware in good condition – you can get stuff that’s nearly as good as new, for half the cost.  I think my first Mackie mixer was almost as old as I was!  I just wish software worked that way 🙂

Audio-specific gear:

Whisper Room sound booth, lined with lots denim insulation
Sony MDR 7506 headphones
MixPre3 mixer/recorder/magicbox
modified large diaphragm mics
Studio One 5 Pro
iZotope RX8, Neutron3 and Ozone9
Audacity  (version 2.4.xx – new version is Problematic)
 XLD mass audio file format converter (I save all files in .flac and batch-convert them to MP3s at the end of all edits/processing)
iTunes – for mass ID3 tagging and attaching album covers

There have been a lot of iterations and upgrades in the past decade, but i knew once i’d found the MixPre3 and iZotope, I was going to be Very Happy with my set-up for quite a long time to come.

The first good gear I ever got, was my first modified large diaphragm mic (the guy who did the work is no longer in the biz, which is a shame for all of us who love his microphones, but I hope he’s having tons of fun with his new projects!).  I went from a Shure SM58 that had been in the bottom of a box forever (now mind you, the SM58 is a classic stage mic, known for standing up to all kinds of abuse and delivering consistent live-performance sound for decades…but it wasn’t right for my voice. like, at all.), to a microphone specially tailored to my voice, and it was a revelation.  A mic that could deliver on all the richness of my lower range, and roll off my intense sibilance, all with a noise floor of 5dB… it was amazing to hear my voice reproduced the way it actually sounds.  I got a second one for a stereo pair about a year later.  It occurs to me that i haven’t come across any other narrators who use a stereo set-up, wonder why?

Things about my current set-up that seem worth writing about…hmm.  Well, the MixPre3 series simply cannot be beat for voice recording, holy wow.  Delightful pre-amps, super low noise floor, high pass filter options, an analog limiter I can just ascend to the heavens now (this was the feature that led me to the MixPre3; while software replacements for hardware are amazingly good, there’s not a real replacement for hardware in a few crucial places – and an analog limiter is one of them).  I recorded straight to SDHC for a couple years, then switched to Studio One onto the Mac hard drive.

Is the WhisperRoom all that?  Yes, it is…but it’s at least as much for a completely controlled soundspace as it is for noise reduction.  In its standard configuration, you get a lot of noise attenuation in a WR, but it’s not dead silent.  That’s okay, because what it does allow you to do, is have a controlled space to outfit with lots and lots of sound deadening, which will further improve the sound isolation anyway.  I have denim insulation on all the walls, in rolls in the corners as bass-traps, and I have my mics just inside a small box that is covered inside and out in more denim insulation (all the insulation is covered in fabric).  Went through a lot of staples setting all that up!  With almost no possibility for sound reflection, I can be at any distance from the mics, at any angle to them, and the quality of the sound remains consistent.  This gives me a lot of room to maneuver – so to speak – when it comes to things like ‘I recorded this pick-up much further away from the mic’ or ‘I recorded this new section hotter than usual’ – I can adjust the volume in the edit and not have sound characteristics be noticeably different, for example.  The ability to kill noise reflections makes sound engineering soooo much easier.

The other thing I did to the WR was replace the fairly noisy heavy-duty ventilation fan, with an oversized computer cooling fan that’s for all intents and purposes silent.  It was at that point I started noticing that my mics would pick up my heartbeat if I sat too close LOL

The Sonys are the standard headphones in every recording studio in the world, and there’s a reason for that; they deliver unbiased, unforgiving, faithful reproduction – don’t bother with anything else.  The worst that will happen, is that you’ll listen to files you’ve edited with previous less quality headphones and be horrified at the noises you missed 😀  They’re not even pricey – and the specs are all online so you can fix just about anything. They’ve been basically the same for decades. 

I’ve written enough about my software recently, so that’s about all there is for today folks!  Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! and Ivy Loves Christmas Songs…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, evvveryyy whereee you gooooo…

I love Christmas unabashedly.  I know all the verses to all the songs (benefits of growing up in 4 different singing groups LOL), I love the peace of snowy winter (ahem, Montana? get on that, please?), I love listening to Christmas music and have an extensive playlist of stuff that *doesn’t* sound like anything that comes through mall speakers, I love decorating the tree, I love wrapping presents and filling stockings…the kids are in their 20s, and I still do it 🙂

Right now, I’m finishing a book and cannot stress my voice (that med that gave me a month of laryngitis is still being felt, but my voice is getting stronger all the time!), so I am grumpily listening to music ALL THE TIME lol

The book underway is a 2-narrative-voice book and I really enjoy doing that kind of work.  This book doesn’t ask for a ton of definitive voicing in dialog (don’t ask me how I come to these determinations…it’s instinct at this point), but creating 2 distinctive narrative voices/cadences/timbres/etc. is very satisfying to me.

And as soon as the book is done, I shall sing ALL THE SONGS!!!

(don’t get me wrong – I’m thoroughly enjoying narrating this book! I’m grumpy about medication-induced vocal weakness. honest to pete, my body could stop reacting to every thing any day now :P)



Friday, December 10, 2021

Resume, Ho!

 Someone online recently pointed out that it’s a good idea/expected/desperately vital/simply professional [??] to have a concise downloadable/printable resume on one’s site – that to expect anyone interested in you as a professional artist to wander around your [artistic] site to glean the information they need to know, isn’t 1) a good idea or 2) professional. 

This makes sense to me, so I’ve been putting together a concise Ivy resume.  Of course I began by looking for a decent resume template and arrrgh – darn all templates/resume-builders to heck, none of them had anything near as simple as I needed, nor artistic in any way LOL  I ended up just using Libreoffice with columns fer cryin’ out loud!

So here it is – the Ivy downloadable resume, as simple as simple can be LOL!  I do really like it, and since I’m 99% sure to be the only person who really bothers to like or dislike it, that’s fine by me ;D

I ran into something that’s been a PITA since one started to be able to embed text/image tagging into word processors via a front-end nice clean user interface: the stuck tag [the stuuuck taaaaaag arrrgh!].  If one changes formatting enough – as one does, to experiment with new looks – old formatting tags get orphaned all over the code for the document, and you run into things that SHOULD be changeable that aren’t changing!  For example, my tag colors kept reverting to my text color upon export to PDF, though they appeared to be correct in the document itself. 

The solution?  Well, brute force re-enter the data & link over and over in slightly different places, hoping to somehow operate outside the damn dangling tag.  This, of course, guarantees an even messier tag-tastrophy behind the document but with dyslexia, going and digging around in the mass of tags is just Not On.

The other issue I ran into and that I cannot seem to overcome, is that though i have all the links on the resume formatted to open-new-tab, none of them do.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 25 years of tinkering with websites, it is never let/make anyone click off of your site because they are unlikely to come back.  I remember watching this happen in real time (in a program I had installed for an entirely different reason), and realizing this was a cardinal rule.  But alas, if one doesn’t deliberately right-click-open-new-tab the links on my resume, you’ll leave my website.  And while I do that as a matter of course, I don’t think many people do.  I can’t find info on what the problem is (I’m sure it’s out there, I’m just not using good search terms), so I’m letting it be for now.

Ah well:)  I really like the outcome though both visually and for simple, unencumbered data.

It was a whaaaaaat?? moment to line up all the books I have narrated professionally though!  A few!  That’s a nice feeling :)

Monday, November 29, 2021

Ivy has joined the 21st century in audio engineering software! Learning curve, here I come!

I have decided the time has come for me to move into the modern software world for audio engineering…because Reasons – sekrit sekrit reasons 😀

I have used Audacity for more than 20 years, and it has served me amazingly well.  I have pushed the limits of what it was designed to do, and then some (Audacity is really not the tool to mix fully soundscaped 2 hour long projects with more than 100 tracks…but I’ve done it!).  Starting about a year and a half ago, Audacity’s days became numbered.  I’ll always use it to some extent; there are use cases where Audacity is just the fastest, most precise tool in the box, and there are workflows in Audacity that are so intuitive for me that it would be silly to try to replicate them elsewhere.

But about 18 months ago I got with the modern voice work program and set my self up for punch-and-roll workflow.  I will never regret the decade I spent narrating linearly and then editing down to whatever take was the best one – that process taught me to listen and to choose my performance in a way no other teaching could have accomplished.  But it was time, I was ready, and I was curious 🙂

A kind narrator gave me the basics of how to get started and what programs might work for me, and I am so so grateful he did!  I did my research (Ivy has research-foo), and decided on Studio One as my recording program, switching my workflow from recording straight through my much beloved MixPre  onto an SDHC card, and instead using the MixPre as my fully featured mixer, which then passed the signal to my Mac.  Headphones are in the MixPre to avoid latency issues (I tried, boy oh boy did I try, but my machine just can’t overcome latency no matter how well we honed the settings), I installed portable LCD display, wireless keyboard and mouse in the studio, and I was in business. (manny cables running from computer into studio…) (computer can’t be in the studio because of noise)

So I’ve been recording and doing my principle edit in S1 for the last year and a half.  It’s fast, it’s fluent, it has some great features that cut a bunch of time out of the editing process.  I use iZotope RX, Neutron and Ozone as my post-production tools, they can’t be beat and I love them.  But the free version of S1 can’t use 3rd party plug-ins – meaning I had to mix down my file, save it, import it into the freestanding RX8 and edit there – so i decided to take the leap and jump to the Pro S1 version (thank you rent-to-own!).  Holy moly – I have all my Audacity plugins i’ve accumulated over the years, and almost all my iZotope plugins, and rather than rendering effects destructively onto a track, I can use those effects on a virtual mixing board and have them do their actions in real time, changable at any new alteration of the overall piece, saving me mountains of time.

I’m on a hell of a steep learning curve [see Ivy watch all the YouTube tutorial videos, haunt the redit S1 sub, and basically absorb as much as she can as fast as she can…kind of scorching her brain in the process], but I’m already reveling in the lightning fast editing and processing on multitrack files that can be done (and undone!) in seconds as opposed to minutes.

Wooo!  I’ve joined the 21st century in audio engineering!  Only twenty years late!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Mastering audio is remarkably satisfying :D

For the 2021 Cinnabar Winter Anthology, I had the great enjoyment of doing a touch of mastering on the finished chapter tracks from each narrator, and it was so fun 🙂

When I first started narrating, I thought editing was hell (and there are some cases in which I still feel this – line replacement being chief among them!), and dreaded and resented it.  Then something amazing happened – I edited my first fully soundscaped story and omg, my soul caught fire with the process!

I would never want to alter the editing choices of another narrator’s work – editing is a very personal process for those of us who do our own (many publishers take that out of the narrators hands – it’s really variable around the industry, depending on who you work with etc and etc and more etc!), but I’ve done so much specialized sound stuff, that I have really nice post-production software that I could offer to the project.

I’ve used this software so extensively on my own voice and a couple of people I work on other projects with, but never other narrators’ entire stories.  It was delightful to listen in a whole new way to what software can do to offer a transparent frame to a voice and help highlight it that much better!

Over the years, everyone acquires their own set of audio tools, and while I occasionally grump that it would be really NICE if I could have all of these tools in one platform and thus not have to export a .flac of a story just to do adjustments in a different program…the truth is, each program has its strengths both in the effects it can create in the audio, as well as how the program visually executes the sound wave and allows you to manipulate it.   For example, Studio One is excellent for recording & principle editing, and I love it for the ease of cut/paste silence when there was a cat bouncing off the studio roof; iZotope RX8 can’t be beat for the high polish post production sound in a dozen plus tools; but if I need to really manipulate the sound at a visual level to, lets say, remove a ‘click’ in the middle of a word, I take the file into  Audacity where I can really analyze the wave form in all its jigs and jags with a specificity that S1 and RX8 simply don’t have for some reason.  I also use Audacity for all my multi-track production, which can get pretty crazy when I’m working with dozens of tracks, a more purpose-built program would be waaay more power than I need.  The learning curve isn’t worth it for me at this point.

watch the narrator origami several hundred files into one scene
mixing down over and over until the final is a matrioshka doll of elements
mixed from a dozen previous elements, mixed from a dozen previous previous elements
…Audacity was just not made for this!
(it’s probably not good for her, but she loves it just the same)

It always amazes me, both in audio editing and in photo editing, how two tools that are made to do the same thing, set up with all the same settings….will give you two different outcomes.  It’s all math, and every algorithm is different!  For example, I have an iZotope compressor (and more) called Neutron3 – and it can do amazing things to make a voice sound Even More Itself.  I never use it on my principle narration because I happen to really love my microphone sound without treatment, but when I want a bit of narration to say: Here, Listener, Here Is A Narrator!  That’s where Neutron can do magic stuff!

But Neutron isn’t the mastering compressor I hoped it would be.  What I’m using right now is a plugin called Kotelnikov, and it’s fantastic.  Transparent treatment of the audio, but it gives me a TON of control over compression without crushing the life out of the headroom.  I can create all the same settings on both compressors….but they just don’t work the same way 🙂

So what did I get up to with production on the Winter Anthology 2021?  Noise removal for background and/or equipment environmental noise and mouth de-click mostly 🙂  As minimal compression as I could get away with, so that the industry standard required ‘loudness’ settings wouldn’t create harsh volume increases/reductions – and then the ‘loudness’ algorithm as the final step.  

It’s funny how trying to do as little as possible, and do it as transparently as possible, can take all kinds of time!  I thoroughly enjoyed using my familiar tools on unfamiliar soundspaces and voices, and it felt like the time passed in no time at all 😀

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Sometimes I just really really wish….


Sometimes I really despair of doing anything with my life in the face of the constancy of chronic illness.  This past 2 months have been one of those times.  So was the 3 months of post-vaccine reaction (yes, I would get it again, again a hundred times – cause I’m still not over covid proper, and because it’s our civic duty to protect each other if we possibly can), so was post-covid, so was post 3-cancer-surgeries, so was post-medication-reaction that nearly put me in the hospital.

Every time I feel like I make a little headway, I get my ass kicked by yet something else.

A good friend of mine jokes that this is clearly because the universe is saving everyone from what my powers would be if I were unleashed!  Which makes me laugh, for a while.

Sometimes it’s my body, sometimes it’s my mind, sometimes it’s internally generated by whatever weirdness my genetic structure contains, sometimes it’s a susceptibility to some external stressor – but whatever the kick off is for any given crash, the result is an inability to function for one reason or another.

I have a beautiful supportive family and dear friends and I’d be dead without them and am endlessly thankful they exist and love me no matter what (which always makes me go ??? but I believe them when they tell me I have value no matter what).  But I so so so very much want to be able to CREATE, to make beautiful things for people to hear!  To imbue words with meaning that make people pause in silence, or cry, or laugh, or just feel like the world is a better place for a few minutes.  I want to be able to do this without collapsing physically or mentally, I want to be able to do this without having to choose between ‘have 1 spoon – I can make a meal, or I can record a chapter’ [lets be clear, recording a chapter always wins, because playing in front of the microphone is FUN, whereas cooking food is infinitely boring to me]

I just went through 6 weeks of bad medication interactions.  This is always a risk, no matter how carefully my doctors and I approach medication changes, because my physiology is utterly unpredictable about this kind of thing.  What means ‘bad interaction’ in this instance?  Well, for a month my vocal chords swelled shut, and it took that long for us to figure out that it was the medication and not some random cold (or another long-covid symptom, I mean it just never gives up!).  Then came a couple weeks of utterly crippling anxiety, again it took time to figure out that this was a medication issue, because lets be real hear LIFE IN THE TIME OF COVID IS FULL OF SITUATIONAL ANXIETY.

So I record and edit when I can, as much as I can, and I fight for every inch of it.  I make sure ‘body might fall apart’ cushion time is built into every audiobook recording schedule, and I almost always have to use it.  Now that covid has rendered my hands almost unusable, we have hired someone to help around the house, and that has turned out to be a blessing of an extra spoon here and there, since basic cleaning that would be taxing, I can literally now no longer do…

I just….I just want to be able to live a life where I have access to the agency to choose what I do each day, rather than having my choices crushed in a constant vise of all I cannot manage to do.



Friday, July 16, 2021

how to audiobook/video edit with severe hand injuries


Oh covid!  You scamp!  You came for my hands – you didn’t realize that I’ve had hand injuries since my 20s and I HAVE KNOWLEDGES.

That doesn’t mean, dear readers, that things are resolving quickly….this looks like it will be a long haul.  And thus I have created even more hands-free editing tools for myself.

Read on for many strategies to reduce impact on injured hands & still create art!

Friday, June 4, 2021

cello is good for my soul…and my chronic illness


My hands are getting stronger!  I was able to play my cello for hours tonight, it was glorious!

I have extensive hand injuries, several destroyed ligaments, EDS making the ligaments too lose, and permanent joint scaring. When I take on a new hand-oriented thing (like rowing or cello) I have to go verrrry slowly, with PT weight lifting to make sure the muscles of my fingers are strong enough to stabilize the lack of ligament stability in my wrists.

When I ordered the cello, I immediately began doing wrist exercises, because I knew it was going to be challenging to go back to playing after so many years. When the cello arrived I was able to play for only five minutes at a time – yikes 😀  After having the cello & bow for about a week, I contacted the store and asked them to send me several different bows on trial.  I needed a different bow – one that drew sound more easily from the cello without as much work from my hand; the better the bow is, the more resonant it is – the more resonant the bow, the more it helps the string vibrate, the less work your hand has to do.

I also wanted a bow which complimented this cello’s particular mellow rich timbre. Matching the acoustic qualities of a bow and cello is unique to each of them, and I was concerned that finding a bow that both worked with the cello and was easy on my hand would take a lot of shipping bows back and forth across the country!  But the woman who had sold me the cello and matched the initial bow, had a pretty good sense of what type of bow would  best compliment the sound and character of the instrument.

Several days later, bows arrived carefully packed in a sturdy tube (it kinda freaks me out that we ship these thousands and thousands of dollars of music stuffs across the country in cardboard and carrying cases! LOL)  I pulled out all the bows and started working with them one by one.  Right away one stood out miles ahead of the others!  Is without a doubt the best bow I have played with – whether mine, a store’s, my teacher’s, other cello friends – I mean, what fantastic luck!  I have to use hardly any strength or pressure with this bow to get complex, smooth, powerful sound.  In fact the more relaxed my hand and arm are, the better the sound becomes (which is as it should be, but I’m talking really relaxed lol).  It is the first to bow I have used where the adage ‘you don’t need pressure, you only need technique!’ is actually true. I can use minimal leverage through each joint, put almost no stress on my wrist, and if my technique is pure the sound is glorious.

Even so, I still had to build up hand and wrist strength. I mean, it’s not like anything else I do is similar!!  Washing dishes?  No.  Folding laundry?  No.  Throwing a ball for the dog?  No.  Making the bed, stretching fitted sheets?  Surprisingly that’s a wrist-cruncher!  But no.  For a normal, undamaged hand starting on a bowed instrument might create mild soreness…but my hand is all kinds of not normal 😀  So I have carrreufullly built up my strength over many weeks, and tonight I was able to play for nearly an hour – woooo!  Now, it was a bit much and my right hand is a bit sore, but I was getting beautiful sound, plus without having to focus on thinking about it so much (yay, getting back on the bike isn’t so hard!).  It is a wonderful feeling to have all I remember, all that old muscle memory, and all the new things I am learning come together, making the cello feel familiar and easy in my hands much sooner then I would have imagined.  …of course this does mean I’m more likely to play for too long 😀

If you’re going about this carefully, you pretty much spend several months pulling open strings.  No left hand fingering, no melody, just bow and strings – focus on posture, shoulder, elbow, wrist, finger angles, speed, pressure and how sound responds to each of these things.  It is surprisingly complicated!  And of course the more you focus, the more likely you are to use tighten up!  This is not something to rush. This is something to spend weeks and weeks doing, so that good bow technique enters muscle memory and when you add left hand your technique doesn’t fall apart 🙂  So I spend every practice focusing on the sequence of movements to pull the bow on the bottom half, the sequence of movements to pull the bow on the upper half, the angle of the bow to the strings, the pressure and speed of attack at the bottom of the bow, then the changes as you pull out toward the tip.  It sounds boring, yes?  Sounds like it shouldn’t be fun or satisfying or fulfilling or beautiful…but that is the magic of the cello – even these fundamental exercises are musical and beautiful and soaring.  This is why I started, and this is what drew me back.

After playing the cello, I am so soothed and centered and joyful and calm that it is easy and beautiful to do other things that have been feeling overwhelming, like exercise, or editing audio, or cleaning the living room.  It’s as if joy gives back some spoons, giving someone with chronic illness just a bit more energy and focus 🙂

How often it is, that something that looks like indulgence: art of every kind; drawing; writing; audio book creation; podcast recording; video making; youtube-ing; and, yes learning a musical instrument….how often do you hear about the uselessness of art?  It takes up valuable time that could be used for Something Productive! We have fantastic misconceptions of how human beings become themselves, and what that means for human happiness (and hey – productivity, if ya wanna be mercenary about it pfff). 

Art is not frivolous, art is not self indulgent, art is not an unnecessary decorative luxury. Art is foundational, fundamental to what makes us human. 

The drive to create is central to everything humanity has ever accomplished.  Never doubt it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021 – an Audible-type subscription platform for audiobooks, that GIVES MONEY TO YOUR LOCAL BOOK STORES! like, but for audiobooks!


OH MY GOODNESS OMG OH MY!!!  When Chad Musick and Cinnabar Moth Press told me about , and how we’d be distributing our audiobooks through them because 1) they offer international distribution  2) they distribute to LIBRARIES!  and 3) they get us out from under the amazon/audible monopoly distribution and their [truly abysmal] royalties payments but still put our books on amazon/audible – I was ABSOLUTELY THRILLED.  For all 3 reasons!

findaway actually distributes to so many international options that I literally had not heard of most of them, and so didn’t really pay attention to names.  And then last week (while languishing with some miserable virus) I heard Hank Green mention on his & John’s podcast, Dear Hank and John when referring to his audiobook use (he apparently really loves audiobooks!) (augh I’d love to record for either of their work; I’d love even MORE to record for their video/audio education company Complexly, oh man would I ever.  ‘I believe in what they’re doing,’ doesn’t begin to cover it…).  An audiobook business I’d never heard of?  Well, I have yet to follow up a recommendation from either of the brothers that I wasn’t impressed with so I went to check it out.

Now, since the pandemic introduced me to – an online book store that helps pay your local book store and keep them in business – I have been posting links and generally ranting and carrying on about them ever since.  It never occurred to me that someone had created a business that basically did the same thing (are the 2 associated? probably, come to think of it) for audiobooks!  You can do a monthly subscription, just like Audible, OR one at a time!  but you are no longer throwing money at the big a/a monopoly and thus are no longer supporting their exploitative business model that ranges from authors & narrators right down to packing warehouses. is that business.  If you’re used to Audible subscription, you can have the same deal; if you want to purchase one audiobook at a time like on Amazon, you can do that.  Either way, your money supports your local bookstores and I cannot THINK of a better way to spend your book dollars!!

Needless to say, being me, I went on twitter and generally freaked right the fuck out to all and sundry about libro, am posting all of my twitter audiobook promos with the libro link first and a/a second, and I have updated my website to heavily favor the libro links for each book with a larger font and am SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS AAAAAAAAA!!!!

So, that was my fun discovery this past week 😀  And a nice break from feeling miserable in bed!


my page!

Gracie & Zeus Live the Dream  by Elizabeth Roderick

Not My Ruckus  by Chad Musick

Red Shoes  by Satyros Phil Brucato  (coming soon!)

Valhalla With a Twist of Lethe  by Satyros Phil Brucato  (coming soon!)

Pads for his Throne and The Rescue  by Olli Crusoe


a sample of the distribution options through findaway:

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Unplugged: reading from The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. leGuin


I have never ending awe and wonder at Ursula leGuin’s writing, and The Dispossessed lives deep in my heart.  Enjoy my adoration 🙂

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

a day in the editing life – a very very rambly post, with visual aids!


Today, I edited!  Many editings!

There are a lot of steps to editing, and they vary from project to project – but I thought it might be fun to show some of the my steps and explain what they are and how they help get to a finished audiobook 🙂  Everyone has a different workflow, and they evolve over time, so this is not an instructional page – this is just for fun insight into what I currently do.

Firstly, step Notion!  I didn’t used to do anything like this, like, at all.  I tried to keep everything in my head, and was Not A Good Plan.  Then?  NOTION ENTERED MY LIFE.  HOW DID I EVEN FUNCTION BEFORE NOTION??

where was I?

Right!  Firstly – I organize my file workflow.  One thing I was working on today is Satyros Phil Brucato’s amazing anthology Valhalla With a Twist of Lethe.  Below is a gif of my Notion set-up for an audio book.  There’s a main page – where I have current check-lists of what needs to be done.  From there I can click to my master table of information.  This lists the book by chapter, with columns detailing who the narrator is, what date the story was recorded, what stage of editing each chapter is in, and any notes I need to remember for editing or re-takes.

This table for Valhalla is only partially filled out.  There are several reasons for this: Valhalla is being narrated by 4 different people, and Life Has Been Happening During a Pandemic, so it’s taken a lot longer for chapters to be narrated by the 4, scattered about in 4 different locations.  Thus the strange order of operations going on here!  Secondly, now that we’re moving along I made the decision to re-master my completed chapters, because I updated my iZotope from RX7 to RX8, and there are features in RX8 that I really like. Plus I get better at this stuff with every book I record and produce, and my portions of Valhalla were recorded 3 books ago, so I’ve jumped in editing skills a bit!

Please note how fun Notion is visually 🙂  You can rapidly choose an icon (Phil will understand the icon choice :D) and a header photo – which in this case is a Viking-ish house.  I am dyslexic, so a clean user interface is vital and Notion has that – but also icons and photos are huge for helping me know at a glance which page I’m on.  I currently have like six projects going on at the same time, and a table is a table is a table!  If each page has a colorful identifier thematically appropriate to the book, it helps.



Here is a fully filled out master table for the book just completed, Gracie & Zeus Live the Dream By contrast there’s lots more data here. (I really like the sunshine-y happy icon and banner I picked for this happy and funny book!)

This book’s master table is a lot more evolved than the one for Valhalla, because it was created before and during recording, rather than in the late editing phase like Valhalla’s data (tragically, I had not yet discovered Notion at the time of recording Valhalla).  You can see that next to the chapter numbers, is a larger number – that’s the number of words in the chapter.  I know roughly how much I can record and edit in one day based on word-count, and with the word-count easily visible I can plan for target dates of recording (or, for some, re-recording).  Then a bit farther over, you can see a column that has the heading ‘out of 60,474k’ – that’s an active tabulating column.  When I record a chapter, I put the number of words in that tabulating column, and then I can see the running total of completed words at the bottom.  This is purely for ENCOURAGEMENT 😀  Next to that, is a metric hour/minute column, showing how long chapters are as I complete them.  I can see the current length of the book summed at the bottom; this provides a running estimate of how long the finished book will be.  I read different books at different paces, so it’s helpful to see word-count expectation vs. actual length per chapter.

Farther over you can see recording notes – things I need to re-record with the location time-stamp within the file, notes for how I’d like to re-perform it etc.  And then next to that is the checklist: proofed! – which is just really satisfying to check off as I do the final listen of each chapter.  Also I need to know where I am in the process so I don’t miss anything!


Speaking of proofing, proofing audio has the same problem as proofing text; you are very likely to hear what you know should be there, rather than the error that is there.  To get around this, I trick my ear into listening to the chapter in a way it doesn’t expect – I proof at higher speeds.  Typically I proof at about 1.5x, a very foreign sound to me.  I’m much more likely to catch both word repeats and noises I didn’t catch during the principle edit – the two most likely problems.

A fun example:  I sometimes catch noises that are very apparent at high speeds, but imperceptible at normal speed – a very low hum from an airplane passing in the distance, for example, below where humans usually listen (because it’s far below the pitch of the voice you’re focusing on, as well as being at the bottom of the human hearing threshold) can show up audibly at the higher pitch of 1.5x.  I’ll sit up and go WHAT? and then slow it down and realize, nope, it’s transient and not audible in the usual course of things!  I have a low cut-out filter on my recording set-up; low rumbling of any kind is eliminated at normal speeds, so I’m not used to hearing any!  Normally I’d just tune out any sound so low that no one who’s not in the process of a professional edit would even pick it out of the recording.  One example of how speeding up a recording makes the ear listen in a whole new way 🙂


Back to organizing!  Outside of Notion, another aspect of organization is File Management!  When I first started using my current recording software, Studio One, I didn’t pay much attention to how it was organizing the audio in files….and I ended up with a mess.  Previously I had a file system that organized in an entirely different way, so I didn’t realize what I’d set myself up for in my dyslexic brain!  So today, working on the second of Phil’s books that is about to be released – Red Shoes – I went rooting around through my miserable jumble of files in the Studio One folder, to put together all of the files in their first stage of editing which I call cleanup (more on that in a minute).  I decided a couple of months ago when I upgraded to iZotope RX8, that I was going to re-produce the Red Shoes files.  I have better tools for post-production now, and more experience with the software overall.  This process isn’t difficult because I’ve made a macro for it – I simply have to drag-and-drop into a batch processing part of iZotope and let it run.  But first i have to find them – aaaaa!

The batch settings used are settings I have spent quite a bit of time (read: a zillion hours give or take) refining for my particular studio soundspace, my particular voice, and my particular microphones.  But now that I’ve got them, I can batch process files and this is really nice

The problem with my utterly scattered file non-management, is that Red Shoes is 56 files  o.0  and my dyslexic eyeballs are very likely to leave one out.  This has HAPPENED.  And is clearly not optimal, sending me scrambling later to find the errant file and process it out of order, which is just that much more difficult to keep organized!  So I spent time today tracking down each cleanup edit of all those files, and making a folder for them, so when I do the batch process i’m not running all over my harddrive panicking cause shit is POSSIBLY MISSING OMG.

Here’s the assembled Red Shoes files, all tidy, in one freakin’ place:


I referred to the cleanup edit stage above – that’s the first and most comprehensive edit.  Right after I record, I listen to the file make any structural changes desired.  I almost never leave re-takes in the file; I record over them in real time in the studio, so there’s not much ‘remove’ or ‘cut-and-paste all this stuff’ to do in the cleanup edit.  Studio One is lovely, because if I accidentally cut out a word or phrase while recording retakes, it’s still there (though hidden) and can be recovered easily.  I can stay focused on the performance while in the studio, rather worrying about losing something I’ll need or want later.  Non-destructive editing is amazing and I couldn’t work rapidly without it.

The other aspect of the cleanup edit, is removing any accidental sounds that I didn’t hear happen while I was recording.  Being focused on the performance can mean occasionally not noticing that someone in the house slammed a door, or my headphone cable brushed against the furniture, or my stomach growled 😀  Studio One has my favorite feature for that!  When I start a new recording, it’s in a template that includes a layer of my base room-sound in the studio, when it is absolutely quiet.  This layer is as long as the finished recording, and makes sticking silence over a mistaken noise a snap!  Watch:


Between those two words, was a thump.  All I needed to do to replace the thump with nice clean silence, is highlight the (otherwise silent) layer of room-sound, and Studio One automatically pastes silence over the thump.  Ta-da!  This makes editing remarkably faster and is freakin’ magic.  I love it.

Over the years I have taught myself to narrate in real time at the pace and with the emotional effects that I wish to have in the final recording.  (surprisingly (she says, since this seems to surprise people…), one does not narrate the way one speaks – like AT ALL – and learning how to perform narration pacing, enunciation, microphone technique, dialog expressive emotion, making narrative voice interesting, on and on – it is very much a learned skill because it’s not natural speech. it takes the 10k hours they always tell you that mastery takes, just like any other highly skilled art)  I learned how to do this well via listening to myself in excruciating detail whilst editing in a much more basic program that forced me to think about every. damn. silence. breath. emotional beat. etc. as I edited.  This was incredibly important learning to have done!  But oh god I’m so glad I don’t have to edit that way these days!  These days, I can simply cover over a thump with a Studio One layer, and keep on editin’!


There are books which call for a kind of performance timing that doesn’t come naturally to me – Not My Ruckus is a good example – and I will spend considerably more time on those cleanup edits, changing the spacing, removing breaths, etc.  Not My Ruckus‘s narrator is a teenaged autistic girl; I have raised a teenaged autistic girl, and based my performance very much on her speech patterns.  But one thing that did not come naturally to me, was her spacing, the way she doesn’t leave room between sentences/paragraphs – or stops abruptly and leaves a lot of room.  I didn’t want to make the book difficult to listen to, so I kept the edit subtle, but it was a very important aspect of her characterization as demonstrated via the performance of her entire thought process as a 1st person narrator, and I spent a lot of time in the edit creating the sense of pace and arrhythmic speech pattern that help inform the reader on an almost unconscious level, that Lilac’s brain doesn’t work the same way a neurotypical kid’s brain works.

Ironically, I used to speak very much the same way my daughter does, and my current much more measured, or lively, or direct speech is very much the result of thousands of hours of self-taught and well-directed narration 🙂  I learned myself right out of being able to narrate Lilac!

The cleanup edit is The Big Edit – it’s what people imagine when you say ‘I am editing my audio’; cutting things, moving things – kind of like you’re using a word processor, only with audio.  But as I explained above, when you’re learning to narrate there is high value in examining your performance very closely as you edit – to learn pacing, to learn where enunciation isn’t working, to learn where breaths matter (or are not wanted), to learn how to land an emotional beat like a brick-drop.  This learning editing process is not something people imagine you’re doing when you say ‘I’m editing.’  It’s very much redesigning your performance in a whole new way, and I think it’s a really critical learning stage.  You can teach yourself so much if you simply listen critically and then experiment with lots of different options in the edit.  You can learn even more if you have a friend or director who can point out things you hadn’t considered, and then act on their suggestions.

These days, I seldom need to do that kind of ‘redesign my performance’ edit – but sometimes I see an opportunity to hugely increase the impact of an emotional beat by changing the timing, and I’m so so glad I’ve learned how to hear 🙂  I never consider my learning finished in the process – I listen critically to every performance from phrase to paragraph to page to chapter, and apply what I hear to the next time in front of the mic every day.

When you spend time very carefully evaluating your performance and deciding what you like and what you don’t, what works and what doesn’t work…that’s where you develop your own personal sound.  This is a double edged sword some times 🙂  I have a very specific narrative sound, and I’ve found it to be very polarizing.  People either really love it, or really don’t.  And that’s okay.  I know what it is I’m aiming for, and I know it very exactly – it’s easy to tell, because it’s very consistent. 

This doesn’t mean all of my books sound the same!  In fact my books can sound quite different.  Compare Not My Ruckus  to Gracie & Zeus Live the Dream  to Red Shoes to every short story in Valhalla, and you’ll hear a lot of flexibility.  The reason I have that flexibility, is because I spent oodles of time deciding on and then refining my approach to performance.  Where my performance sits, what is consistent across every thing I do, isn’t the pace or the character voices or the narrative voices … it’s the immersion in the story in such a way that I am transparent to the listener.  It’s a very very very very subtle thing, but if there’s something that makes me good, that is what makes me good.


I hope this has been fun to read, for those of you interested in process.  I adore process!  I watch every DVD extra, I listen to every director commentary, I watch all the ‘how we did that special effect’ behind-the-scenes clips.  This meandering post is for all those who enjoy the same process stuff 🙂

And if you have any questions or discussion points, hit me up in comments or on twitter!  I love talking shop, both about my process and the process of everyone else as well 🙂

Monday, April 26, 2021

Gracie & Zeus Live the Dream – it’s a hilarious romp! it’s a mystery! it’s a celebration of NA brains! and it was super fun to narrate :D

 This book has been an absolute blast to narrate 😀  Full of fun voices that get to be played (largely) very broad; full of neuroatypical brains – which I also have in my skull; is full of musicians, which I am as well; and a mystery that’s just so weird you’re going WHY ARE YOU INTERRUPTING MY PERFECTLY GOOD BOOK??

…which is, indeed, what the characters are saying 😀

Recording Gracie & Zeus – or as I have said the book the entire time, so this will forever be how I refer to it, Zeus and Gracie – was bracketed by my 2 Covid Moderna mRNA vaccine injections. 

This was Not The Plan.  I had a plan!  A perfectly good one!

I had no idea I would be eligible in group 1b…but turns out cancer is one of the qualifying factors.  ‘How much cancer do i need to be having??’ I asked the pharmacist. ‘Is there an AMOUNT of cancer I gotta have?’  He laughed and stuck me with a needle.

I had a nice schedule laid out for myself in which I would record Zeus & Gracie over the course of 3-4 weeks, starting in last week or so of March, understanding the due date to be May 1st.  Looots of buffer – that’s how you live when you have chronic illness. 

That last two weeks of March, I and other family members caught the flu. (i had to put off my 1st Moderna because of the flu! i was miffed!) 

Okay, two weeks down.

But hey – the scheduling gods smiled on me so I could reschedule my vaccine right away!  Yay!  I should have realized my mistake in advance because (as has been noted) I have a non-standard-issue immune system, and it freaked right out.  (also having had covid helped I’m sure – immune system was like oh HELL no!).

Yeah, two more weeks down.

QUICK! RECORD RECORD RECORD!  At this point my plan was to have most of the book done before my second Moderna vaccine, on the assumption that I would have a week or so of misery and would be moving slowly at the finish.  The Moderna vaccines are a month apart, and a month was more than I needed to do a really polished job – with 2 weeks after that point in which to wrap up if needed, though I’d probably be feeling crappy.  I can edit while feeling crappy!  just, yk, not perform 😀

So! such a good plan 🙂  I’m learning to be organized!  I’ve got Notion, I’m figuring out how to be scheduled, I’m figuring out how to do books a little at a time rather than wiping myself out in surges!  Lookin’ good!

….two days before vaccine #2, I get a kind email from the publisher asking how the audio is coming along, as the due date for completion was, in fact, that day.


a thing that I thought I was doing right! I had a date on my calendar and everything – I thought I knew the due-date!  Note to self – double check this next time.

Okay, I was within a stone’s throw – doing much better than I had even thought I would – and could be done before my second vaccine; since the second vaccine was sure to knock me on my ass for a week or more, if the due date was ‘yesterday please,’ I’d be best off pushing really hard and getting done just a couple days later than the official date.  I’d be tired, but I’d be dealing with a known state of health pre-2nd-vaccine rather than the ???? of post-2nd-vaccine.

so that, indeed, I did.  This is exactly what I was trying not to do, of course!  I had paced myself!  I was careful of my health and being really On for recording and editing so they’d be both high quality and time efficient.  I’m always able to be narratively On – but efficient, that’s where my prior lack of system is what I’m learning to re-design.

I worked until 4am the night before my second vaccine and got done editing and fully proofing in time to zonk out, in time to wake up and get poked in the arm! whoo!

And I was so so miserable the past week LOL

But Zeus & Gracie was as absolute HOOT and I had the best time recording it 🙂  It’s a romp, it’s a mystery, it’s a celebration of neuro-atypical brains, life, points of view, actual literal behaviour (not too many books CELEBRATE!), it has elements of romance, it’s got an acid rave, it’s got kidnapping, it’s got murder[attempts!], and it’s full of people who you absolutely will recognize as, “I’ve known someone Just Like That!”

And while it wasn’t easy on my body, it gave the audiobook that intense all-at-once hyperfocus that has its own energy, too 😀

I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did


Sunday, April 18, 2021

if you could ask me to natter on about something…what would it be?

reposted from a tweet-thread:

Filed under ‘random but looking forward to it; send help’

A few months ago I had the fun task of scaring up a lrg/med diaphragm USB mic that might remotely match my *cough* expensive mics so that there could be a reasonable match of 2 people in 1 audiobook.

I researched the stuffing out of mics in this category, and there were frankly very few that hit the very specific sound of my studio mics (they’re just really specific) in a price range that I would consider a mic I’d ask someone else to pick up, just so we could record together across hundreds of miles.

I finally stumbled upon a mic shoot-out (i’d listened to dozens) that made me sit up in my chair, plaster my ear to my headphones, turn up the volume, and listen 20 times in a row going OMG, THAT’S CLOSE! and advised my friend to pick it up.

So, yk, we can now record on the same project and so THATs nice 😀

But then time passes, and I decide i want to do more informal ‘podcast-y’ type recording – but rather than my ‘Unplugged (but still in my studio) Podcast,’ actually informal enough that I could do it from the comfort of my room (rather than my studio).  What can I say – this podcasting thing makes me want to be in my studio less, rather than more.  (I love my studio!  But it invites capital W work, yk?)

so…i go looking for another copy of that mic (made by a company about 12 years ago that got out of the mic-making biz after a couple years & so thus hard to find) and a little tripod shock-mount stand for it, assuming it’ll take time to track one down…and by george, I FOUND ONE! Right away! Almost unused!

I’m excited 😀 I can record stuff at a quality that won’t give me physical pain, but in a chill way, relaxing on my own loft bed – whee!

I’m so excited about *inexpensive* gear for once!  (god, my ear inclines me to fucking expensive taste and it is both a blessing (wow, nice quality audiobooks Ivy!) and a curse (oh holy hell the price tag is WAT.)



…what’ll I say? gosh…i’m not sure!

Any ideas? would you guys toss out audio questions to me? Would i have to come up with rambly topics of conversation all on my lonesome?  (perish the thought, says the person who can talk. for. ev. er.) I’ll use something like @RiversidedotFM to just make it REALLY LOW-SPOON investment.

But hey! Maybe it’ll be fun?? i don’t know what thoughts? i could vloggify? (i have the camera for it, and riversideFM makes it easy even for the video-noob i gues…)


um…thx for coming to my TED!ramble  😀


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Notion, guys. Notion is The Shit.


Aquamat - Notion ( Deep Romantic Vocal mix ) – AquamatPhew. Thank goodness for Notion helping me keep track of my progress on Current Book (on the last 3 books, actually) – because I am so natively INCAPABLE OF THINKING IN AN ORGANIZED WAY.  I’ve tried everything I could find over the years to help me keep track of and be reminded of my scheduled activities.

Nothing worked.

I don’t know why – my adhd wiring just didn’t click with anything else i ever tried.

And then in January, I began taking productivity classes – very aware that starting to work with Cinnabar Press would mean consistent books (yay!!) – and that I really needed to figure out how to manage my scattered brain!  And one of the tool suggested in one class, was Notion.

Notion is easy (short learning curve), incredibly flexible, powerful, really clean UI for those of us with dyslexia for whom clutter is DISASTROUS (see previous blog post on how much i HATE the WP CMS UI).  It’s easy to make things attractive….basically everything is thorough, incredibly organized, and easy to follow.

Creating a system to time my chapter recordings and post-processing and take notes on fixes I need was really easy with minimal tinkering, and by god I CAN KEEP 4 PROJECTS GOING AT ANY ONE TIME AND KNOW WHERE I AM ON EACH AND WHICH THING I’M WORKING ON TODAY TO MOVE TOWARD THOSE GOALS.

guys….I cannot organize my DRESSER.  I cannot remember where I set down the pen I was just using.

Notion is allowing me to keep track of a (sekrit! between books!) project I’m working on that has literally 150 multi-track effects recording going on.  Plus a massive, years-long study project with hundreds of elements, many of which i need to keep notes on that i can cross reference by linking them to each other across the databases….but since databases make my eyes cross, i’ve never used them.  Notion makes databases easy on the eyes, flexible, intuitive, and as powerful as you want them to be – or as simple as you want them to be.

Here’s one video (among many dozens on youtube alone) showing how Notion can be used.  He’s got a really developed system that can look overwhelming at first glance -but that’s okay! You can start with a to-do list. And then maybe one item on your todo list could stand for some note-taking.  so you turn that item into a page…which still sits within your original list, but when you click on it a pop-up page appears, with all the notes you’ve taken.  Then you might realize that several things on that todo list are linked, and that setting the pages up in a table where you could have tags to crossreference them with would be helpful.  So you do that.

….and 2 months later you’ve got a super organized, easily navigated, attractive, easy on the eyes, information system that lets you organize, archive, plan, track progress of, just about anything in your life you could think of 🙂

It’s free for individual users – jump in!  Ali Abdaal has links to some templates to start with – Notion has many many templates from the simple to the complex, so you can just play with them, throw bits out….PLAY!  See what happens 🙂

….you’re welcome 🙂  I hope!

Monday, April 12, 2021

deep cello rambling

In my most recent blog post, I lead with a photo of a cello. A couple of photos of a cello actually LOL  As I noted, it had been quite a long time since I had last played – life had happened, cello fell out of my brain and it was…just something from my past. I couldn’t explain it, it didn’t trouble me much, in fact the hardest part was letting the actual instrument and bow go. Of course cellos – and this is not very well known cello bows which can cost easily half the value of the instrument – are expensive. They are quite the investment of money. Even more than the cost issue, I had commissioned my previous cello to be made, with specific ideas in mine.  This wasn’t any big expensive thing, just a fluke of luck. Likewise my cello bow was another fluke of luck, found for less than half the market price – a jewel, a prize.

My previous cello was (to start shallow) a stunning gold-red with a soft velvet finish, a beautiful upfront really complex sound, and a light resonant body that sang with overtones at a simple tap on the wood. It was easy to make sound really good, and not too difficult to make sound amazing. The bow was a fantastic find, making the cello sound half again as good as it would have otherwise. This came home to me really clearly when I sold the cello.  The young man who bought it played it for his trial with his own bow, and my cello sounded lovely of course; but then just for fun, and because he had never played with such a good bow, I had him play with mine. And after just a couple of notes he stopped, stunned, and we stared at each other and then both just laughed. He negotiated with his father to purchase that bow with the cello – and I made sure that it went home with him.

A few weeks ago, when I realized that the cello part of my brain had woken back up, I figured I would look around and eventually, perhaps, maybe, it was conceivable, find – say – a carbon cello. Used, probably. So I went to one of my favorite websites just to look around. Because that website has really good sample sounds for their cellos, it was going to be very fun to listen to many different instruments – from student quality entry-level instruments, to a very nice carbon cello, to intermediate instruments, to young professional instruments, to an astonishing 300 year old Italian cello, which sounded like butter melting in a sweet springtime sun. Wow.

I never intended to find a cello I wanted. I never considered I might listen to a cello I would like to have right now. I never intended to get into a conversation with the owner of the business… and yet that conversation happened. And the next thing I knew, we were listening to and discussing cellos in an enjoyable 90-minute ramble that covered everything from playing Cello’s with hand injuries, to riding horses on beaches in warm sunny climes.

What amazed me was to listen, for a third time, to a cello that hadn’t caught my ear before, and realize it was a truly lovely instrument. I hadn’t noticed it on the first few listens because it was so very different than my beautiful beloved reedy, room-filling, gold-red cello. Where my old cello was bright and up front, this cello was buttery smooth, integrated as if it were a ten-year-old instrument, very even from bottom to top (which is very unusual in a young instrument and indicates a lot about its intrinsic quality) and complex in a very subtle way. It isn’t a cello that would stand out played in a group, but it is a cello that will rivet your ear listening to it alone. It is a cello that was arresting, and yet soothing, and yet fascinating.

Dear reader, need I say what happened next? Quite unexpectedly I had come into a small sum of cash, and while I was very happy having it in savings, purchasing a cello is almost never a loss. The more a cello is played the more mature the sound becomes and the greater its value….so purchasing a cello wasn’t throwing money away, it was just keeping it in savings in another concept.

Within 12 hours the cello was on its way to me, and after trying several bows I am enthralled in a way I did not realize I would ever be again. And certainly not in a way I could ever be by a subtle instrument as in contrast to an in-your-face, grab your attention instrument LOL I have been playing it for a couple of weeks, and am enchanted.

Cellos go through many stages of breaking in, the first being the first couple of months a new cello is played consistently. After that there is about a five-year stretch where the cello matures slowly, and then somewhere between that time and 10 years, there is a jump to a much more integrated consistent sound. After that, it simply gets better and better like a fine wine.

I have profound hand injuries, especially on the right-hand – which is of course the hand which takes the most strain, as it is the hand that holds the bow – through which a considerable amount of force will be distributed, even with the gentlest technique. My original instructor was quite the wizard at figuring out technique for my bow hand that would protect it from most damage. And I have been relearning, from many videos of the cellists who that bow technique drew on the most, how best to bow all over again. And, since my goal this time is very different than my goal a decade ago (which was to play concertos, at which I was very successful having been a classically-trained musician my whole life) this time, I am taking my time. I want to make sure my bow technique is as light and non-stressful and gentle and yet resonant as it can be, without further damaging my hand. In fact, I want playing my cello to be a consistent form of strengthening and physical therapy for that hand.

 These days what I most want to do on cello is play by ear (again, musician for my whole life, this is just part of my skillset – for which I am grateful, since it gives me another way to create!). Play with my spouse’s amazing electronic music, with which I do some nonverbal vocalizing to make lovely pieces, and which would work equally well with the human-voice-plus sound of my beautiful mellow sounding new cello. I want to play what is in my heart, rather than what is on a music staff. They are equally good goals, it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison to try to judge one over the other. I am simply in a different place in my life, in my creative career, in my creative goals, in my creative collaborations, in my current audio projects.

My soul wants to play the cello at this time, my soul is what responded to hearing a cello after all this time, and my soul is what wishes to sing through my lovely, red buttery instrument.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

hello and cello!



Hello blog!

Well, it appears I’ve got up and running!  Almost mostly!  I do stil really loathe the WP CMS, but at least I found something that I can work with – and that has music players and podcast players when I want them, and allows for embedding from other audiobook/podcast/music streaming sources if I’d like that.  So…all in all, a win!

Which is to say, I claim victory over a brand-new-to-me CMS and shall now do a victory dance, although you don’t get to see it 😀

Why did I create another website?  Well, was very much intended for my audiobooks, and I wanted to have a business name that covered more aspects of what I do. 

I’m a musician, I’m a photographer, I dabble in podcasting – though I must admit I’m very hiatus on them right now!  I started podcasts because I was between books, whereupon *three books in a row* descended upon my extremely grateful head, absorbing the past 7 months!  I produce my own audiobooks – thus am an editor and producer as well.  I am going to be producing an audiobook for Cinnabar Press – which published Not My Ruckus (so so so amazing a book, seriously guys – LISTEN TO OR READ NOT MY RUCKUS BY CHAD MUSICK.  It’s just…a book that will devastate you and yet you’ll want to come back to it and celebrate with it. okay, parenthetical freak-out over!) – and, again, audiobook producing is very different than audiobook narration, so that’s a new category, too 🙂  In the year of the pandemic, i finally relented and let myself start to use twitter as if I’m a real human, rather than using it to put out 5 posts when I have an audiobook release – so there’s been a goodly amount of tweeting!

And on top of all of these things, there are upcoming projects that will *also* be featured here, that aren’t strictly audiobook related.  Basically?  I expanded the scope of what I wished to put under one roof – and thus 🙂

Just like I haven’t been much of a twitter person until recently, I haven’t been much of a blog person in aeons.  And I thought, well, as long as I’m creating a website that is no longer only an Audiobook Portfolio Site…I might as well start blogging again, too.  We’ll see how well I can keep up with that!

I have even considered doing some, well, lets say ‘light weight vlogging’ ??  I’m a semi-professional photographer, so I have the gear I need to do a reasonable vlog; the question is, how much would Ienjoy that?  I really don’t know!  So I think I’m going to try it and find out! 

….oh my… a thought – vlogging in my very Apocalypse In Progress hair 😀  Which consists of a #2 clipper attachment LOL  I go from ‘cute velvet silvery head’ to ‘fluffy silvery dandylion head’ depending on how recently the  clippers have been employed!  Alas, I want my haircut back.  I am lucky enough (unlucky enough?) to be in vaccine phase 1b rollout, and my jab is scheduled for a couple of days from now – so gosh, I guess haircuts are something that I can do without endangering anyone!  ….time to stop applying clippers to my head and let my dandylion fluff grow out!  ANYWAY – video!  I think it will depend a lot on a project coming up that might work well with video.  We’ll see 😉

So, yes!  Many things!

Since I haven’t written much about me (previous site being focused on audiobooks only, I kept my posts related to that…and then they got lost in a site-collapse LOL), some factoids!  I have a border collie I adore, two grown children I adore, a spouse I adore, and 3 cats who make all of us laugh all the time.  I am not allergic to the humans, but I am allergic to all of the animals, alas!  But if I don’t fur actually on my face, and if we keep air purifiers running, I can co-exist with all the furry critters, which is good because they make life so fun.

I live in Montana, where the offleash border collie friendly hiking literally surrounds us in every direction.  Collie and I go hiking all the time.  Hiking got a bit interrupted after I got covid last year, cause damn that thing wipes you out even if you have a ‘mild’ case (mild was still the sickest I’ve been in 25 years).  But I love to hike, and I’m damn lucky to live a stone’s throw from All The Hiking.

I’m an avid cyclist.  I got a leash attachment for my bike this spring!  And Wish the collie is learning to trot next to the bike, it’s really fun!  We won’t be able to bike in the truly hot weather, but spring and fall I’m really looking forward to puppy biking 🙂

I’ve been a photographer for a couple of decades, primarily candids and big outdoors-y things.  Photographs will undoubtedly show up here 🙂

I’m a breast cancer survivor, and a very fortunate one.  It was caught early, it was surgery-ized completely, I didn’t need chemo or radiation, and it’s about the most common ‘survive till you’re 85 and die of something else entirely!’ variety of breast cancer.  Was it scary?  Probably.  Did I focus on that?  Clearly not!  It’s still something I’m processing, even now a few years after.  Cancer – don’t get it, kids.  0/10 experience, do not reccommend! 

I have a whole host of conjoined comorbid illnesses that are boring to recount, but suffice to say they add up to constant fatigue and very intermittent functioning.  About the only thing I could be is an audiobook narrator!  Because I record in my home studio, and can always make it across the house and sink down into another world in front of my microphones.

And how the heck did I end up BEING an audiobook narrator??  Man, there are probably a thousand paths to this strange work – but mine was pretty much ‘shot out of a cannon, straight line to current location.’  I’ve been recording myself since I got a tape recorder as a little kid.  Rapidly I appropriated a second tape recorder so that I could sing harmony with myself and record that LOL  I have recorded books for friends, for myself, and eventually someone said, ‘Tell me again, why aren’t you doing this professionally?’  So I jumped in and started learning the ropes of the actual biz side of things – at which I am just not good LOL! 

But what I most wanted to find as a narrator, was a small press that I could work with consistently.  As I began building a catalog of audiobooks, I sent auditions to all kinds of small publishers, and just got nowhere with it.  I knew my narration style was off the beaten track, and that wasn’t going to change, so after a while I just…decided to stop wanting, and simply to wait and see what happened.  And what happened was a pandemic; and suddenly we were alll communicating online, and so I decided to use twitter as it’s meant to be used – to interact, to make connections, to comment on the world and have conversations about it.  Out of that came an author who handed me two quick books in succession and champions my work whenever he gets a chance (THANK YOU PHIL!!), and, at long last, a small press as off-beat and questing as I am – Cinnabar Press.  I am so fortunate to have been found by them, and to have their steady confidence in and celebration of my work.

But Ivy, I hear you saying, why are there cello photographs at the top of this post??

Well, one thing I was avidly for years was a cellist.  And then something happened, and i stopped playing.  But recently, cello started calling my name again.  I never thought it would; I sold my gorgeous beloved cello and bow to a young man on his way to conservatory, and was glad my custom made instrument was going into the hands of someone who would play it for a zillion hours.  I was sad, but for whatever reason, cello was simply ‘over’ and I just didn’t think much about it.  I could hear cello music and enjoy it, I could see cellists playing and enjoy that (have you seen Apocalyptica play?? go watch a video, dAMN!).  I simply felt no draw toward it, and that was okay.

And then…the other day I saw the video of Yo Yo Ma playing cello in the waiting room of the vaccine clinic where he went for his second vaccination – what an amazing and generous man Yo Yo Ma has always been! – and a switch flipped in my head, and Cellist became an ‘I’ identifier once again.  So I had the fantastic fortune to find the fantastic sounding cello in the photos up there, just *exactly* the cello I want, right when I went looking for it…and now it’s on its way here.  To me.  For me to play.  Cello has come back to me.

Will you ever hear cello audio files posted here as Yet Another Thing Ivy Does (!) ?  I don’t know 🙂  I’ll have to re-learn everything about playing, and I know for certain I’m not in the same headspace – former headspace being performing a Dvorak concerto – which I adored, don’t get me wrong! but conventional performance is not at all what I’m drawn to right now.  So we’ll just have to see whether cello shows up on here.  I  strongly suspect it will, but I have only a vague idea in what form that might be.