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Burnout, and the power of NO

First of all, I’d like to apologize for publishing my last blog from an antiquated page. One that I had decided to never use again. I suppose that’s the price I pay for not fully dismantling it.

But, burnout. Clearly, I’m experiencing it right now, or else it wouldn’t really be on my mind.

In the past three days, I’ve powered through narrating three books. On top of that, I have to set aside a certain amount of time for marketing, networking, auditioning, gear/ studio improvement shopping, and being available to take Richard wherever he needs to go, because we’re a one-car family. Add to that that we just adopted a kitten, named Jynx, who happens to be a very expressive, athletic, LOUD Bengal. All of these factors make recording, and setting time to record, a challenge.

So, after booking an entire series of novels to narrate, plus three other titles from other publishers, plus volume three in a series of novels I began to narrate over a year ago… I should have done some more thinking, been a little more considerate of my situation, and that of my clients. Because now, I can barely work effectively, and when I do, right now, it’s in very small snippets, because I’ve pushed myself to a sort of stress cliff.

But this, as freelance artists, is our paradox: we want to accept as much work as we can, so we have a steady stream of income, and our brand and name get out in the public eye. The other side of this is that, once we’ve put our bran/ name out in the public eye, and have accepted a ton of projects, our reputation suffers once we start faltering on deadlines, or on quality of work, because we discover we simply haven’t alotted enough time in the day (or night) to do all the work we’ve signed up to do.

This is where the power of saying NO comes in handy. You have to put your excitement about getting all this work aside, you have to put your ego aside, and you have to realize there will be more work, other projects, other opportunities, and if you accept too much work, you run the risk of damaging yourself, and your brand.

That’s all I’m going to say about this for now. Immediately, I’m simply happy I found this, my “real” blog page again, and hope you guys get into reading it again, as well.

May you have a blast this weekend, NOT a burnout!

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The moon will,  in fact, be full at about 8:58 am.

I’ve recently emerged from three months of what could be described as hell. I don’t want to go into too much detail about it, because I’m just getting back to blogging, and things don’t need to be all gothic and morose right off the bat.

To those of you reading, I hope you’re doing well, and I wonder if you’re looking as forward to fall as I am.

I’ve been working on many, many projects. Not too  much anime as of very recently, but that will probably change soon.

Alright, that’s all for now, just a quick update.

 

-Chris

Mentors

I am a solitary type.

Yes, I have a partner. Yes, I have friends. Yes, I enjoy the occasional party or social outing. Yes, I’m an actor, which means being around, or performing for, a lot of people.

But mainly, I’m a solitary type.

At the end of the day (and sometimes at the beginning and middle of the day) I love having my alone time. My quiet time. Time to and with myself. I could play armchair psychologist as to why this is true (the ‘only child’ theory quickly comes to mind), but that’s of little consequence. Let it be simply said and known that I am often-times, contrary to how some may perceive me, a bit of a hermit.

Hence, I was very reluctant to ever actively take on any sort of Voiceover Mentor or Guru. But ‘facts is facts’, and as I’ve started to take myself more seriously as a Sole Proprietor, Independent Talent, Freelance Artist, or whatever frilly adjective-noun combination you’d like to name it, I’ve come to the humble realization that I can’t go it solely alone, and that I would have to choose somebody from which to learn the “secrets”, the “tricks of the trade”, and basic “tips” to get me from one plane of Voiceover existence to the next. Yes, I would need a mentor, or mentors.

That’s a rather long introductory bit for a blog entry that really is only coming into existence because I want to share with those who follow me, or look to me for any kind of guidance, those who have helped and are helping me on my path. These are my giants, my VO heroes, the people who have not only shone a light on the path, but have quite literally (if only in virtual format) handed me the tools with which to ply my craft.

Before I go on to list and link these folks, I want to say that I believe it is to everybody’s advantage in life, no matter your pursuit, to find a person or persons to take on as a mentor. A guide. Call it what you will, but no matter how fiercely independent of spirit you are (and believe me, I am) you NEED help. It’s not weakness, and it says nothing negative about your character. It is, rather, a condition of being human. Even one of my greatest heroes, the very headstrong, willful, stubborn, and incredibly driven Aleister Crowley had mentors in both mountaineering and magick.

So, let us not languor any longer over linguistics… let’s get to the short list of my VO mentors…

THE MIGHTY THREE:

Harlan Hogan – This guy is one of my distant mentors. We’ve never talked, we’ve never interacted, but I’ve learned from him nonetheless, felt aligned with him, and enjoyed his jocular, jester-like approach to Voiceover. He’s probably been my biggest help in the whole department of “setting up the home studio”.

James Alburger – Again, a distant mentor, and he doesn’t know me from a hole in the ground. But I had to give him props, if for no other reason than the fact that he wrote the Voice Acting bible, The Art of Voice Acting.

Bill De Wees – Probably my most honest-to-goodness mentor. We communicate on a semi-regular basis, I watch his YouTube videos almost every day, I put into practice what he preaches about running a Voiceover Business. This guy is simply the best. Yes, you will pay for his most important, blockbusting info, but he gives away tons of info for free, all the time. He’s quite altruistic with his info, and he knows more about the business than, well, maybe anyone.

If you’re an aspiring VO, all these guys would be good to take on as near or distant mentors, but whomever you choose, make sure it’s somebody you can possibly bounce ideas off of, even in a very indirect way, make sure it’s somebody you respect, and make sure it’s somebody who is not only out to make a buck. Yes, all the above listed guys can sell you something (James has his classes, Harlan has a whole LIST of products, from a personalized mic to an “ON AIR” sign you can put in your home, and Bill has whole courses he sells), but none of this is bad, or reflects negatively… BECAUSE, theses guys have proved themselves in the marketplace, they know what they’re doing, they’re constantly working, and as stated before, they give away a LOT for free.

May you choose the mentor(s) that is/are right for you, and may your journey with them be prosperous and thrilling!

 

 

This is gonna be relatively quick and easy, but I have to talk about this, or I will feel I’m doing the Universe a disservice, if such a thing is even possible.

Look, if you can imagine something, really visualize it, really want it, really dream it up in your head… you can also make it materialize in three dimensions, on the earthly plain, okay? I’m telling you this as a fact, not a New Age aphorism.

And one more thing… please remember… “AT THE MOMENT OF COMMITMENT, THE UNIVERSES CONSPIRES TO ASSIST YOU”

 

Got it? Good. Go live it!

Sometimes I’m just at a point where I spend so much time in the booth, working at my craft, that it’s not what I want to blog about when I come to the keyboard.

I’d kind of like to go off on a small rant about “fan” rudeness. And I put the word “fan” in quotes, because I often wonder IF you’re somebody’s fan, why would you be shitty towards them? Anyway, I’m not gonna go there right now. It’s an ugly place, and plus that blog would take about an hour to compose. And truth be told, for every person out there who calls himself a fan but is truly a jerk, there are ten other people who are awesome.

Okay, ’nuff of that.

I guess I do need to talk about something, as it’s an issue I’ve been given a lesson in very recently, and it warrants discussion, if not in-depth scoping. And it’s the issue of BREATH.

Breath in voice acting, I should say. Especially breath in Audiobook Narration. Look, I’m not gonna play around, I listen to LOTS of people’s Audiobook Demos, and these are people who label and call themselves Pros, and I gotta tell you, I’m aware I’m better than a great lot of them. But, I do have one tremendous weakness when it comes to narration, and that’s my breathing style. (Now, don’t go searching for this on titles I’ve done, or it’s all you’ll notice!) Ahem. Anyway, I’ve often noticed that my catch-breaths, for lack of a better term, while narrating, fall into natural pockets, but they tend to be a bit RASPY,  or even plain LOUD. A producer recently emailed me about this, and he let me in on some techniques on how to avoid this. So far, it’s been really helpful. The embarrassing thing is, if I’d just applied a little bit of the vocal training I’d received as a singer, I would have figured this all out on my own. But, here’s the rub, sorta. When you’re on stage, and you have to take big breaths, whether or not their incredibly audible doesn’t so much come through, because you’re playing to a giant hall, even IF you’re wearing a body mic. It’s just not as noticeable because of sound dispersion, size of space, etc. … However, in the intimate world of recording Voiceover, again, everything is intimate and naked. And not in a sexy way. I mean it’s all laid bare. Every little glitch of the mouth. And improper, or stressed, or cramped breathing can sound like a windstorm, when in “real life”, it would be barely noticeable.

I’m still trying to master the technique, but it has to do with breathing with your tongue forward, so as to keep an open pharynx, which allows an effortless passage of air. For me, getting my mouth INTO this position in the nanoseconds it takes to do a catch breath while reading is the big challenge. But like I said, I’m working on it.

A good performing artist is always learning and improving!

 

 

The Hydration Situation

So let’s talk about all those ugly noises you can sometimes hear in your recordings. Or, if you’re not a VO kinda person, let’s talk about waking up with bad breath, feeling tongue-tied when you talk, feeling like you can’t properly swallow, feeling bloated in the belly, feeling tired more often than you think you should… Sound familiar? Anyone? Yeah, well, here’s an idea: DRINK SOME DAMN WATER!

No, really. Do it. Now. Stop reading, get up, get a glass of water, drink it down, sit back down, continue reading.

Feeling better already, aren’t you?

Water is one of the most underrated things on this planet. Not only do we need it to, ya know, not die… but it actually helps our bodies function properly in so many ways that we may not even realize. And yes, as a Voice Talent, staying properly hydrated is ESSENTIAL to delivering clean takes, to being less tongue-tied, and to experiencing less fatigue in the booth.

Even if all the above wasn’t important, or true (it is), consider this nifty list:

WHY WATER KICKS ASS

And on the real, you’ll never hear me say “OMG don’t eVAR drink alcohol or caffeine! EVAR!!!” We’re humans. We’re going to do some stupid stuff to feel good and have fun sometimes, but remember, the best way to remedy the damage done by such indulgence is, you guessed it, WATER!

Narrating a ton of audiobooks has made my awareness of hydration like thrice what it ever was before, because the tracks you deliver when narrating an Audiobook are SO quiet and naked. It’s you and the mic, baby, and any extraneous noise? It’s gonna be makin’ a guest appearance! And the more junk like that there is on your tracks, the less a client is going to want to work with you. Trust.

I just wanted to get this offa my fingers (see what I did there) because hydration is always on my mind. So for those of you who didn’t know, yes, water is way more important than you ever could have imagined.

DRINK IT!

 

 

Though it shouldn’t be… a touchy subject that is. And maybe it’s not anymore. God knows I’m not all up in the “con mix” like I used to be. But I remember when the whole thing started blowing up, and there were like a bajillion Anime Cons in every state, and Voice Actors in a different city every weekend, practically, with barely enough time to actually work. There was a lot of drama, back then, over “certain people” charging (gasp!) APPEARANCE FEES! These people were looked upon my some with scorn and headshakes, talked about in hushed tones as if they were criminals or villains, trying to bleed conventions out of their every last penny.

At the time, I tried not to have much of an opinion on the matter. I only knew that, in my mind, I wasn’t a “big enough name” at the time to really rate any sort of an Appearance Fee.

But that changed.

The busier I got, and the busier cons got,  and the more annoying traveling became, the more appearing at conventions started to feel like work… You know why? BECAUSE IT IS! Yes, it’s true, not only does appearing at a convention mean a free flight, hotel room and food, but it also means keeping very odd hours, typically compromising your immune system, paneling for hours, signing autographs for hours, stopping every few minutes (sometimes seconds) in hallways and ballrooms to have your picture taken, and… DUN DUN DUNNN!, missing out on work!

Now, for me, the work part of a con doesn’t bother me. I’m a brand, a product, a business unto myself, and if I’ve been invited to a con, then it’s my duty to promote myself, and to entertain fans, and help make the con a profitable venture for those in charge. But, guess what that means? I get paid. And the main reason I get paid (again, for me, as I can’t and won’t speak for anybody else on this issue) is that I’m missing out on work, potential work, and marketing myself in the Voice Over market in general.

Let me break it down a bit:

I work six days a week, anywhere from about three to nine hours a day, sometimes more. In that time, I’m either recording, editing, marketing, or sometimes (though more rarely now) driving to or from a gig. Without disclosing any exact numbers, my usual money-making goal in a day ranges anywhere from about $200-$600. Do I always reach my goals? No, but I often do. Alright, now let’s consider that when I appear at a con, I’m usually asked to be there from Thursday night through either Sunday night or Monday morning. So, let’s be really conservative here and say that in the shortest commitment situation, I’d fly out on a Friday morning, and back on a Sunday morning. *note- this is almost never the case     But in that case, I’d be missing doing work and marketing for a Friday and a Saturday, a potential anywhere from $400-$1200.  Now, let’s be a little more realistic… Typical con schedule: I fly out on a Thursday morning, do all the con work on Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday. Get some r and r back at the hotel, then fly out Monday morning, sometimes even Monday evening. So, what has now happened? I’ve missed Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and really, Monday, too. That’s five days. That’s a potential $1,000-$3,000. It also causes me to run the slight risk of getting behind on deadlines, which can cause friction in relationships with a potential long-term client, which basically translates into loss of income.

So, there it is.

Now, you’ll notice I didn’t tell you what my exact appearance fee is, but I gave you a method by which you could arrive at a ballpark amount. As far as what other Guests charge, I have no idea. I only know that whenever I suggest my fee to the person inviting me, 99% of the time the response I get is “oh, that’s totally fine!” So, either I’m being lied to, or my appearance fee is nowhere near as high as certain other talents. *I’m almost willing to bet it’s the latter 🙂

Anyway, I wanted to take a sort of hush-hush subject and demystify it a bit, and possibly help anybody reading this understand why VOs appearing at cons tend to ask for, and usually get, an Appearance Fee.

Yes, it’s Art, it’s our Art, and we love it. But it’s also our Business, and the Artist who forgets that will very likely end up, well, unable to practice his Art, as he or she will spend all their time at a job that does nothing to fulfill them, but instead robs them of their time.

That’s all for now.

Everybody have a great Monday!

 

-Chris

Hey people!

It’s Monday morning, wake up, have some caffeine, run around the park, and then kiss a sunbeam or hug a tree or drive your car around singing Lady Gaga songs… or just be content reading my blog! …

So, I want to talk about why I love being so very involved in the wonderful world of Audiobooks, as a narrative Voice Talent.

First and foremost, I love storytelling. I’ve been acting all my life, and even in those dark days when I was not being paid for my craft, I still enjoyed it, loved it, reveled in it… why? Well, I thought about that for a long time… was it the applause? recognition? the “being able” to tell people I was an actor and sound oh-so chi-chi and artsy? Nah, it was the fact that I LOVED telling  stories! Still do, actually. I think storytelling is what all great acting is at its core. And when I’m doing it at its best, it almost feels magickal, or Shamanic, even. As if I’m a storyteller of old, invoking characters to evoke emotions in the people around me who are seeking some sort of moral, or lesson, or great TRUTH… But perhaps I oversell my craft a bit… but not really. I mean, that IS what it actually feels like!

Anyway, this may sound completely bonkers, simply from a logistics point of view, but I’m currently narrating SEVEN Audiobooks… and I must say, though they’re all good, I must do that thing that no parent is ever supposed to do, and dote on a current favorite… In fact, it’s the book I’m closest to finishing right now, and it’s called What Dies In Summer, and is written by Tom Wright. It’s a fantastically haunting coming-of-age tale that takes place in my home state, Texas. Imagine a mash up of Stand by Me, The Prince of Tides, and maybe something by Tennessee Williams. Really rich, chilling stuff!

Now, I’m not going to lie or beat about the bush on this: Audiobooks are more work for the money, as opposed to a commercial or a quick narration, or something along those lines, but the work is very rewarding, and the money IS good. So, if narrating Audiobooks has ever appealed to you, make sure it’s because you love to spin a good yarn, and not because you think you’ll have won the Voice Over lottery!

That’s all for now, but I shall be writing more very soon!

Please subscribe if you like what I have to say… and if you don’t, keep your damn mouth shut! 😉

 

 

Words Words Words

And so we come to Friday, and gods don’t I love it?! Paid yesterday, paid today, and continuing fun work on two giant Science Fiction books that I’m currently narrating.

One of the primary ways I earn my income is as a Narrator for Bee Audio. Not that they’re the only peeps I narrate for, but they’re my main guys, for sure. They stay incredibly busy with titles, they pay a good wage, and their methods are second-to-none as far as artistic standards and quality control. Working for them is an honor, a pain in the ass, and a privilege. To even be on their roster is quite a pat on the back, but the fact that they throw so much work my way is, honestly, quite astounding. Not that I think I suck, but when I set out to be a very proactive Audiobook Narrator almost two years ago, … well… hm… I dunno. I was going to say I didn’t think I’d get this much work, but, the main reason I was so interested in this avenue of Voiceover, was that I always thought it would be my strong point. And it would appear that that may be the case. Eh, click on the link above, and you be the judge. Could be you detest my style of narration. Maybe not.

I just wanted to write this morning, because it’s hard for me to convey how very lost in words I sometimes feel, and yet it’s something I want to express. I like trying to take people on a ride with me, to have them share in an experience if they have to. I’m sure my job is some people’s idea of hell: a tiny room, isolation, talking for hours on end, acting the whole time, constantly aware of character, intent, arc, beats, pitch, rhythm, accent, tone, color, timbre, whether or not your voice is making odd pops/ squeaks/ clicks/, obsessing over the integrity of your Main Narrator voice. It seems like it would drive some people mad. I’ve always maintained that it takes a certain kind of personality to be a mindful, “good” actor, and probably even a more specific type to be an actor who works extensively in Voiceover, and probably still more specific type to sit in a booth in front of a screen (or in my case, my Kindle Fire), reading, emoting, acting for hours on end with seemingly nobody near you.

Personally, I love it. I can’t imagine it not being a part of my life. I feel that storytelling is one of the most ancient artforms, and to see it thriving so vividly, spreading like beautiful wildfire in the digital age, makes me all warm inside, like… um… a margarita… does… after… a long day… in the booth.

And, when I’ve lost the ability to put forth a cogent simile, it’s time to sign off for a bit.

Yeah.

Happy Friday! Go fall in love!

No More POP!

At first glance, this may look like it’s going to be a post about the fact that I found my old pop filter, and am employing it again in home use, thereby aiding in the elimination of extra-poppiness in my recordings.  (Oh, by the way, I found my old pop filter, and I’m again employing it in home use). Ahem. But no, this post is about how I’ve radically changed my eating habits, namely cutting out about 90% of my sugar intake, refined or otherwise. The main way I’ve achieved this is by the cessation of consumption of pop. Or, “coke”. Or, soda. Whatever. The only soda I have any more is, sometimes, one 8 oz. Red Bull in the morning, and that usually comprises most of my sugar intake for the day. (27 grams, for the curious). Why? Well, it was weird… I was a pescetarian… mainly vegan, actually, and I was in terrible shape. My skin looked crappy and dull, my body was starting to get oh-so-pudgy, and may weight was approaching 200 pounds! What the shit?! Granted, I’m 6’3″, so it’s easy for me to kinda “hide” that kinda weight, but still, I wasn’t really fooling anybody. I needed to finally shed some fucking serious weight, and for good. I knew what I had to do, and I didn’t want to face it, because it would be one of the hardest struggles of my life. Why? Because, like so many other people, I’ve grown up on a very sugary diet… except, to be honest, probably much worse. If I could catalog for you what I used to eat in a typical day, you’d be surprised, not by the actual amount of food, but by the number of grams of sugar… Let me put it to you like this: The World Health Organization recommends consumption of about 50 grams of sugar a day… I… was having… I figure… oh… about 200-300 grams of sugar a day. There’s no way I wasn’t on the way to diabetes, unless I have like, Super Liver or something. My vision was extra crappy, I had terrible mood and energy swings, and I was simply listless and unmotivated, more and more so, all the time. Very much unlike me. So, I started, and I mean hardcore, cold turkey. I totally did a flip-flop with my diet. I increased the grams of protein in my diet massively, concurrently obliterating the amount of sugar I took in, massively. Most days, I now have about 50-100 grams of protein in a day, and I hover between about 10-40 grams of sugar.

Is it easy? Hell no. Do I see results? Hell yes. Even without my glasses, my vision has improved, I’ve almost completely stopped getting atphous sores (what many call cankor sores) in my mouth and on my tongue, and my face looks more alert and alive. Also, my energy is way more even, and I never get that “bottoming out” feeling of shakiness and my blood running cold, which is indicative of a sugar crash. And yes, about 13 pounds have fallen off of my frame. So, I feel I’ve made some good decisions, and so far, even over the Christmas holidays, I’ve managed to stick with low sugar consumption. And yes, I do still get some sugar from natural sources, but not much. And I’ve literally cut ALL the refined crap out of my diet. There are many things I miss, for no good reason other than a psychological addiction, but miss them I do. The crazy cravings have fallen away, and so have the headaches, but there’s still that nagging sugar demon in my head trying to get me to eat the wrong stuff. I have a feeling even he’ll be quiet too, eventually. Until then, my Will is strong.

Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

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