Approach on Audio

The audio version of episode 2 is up! So, for those of you who want to get straight into it, here you go:

And of course you can read along as you listen at Approach.

I have incorporated a slight upgrade to my technique compared to episode 1. I recorded the first episode at 44.1 KHz in 16-bit, which is equivalent to CD quality, whereas for this episode I recorded in 24-bit. I wonder if you can hear the difference?

Now, to be clear, 16-bit vs 24-bit has no actual meaning for an mp3 file, which is what these both are. As far as the mp3 that you are listening to is concerned, it has a sample rate of that same 44.1 KHz, and a bit rate of 128 Kbps. However, the original file, before editing and mastering, is not an mp3, but an uncompressed wav file, and wav files don’t have bit rates, they have bit depths. The bit depth is an indication of the total loudness possible for each sample (44,100 of them per second). Does 24-bit mean that it can go louder than 16-bit? These amps go to 11! Perhaps, but that’s not really the point. What it really means is that it can go quieter before hitting the theoretical noise floor. With greater dynamic range, the audio is less likely to clip or distort at the loudest levels, and less likely to get lost in hiss and static at the softest.

Now, at this point my recording setup is simply not advanced enough for this to realistically make a difference. Every piece in the chain introduces its own little bit of noise, and all of it adds up to the actual noise floor, i.e. the amount of disorganized sound that exists before any actual audio content is laid down on top of it. Without a much more professional setup, I probably cannot achieve a noise floor as low as the theoretical 16-bit limit. And, of course, that’s all before adding in room tone, which is the basic level of ambient sound the microphone picks up in an otherwise quiet room (and also the way in which the room colors the narrator’s voice when he or she is speaking).

So, in all likelihood, you won’t be able to hear a difference in the 16-bit vs 24-bit recording. Still, it’s one less source of possible noise adding to that floor which I’ve hopefully removed from the production chain.

Ok, all of that is probably a bit too geeky and technical, and I freely admit that I am not an expert with it. I do have a bit of a background from long ago with audio engineering stuff, in the sense that I spent a year as sound man for a local band playing gigs around the San Francisco Bay Area, but that was in the 1980s, which were practically the dark ages when it comes to digital audio. Almost everything we did then was pure analog, so I’m learning anew how to make things sound proper in a digital age.

If there’s interest (let me know!), I’m happy to go further into technical details about the recording, editing, and mastering processes and equipment. I have some more upgrades planned in the near future, as well, though perhaps the biggest upgrade still remains working on my narration technique.


header image credit: user:Tumisu / pixabay.com

The Silence of Ancient Light Goes Audio!

I promised you an audio narration, and the first episode is here! I know it took a little while to get this up, but the learning curve to produce what amounts to a podcast episode was a little steeper than I expected. And, having now recorded, edited, mastered, and published this first episode, I have learned a lot, and I have learned that I have a lot more to learn.

I need to get a lot better at narration, for one thing. I thought I was a pretty good public speaker, but speaking into a microphone while in a small, somewhat sound-deadened room changes almost everything. I also learned a lot about noise floors, and this too is an area I believe I can improve. Indeed, dealing with the noise floor was the major reason this took so long to produce.

I’ll go into more detail in the next post, but some of you want to get right to it, don’t you? So, without further ado, here is a link you can play right from your browser:

Once I feel a bit more polished at audio production, and once at least a few more episodes are ready, I’ll set this up as a proper podcast, one you can load into your favorite podcast player (probably your phone, for most of you). I’ll talk more about how setting up podcasts are a bit different from just linking an audio file on the website, and how setting up a full audiobook is considerably different from creating a podcast (though they all start from the same basic process of recording, editing, mastering, etc).

I’ve also updated the original page with the text to contain this same link. For those of you who’ve misplaced how to navigate to it (hint: it’s all there in the menu at the top of every page!), it’s here: Arrival.

Yes, I know that I need to work on my plosives, and maybe better de-essing. And my breath control. That’s a problem, you know, breathing while a microphone is stuffed in your face. I think mostly I need to learn to relax while narrating, get into the groove that I feel when I’m just reading aloud to someone (or even the groove I found when I did my first — well, so far only — author reading).

Once I have that all down, I’ll redo this episode.

And, oh yeah, keep actually writing more episodes!

Let me know what you think! And, seriously, don’t spare my feelings. I know it’s not full-on Audible Studio quality, so if you have ideas about how I can improve, I’m all ears! So to speak.

Next up: the technical details!


header image credit: Dmitry Demidov / Pexels

Chapter 7 and ‘Cafeteria’ (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Li-Estl led the three humans back down darkened stairs to the crude lift, locking doors behind her as they went. Descending the vertical cliff face, Anna looked out across the dual-moon-lit ocean, the myriad of stars reflected below as shining above, and lifted her gaze skyward. She searched for that one faint moving star, the one she briefly saw from the observatory, but it had passed on from her view.

Once back at the main residential level of the cliff community, they passed through rocky corridors dimly lit by the occasional oil lantern, seeing few other Kwakitl along the way. Anna expected Li-Estl to lead them back to her schoolroom, but instead they followed a different path. More stairs and twisting hallways challenged Anna’s sense of direction, but she felt they were heading much deeper into the interior of the mountain. After about fifteen minutes of this, she noticed a gradual increase in ambient noise level, and ahead the corridor appeared more brightly lit. The noise, she came to understand, was the sound of many Kwakitl voices, all talking at once, and moments later they came to its source.

The corridor opened into the largest chamber they had seen yet, and it was filled with dozens, perhaps well over a hundred, Kwakitl, seated in circular clusters around low tables. Smoky lantern light lit the chamber, and the smell of frying fish and salty kelp pervaded the air. Anna’s stomach rumbled, and she realized in all the excitement she had conveniently ignored how hungry she had become. Even the cooking kelp smelled good to her now.

“We eat,” Li-Estl told them through Jaci’s translator, “then I show where you sleep. Tomorrow, much more talk, yes? Also, tomorrow big day. But now, eat.”

Read more at

Cafeteria

(2,057 words; 8 min 13 sec reading time)


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Some enterprising regular readers have already found this latest scene available online a full twenty-four hours earlier than this announcement post, so if there’s a lesson here, it’s… check back often! Ok, I might have placed a hint or two on Twitter.

More dropped hints in this scene, a bit of mounting mystery and tension. If you’re eager for what happens next, all I can say is, enjoy the slow burn!

Is it really another spacecraft, another starship, arriving in orbit over Kepler 62f? And if so, who is it? Could it be rescue for our marooned astronauts? Did Earth send a second mission only a few months after the first?

Or is it someone else?

Many questions to ponder over fried fish and stewed kelp.

This scene also marks the beginning of Chapter 7, as you will note from the website menu, or from the overview page for the novel. It also marks another 2,000-word scene in a string of them. Am I getting wordier? It’s still not the longest scene, and the overall average remains just above 1,500, so I think we’re good there.

Here’s a question for you to ponder. What is it that Anna could observe from the ground that makes her think the arriving object is on a path for orbital insertion? Think on that, and comment below. Otherwise, until next time!


header image credit: Michael L Hiraeth / pixabay.com via Pixabay License

Telescope (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

🚀

The ship was not huge in the telescope view, but her shape stood out clearly. Anna could see the double ring structure of the Alcubierre drive, one ring forward and one aft, both tethered to the central fuselage much like the orbital ring was to the planet. She could almost, but not quite, make out the blister of the observatory on the nose of the ship, and the bay windows of the cockpit just above. She could see the hangar doors from which she had launched the shuttle, open wide in the belly of the larger ship, awaiting the return of the smaller craft, a return which now would never come. That shuttle lay smashed and abandoned in the lagoon of a forbidden island.

A sense of loss and of longing came over Anna, and her vision blurred a little. She wiped the moisture from her eyes, upset at her own emotional reaction when she knew she needed to remain laser-focused on survival, dedicated to the task of getting her crew and herself back to that starship, more than forty-one thousand kilometers away, no matter how close the telescope made her seem.

Read more at

Telescope

(2,000 words; 8 min reading time)


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Did I say last week that this chapter was a little slower? Well, it’s not slower anymore. We’re going to end the chapter on a cliffhanger, one that makes it obvious that the tension is about to ramp right back up again as we head into Chapter 7. Of course, you’ll have to go read the scene to see what I mean!

Seriously, it will take just 8 minutes of your Sunday afternoon. Go read it!

Are you done yet? Because I want to discuss what you just read! What do you think the ending of the scene signifies?

You may have noticed a few devices I’ve been using all along to ratchet up the narrative tension. Almost from the beginning, there has been a time lock, a deadline by which Anna and her crew need to figure out their own rescue, and in this scene I gently remind the reader that this deadline is approaching. Many stories use either a time lock or an option lock to introduce tension, but in SoAL I’ve opted to do both. As the scenes progress, our heroes have their choices gradually narrowed down to fewer and fewer options, and there are plenty of hints that later there will be fewer options still. Remember how many space suits they have with them? Hmm, yeah, future problem brewing there.

If you were Anna, what would you do next?


header image credit: user:Free-Photos / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Taboos and Discoveries (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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The sun passed its zenith and shadows lengthened outside, but inside the cavern the changing hue from the light ducts provided the only hint of passing time. Anna and Laxmi continued to interrogate Li-Estl about her world, with Jaci acting as interpreter and filling in what he had already discerned, but Li-Estl was equally curious about their own origins.

“I’ve tried to explain about Earth and how far away it is,” Jaci said, “but I don’t think I’ve done a very good job of it. Li-Estl understands that she lives on a planet, that it’s a sphere, and that it revolves around their sun. They don’t seem to be hampered by any flat-earth kinds of fallacies here, or at least she isn’t. She knows that there are other planets also revolving around the sun, because she has observed the difference in their motion compared to regular stars in the night sky, and because she has texts from earlier astronomers that describe their motion. She gets that.”

“Wait, so they have astronomers here?” Anna asked.

Read more at

Taboos and Discoveries

(2,087 words; 8 min 20 sec reading time)


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Clearly I did not maintain the NanoWrimo momentum of a week ago, but I’m still pretty happy with publishing another scene in only a week’s time. My average scene length does seem to be creeping up, however, with a handful of 2000-word scenes within the past several, including this one. Still not my longest yet, though.

You’ve probably noticed that Chapter 6 is a bit slower, overall, than the preceding chapters. Is it too slow? Too much exposition and explanatory dialogue? Too much telling, not enough showing? I admit, I was almost as exhausted as my characters must have been after the harrowing ride of the previous chapters, when they lurched from one emergency to the next, so I sort of felt like they needed a bit of a break.

Not to worry, however. They aren’t out of the frying pan yet, and out of the frying pan leads to… you guessed it… the fire. There’s plenty of danger still, and things are definitely going to ramp up another notch in intensity. I’ve slowed down on the pace of killing off characters, too, after knocking off nearly half of them almost right away, but don’t let that lull you into complacency. One wrong move, and your favorite gets it! Don’t make me go all GRRM on you!

Of course, his works are international bestsellers and have been made into the most highly rated and watched show in all of HBO history, so perhaps a little GRRM isn’t a bad model to emulate.

So, if these scenes seem slower, you should also pay attention to a fair bit of foreshadowing for coming tension and conflict. Tell me, reader, what do you think is going to happen next?

Leave me a comment and let’s discuss it!


header image credit: Evgeni Tcherkasski / pixabay.com under Pixabay License