Author Archives: Setsu

About Setsu

Everything you'd possibly want to know is on my blog: KatanaPen.wordpress.com

Narrating Outside My Comfort Zone

PseudoPod 537: A World of Bones by Brian Trent went live on April 7.

When you audition to be a narrator for Escape Artists, we ask for a bit of information. Experience, languages, and dialects are all important; but so is knowing which material you’d consider off-limits. Forcing a performance sucks, both for the narrator and for the audience — and we’d never want our narrators to read anything they feel uncomfortable with. Some narrators prefer not to read sex, some graphic violence, some prefer to stay away from particular themes, and some are down for anything.

I generally decline graphic content, but this story gave me a chance to push those boundaries out a bit. Brian wrote a great, evocative tale, and I’m grateful to him and PseudoPod for giving me this chance to grow as a performer. Turns out I’m far more convincing as an ancient creeper than a heroine.

Shocking, I know.

While I am proud of this one, I will not be telling my parents about it. Lame, I know, but it’s a big step for me.

Here is some of my other voice work. I’ll keep updating the Narration page.

 

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

StarShipSofa

KatanaPen

Pseudopod

Escape Pod

PodCastle

Heavy Gear? Knight vs Soldier vs Firefighter

Demonstration of relative mobility issues of a modern soldier, a firefighter, and a knight in full kit. There are some obvious differences in the ages and fitness/stamina level of the participants, but this should give some indication of agility and fighting ability of knights in armor.
 

Visit to Pseudopod Tower

For Escape Artists’ annual Artemis Rising event, I had the pleasure of guest-hosting The Lady With the Light by Mel Kassel at Pseudopod.

Pseudopod is a short-fiction horror podcast, and they’ve been going strong for over a decade. If you’re new to horror, podcasting, short fiction, or any combination of those things — check out this list of thirteen stories that show the strength and diversity of their offerings.

I have a story in GdM Issue #11

I just found out I’m sharing an issue of Grimdark Magazine with Brent Weeks.

This is a bit of a special moment for me.

When I was studying sword in rural China, I got sick. Coughing-blood sick. The only way to get medicine was through an IV, and I was set to go home in a few weeks, so I tried to tough it out.

Sifu took me aside one night and said if I didn’t go to the hospital and get the medicine, I’d die. At the time, it felt like a choice between dying now, or dying in ten years from something on a dirty needle.

I stayed up most of the night trying to decide, and struggling to breathe.

I did wind up going to the hospital, and was on an IV for three days. The Night Angel trilogy kept me company while I recovered, and took my mind off whatever consequences I’d have to face for my decision*.
When I got back to the US, my little brother mailed me a copy of his new favorite book, The Way of Shadows.

Everything turned out fine.

*(and my ignorant notions about country hospitals)

gdm11

GdM Issue #11 is up for pre-order, dropping on April 1.

FICTION
– Cry Wolf by Deborah A. Wolf
– Devouring the Dead by Laura Davy
– The First Kill by C.T. Phipps
– For Honour, For Waste by Setsu Uzume (reprint)

NON-FICTION
– The Odd Hopefulness of Grimdark by Matthew Cropley
– An Interview with Anna Smith-Spark
– Review: Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister
– An Interview with Brent Weeks
– Review: Sam McPheeters’ Exploded View

Pre-order now on:
Amazon.com: https://goo.gl/Gl3SsX
Amazon.co.uk: https://goo.gl/GCi3YA
Amazon.com.au: https://goo.gl/yyqhYl
Amazon.ca: https://goo.gl/9P2sBB

Or, sign up for your subscription now over on their Patreon page. You’ll get the issue delivered a few days earlier through here, too: https://goo.gl/jJUm2r

Add this issue on your Goodreads feed here: https://goo.gl/F0YjfM

On Narrating – Metals, Meats, Feels.

I started doing short-fiction narrations in 2015. Here are some things I’ve noticed since I started.

Metals:
Hardware, software, recording setup

  • Audacity is still my favorite for recording and editing voice. Other programs worth investigating include Amadeus Pro, Logic Express, Garageband, Parametric EQ, Adobe Audition, and RX 5 Audio Editor.
  • I made a sound recording box by lining a cardboard box with about two inches of foam (it’s a big box), and putting my Blue Yeti mic inside it.
  • The gain on the Blue Yeti mic (there’s a dial) is only at about 75%, and I make any other adjustments to the recording levels in audacity. This was meant to cut down on hiss, while still getting a loud and clear recording of my voice.
  • I got an even cleaner sound when I moved the recording box into a large coat closet, with the coats still in there for sound insulation. Glamorous, huh?
  • The sound box or sound insulation you create probably matters more than the microphone if you’re on a budget.
  • For narration, recording in Mono halves the size of the file. Stereo isn’t necessary.
  • It’s way easier to listen to all the versions and pick one take during editing, than to try to go back and insert something after the fact (see Feels for more).
  • Make sure you test your recording before you dive in. If there’s a technical issue midway through, you have to do the whole thing over again.
  • If you have a tablet or a smartphone, try reading off that. Paper rustles, mouses click. That stuff is a pain in the neck to edit out.
  • Meet your deadlines. You don’t have to be the best, but if you can deliver satisfactory product on time, that means a lot.

Meats:
Your voice, your body, your digestive system

  • Slow down.
  • I’ve gotten the best response from listeners when my voice was messed up, such as after being sick.
  • Warming up your voice gives you a richer and more consistent sound. If you decide to blow your voice out to make it gravelly, screaming is one option. My favorite band for warming up my voice is System of a Down (because they go really high and really low, depending on the harmony line you sing) and In This Moment.
  • If you have to stop recording — because you flubbed, or a car crashed outside, or the neighbor’s dog is barking — repeat the line at least twice. Sometimes the frustration of having had to pause is still in your voice. Your director ear will notice, even if your actor ear doesn’t.
  • Different accents happen in different places in your mouth. This can sometimes help you keep track of different characters during one recording session.
  • Similarly, different voices happen in different places in your throat. Pay attention to the physical sensation of a low voice, or the amount of air you’re using for a breathy voice. This is all muscle control, just like a pianist practicing finger position.
  • There’s a tendency for emotional stories or accented stories to speak in a monotone, or to rush over certain words to make it sound like fluency. I am guilty of this. Don’t do this, it sounds terrible.
  • Slow down.
  • There are resources for accent study, such as the International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA).
  • When I’ve had trouble pronouncing certain names of people (or rivers, or pastry), YouTube is a great resource. There are lots of interviews that begin with, “I’m here with Superstar Sportysport,” which will help you pronounce “Superstar.” This is also helpful when you’re dealing with unfamiliar spellings of familiar names.
  • Keep an ear out for foods that make your stomach growl. It’ll rumble when you’re hungry, and it’ll rumble when you’re digesting. The mic can pick that up.
  • For wet mouth, I’ve had some success with green apple slices. Several things can contribute to that ungodly clicking noise. Wet mouth is one, allergies can be another (the clicking can be up in your sinuses as well), and I’ve also heard that some of the clicks are caused by not opening your mouth wide enough when you speak. Avoid water, sugar, milk products, and coffee before and during a recording session.
  • Seriously. Slow down. For narration, clear enunciation will be more important than acting every time.

Feels:
Acting, vocal theater, seven roles in 30 minutes

  • If you’re cutting your own recording, you’re both the director and all of the actors. Give your future self something to work with, and remember your mistakes so you can figure out how to fix them. It’s a learning process, and we get better with practice.
  • Read through the story before you record it. You’re helping build toward the twist and the resolution. You’re in a position to plant seeds as much as the text is.
  • Old voices, young voices, gendered voices, and anything else that isn’t your natural voice risks becoming caricature. If you can hit the full emotional range in that voice without laughing or rolling your eyes (unless it’s in the script), you’ve got it.
  • People can’t see your face or your body language when you’re recording. However, you can still make faces and gesticulate if that helps you infuse emotion into your voice. When you’re listening to someone’s voicemail message, you can tell whether or not they were smiling, right?  Same thing.
  • During certain key moments (other than when I forget how words work) I’ll record a sentence or a piece of dialogue multiple times. This lets me work up to the right emotional pitch, and it gives me a chance to emphasize different words in the sentence to see what fits with the narrative, the characters, and the final ending. For example…
  • “We must forgive” could be read as, “WE must forgive,” or “we MUST forgive,” or “we must FORGIVE.” Each sentence is making a slightly different point.
  • I think the most recordings I’ve made of a single sentence was 26 times, because I couldn’t get my voice to crack quite the way I wanted until take 19 or so. Let the recording run until you’re back in the moment. Stay in the story; you can fix the recording later.
  • Speaking of staying in the story… I do want to kill my neighbor’s dog. Or at least tranquilize it. Unfortunately, both of these options are illegal (and will probably stress my neighbor out), so it’s been more handy to learn how to hold the emotional tension in my mind while waiting for the dog to stop barking, say the line again twice, and then continue with the story.
  • For emotional depth, acting chops, and bringing dozens of characters to life with vocal variety and consistency, my hands-down favorite narrators are Jim Dale (Harry Potter), and Tony Robinson (Discworld).

 

Whether you want to record short fiction, audiobooks, or be an anime or video game actor, short fiction narration is a great way to get your feet wet and make a little cash in the process.

For more in-depth details and lessons on voice acting from an experienced professional, check out Voice Acting Mastery, hosted by Crispin Freeman.

Interested in narrating for audio books? Check out the Audiobook Creation Exchange, where authors, narrators, studio professionals, publishers, and agents look for and showcase voice talent.

Interested in narrating for Escape Artists? Pseudopod, PodCastle, Cast of Wonders, and EscapePod are all looking for narrators to fit their stories. If you are a native speaker of a language or dialect other than Standard American English, we would love to hear from you.

I’m gender-fluid.

Gender-fluid is a gender identity which refers a dynamic mix of male, female, neutrois, or any other non-binary identity, or some combination of identities.

I’m gender-fluid. Here’s what that means to me.

My buddy and I went for a hike the other day, and back in their kitchen we got to talking about gender. They’re changing their pronouns in public for the first time, and they’re not sure if it will go over well, or smoothly, or if their self-description will accurately convey their being.

When I say I’m gender-fluid, here’s what I’m trying to convey:

As a kid, I was occasionally seen as a boy and told that the things I was interested in were boy things. I played a dude, as a dude, in a high school play. I sang with the boys for a few songs in choir. While I don’t feel un-female, I’ve come to understand that my stance shifts relative to the group I’m in and the role I take within that group. So now, when the vast majority of societal messages and cues tell me I do guy things, and act like a guy, I figure, “ok, I’m a guy. This is correct.”

Yet, the skin I wear fits, and I feel no need to change it.

I’ve met women that are tougher, harder, and butch-er that identify 100% as women. My experience doesn’t invalidate theirs, or vice versa. It’s a different mode.

For me, publicly identifying one way or the other helps set the tone. It contextualizes. It arranges for the response I want, and helps smooth interactions based on finding common ground.

That said, how you see me and what you call me has no bearing on what I am, which is why I’m not too hung up on pronouns… but I would feel like less if I were unable to shift. I would feel like less if I were asked to start, or stop, a particular gendered expression.

Identity is made up of a zillion categories and groupings, all of which have varying importance in someone’s life. Gender’s only one, like spirituality, or lineage. It’s not the first thing I’d mention when self-describing. Not because I’m ashamed, or not “out,” but because it’s not the most important lens through which I see myself.

It remains true, regardless.

If you feel like you’re this way, but didn’t have the word, now you do. If you feel like you’re alone in the way you are; you’re not.

While the language and the concepts might at first seem alien, or frustrating, or ridiculous, I appreciate that the conversations are becoming more commonplace. The more language we have, the more specific we can be — the better we’ll be able to understand, and be understood.

ar3-magazine-revised-final-web

This month, PodCastle, Pseudopod, EscapePod, and Cast of Wonders are running Artemis Rising 3, a celebration of female-identified and non-binary authors. Check ’em out.

I work at PodCastle now

A few updates:

  1. All the writing tips on this blog prior to 2017 are crap. they will probably continue to be crap for the next five years.
  2. I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to use this blog for in future. I use Facebook most, Twitter least, and the rest not at all. The archival properties of social media are crap — I keep losing notes and content. Maybe I’ll repost it here for safekeeping.
  3. I’m taking a year off from conventions, so no travel in 2017.
  4. Voice acting creds and non-fiction creds will continue to be linked out.
  5. I just got a job at PodCastle as assistant editor, under Co-Editors Jen Albert and Khaalidah Muhammed-Ali. So that’s neat.