After the events of Jolimont Street, the Narrator and the Professor are pariahs in their own town. It was already a struggle to get cases to investigate, so it is only natural that they would venture somewhere more populated. With a big town comes many people, not all of them natives, and with that comes, you guessed it, more voices.
You’ve got Madam. Middle-aged and well-to-do, she was also the head of her family and at war with her other half. She needed a manicured voice, one that held power and poise, not at all flighty or weak, even though she is confused. She must keep a brave face, in spite of everything.
My biggest issue was not so much the femininity of the voice, rather my tendency to start speaking like Her Majesty the Queen. In fact, I’ve found that with a lot of the voices, I come close to sounding like parodies and I need to actively check myself, pause, and start again.
Mister Belfiore is Italian. I don’t think that comes across so strongly in the book, but that’s who he is in my mind. He plays a more prominent role in Cooper Alley, so I had to make sure that whatever voice I used, I could maintain between books.
I started with my go-to voice for Pantaloni, breathy, old and heavily accented. Nope, no good. Too old, too breathy. Still, it’s a starting point. What I needed was a somewhat younger version, someone in their 50s or 60s.
I backed off on the accent some, sang the ‘Franco Cozzo’ song to get in the mood and left him a little wheezy.
Now for the main event: Zindello. I haven’t any Romanian friends, and if I did, I’m sure I wouldn’t any more for the terrible disservice I have done to the vocals.
I have watched Eurovision. I have seen the various countries and heard their accents and tried to mimic a few. Pah, who am I kidding? After a few words, my mouth degenerates into a generic Eastern European drawl, located nowhere in particular between Russia and Lithuania.
Still, it’s Zindello. It’s the self-assured strutting man who knows what he wants and how to get it. He’s this guy:
His voice is forceful, he comes across as brash and bold and dangerous. He knows about everything he needs to know about. He likes to be in control. No, he must be in control.
Throw in the usual ruffians, the hotelier and what have you, and Portsmouth Avenue comes out a very hard book to do voices for. It certainly took the longest to date, if only because I needed to frequently stop and re-adjust my voice to get back into character.
You can find Portsmouth Avenue Ghost in Audiobook at most outlets but, as at the time of writing this, Audible hasn’t gotten around to it. There’s some kind of hold up with the publishing gods. Maybe I haven’t sacrificed enough virgin sardines or something.
I really needed a picture of this house for the front cover. But taking the photo is only the first part of the job. Next was turning this rather old looking piece into something one might consider haunted.
The house, captured in broad daylight, was not exactly ‘creepy’ looking. Not only that, as you can see there are artefacts within that would not belong in a Victorian era story. Anachronisms, perhaps? Either way, they had to go:
We can see the walker, the plastic bins, the electrical junctions and the wires. The letterbox looks fine and the number on the door is too small to make out, so that’s good, too. Oh, right, and the compact fluorescent lamp as well. Another little ditty is the reflection in the glass – there’s a ute in there. Aaaand that building over to the right.
To get rid of these things, I used the good old ‘clone’ tool in Gimp. The technique is to carefully clone parts of the surrounding background and surface over the top of the unwanted anomalies.
This works best with consistent (like the grey bricks) or noisy (like the mulch on the ground) backgrounds. It’s a pain in the bum with distinct, contrasting objects like the fence rods and the window. For these, I had to match up the cloning very carefully indeed to avoid a glaring inconsistency with the straight lines.
Not that anyone is looking that closely, but still. It’s also a heck of a lot easier when you don’t have a Joey jostling your arm every few seconds.
I then removed the sky, twiddled with it, darkened it and kept it for later. The colour of the house and the leaves needed to be duller and more dreary. For this I adjusted the grey bricks to be more purple, and the green leaves to be more yellow. The top windows needed dulling (because we can’t reflect a blue sky at night, right?) which was a matter of using the magic selector and reducing the lightness.
With all that done, it was time to add some layering in there.
The story is set in winter, and while it is not full-blown midwinter, it’s still cold and there is a smattering of snow about. Well, that means I needed to add snow. Where and how the heck could I do that? It took some doing, but I think I got there. More on that in a tick.
Head-down-bum-up. That’s the story of the past year, and, for the past month, it has been head-downer-bum-even-more-upper. The pace only gets faster the closer one gets to finishing.
To tell you the truth, I’m knackered.
I’m stoked to see it up. I’m stoked to have hit the target I set for myself. I’m stoked that the hardest part is behind me.
Wait, you mean there’s more?
Well, yeah. There’s always more. Now that it’s Portsmouth Avenue Ghost is up for pre-release, I need to convert it and set it up on Amazon, and then convert it again (and the cover) to post to Lulu. In addition, I need to order a copy and ensure that it’s correct in my Kobo reader, do the ISBN, give it a final check and then repeat that for the Lulu side of things.
And then I need to adjust the Paranormology series page, image and make a post there, too, and update the links as Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes receive the distribution.
It doesn’t end just because I’ve done the upload.
On top of that, I’m not 100% happy with the cover, so I’ll need to get some tweaking done before the release.
Still, it’s up. It’s up, and I’m going to have a break for a day to rezone. In the meantime, enjoy! You can find the book at:
You know when your eyes are burning and your fingers and cramped and up come up for a gulp of air and realise, ‘Heck, almost there!’
The fifth episode of Paranormology is only a hop, skip and a jump away from getting published. Allow me a couple of seconds to enjoy the moment.
Back to it. I’ve highlighted the issues and suggested corrections, now I’ve got to pick up the pieces of paper – literally – and update the electronic copy.
Why ‘literally’? Well, funny story:
As you can see from the pic, there’s a whopping bulldog clip what holds all my sheets together. This system works really well because it keeps the pages in order when I take it from my bag, or put it on the table, or drop it on the ground. Where the system fails is when I unclip it, then let the pages slide off the desk and across the floor.
Let this be a lesson – when you print out your manuscript, add page numbering. It’s fast and it means that, if the pages get screwed up because of one’s clumsiness, it’s trivial to put them back into order.
As it was, I spent a good ten minutes flicking through, sorting and shuffling and rearranging.
You’ll also notice that I used a yellow highlighter rather than my favourite red pen. Reason is that I couldn’t find Old Red anywhere. The highlighter + black pen combination isn’t that great, in that I need to do two marks rather than one, and the black pen had a tendency to get smeared on the marker.
The end result is good. I can scan a page quickly and spot what needs to be updated, so that’s not a problem, and if I can’t have a red pen, I’ll settle for this, albeit grudgingly.
What comes next?
Updating the electronic copy with the corrections. It’s laborious, it’s boring, but it has to be done. A few cups of coffee should help.
After this, or during – if I need a break from words – comes the cover. I’ve got the sky how I want it, and I’ve removed a few ‘modern’ artefacts from the house and surrounds. Now I need to get the colours right, perhaps add a some environmental cues, and decide upon a font for the title.
And then, somewhere along the way, I have to start a blurb – *shudder*. For such a small patch of writing it is the most agonising to write: Summarise without being vague. Give clues without giving anything away. Create interest without using cliches. And do it all in a neat and tidy space of five sentences. Blegh.
So I might be near the end, but, really, there is much still to be done.
It’s official: the next in Paranormology sees our protagonist accompany the Professor to Exeter, following up on a potential lead involving a wealthy widow and a mysterious medium. I finished the second draft just now – coffee down, have a stretch, crack of the knuckles and back to it, Jez.
Naturally there’s the drama between the Professor and the Gypsy – neither appreciates the other’s presence. The protagonist is caught in the middle, being young and idealistic.
There’s the theme of the optimism of youth, and it helps in a few spots, yet the premise is related to controlling one’s emotions. Sound vague? Of course. I’m not going to spell out the premise, that’s the book’s job.
I don’t think I’ll be doing the whole KDP thing again on this one. Firstly, it wouldn’t be fair to those who have the rest of the Paranormology series on Kobo, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, etc. Secondly, I really like Smashwords as a publisher! They’ve got the author as their focus, not profits, and they make it easy to do just about anything. I’m cool with that.
As for the cover, I’ve got a particular house in mind that I pass by every day on the way home from work. It’s over in Essendon and I’m thinking I might want to ask for permission from the home owner first before I stand outside like a creepy guy and take happy-snaps of the house… Yeah, maybe I’ll do that.
Don’t know how I’m going to approach it, but. “Hey, hi. You don’t know me and, well, I don’t know you, but I was wondering if I could take pictures of your house…”