I’m always looking for new projects, ways forward that can widen my platform and bring me new challenges. As 2020 finally left our lives, it gave me a final gift in December with a positive Covid diagnosis. The symptoms were fairly mild and I recovered as so many others have done, grateful for my family’s safety and the new year.
But the cough remains. Just a nagging occasional thing, but enough to screw with the spirit of a hopeful audiobook narrator. I’m taking different meds trying to beat it, but in the meantime it’s tough to audition for new projects, because I can’t stick to a schedule with my hack rising up all of a sudden.
Can’t Work, Need to Work
I need to keep doing projects.
But they can’t be long.
And Lord knows, I can’t do much with short! The Book of Tales represents my output of shorter-than-
novella length writing for the past three years, and maybe the next three too.
Once again, it’s better to be lucky than good.
Voicing a Past Master- Clark Ashton Smith
A friend and fellow author sometimes writes and enthuses about one of the old pulp masters- what a great tale this is, here’s a link if you want to read it, etc. I sometimes click, and in January I did for a Clark Ashton Smith yarn entitled The Double Shadow. It was perfect; as soon as I started reading I could just hear the tale, the voices, the effects, the whole thing.
And with acknowledgements, opening and closing files, the whole thing was less than forty minutes. I recorded it in a single morning. And became hooked on a feeling…
The Pulp Masters- They Knew How to Write!
I was always more of a Robert E. Howard guy. His tales are more rollicking, a bit more classic. The good guys win fairly often- I like that part, so sue me. I had read a lot of Burroughs and Lovecraft too and they have their features.
But something about Smith. I couldn’t tell you how many of his works I read back then, but there’s this high-flown vocabulary (real tongue-twisters!), words that make my Kindle dictionary cry for mercy just piled thick on each paragraph. I sincerely believe that’s the kind of challenge I can take on, and I loved doing The Double Shadow. My author friend mentioned it was in the public domain–more about that later!– and an idea began to form in my brain.
Audiobooks and “Classic” Tales
You may see occasionally a famous tale, for example a Sherlock Holmes mystery or Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, being issued as an audiobook by an ambitious narrator. If the work was performed roughly a lifetime ago and no estate or other person picks up the “estate”, then others can simply come in and make use of the work themselves.
I blew through Double Shadow in a heartbeat, as I said; it stoked me up, and I started the process of publication on Findaway Voices. And I laid out a plan, to do maybe five or six of these tales. Maybe it would get a little notice. Maybe I would become known as “the voice of Clark Ashton Smith”!
Then I got a bad feeling and decided to check into whether his work was really freely available.
Maybe I would get myself in trouble.
It’s a Bit Complicated…
I searched some forums and learned that there IS a rights-holder for CAS’ work (or some of it, anyway) and like the commenters said, it’s just good manners to ask. So I wrote to the gentleman at CASiana Literary Enterprises and he confirmed. It’s complicated.
CAS works are not simply in the public domain, but some versions of his tales probably are. The folks at CASiana and Night Shade books collated and edited the latest, clearest and most official versions of Smith’s canon and those works ARE copyrighted, under The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith.
Having said that, he asked me what my intentions were and I told him. And he graciously gave permission for me to proceed. My sense of it is, the folks minding the Smith estate haven’t thought very much about audiobooks, and the gentleman figured my work might have some merit and attract new customers. I’m on board with that!
All’s Well (Except for the Tales’ Endings!)
So my project is up and running, starting with publication of The Double Shadow due February 15th followed by The Death of Malygris by March 1st. This should keep me out of trouble for a while as I wait for this damn cough to go away… and I can take comfort that my tale seems to be ending much better than most of Mr. Smith’s! These will be fun little horror tales you can curl up with in a loose half-hour or so, but don’t expect to hear of marvelous sunsets and couples kissing. CAS wrote some of the most exotic, bizarre, and usually hero-less tales in all of pulp. I hope it made him happy. Trying to voice and relate his stories to a new audience is certainly giving me joy and satisfaction.
I’ll have plenty of free Author House codes for anyone who would like to take a listen and maybe leave a review. Just let me know in the comments below and I’ll hook you up.