6 Tips for Recording an Audiobook

Venomous is in the process of being beta-read. I’m hoping for an August release, but I don’t want to rush it. In the meanwhile, I’ve been working on the audiobook for Vessels. I’ve already recorded all of Part One, and at this pace, I should be done by the beginning of May.

Now, editing it all together is a different story. But I’ve learned some things about narrating that I’d like to share with you all.

Pictured: completely not my studio

Pictured: completely not my studio

1. Warm Up Your Voice

Your vocal cords are muscles too. Just like you wouldn’t wake up and perform a super-heavy deadlift right then and there, you shouldn’t go into a recording without warming up your voice. I take some deep breaths and then say this weird stream-of-consciousness.

Eat each green pea. Aim straight at the game. Ed said get ready.
It is in Italy. I tried my kite. Oaks grow slowly.
Father was calm as he threw the bomb on the dock.
An awed audience applauded Claude.
Go slow Joe, you're stepping on my toe.
Sauce makes the goose more succulent.
Up the bluff, Bud runs with the cup of love.
Red led men to the heifer that fell in the dell.
Maimed animals may become mean.
It's time to buy a nice limeade for a dime.
Oil soils doilies.
Flip a coin, Roy, you have a choice of oysters or poi.
Sheep shears should be sharp.
At her leisure, she used rouge to camouflage her features.
There's your cue, the curfew is due.
It was the student's duty to deliver the Tuesday newspaper.
He feels keen as he schemes and dreams.
Much of the flood comes under the hutch.
Boots and shoes lose newness soon.
Ruth was rude to the youthful recruit.
Vivid, livid, vivifying. Vivid experiences were lived vicariously.
Oddly, the ominous octopus remained calm.
The pod will rot if left on the rock.
Look, you could put your foot on the hood and push.
Nat nailed the new sign on the door of the diner.
Dale's dad died in the stampede for gold.
Thoughtful thinkers think things through.
Engineer Ethelbert wrecked the express at the end of Elm Street.

2. Do a Dry Run

I would advise reading the paragraph once before you even record. That way, sudden instances of alliteration or a weird word doesn’t trip you up. You’ll have a better understanding of what’s coming up if you just read the passage out loud without bothering to record yet.

3. Work Small

Don’t think you can do a whole chapter in one take. They’re just too long. Break up your chapter recording into paragraphs and save after each one. You can cut out any long pauses between sentences and paragraphs easily enough in any recording software (I use Audacity. It’s free!)

4. Go Slow

You can’t clearly enunciate if you’re too busy trying to be a lyrical rapper. Take your time and speak as if you’re saying a prayer or giving a speech. You want everyone to understand you. After all, they paid to hear your words!

5. Take Breaks

Audiobooks are marathons, not sprints. Yeah, I know it’s just reading out loud, but you’re putting on a performance with every word. You have to put verve and vigor into it, and that can get downright exhausting. And then you become hyper-aware of how clumsy your stupid mouth is and that’s the point where you just need to walk away.

6. Sample Your Background Noise

So you’re ready to go, but when you hit ‘Record’ your levels are spiking! And you haven’t started speaking! Sometimes the microphone can pick up unexpected and unwanted sounds. A noisy computer, a passing car with a crappy muffler, or a neighbor mowing his lawn can all mess up your recording. If you don’t have a super decked-out studio with audio foam on all the walls, there’s not a whole lot you can do but wait.

GMCFOSHO has ruined my recording and he doesn’t even live anywhere near me. #swag.

Character Profile: Eshmedi

Image Source:  Simon Wijers  from Pixabay

Image Source: Simon Wijers from Pixabay

Age: Well into his seventies

Hometown: Uftem

Likes: There is only duty in attending to the Final God, although he likes a good fig from time to time.

Eshmedi knows how to take the blackness from the river and distill it into a purer, more potent form. This would be used in the embalming of the dead as well as for other important ceremonies and rituals. When he was a young man, he was working to distill a batch of khemu when it ignited in the sun and brutally burned the side of his face.

Some say he was never the same again. He says that’s mystic nonsense.

Eshmedi is the Listener of Uftem Temple. Every day, he went deep within the temple crypt and poured out a basin of khemu, that sacred viscous black substance that animates the dead. He had to drink it and wait in the darkness for the High Hierophant, Uskandr, to speak with him through the khemu and tell him what he must do.

Uftem is not an important town. It never needed orders until Ashira washed up on the banks of the Neferamtat River. Then Uskandr became very interested in the boring little town and requested frequent reports on the girl’s recovery and development.

Eshmedi was trained in how to read signs and portents in everyday goings-on. When Ashira survived being drowned, he took it as a sign that she was favored by the gods. When she healed the sick, he thought her a saint. But when she commanded the dead, he knew she was the return of the Black Pharaoh.

Some say that drinking the khemu will drive a man mad. Eshmedi is content to let the people believe what they want. They are already fearful of his scarred face. Nothing he could do or say would sway them otherwise, so why should he exert himself? Raising a pharaoh in the way she ought to go is taxing enough.

Character Profile: Isafri

Source: Pexels.com

Source: Pexels.com

Age: Don’t you know you never ask a lady her age? Looks to be in her early 20’s.

Hometown: An exotic place far, far, far away but she’ll never tell you the name of it.

Likes: Dancing, good food, good wine, the finer things of life, but also climbing to high places

Isafri is an agent of the Eclipse, but while many of her counterparts are grim, rough men who would knife you as soon as look at you, she works on a far more subtle level. She specializes in infiltration, counter-intelligence, and espionage. Only when it is absolutely vital does she actually make a kill.

She normally poses as a shockingly beautiful woman, because they can get in anywhere for anything, but she is a master of disguise. Her beauty, or lack thereof, is a deliberate choice that she can easily control. If you can see her, she has decided to let you see her, how you perceive her, and whether or not you walk away from the encounter.

She wasn’t always a glamorous, powerful woman. Long ago, she was just another street urchin who posed as a boy, flitting from rooftops and hiding in alleys. Calling herself Tal to complete the disguise, she did odd jobs for merchants or outright stole just to survive.

Until Mwarthes found her and gave her a choice that wasn’t really a choice at all.

Character Profile: Memnon


Age: Unknown. Looks to be in his late 20s, early 30s

Hometown: Wherever he lays his head to sleep.

Likes: The satisfaction of a job well done, high places, fruit, good beer

Memnon is an assassin for the cult known as the Eclipse, but he couldn’t tell you for how long he’s been employed by them. He couldn’t tell you a whole lot of what he did before he joined, though he knows he was in the Khemeret army for a long time. He was a scout, sneaking into enemy territory to gather information and potential weaknesses.

As dangerous and lonely it was, he enjoyed that job until his troop was ambushed by an Alvari war party. Ambushed because he did not see them. Ambushed because he had not done his job.

He will not make the same mistake with his new master.

He was Mwarthes’ superior for a time, and he was quite certain that the absurdly tall man would either get himself killed or be punished for incompetence. But year after year, Mwarthes thrived in the secretive organization. He’s just too silly for Memnon, and he tries to keep his distance whenever possible.

Memnon is not a handsome man. With his heavy brow and long greasy hair, he does not attract the eyes of women. Years of work with the bow has given him a much larger left shoulder, while the right side of his back ripples with muscle. Though he was never tall to begin with, he has a hunchback look to him.

He doesn’t care how he looks. There is only his work.

Character Profile: Mwarthes

Illustration by:  Quinton Thomas

Illustration by: Quinton Thomas

Age: Unknown (Somewhere between 28 and 35? Don’t worry about it. Age is just a number.)
Hometown: Nowhere special
Likes: Hawks, snakes, having a good time

Mwarthes (pronounced M’war-thez, shut up, he knows it’s not a good name) is an assassin for the cult known as the Eclipse. If its agents do good enough work, they receive gifts like regeneration and access to the Silence, a method of communicating wordlessly with the Master over great distances.

Also the Eclipse serves the legendary pharaoh Nephtet-Ka and is preparing for his return to the living world.

Or something. He didn’t pay much attention during orientation.

Mwarthes gets to see exotic locations and meet new, interesting people, frequently for very short amounts of time. He doesn’t die as easily as others, and he gets to enjoy a kind of limited immunity to most ailments.

Sometimes he is called back to the Master and undergoes certain rituals. He wakes up changed, but usually it’s for the better.

Though when he wakes up again, he’s unsure what day it is. Or week. Or…

His latest job? Something unusual, a little out of his wheelhouse. He’s usually told to go to a place to kill a certain person. Instead, he has to guide Ashira all the way across the country to fulfill some prophecy. Even though he’s ordered to escort her such a long way, he doesn’t mind. He’s good at traveling, and his charge is a sheltered, spoiled, and prideful girl.

He’s going to have so much fun.

Ancient Egyptian Beer

Vessels takes place in a desert kingdom similar to ancient Egypt.

But how similar?

From Vessels“We had a tavern (back in our hometown) and it used to be very busy. All the soldiers stationed there would come and drink. Did you know they prefer beer without chunks in it? I know, Alvari are strange. But we catered to their tastes, they became happy, and we became wealthy."

Beer with chunks in it? No, that's not a throwaway line. Ancient Egyptian beer was chunky.

During the Old Kingdom, entire loaves of bread would be placed in water and left in heated clay jars to ferment, resulting in a starchy, chunky draft. Later on, during the New Kingdom, wheat and barley were made into a mash. Dates, honey, and fruit would be added for higher-quality ceremonial brews\ that would later be strained through baskets to ensure a smooth drink.

And in What the River Brought, there are scenes of children drinking beer during a big, village-wide festival. This wasn't negligent parenting. Men, women, and children could all drink beer and have it be socially acceptable. Beer wasn't just for intoxication. It was nutritious too. And it was believed to cure all sorts of ailments.

Beer was such a staple of everyday life in ancient Egypt, workers would be paid three times a day in just beer. There are ledgers of laborers and their payments during the construction of some of the greatest monuments of the ancient world.

                      Pictured: payday

                      Pictured: payday

This beverage, through some really awesome crafters, has been recreated to the best of modern ability and is said to be a smooth fruity beverage that is dark red in color. And they would drink it as soon as the beer was fermented, straight from the vat using a straw.

Women were the first brewsters and making beer was seen as a holy ritual accompanied by praying and singing. Later on, when beer became used in all the important rituals and celebrations, the pharaohs had the creation of the beverage converted into a state-run agency.

And, did you know? Beer saved all of mankind!

The god Ra grew tired of man's constant sinning. Another story said that he found out about a plot mankind had to kill him. Either way, he sent his daughter Sekhmet to transform into a great lion and lay waste to all of humanity. Later on, just before every single person in the world was slaughtered, Ra changed his mind and called her off.

Ra tried to call her off. Sekhmet was so overcome with bloodlust that she would not heed her father's command. So he transformed the Nile river into beer and had it dyed red so she would think it was blood. Sekhmet drank and drank until she became so drunk that she fell asleep and freaking transformed into an entirely different god named Hathor.

                                                        change my mind

                                                        change my mind

So beer was important enough to be used as payment, medicine, sustenance, invoking the gods, and waylaying murder-happy goddesses. Crack open a cold one and give thanks. Or brew your own Pharaoh Ale!