If you’ve been following my blog over the past few years, then you know that besides writing science fiction, I also love sailing.

Or cruising. Or just hanging out at anchor in beautiful places.

Swinging peacefully on the hook is a great place for writing! So, my wife and I spent this past week cruising around a few old favorite spots close to home, chilling out in mostly fantastic weather and just enjoying an overall relaxing time.

And I finished writing two more scenes for The Silence of Ancient Light, so look for the first of those to post soon!


p.s. All photos on this post ©Matt Fraser, 2020 (from this past week’s trip!)


p.p.s This is my first post using WordPress’s new “block editor,” and… I’m struggling a bit! I’m not sure that I like it yet, but I’ll give it a try before giving up and returning to the “classic” editor (which seemed to have more options and more control over formatting, but probably that’s just me being resistant to change).

The Recording Studio

A few days ago I let slip (like how that sounds like it was an accident?) that I am going to try my hand at podcasting episodes of The Silence of Ancient Light. Now, I have never done this before, and it’s not quite as simple as it might seem. One doesn’t just put on the earbuds that came with your mobile phone and hit Record and start speaking. The learning curve on this is a tad steeper than that.

If it weren’t, there wouldn’t be professionals out there making a decent living doing this (and a bunch more trying to break into the field).

I’m not trying to become a professional audiobook narrator, I’m just trying to produce a reasonably decent narration of my own book for you to enjoy. After all, since making that announcement, a handful of you have let me know that you are quite enthusiastic about this idea. Seems audiobooks are a thing? Plus, it seems like it might be fun.

So, I took the opportunity to invest in a decent “broadcast-quality” headset, with a proper dynamic microphone. My thinking here is really three-fold. Perhaps like many of you, I now spend large parts of my working days on videoconferences with my colleagues, and the old earbuds, despite being high-quality for listening, are turning out to be less than optimal for delivering quality when I’m the speaker. They’re ok for a phone call, and yeah, they’re ok for an online meeting, but it’s pretty clear they won’t cut the mustard for recording an audiobook. So, improving my teleconference experience is part one.

Perhaps also like many of you, I’m watching quite a bit more streaming films and shows in the evenings these days (I know, I know, I’m supposed to be writing, but forgive me, ok?). Some of those are with my wife, but when it comes to science fiction shows (The Expanse, anyone?), she really isn’t interested. So, when I watch those, it’s on my own, and in order not to disturb her, I need headphones. To date, I’ve been using those same earbuds I mentioned in the previous paragraph, as well as a too-short extension cable, which has meant sitting on the floor closer to the TV. Not very comfortable. A decent pair of headphones, that do a better job of muffling outside sound, and a longer cable, are really what I need here. So, improving my streaming experience is part two.

And then, of course, there’s this whole recording thing. Now, most audiobook narrators and producers will tell you to go with a standalone high-quality studio microphone, something like the venerable Shure SM58 (with which I’ve had much experience decades ago when I ran sound for a local pop band, but that’s a whole other story), and to avoid headsets. I won’t say they’re wrong, and ultimately, if I keep doing this, I may still end up going that route. But, I really wanted to be freed from having to be careful about maintaining a set distance from a mounted microphone, so I thought… headset! But not a gaming headset with its cheap mic, but a broadcast-oriented professional headset. And, of course, I didn’t want to buy new headphones (with mic!) just for streaming and videoconferencing, and also another expensive mic for recording. So, minimizing how many different pieces of expensive equipment I’m purchasing is part three.

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So, I picked a headset based mainly on the quality of the attached microphone, the Audio Technica BPHS1. Overall, I’m pretty happy with it, but being pro gear, it has a few complications when it comes to attaching it to a computer (remember, videoconferences). For one, it has two cable connectors, neither of which is the standard 1/8″ connector common on laptops, computers, many phones, etc. The input connector, for the headphones themselves, is a more prosumer-like 1/4″ connector, which you would commonly see on higher-end stereo gear, guitar amplifiers, analog mixing boards, that sort of thing. No problem, 1/4″ to 1/8″ adapters exist.


The other connector, for the microphone, is an XLR connector, which is a larger 3-pin connector commonly used only for pro-level recording. This is the same connection that the afore-mentioned Shure SM58 uses, for instance. This connection is common for low-output analog devices like microphones that will need pre-amplification. To get a signal from the XLR-connected microphone into the computer while maintaining high quality, I needed a very special adapter, an XLR-to-USB adapter, which is more than just a plug adapter, it’s also an analog-to-digital converter. There are many ways to achieve this goal, but I went with the relatively straightforward and very easy-to-use Shure X2u. It’s a bit like a cylinder, with the XLR jack at one end and the USB port at the other, and very simple controls and indicators on the side. With this device, I can record straight to my laptop, which is also not something the professionals recommend, but, hey, I’m already going a bit overboard here! I have a very quiet (albeit old) MacBook Air, with no spinning drives or loud fans, so as long as I’m not typing on it, it doesn’t make much background noise. And, this way the MacBook doubles as my reading platform, since after all, I have to read from something while I’m narrating, right?


So that’s the technical equipment, but there’s also a non-technical component very much required. A quiet room. And, not just quiet, but acoustically deadened. Professionals use a proper recording studio, with specially insulated walls and door, and fancy foam shapes all over the walls and ceiling to trap any stray echoes. That’s a bit much for a podcaster on a budget to reproduce, unfortunately, but there are ways to achieve some of this at home. Even if, like me, you live in a small condo in a noisy building on a noisy street in the heart of a noisy city, with trucks, trains, and planes constantly rumbling around. When my upstairs neighbors run the faucet, I hear water swooshing through the pipes. For that matter, when they walk, I feel it in my own floor, as the structural timbers carry an echo of their steps down one level. I’m pretty sure my downstairs neighbor has the same experience with regard to me. Even if someone walks by outside, on the sidewalk, holding a normal conversation, I can hear it inside my unit with the windows closed, along with birds chirping in the trees that are one of the things which make this neighborhood attractive.

It is noisy here, and that fancy new sensitive microphone can hear it all.

I can’t stop all of that, but what I can do is set myself up in the closet, with the doors shut, and hang wool blankets over the doors, another laid across the wooden floor, and otherwise depend upon the hanging clothes to act as natural dampeners. Does it work? We’ll soon see, but I just spent two hours in there trying my best to get about twenty or thirty minutes of recorded narration. My first attempt, which I’m about to start editing down.


When you listen to yourself through headphones in a quiet room while speaking into a quality mic placed right up to your mouth, you hear every timbre of your own voice, not the way it sounds in your own head, but the way others hear you. It is weird. But I already knew that, and so did you. The other thing you notice is every time you take a breath. Breathing is loud. And when your mouth gets dry and as a result you lisp a little on a phoneme. Or you stumble on a word. Or burp. Yeah, that happened, too.

Folks, this is hard. Eventually I learned to stop killing the recording every time I stumbled, just pause, say “scratch that last bit” into the mic, pause again, and start again, backing up a few sentences or to the beginning of the paragraph. The constant restarting of the recording was far too distracting, so I just let it run, made “audio notes” when I had stumbled, and kept going. My next job is to go through and edit out all those bits to turn it into one continuous narration.

And I won’t be done there, either. Just because I’ve got my voice recorded doesn’t mean this is a finished and produced piece of work, ready to publish. I need to filter out the noise floor, compress things so that the volume is consistent throughout, see if I have too many “esses” from my S’s or pops from my Ps (not sure what I can do about those, except do it again?), and so forth. And, when I’m happy with the vocal narration — if I ever am — I have to decide if I’m going to find some music to go with it (or not; that’s a decision point to make), and perhaps other adjustments to turn the audio file into an actual podcast.

So, the first episode is recorded, comprising the first three scenes that you’ve already read, but it’s still going to take a while to get all the above done.

Stay tuned, friends.

Header image by user:KutterKind / Pixabay.com under Pixabay License

All other images in this post are my own

Land of a Thousand Hills

Le Pays des Mille Collines is how Rwandans refer to their own country, and it’s an apt description. There are eleven hills in the capitol city of Kigali alone.


And as you leave the city behind, that hilliness only continues.


Rwanda is also mostly a very green country, due to a healthy rainy season, and that leads to a veritable bounty, but those hills can either help or hinder when it’s time to get to market.


Of course, it’s not all green hills.


And it’s not all domesticated animals, either.




Sometimes the animals can be a bit difficult to see, especially in the long grass.


Do you see him there? Let’s take a closer look.


You see him now, yes? One must remain vigilant! Of course, when he finally stands up, it’s a bit easier.


At the end of the day, back in camp, it’s time to stop worrying about the lions and just enjoy the scenery.


Meanwhile, other parts of Rwanda are higher, steeper…


… wetter, and definitively more lush with rainforest growth.


But this is what you must tackle if you want to meet this fellow.


Thank you for coming along with me on my recent trip to Rwanda. My wife and I traveled there at the end of December 2019 and beginning of January 2020, and while in-country, besides the city of Kigali, we visited two of four big national parks, Akagera (where the savanna wildlife photos are from) and Volcanoes (where we met a family of six (out of twelve) gorillas). Akagera is in the eastern part of the country, bordering Tanzania, while Volcanoes is in the Virunga Massif highlands in the northwest, bordering Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

All photos used in this post are either my own or used with permission from Carole Bianquis, copyright 2019, with all rights reserved. However, please feel free to reblog or share the post and the photos, as long as you include attribution and a link back to this original.

Home Again From the Holidays

Hello friends!

I know you’ve been missing me — well, I don’t know that you have, actually — but I have a good excuse. I’ve been traveling for the holidays, and staying almost entirely offline the entire time. Where did I go?

To Rwanda.

My wife has a large extended family living in Kigali, so we spent 25 hours flying to spend a couple weeks with them. While there, we had the opportunity to tour the country a little bit, and when I’ve had a chance to sort out the many photos I took, I’ll post a few of the best ones here for you to enjoy.

And then I’ll get back to Silence, I promise.

How did you spend your holidays? What are your hopes for the new year?


Why have I been so quiet lately, you ask?

I have been a little busy, dealing with a bit of a family emergency. However, I have not gone away. You’re not getting rid of me that easy! But, if you would like to know a little more (warning: this has nothing to do with science fiction, nor fiction of any kind, but it does involve a little writing), delve a little further into my own personal life, then I invite you to take a peek at my other, older, and until today much dustier, blog.

I don’t advertise the existence of that blog very much, because it has no real meaning except for my own family and myself. Strictly speaking, it’s a genealogy blog, but it’s also a blog where I share thoughts on things going on within my own life.

Until today, I had not written anything over there for five years. The last few posts I had written all had to do with the death of my father, six years ago, and my experience as executor of his estate.

And then a month ago, my mother passed away. And now I am writing about that.

I’ll have more to say before I’m done with that subject, and then I will be getting right back into the thick of it over here, but meanwhile, feel free to peel back the covers of my life and see what lies hidden away.

It starts on February 6th. That is the day the office at your mobile home park, where you have lived for twelve years, calls your daughter to express their concern. It seems you forgot to pay the rent for the space your home sits in, and in twelve years this had never happened before. You are in the habit of visiting the clubhouse each day, making a pot of coffee, and chatting with the manager there, but on this day you seem to have trouble with the coffee pot, and when the manager asks you about the late rent, you don’t know what she’s talking about.

Read the rest at https://clan-fraser.org/2019/04/06/eulogies-part-1/

header image credit: pixabay.com