Disaster & Resurgence

In the autumn of 2019, I began writing the sixth Cornish Detective story, called Kissing & Killing. Neil Kettle’s life had changed in Book 5, The Dead Need Nobody—for the better, as he has a love life—for the worst, as he was almost killed (no spoilers!) arresting a murder suspect.

The new story begins with him on medical leave, recovering from his injuries, and enjoying having a lover, someone to help him relish life. Evil men are still around, a gang of mercenaries hired by African politicians seeking independence from their mother nation, who are targetting big game trophy hunters. Their crimes are gory.

As usual, I was aiming for a length of 80,000 words, with a completion date of July 2020. After years of frustration using Microsoft Windows, I went over to using Linux Mint in 2016, which I am delighted with as an operating system. What happened when I went to update Mint wasn’t the fault of Linux, as I’d forgotten I was updating other software. Previous Linux updates happened easily, but this time, the screen gradually went black as every icon disappeared!

To cut a long and sad story short, I spent two months attempting to recover my writing files. I’m careful about backing up work by using memory sticks and two Cloud accounts, so most of my eBooks were available. To my horror, I hadn’t saved my WIP Kissing & Killing. Five months of work, 50,000 words had disappeared. I tried using a dozen different data recovery apps to no avail.

Then, the coronavirus crisis began. I slowly realised that Kissing & Killing could not have occurred as I’d written it set in 2020. The prowling mercenary killers would have been in lockdown! Rewriting it wouldn’t work, until the crisis passed. To safeguard what might be salvageable, I removed the SSD containing the manuscript from my laptop, so prevent overwriting anything. I’d still like to recover the work, which may reappear set in 2022 or whenever things return to normal.

What to do next?

Cut-off mid-flow, I felt frustrated. There’s always something to do as a self-employed Indie author: self-promotion being the main thing. Look at me, look at me, look at me!

Reading publishing industry newsletters about how the coronavirus quarantine was affecting the book trade, I noticed that audiobook sales had increased by 31%! Talking Books, as they used to be called, have been growing in sales by 30% for the last few years, the biggest increase of any type of book. It made sense to get involved, but I had no recording equipment.

I invested about £400 in buying what was needed short-term and for future use. This included a good quality microphone, a microphone boom, material needed to construct a portable recording booth, and a tablet computer—the latter to read the book from, as turning paper pages is noisy and my laptop’s cooling fan would be picked up on by the microphone.

I also acquired a digital audio-recorder and a digital single-lens reflex camera, though these will be used for location work visiting Cornish locations where my stories take place; the recorder attaches to the camera, which is handy.

To record the book, I used free software from Audacity:

At first sight, it looks horrendously complicated, but don’t panic, as you’ll only be using one-tenth of its controls.

My experience of doing sound recording was limited to mucking around in a small recording studio at college in the 1980s, so I was a novice when it came to narrating, recording and mastering an audiobook. It was a steep learning curve.

I began on April 23rd and didn’t finish until I uploaded my first audiobook to ACX on the 4th of August. During that time, I did no creative writing, leaving two novellas in a state of limbo. Working eight to twelve hour days was exhausting, exasperating and, while doing it, unrewarding! The work is exacting and it’s impossible not to become geeky while obsessed with adjusting settings and eliminating extraneous noises, such as car exhausts and aeroplanes. That’s not always possible, meaning that section needs to be re-recorded and remastered.

How I felt while mastering my audiobook.

If you think that narrating and recording a book is easy, download Audacity and use your computer’s microphone to narrate a short story. See how many mistakes you make. Feel what it does to your throat…and patience!

I found that I got better at narrating my novel, but editing and mastering what I recorded is astonishingly time-consuming. Audio experts suggest that it will take eight to ten times the narration time to perfect your sound file. They’re right, and it’s often longer. It sounds unlikely, but a paragraph that lasts two minutes can easily consume half an hour of your life.

I’ve written much more about narrating and mastering an audiobook in posts on my writing blog, Paul Pens, under the thread title Narration Blues.

This is how I felt when I’d uploaded my audiobook: