Scrooge played by William L. Hahn

Welcome to the Lands

A Word if You Are New Here

This is my site for information about the fantasy world known as the LoH_kg_2_map A5Lands of Hope. I have the usual bio and buy pages, also Maps and a free Compendium of lore, plus a cool notification feature if you want to see posts in your email box. Sign up for that and you get two quick Tales for free. Because no one should have to wait for a little Hope.
Continue reading Welcome to the Lands

Getting Work- and Other Forms of Happiness

I wanted to limit posting on this topic, partly because I’ve been so unsure, partly because I was always hoping, and partly because I kept expecting the news to be about something other than creating cool fantasy tales. You know, something with put-on-a-tie and make-a-plane-reservation in it, and maybe a lot to do with building a spreadsheet, and then later on getting paid. That kind of work, the kind I’d been doing since the twentieth century before this past February.

Long and short– I became “displaced” as they say, a person on the business-end of “right-sizing” a company. Twenty-two years and change is a good run in this day and age. But as they say sixty is the new forty, so I looked over at my lovely wife and miracle daughter, and just behind them the two mortgages, the broken heating system and all six of our cats, and I thought the same thing Donkey thought at the end of Shrek 2:

“I gotta’ get a job!”

Editing and Writing, Those are Jobs

I applied in areas where I thought I could make a contribution. And I found that lots of people need technical writers, but they need them to have remarkably specific experience that I did not have. And yes, consultancies and government agencies and staffing firms and publishing houses all need editors. But they have them, see, and it’s just a guess but I’m getting the impression that once someone gets a gig as an editor, they keep it until they die.

And they don’t die very often.

At First, Keeping Busy

Looking for work is all electronic these days. The recruiting boards have boatloads of jobs you can’t do waiting for you in the Inbox practically every day. Applications take a few minutes, and if they have an assessment test, maybe another half hour twice a month. I was in a severance period, a great blessing, and I wanted to use the extra time profitably, at least to stave off boredom and the sense that I wasn’t getting anywhere. So I wrote a novel this past spring, and kept on narrating audio-books for marvelous colleagues like Gilbert M. Stack and M.R. Mathias.

I never thought of it as a job. It was too much fun.

But the summer burned off and the number of books I had narrated piled up and slowly I began to unravel that little knot in my head– the one that keeps me stupid– by asking “do I have the right to be happy in my work?”

I honestly can only think of one job that I was aware of being unhappy doing, and that was working for my Dad. Long story but every other job I’ve ever done seemed just fine to me. I liked the people, I liked the challenge, and I certainly loved getting paid.

But Narrating Was REALLY Fun

And It Was Starting to Make Money

So I kept looking for “real” work and I set myself the goal of winning an “upfront” narrating gig.

Audio-books Get Made on One of Two Business Models

{Yes there are others these days, but don’t interrupt:}

Royalty Share- the author hires you and pays you nothing. You finish the work and he still pays you nothing. The A-book goes out and starts to sell and THEN a) the distributor takes a cut, and b) you and the author split the rest. (This is sometimes referred to as passive income.)

Per-Finished-Hour (PFH)- the author hires you and pays you nothing. You finish the work and THEN he pays you based on an hourly rate for the length of the finished product. The A-book goes out and starts to sell and THEN a) the distributor takes a cut, and b) the author gets the rest. (You’ve already been paid, calm down.)

(Or narrate yourself and get paid twice!)

Royalty share is great for independent authors and those who haven’t “made it” yet, especially those who don’t know how well the book will do. Established authors or those with a bit of money, who know their book should sell XXX or X,XXX copies should want to pay the narrator up front, just like the cover artist and the editor, because then they reap the reward after that. Danielle Steel would be a fool to pay royalty share on her next sure-to-be-blockbuster. But if she did, narrators like me would probably commit murder to win the audition.

Bills to Pay- Cats and Mortgages

For a narrator, royalty share is nice because you just go on with your life and the money shows up like a bonus. I’m getting what I’d call “cat food money” from the titles I’ve narrated now. And with a half-dozen indoor cats who love people and food, maybe in that order maybe not, the amount represented by “cat food money” is not insignificant.

But you can’t budget against major expenses that way. You don’t know what to expect.

Now to get PFH on a steady basis, if I could achieve such high demand from up-front-paying authors that I virtually had my calendar blocked out full-time… THAT could pay the mortgage. One of them, anyway. I’ve kicked back and done all the math.

Full-length fantasy novel ~15 hours of finished audio (let’s just say)

Narrator on PFH Model e.g. $200/hour

Record-Retain Rate ~90%– that’s my estimate of how much out of each hour of recording time survives into the final product. It’s a pretty good rate- I throw out a few bad takes in each chapter, couple stumbles with accompanying curse words, or I have to go back and punch in a paragraph because somebody flushed the toilet and that comes over PERFECTLY of course (epic fantasy books almost never describe the hero in a garderobe, unfortunately. I did once!).

Record-Production Ratio ~3:1– i.e. it takes me around 3 hours of cutting, trimming, noise reduction and locating/implementing sound effects to “finish” each hour of good recording.

Bottom line, I could probably produce about 15 hours of finished audio, maybe a full-length fantasy novel, each week if I did it full time (recording each day for 2 hours and editing for around 6 more).

I would be able to pay the mortgage. Probably both of them.

And I’d be IN HEAVEN. Are you kidding me, narrating A-books for a living?

But there’s no point hoping about it unless I at least get started.

Which brings me to my announcement.

I’m a Contracted A-Book Narrator

Around the end of November I was invited by Findaway Voices to participate in a competitive audition for an A-book; there were five of us altogether. I sent in my sample, five minutes of reading from a portion of the book. I’ve auditioned two or three dozen times for A-books over on Audible, without success so far.

This time, I got great news. I am preparing now to start narrating Team Newb by M. Helbig. It’s a marvelous tale in the LitRPG vein, that whole playing-a-cool-game-WHOOPS-now-I’m-IN-the-game thing. It’s got humor and obviously that game-feel, and terrific rankings. It’s an official contract, it’s PFH and it’s signed. The book should be done in late January and appearing at retailers shortly after that.

I’ll post more about the book itself later over on the Media of Mien, but for now I just wanted to reflect on a sign of hope, coming to me at this time of year and after such a long time of trying and searching. I am deeply grateful, and need I add STOKED.

I still don’t know if I can grow this into any part of a living. But I have the chance to prove myself now, to a new audience for an author who never heard of me before he heard my voice. And did I mention one of the best parts? The sub-title of the book contains the two magic words any narrator hungers to hear:

“Book One”

So if anyone needs me during the day I’ll be at my desk as usual, looking for a job and sometimes with the headphones on. But early mornings I’ll be in the studio, recording a Fantasy RPG epic and loving every minute of it.

The blessings of the season to all who read this. May your work bring you happiness, even as it quickly feeds the cats and slowly retires the mortgage.

 

Hope for the Holidays

I’d better come clean at the very beginning. I write about a world called the Lands of Hope, and alright, sometimes I hype a blog-title to attract attention. Capeesh? So sue me.

But spin isn’t always a lie. Personally, I struggle with shopping nearly as much as I do against Despair, and I dare to believe you might find some relief for a few items on your list by giving the gift of Hope.

Here you can find links to my recent works as author and narrator, pulling in the various outlets where you can find them.

All the Tales of Hope

If you know someone who’s read one of my stories and would like to get them another, here’s a chrono-list:

 

 

 

The Book of Tales (from earliest history to the Fourth Age, animal and hero tales told across the Lands- nice supplement with illustrations!)

Three Minutes to Midnight (1992 ADR, a dark sword-and-sorcery novelette)

Judgement’s Tale (1995 ADR, epic fantasy novel that starts the new age moving)

The Eye of Kog (1995 ADR, conclusion to Judgement’s Tale)

The Plane of Dreams (2001 ADR, epic fantasy of the Tributarians)

Shards of Light (2002 ADR, heroic fantasy series set in Cryssigens)- available as a bundled set or individually. Either of the first two can stand alone quite well, for readers with little time to spare.

The Ring and the Flag
Fencing Reputation
Perilous Embraces
Shards of Light (finale)

The Test of Fire (2002 ADR, heroic fantasy demi-sequel to The Plane of Dreams)

= Available as an e-book

= Also available as audiobooks

With the exception of The Eye of Kog and the latter two books of the Shards of Light series, any of these tales can serve as an introduction to the Lands of Hope.

Zero-Patience Reader? Three Minutes to Midnight

Wants to Start at the Beginning? Judgement’s Tale

Needs a Quick Burst of Hope? The Ring and the Flag

Likes Something Different in a Hero? Fencing Reputation

A Just-Right Feast of Fantasy? The Test of Fire

 

Tales of Other Lands

I have also been privileged to narrate audiobooks for some fine indie colleagues, with quite a varied palate of adventure between them.

Gilbert M. Stack is the author (inter alia) of the incredible Legionnaire series about a kind of alternate-Rome where a loyal young tribune must struggle against politics at home and evil sorcery abroad to serve his empire and preserve his life.

 

 

Michael R. Mathias has penned many bestselling fantasy classics, including the gaslamp epic tale Fantastica, all of which are now available as audiobooks either separately or as a collection.

 

 

Debbie Bishop has crafted the tale War Eagles, based on a vision by Merian C. Cooper (the creator of King Kong), an Indiana-Jones era tale of lost Vikings, their heroic mounts, and the fight to stop a secret Nazi weapon at the outbreak of World War 2.

 

 

Something for every listening taste! Check out the links for easy shopping.