Christmas Story: A Candle in the Forest

It’s almost Christmas, and that means it’s almost time for Candle in the Forest! This is a sweet little story that I like to post each year. It’ll get you into the Christmas spirit in a jiffy.

christmas_by_lucky008
Christmas by lucky008

Candle in the Forest
by Temple Bailey

The small girl’s mother was saying, “The onions will be silver,
and the carrots will be gold–”
“And the potatoes will be ivory,” said the small girl, and they
laughed together. The small girl’s mother had a big white bowl in her
lap, and she was cutting up vegetables. The onions were the hardest,
because she cried over them.
“But our tears will be pearls,” said the small girl’s mother,
and they laughed at that and dried their eyes, and found the carrots
much easier, and the potatoes the easiest of all.
Then the next-door-neighbor came in and said, “What are you doing?”

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A tale of two communities

I’ve had this weird, Twilight Zone experience. It’s living on the fence between two similar yet completely different communities.

On one hand, I have my professional writer groups on Facebook. This is a group of hard-working writers. We give critiques. We discuss pricing and marketing. We band together to promote each other’s work. Sometimes we even read each other’s books.

We’re all writing speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy), but the details wildly vary. Some people are writing dystopian civilizations. Some people are writing high fantasy with elves and dragons. Other people are writing urban fantasy, where the elves and dragons live in Los Angeles.

highwayman_centaur_by_coldevey-dajm868
Highwayman Centaur by Coldevey. I thought this was the coolest idea I’d ever seen.

On the other hand, I have my Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction and art community. This is a group of laid-back young people who are doing this for fun. We write, but there’s no drive to sell anything. We read each other’s work because it’s fun. We draw pics, not for money, but because we like to draw.

And the fun thing is, we’re all writing and drawing the same characters. We might place the characters in space, or in a jungle, or in a city, but it’s the same characters every time. It makes every single story or artwork instantly accessible to everyone in the community.

As I flip back and forth between the driven, hardcore people and the relaxed people having fun, I’m really noticing the difference. And I keep asking myself, why? Why is it this way? Is it because the professionals are trying to create a product to sell?

I haven’t cracked this yet, although I’m definitely thinking about it. Participating in a fandom is like having a book series that you can write additional novels for. You’re welcome to it, and there’s lots of people who will read what you write and tell you what they think of it. You’ll never make any money off it, but it’s sure fun.

When you’re a professional, out there creating new products, you’re on your own. Nobody else knows these characters except you. Nobody else cares about the world except you. The only way you’ll ever get to the wide, warm community stage is to write long series over many years. Collect readers like a snowball rolling downhill. Eventually, people will read and interact with your world. But in the beginning, when your world is only one or two books, there’s nothing there yet.

I think a lot of writers burn out early on. They want the big warm community, and they’re not going to get it by only having a few books. They’ve got to craft a world (something speculative fiction authors excel at!), and it’s going to take years. Maybe people don’t realize this when they start out. Everybody wants to be To Kill a Mockingbird. But not everybody is Harper Lee and will hit it out of the park on their first book.

So, I guess the difference between the fanfic community and the professional community is that the fanfic is focused on one intellectual property. And the professional community, EVERYBODY has a small, unpopular IP that they’re trying to build. It’s a much tougher world over there. But the people who stick it out and write a ton of books (GOOD books) are the snowballs who roll the farthest and grow the biggest.

Audiobooks are hard to do

Audiobooks are exploding right now. There’s lots of articles talking about how everybody likes to listen to books on their phones, like this one. Listening to books on your commute is another one. I’m constantly seeing cozy mystery readers who are frustrated that their favorite series aren’t available on audiobook yet (especially people whose eyesight isn’t so good.)

I’ve been tossing around the idea of narrating my own books, for example, my cozy dragon mysteries. They have a female protagonist, and I think it would be a good fit. But I need to practice. So when somebody asked me if I planned to turn my fanfics into audiobooks, I thought, why not?

The fun thing about fanfics is I don’t have to mess with Audible. I can drop them on Youtube without worrying about Audible’s strict sound quality requirements. I can flounder around and make production mistakes and have volume issues and nobody cares because, hey, fanfic.

thunderhead_and_pirate_ship_by_ebineyland-d6ff3yz
Thunderhead and pirate ship by Ebineyland

My hubby gets up at 4:30 AM most mornings for work. I get up with him, and after he leaves, I have about an hour before the kids wake up. Beautiful, beautiful silence. So that’s when I sit and record a chapter, which usually takes about ten minutes. My hubby has a very nice microphone that I commandeer.

I still had a bit of echo after my first few attempts, so I scoured the internet for workarounds. A lot of people record in their closets, where the hanging clothes muffle the sound. My closet is about eighteen inches deep and filled with junk, so that’s not an option. Then I found a podcasting tips website. This podcast is more like a radio drama. They recommended recording with a duvet draped over you and the mic. I tried it, and my background echo vanished. People are so brilliant.

Over the course of several weeks, I recorded all fourteen chapters of a fanfic. I learned to repeat a phrase if I stuttered or coughed or something, which made clipping it out during editing so much easier. I used an old, free version of Adobe Audition. I had used it years ago, when it was Cool Edit Pro, before Adobe acquired it. I know how to use the program well enough to remove background noise and things like that.

Then I actually listened to my recording. Egads, I thought. I’m BORING. I read like a robot. I enunciate very carefully, and I do the voices decently, but the straight narration! It’s so dull! How do professional audiobook narrators pull it off?

Well, the best ones are all actors, for one thing. You’re giving a performance.

I went ahead and posted my boring performance–it’s just a fanfic and it’s good practice–and now I’m starting on a second one. This time I’m trying to be more expressive and really perform. It’s quite a bit harder than just reading!

I thought I’d put this out there for other authors who are considering narrating their own audiobooks. Practice first! What sounds good as you read it may sound pretty dull when you’re playing it back.