Audio and Voice Work

Note: Naturally, you’ll find my Audio and Voice Work at: http://www.shinyfiction.com/audio/

Audio people can hear files of my voice acting there, including my lines for released or unreleased episodes, works in production, and publicly available auditions. If something is under wraps, not yet for release, then it won’t appear there, but a credit will. Audio people can click on each series and find my work for various characters. Upcoming, currently in production, are a larger guest role on Star Trek Excelsior, episode 402, and for Star Trek Mirror Universe – Shadows of Tyranny, as a continuing regular.

I have done audio recordings since about 2006. I recorded stories and poems, my own work and a few amateur web authors. Links are available on my Audio pages. (Some of that early audio was originally hosted elsewhere and some is currently offline so that I can change out the intro/outro segments for my own site. It’s on the back burner but it needs to be done.)

Then in 2010 through 2012, I first did lines, voice acting for an audio drama podcast, for Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, first as a Klingon Guard, and then later as a Cardassian Glinn Guanar. I did some other ad-libbed lines, crowd vocals, cadet and comms chatter, and so on. I also did lines for an orginal independent series by the same production company, called Frontier Guard.

The Klingon Guard’s voice is rough, very different from my real voice, and might be difficult to sustain long-term. But as a character with a few lines, he was great fun to do.

The Cardassian Glinn Guanar was a character who was a killer, a psychopath, or affected by a strange illness, or both. I played him as a creepy, slightly, very amoral character voice. But I played him as though this was perfectly normal and nothing was wrong, because that’s how such a character would likely think.

A personal note: While doing these, my grandmother had a long-term illness. I told her and one of her friends that I’d be recording voice lines for villainous characters. Because, you know, if you hear someone talking or shouting to himself in a closed room, ominous things like “Kill them!” (a crowd line), or growling (a very Klingon growl) then you might wonder what’s going on. Such as whether I’d finally lost it. Nope, just lines for a fictional character or two. Thankfully, this didn’t scare anyone. I really don’t say things like that, even under extraordinary circumstances. But I could just see my grandmother waking up, not remembering, and hearing her grandson in the other bedroom, muttering or shouting ominous things. Yeah, I could just see her calling her neighbor or the police. Uh, nothing happened. Hmm, which is sort of funny the other way, now that I think of it. Oh, there he goes, he’s finally lost it? As long as she didn’t think I lost it a long time ago and didn’t get it back….

In 2012, I recorded lines that were never released on an audio project that is in limbo. I didn’t hear back from them after that, even though I’d been asked to reappear. Then all contact dropped. The project morphed into an independent pro/fan film which appears to be making progress. I’ve since heard conflicting things about whether the audio project will do anything. But to my knowledge, only the video is proceeding, and so my lines are unreleased. It irritated me that the production people didn’t get back to me to say what was happening, even though I resubmitted my email as requested, publicly and privately, twice. However, the video has some good people involved and I’ll be interested when it’s done.

I did auditions for two Star Trek fan audio dramas during and after that time, including readings of two well-known Shakespeare passages. I liked how both turned out.

Shakespeare’s English did a few things for poetic/lyrical beats that are different from present-day English. Sometimes, a starting syllable would get shortened or omitted, linking adjoining words. Other times, an “uh” sound might get omitted or not, to fit the lyrical form. What is now a final, silent E was sometimes not silent back then, for stylistic purposes, though it was probably silent in daily speech. There were other things with rhyming of vowels, long and short vowels, and a few consonants, that changed between then and now, but that’s getting into fussy historical details. (I’m a language geek. That stuff interests me.) Shakespearean, Elizabethan, and King James English, all from almost the same few decades, are technically “Modern English,” but even college-educated people (and language geeks and theater types) know that it’s very nearly a separate phase of the language now. I almost said a separate stage. Very sorry.

I did a small part, a few lines, for a redshirt, Lt. Rubio, on Star Trek Excelsior 306. You know you’re in trouble when you’re stuck in a broom closet, surrounded by hostile aliens, and the guy in the broom closet with you is suffering from some mind-meld illness. Lt. Rubio has, so far, not been heard from again. If he came out of the closet, I’m sure he’d have a different outlook on brooms.

Excelsior is great, by the way. There are involved plot arcs, large casts, and not every story character gets along all the time. There are dark storylines and there are sly humorous bits and in-jokes. They do specials around April Fool’s and occasionally Boxing Day to  have fun with things. They’re smart enough not to take themselves too seriously. The main stories had a very dark, serious, dangerous storyline for a season arc. Good stuff.

I then did lines that ended up unused for another episode, and I understood and agreed with the reasoning, timing and story sense. I had trouble with the speed or meter of what needed to be in chorus there, and I think I flubbed in places. So it made good sense to me not to use that. The next time I do something in chorus and rapid tempo, I want to get it down perfect. Doing the part was fun, though.

I then did auditions for an audio drama that’s restarting, for Giant Gnome Productions for The 13th Hour. One part was a fantastic character actor part, voice and accent, and should be interesting to play the part. That was a working-class Englishman, middle-aged or older, a Gravedigger. I really liked doing that one, and I’m proud of how it sounds. It’s a good example for accent and character acting. The others were normal, and two required acting kid’s voices. My voice can go high enough that doing a boy’s voice had a fair chance of sounding like a kid and not an adult.

Although I didn’t get those parts, the producers liked what I did enough to keep me in mind for future roles and for audition calls. They said they keep notes on what people can do, and they might ask for me specifically to do a role, if they have something that needs it. That was encouraging, and I’d enjoy doing voice work for them. (I listen to Star Trek Outpost regularly.)

My normal speaking voice seems high to me and can go higher. My singing voice is in between a tenor and a bass; it’s baritone. I seem to have an upper range and a lower range, and a transition point between them. If I go too high, it goes falsetto. If I go too low for my range, I can’t get enough volume. I can’t reach all the way down into bass tones, and a true low bass, I can’t reach. In my range, though, I’m pretty good as an amateur. I’ve done solo and group choir in church for years, before becoming inactive from church in recent years. I enjoy singing. When I was a kid, I was a boy soprano. When my voice changed, I haven’t had as much practice independently, as opposed to following another singer’s lead, and so I feel my command of pitch isn’t as skilled as I want.

Most recently, I was asked to audition for the part of Turgas, an alien in the upcoming Star Trek Excelsior 402. The part came pretty naturally, once I had an idea what he and the others were like. His voice came with that. I was really pleased to get a call-back to do additional lines. The story needed another scene for good storytelling, to complete things, to fill in what they felt was a missing point in the plot. In other words, it was for story reasons, not for me for more lines. The part will be the largest I’ve done to date for an audio drama, and I’m very pleased. He may be a one-time guest role.

I feel I’m still new at this, still learning, and I’m liking it, so bit parts, ad-libs, walls, effects, or larger roles, guest or regular, continuing or recurring or one-off’s are all welcome. The challenge for me is to grow as an actor, to get across a part as if it’s a real character, right there in front of you. Or behind you.

A new audio drama in planning and pre-production, Star Trek Mirror Universe, now retitled Shadows of Tyranny, asked for auditions, and I was cast as a continuing regular. I researched real Russian accents, both native and speaking English. I wanted to be sure my accent didn’t sound like an American doing an accent, or doing a Russian accent badly, that sounded like some other accent or nothing real at all. I watched two very good films, one so-so film, and various YouTube content. I don’t speak Russian, but what’s needed is an ear for the sounds and a tongue that can make those sounds authentically. I’m good with languages, so that’s usually not a problem.

(Ironically, some accents can be a problem if you aren’t used to doing them or haven’t really studied how they sound. I know, for example, my native accent (Texan) is different from my dad’s accent (which was from the Appalachian Mountains, the Cumberland Gap area. I’d have to study a Boston or Massachussetts accent, because I haven’t done one. I’d probably have to study how Cajun and other Louisiana accents differ, to get them right.)

So doing a Russian accent after studying for a few days was a surprise and a thrill. Getting a continuing, regular part was a surprise. The story arc is currently expected to be six full-length episodes, an hour or so each, to complete the story.

Based on this, I may do other parts for the production company, and it may lead to other things. That’s fantastic, and unexpected. Also the Russian part is a real departure in character from anything else I’ve done and from my real self. So it should be quite something.

When I got into hearing Russian actors, studying the accent, I decided to study a little Russian and see if I could pick it up. That way, if it’s needed for this part, it will sound right (or close) and likewise for any future Russian roles. I have the books and CD’s now, but it’s still on my To Do list.

The result of all this is that, within the last few months, I’ve gained twice the experience and have interest from a few audio dramas, independent and original or fan-based.  I may get chances at both original and fan-based audio dramas besides, including brand new or currently produced or restarting productions.

The other result is that now, I need to look into local voice acting studios in my city. I might have a shot at roles as a non-guild, non-agent, amateur or newbie with some amateur credits to show.

I’ve been very surprised by this. I didn’t expect I’d get such favorable responses or specific call-back requests. I never had thought I’d seriously be a voice actor. But this has been great fun to do, it’s a real release to play some other character, very different from myself or to look into the character to find out what makes him (or other pronoun?) different from me, or from what I’d expect. What makes that character real, alive (or not?), and one who will make an impression, be an exciting story character?

I had done choir solo and group in church, from the time I was a kid on up. (My parents met in church singles class and church choir. Then I grew up in a small church. So I sang with the adults for choir practice as a kid.)

I have done only a few skits or plays when I was in church youth and young adult groups. This was fun, but the lack of enough practice rehearsals and time pressure, and trouble memorizing lines, hah, meant that I didn’t feel prepared much. However, I did a couple of performances for a full-length play, live theater, this way, and it gave me a better idea what it’s like.

In college and after, for work and personal, I’ve given presentations or public speaking, and dealt with clients enough in a small business, that I had to work off my shyness and find a public persona. I had just enough experience speaking in front of groups from this, or acting, or choir, that I can do it without making too big a deal out of it. (I’d still have pre-stage nerves, but I’d getthrough it.)

In school, I had choir and speech in junior high one year. I didn’t care for the speech class, which was more debate than theater. I liked choir. I was more interested in foreign languages and in English and writing, to become a writer. I took a journalism class in high school. (i had foreign language class each year from 7th through 12th grade and into college.) The journalism class, by the way, was well worth it.

Looking back, I think that because I didn’t much like that speech class, I didn’t try a theater class. Also looking back, that’s sort of odd, because a few of my good friends in school were in theater. I only attended one or two high school plays, but I enjoyed those a lot. They did not, however, look quite as professionally polished, with costume and makeup, as the kids on Glee (TV). But they liked it and I know I did. One of my best childhood friends was in theater, mime, dance, and apparently learned piano besides. (I spoke up publicly for him when an idiot called him out publicly. The idiot said my friend must be a *** because he took those classes and danced around like that. It was the wrong thing to say to me, and to call out my friend and make it look like I was in on it either. It’s one of the few times in life I’ve spoken out so publicly.) — So it seems odd to me, looking back, that I didn’t get into theater in school or in college. And yet it turned into something I thought I’d try, to see if I liked it, later on.

So I’m surprised to be doing audio more, to be getting better feedback and interest than I’d expected, and to think I might have more possibilities here than I’d thought. I don’t know yet if it will lead to paying work, additional income, another line of work, but if so, that would be great too. I’m meanwhile really enjoying doing voice acting for these independent projects, both original and fan-based audio dramas, podcasts. This is fun and a chance to learn and do something different. It’s a form of pretend and a form of storytelling. It’s a chance to pretend you’re someone else for a while, and invite others along to pretend with you. That can be a release from real life restraints and pressures. It can also be a chance to see what makes people the way they are, to look at what it’s like to be someone else, instead of yourself, and maybe learn a little about both in the process. It’s a chance to entertain. I like that a lot.

Writing, storytelling, is a form of pretend for adults (and kids) in which someone makes up an imaginary world, with people, places, creatures, events, and invites people to pretend along with the writer, to jump into the story as if they were really there, doing whatever is in that world, being those people, or tagging along with them.

Acting, whether live or recorded media, is a form of pretend for adults (and kids) in which a group of people all agree to pretend they are imaginary characters in some imaginary place, and the audience agree to pretend along with them, that the audience is in on it too, right there with them in the adventure. The audience can pretend they are the heroes and villains they’re watching, if they want.

It’s curious that adults like to pretend too, and that adults treat it as somehow different, more grown-up and more special or meaningful, than the pretending or the imaginary friends we make up as children. And yet nearly everybody loves a good story or a good show, writing or live performance or media recording. We like the storytellers too, the ones who are good at making up the stories and telling them. They used to be people in front of the campfire. They’ve become a whole group of people, from writers to creative staff who make video or audio, anime or books or manga, or video games. And yet, it’s the same sort of thing. It’s “Let’s Pretend” put into an adult guise. A guise is itself a form of pretend, putting on a mask or disguise, a costume. We do this as adults. It’s a curious thing we tell kids to be realistic, practical, or even not to be such dreamers. What a terrible thing to tell someone who wants to create something new. Yet everybody wants to see the latest movie or TV show, read the latest book, play the new game, and so on. It’s rare those people who do the pretending get paid for it. The movie stars are rare. Most actors, most writers, most other creatives or entertainers, don’t make a lot. It isn’t really about the paycheck, although, hey, groceries, rent, etc. are really good to get paid off. It’s about the value of pretending, creating, inviting others in on the game, to imagine something new and different from the mundane, routine world.

So let’s pretend, because there’s value in it. Or because it’s fun. Or because there’s something in there to think about that maybe we haven’t before.

And for all those kids (and adults) out there who like to pretend, who want to come up with a new story and tell it, and invite others to pretend with them — Go for it!

The idiot who thinks it’s stupid or sissy (and so on) to do that, to act like that? I can guarantee you he didn’t know anything, and he was too small-minded to learn better. That’s too bad. It’s also Ironic. I’m sure he watched TV and movies. He might’ve read a book. What did he think those actors and writers and entertainers were doing? They were taking those same classes he thought were too ***, that’s what.

It’s much better to enjoy being in on the pretending instead.

(Endnote: Yes, it’s probably silly to write *** instead of the actual word. But that word was and is used on purpose, to make someone feel less than human. I don’t buy the argument that it’s OK to use a word within a group for “empowerment,” if it can’t be used outside the group without being offenseive to them. That would be a post in itself, but it would be a rant. That said, I don’t think it makes sense to bleep out a word, to be unable to use it, in a show or book, when it is used in real life. How else would we see how bad something is, if we don’t see it brought into the open for what it really is? That also is probably another post on the purpose of drama or fiction. I should really quit this note before it’s longer than the post, or any ranty-er. So.)

 

Writing – Stories, Poems, Non-Fiction

On my site (see the link to the ShinyFiction.com Site above) you’ll find a few short-short stories, first installments of long-form stories, a collection of many freeform poems, and several non-fiction essays or articles.

These cover whatever subjects might interest me.

The non-fiction has some geeky technical pieces as well as human interest or general topics.

The poetry can cover darn near anything, and is more poetry by ideas or connections, mood and style, than by rhyme and meter. So far, I haven’t done much that could work as song lyrics or traditional poetry. But for me, at least, they work as something akin to poems.

The fictional stories I have publicly available are short-short stories and a few intended as novels or anthologies or serials, but so far, those have only one or two installments each.

That brings up a major point. I have a folder full of story ideas, anything from brief notes, bits and pieces, to several chapters and larger world-building. One in particular is a story-universe intended for many stories. That one started in college, and has gone through some important morphing of the ideas and world-building recently. My goal is to get more stories completed, so there’s more out there for readers to enjoy.

Though many of my stories are present-day, here-and-now, and though I like several genres, I have always had a love for science fiction.  I want to get those stories written, besides the world-building, the background of the story-universes those play in.

I always seem to have several ideas running in my head, and new ones can pop up at any time. This has, in recent years, made it hard to pay attention to one story and bring it to completion, when the background, the story-universe it lives in, has been changing, growing.

I still feel like an amateur fiction writer. Though I’ve had ideas going since college, it’s only recently that I’ve been writing things seriously, towards being a full-time writer. I have other projects I do (audio, font design, artwork, web/print design) that I’m trying to get done too, and to teach myself new, needed skills, especially in the changing web and ebook and print publishing fields. So I’m distracted with a number of things going, and I don’t yet have the progress, the completed output, I want to see.

It’s a major goal to get things written, both in what I already have started, and in ideas and stories still in progress, in their various stages in my writing folders.

From time to time, I expect to begin releasing new stories, poems, and non-fiction again. I will keep readers posted on the process and on pieces, novels, or collections, as they become available.

If you enjoy a story, poem, or non-fiction piece, or if you have comments or suggestions, I would love to get feedback from you. In fact, I’d be surprised. I value positive feedback and value negative feedback when it makes me think more and learn from it.

Future plans include bringing my fiction and poetry into ebook formats (for very reasonable prices), rather than web pages. I expect my non-fiction articles to remain available online as web pages, with the addition of ebook formats. These should happen as I can get to them. I am learning EPUB3 and need to learn PHP too.

Stay tuned for more!