Friday, September 28, 2012

Why I Miss Ray Bradbury


Ray Bradbury

In June of this year, Ray Bradbury—science fiction & fantasy master and visionary and my hero—passed away at age 91.
Visionary premise and large ideas reign in the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror (whose borders Bradbury’s writing seamlessly subverted: “What I have always been is a hybrid author” Bradbury said in 2009). But Bradbury was far more than a brilliant visionary like Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein. He was the undisputed King of Metaphor. His subtle exploration and layered interpretations of the human psyche resonate deeply. At the soul-level.
Ray Bradbury once told me that everything I wrote was metaphor—every single word: from the verb I chose to move a sentence to the name of a character. I remember coming close to tears the last time I watched him speak at a conference several years ago in Palm Springs; when he spoke so eloquently in that homespun sing-song voice about the role of the writer as artist. It resonated so powerfully.
A while back, I wrote an article on Bradbury’s writing as an example of the power of metaphor. The article was entitled “The Martian Chronicles and Other Metaphors”:
They came because they were afraid or unafraid, happy or unhappy. There was a reason for each man. They were coming to find something or get something, or to dig up something or bury something. They were coming with small dreams or big dreams or none at all —Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles
When I was but a sprite, and before I became an avid reader of books (I preferred comic books), I read Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. It changed me. It changed what I thought of books and what I felt about the power of stories. It made me cry. And perhaps that was when I decided to become a writer. I wanted to move people as Bradbury had moved me.
The Martian Chronicles isn’t really about Mars. It’s about us. Who we are, what we are, and what we may become. What we inadvertently do—to others, and finally to ourselves—and how the irony of chance can change everything.
The 1970 Bantam book jacket so aptly calls The Martian Chronicles, “a story of familiar people and familiar passions set against incredible beauties of a new world … A skillful blending of fancy and satire, terror and tenderness, wonder and contempt.”
Written in the 1940s, the chronicles drip with a nostalgic atmosphere — shady porches with tinkling pitchers of lemonade, grandfather clocks, chintz-covered sofas. But longing for this comfortable past proves dangerous in every way to Bradbury's characters — the golden-eyed Martians as well as the humans. Starting in the far-flung future of 1999, expedition after expedition leaves Earth to investigate Mars. The Martians guard their mysteries well, but soon succumb to the diseases that arrive with the rockets — recapitulating the tragedies that European colonization caused our indigenous peoples. Colonists appear on Mars, most of them with ideas no more lofty than starting a hot-dog stand, and with little respect for the culture they are displacing.
Bradbury weaves metaphor into everything he writes, from setting to a character’s name. I didn’t know this when I was a young girl, enthralled by his stories, his characters, his scenes and words. I just responded viscerally to what he’d created.
This is why Bradbury is one of my favorite writers (possibly my very favorite; though he comes close to Thomas Hardy). Bradbury, more than any other writer I know takes the strange—the other—to show us who we are.  

The Martian Chronicles prophesized the banning of books, especially works of fantasy, a theme Bradbury would take on fully in the 1953 release, Fahrenheit 451. Inspired by the Cold War, the rise of television and the author's passion for libraries, it was an apocalyptic narrative of nuclear war abroad and empty pleasure at home, with firefighters assigned to burn books instead of putting blazes out.

In the 1967 introduction of his novel, Fahrenheit 451 (based on his novella, The Fireman), Ray Bradbury implied that the Nazi book burnings helped compel him to write his story: "It follows then that when Hitler burned a book I felt it as keenly, please forgive me, as his killing a human, for in the long sum of history they are one in the same flesh." For those of you who haven't yet read his novel (one of my favourite books, ever), this cautionary tale explores a fictional future society that has institutionalized book burning in an effort by authorities to maintain order and 'happiness'. In this world, firemen don't put out fires; they start them. By the way, 451 degrees F is the temperature that paper catches fire and burns. The story begins with Montag, an ordinary fireman:

"It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history...Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by the flame. He knew that when he returned to the firehouse, he might wink at himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked, in the mirror."

Bradbury’s cautionary metaphoric tale reminds us that it isn’t just them; it’s us:

In his 1821 play, Almansor, the German writer Heinrich Heine (referring to the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, during the Spanish Inquisition) wrote: Dort, wo man Bucher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen—"Where they burn books, they will end in burning human beings." A century later, on May 6th, 1933, Heine's books were among the thousands of volumes publicly hauled out and burned in the streets by the Nazis in Berlin's Opernplatz. A violent outburst that, in fact, did foreshadow the blazing ovens of the Holocaust.


Fahrenheit 451 was Bradbury's only true science-fiction work, according to the author, who said all his other works should have been called fantasy. "It was a book based on real facts and also on my hatred for people who burn books," he told The Associated Press in 2002.

A futuristic classic often taught alongside George Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," Bradbury's novel anticipated iPods, interactive television, electronic surveillance and live, sensational media events, including televised police pursuits.

"I'm not afraid of machines," Bradbury told Writer's Digest in 1976. "I don't think the robots are taking over. I think the men who play with toys have taken over. And if we don't take the toys out of their hands, we're fools."

In 2009, during a lecture in a small library in Southern California, Bradbury exhorted his listeners to live their lives as he had lived his: "Do what you love and love what you do…If someone tells you to do something for money, tell them to go to hell."

Good advice, Ray. I will miss you.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ontario Arts Council Grants Available for Writers


WRITERS' RESERVE

THE ONTARIO ARTS COUNCIL IS PROVIDING ONTARIO WRITERS WITH GRANTS TO CREATE NEW WORKS:
Program for: Individuals

Purpose: To assist professional writers in the creation of new work. This program is administered by third-party recommenders from the literary community.

Eligibility: This program is open to published Ontario-based professional writers working on projects in fiction, poetry, literary criticism, commentary on the arts, graphic novels, history, biography, political or social issues, science or travel. These categories also apply to writing for children, multimedia, CD-ROM or edited electronic media (other than radio or film documentary or drama).
You are a professional writer by the OAC's definition if you have:
  • at least one professionally published book for which you have a publishing contract and receive royalties or
  • at least three separately published essays, short stories, poems or other work for which you have received payment.
If you are an active professional documentary or drama writer for non-print media (radio, stage, screen, theatre, etc.) you must have at least two recent production credits for which you have received payment.
We do not accept student or academic publications or work that you did as part of your employment (unless you are a professional journalist) as part of a professional publishing history. If you are employed full time and receive a grant, you should be prepared to take a full or partial leave of absence so you can devote time to writing.
Third-party recommenders are Ontario-based, Canadian-owned book and literary magazine publishers chosen by the OAC to make recommendations to us for writing grants in this program.
If you wish to receive an application package that includes the program guidelines, application forms and a list of recommenders, please call 416-961-1660 or 1-800-387-0058, or email info@arts.on.ca. Or, you can download the material below. The application form can be filled in on your screen, then printed out. You will have to make copies of the completed, signed application form. For detailed information, please see the Writers' Reserve program guidelines.
Deadline: This program runs from September 4, 2012 to January 31, 2013.

For more information

  • Helen Floros, Program Assistant, 416-969-7440, toll-free 1-800-387-0058 extension 7440, hfloros@arts.on.ca.

THE SITE PROVIDES FORTY EXCELLENT SOURCES FOR PUBLICATION (RECOMMENDERS) WITH DESCRIPTION OF PUBLISHING GUIDELINES for which writers can apply. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dawn Harvey Voice of Rhea Hawke in Outer Diverse Audiobook


When Iambik picked up the contract to do an audiobook of OuterDiverse (Book 1 of The Splintered Universe Trilogy by Starfire), I was already excited. I had no idea how fun and fulfilling the experience was going to be.

Iambik provided me with a few voice artists, all who were great, to narrate Outer Diverse. Something about Dawn’s voice—how she spoke as Rhea Hawke—resonated with me. I was vindicated a thousand fold in selecting her to be the “voice” for Outer Diverse. Working with Dawn was a pleasure. Dawn is a dedicated professional; she created unique and consistent voices for the book’s thirty-odd mostly alien characters. She ensured that each character had the appropriate vernacular, tone, accent and cadence. Then she did proofs and confirmed them with me. She also tackled the “alien” vocabulary; Rhea’s universe is full of strange and foreign terms. Dawn sent me a list to make sure she was pronouncing everything correctly—mostly made-up words. This lady is dedicated to her craft and her art!

I recently invited her to my ship for a pockta nectar and a chat about her world. Here’s a snippet of the interview (she’s also a lawyer so I had to condense the 30-odd pages into these; I’m sure you appreciate that. For a small fee I will send you a full version of the interview.)

SF Girl:
Dawn, you’re an actress and voice over artist through your company Dawn of Voice. Tell us a little bit about how you got there. Where did you come from, what were your dreams and aspirations, and where are you going?

Dawn:
Oh my, such a simple question but never a simple answer.  First off, I'm over 50 and, as you know, the older you get, the longer the stories get.  I'll try to just include the highlights.  I started singing basically when I started talking and first was paid to sing when I was 10 years old.  Then, in high school, I became a drama geek and finished three years of high school drama in a year and a half.  In grade 11, I took a law course, which I really loved.  So, I was torn between going into acting or law.  In the end, I decided law was too much school so I became an actress.  Little did I realize that I would still be "going to school" 35 years later!  I entered the University of Calgary, studying fine arts.  Subsequently, I got married and left university.  I then went into the oil industry, working in an area dealing with contracts and leases so, very legal related.  I obtained a certificate in Land Management by taking night classes at what was then Mount Royal College; it's now Mount Royal University.  I started trying to have babies and, after several failed attempts, began to reconcile myself to the fact that I was not going to be a mother.  That being the case, I decided that I would become a lawyer so began doing the work to make that happen.  Two years of university was required at a minimum to be accepted into law school although most people already have an undergraduate degree when they start.  So, I returned to night school, this time at the University of Calgary, in pursuit of a degree in Psychology, my back up plan to a law degree.  When I had achieved the number of courses required for the equivalent of 2 years of university (not that many given my fine arts courses and my transfer courses from MRC), I began applying to law schools.  Always the overachiever, I applied to 10 schools and was accepted into 7.  I attended Dalhousie University in Halifax and obtained my law degree in the spring of 1991 - after giving birth to my first child (pregnancy number 6) in the fall of 1990.  During all of this time, I continued to act in community and semi-professional theatre productions to quench my thirst for performing.  (Told you this was a long story!)  On graduation, we moved to Vancouver where I began practicing family and criminal law and had my second child (pregnancy number 7 - they told me I wouldn't get pregnant again unless I used fertility drugs.  They were wrong.  Don't believe anything they say when it comes to having babies!)  After a few years of that life, it became apparent to me that to practice family law, I would have to become "emotionally hard".  You can't be reduced to tears sitting in family court listening to all of the horror stories that go on there when you're the lawyer!  I'm the kind of person who cries at every episode of Little House on the Prairie and I like it that way.  So, I decided to leave that kind of law and I returned to Calgary and the oil industry where my law degree would also serve me well.  A couple of years later, pregnancy number 10 produced baby number 3.  Another "oops" and a true miracle that one.  I continued to work part-time in community and semi-professional stage work and obtained an agent so I could also do film work.  So, now I seemingly had it all - lawyer, actress, mother.  In the midst of this, I stumbled into a Masters Degree in law, thinking I would teach.  After the birth of my third child, I was stricken with arthritis in both my knees at a very early age.  I began to fear that I would end up in a wheel chair way too young and was devastated thinking about not being able to perform anymore should that happen.  Although I only did it part-time, if you are stricken with the performing bug, you simply can't imagine how you could live if you didn't have that outlet.  So, in the early 2000's, I began my voice over training.  In 2009, I decided that I could not continue to work full-time in the oil industry and part-time in the performing world.  I had denied myself long enough - I began a five year mission to leave the oil industry and go into acting and voicing full-time.  So now, I am 1/2 way through that plan and working 14 hour days, basically 7 days a week, in order to keep all of the balls in the air.  I am on track though.  My audiobook career is now taking off; I am in the middle of narrating two more titles for Iambik, a psychology textbook and a collection of short stories.  In addition, I have a lead role in a television series called Poker Girls. So, my long term plan is to continue to build my VO career, focusing on audiobooks, narration and animation.  My current audiobook goal is to be the go-to female narrator for both John Grisham (I AM a lawyer after all) and Stephen King (I AM his number one fan after all!).  So, if anyone out there can hook me up with either of those guys, I'll gladly purchase a copy of Outer Diverse for each of them so they can sample my work.  And, I want to also continue to build on my film and television acting career.  And, I want to say bye bye to oil and gas very soon!  

SF Girl:
Sounds like that time is coming soon! Outer Diverse is the first book in The Splintered Universe Trilogy. What was the first thing you thought of when you read Outer Diverse? What do you think of Rhea Hawke? She’s had quite a ride already in Book 1. Will she make it to Book 3? (cheeky grin)

Dawn:
Outer Diverse is the first full-length novel I have ever voiced.  When I auditioned for it, I had only a page or two of the book to review so imagine my shock and surprise upon reading the book and realizing that I was going to be voicing over 30 different characters from over 20 different species!  So, my first thought upon completing my first read was, OMG—what have I gotten myself into!?!?!?!  I love Rhea.  She is so strong yet also so fragile; like many of us.  She is also headstrong, determined and fearless.  I guess I can relate to her as I am also all of those things.  People don't usually see the fragile in either of us but it is certainly there.  And yes, she will make it to Book 3.  At least she'd better!

SF Girl:
How do you prepare yourself for a reading? Do you have a protocol that you follow?

Dawn:
I've taken a lot of training so have lots of advice to draw on from some amazing teachers.  Most of my training has been with Pat Fraley and Vanessa Hart but I have also trained with Scott Brick, Jeffrey Kafer, Kathy Garver and many others.  But, in the end, you have to come up with the process that works best for you.  I'm a real spreadsheet girl so make use of them to help me keep everything organized.  So, the first thing I do is read the book, cover to cover, to get a feel for the characters and the story.  I then go through the book again and start making my spreadsheets which set out information about the characters including any personal characteristics described in the book by the narrator, the character himself and anyone else in the book that interacts with or talks about the character.  When I have all of that information gathered, I then complete a matrix on each character that addresses voice characteristics for each.  From those characteristics, I come up with each character's voice.  Then, I'm ready to begin actually recording

SF Girl:
How long can you read for any stretch? What are the best things about readings? What are the worst things?

Dawn:
When I was a kid, all of my report cards said "Dawn is a good student but she talks too much" so I guess I've always been in training.  So far, I haven't hit the limit of how long I can read.  I take my laptop down into my booth and start working.  I usually have an objective in mind for how much I want to get done at a session and generally won't quit until I reach that target.  I always go with a fully charged laptop and will often work until I run out of power and the thing shuts down!  I could plug it in but I figure that, 2-2.5 hours is probably as much as I should ever do without taking a break and that's about how long my laptop will go without needing a charge, so this ensures that I won't overstay my welcome in the booth!  I get totally lost in the reading.  I've always loved reading out loud.  I have absolutely no idea why it took me so long to figure out I could do this for a living as I've been listening to audiobooks for years.  They're great for long car trips with kids.  The worst thing would have to be pronouncing foreign words.  I want to do them justice so try really hard to get them right but am not always confident I have done so.  Later today I have to record a few phrases in Mandarin for a book I'm currently working on.  I got assistance from an Asian friend of mine but I'm so not looking forward to trying to make those words flow naturally out of my mouth!

SF Girl:
What equipment do you use for narration?

Dawn:
My recording software is Twisted Wave and I record on an Apple lap top.  My audio interface is an Apogee One and my mic an MXL-990.  Been thinking about upgrading that lately.  I read the text using my iPad.  I edit on a desktop Mac using Rokit 5 speakers.  Yes, I have drunk all of the Apple kool-aid.  It is better than a PC for doing audio and video work and so it has taken over my world.

SF Girl:
You did at least twenty distinctive voices in Outer Diverse. Voices ranged from a New Jersey-like accent for a Xhix to a multi-timbral resonance for a Venik trader. How did you decide on which one to use and how do you keep it all consistent in your head?

Dawn:
I take my character clues from the script.  In the case of Outer Diverse, I felt the need to run my final decision for the characters by the author.  As this is part of a three book series, and I didn't know what was coming in books 2 and 3, I felt it was very important to do this.  I'd hate to get to book three and then find out that character XYZ was supposed to have a lisp!  In the case of this book, I grouped the characters by species.  I felt it was important to have a "sameness" to the voices of the species and then could vary each character within the confines of their particular species.  The easiest way for me to keep consistency for each character is to give each a "representational" character.  So, for example, the voice of Rhea's boss, is my version of Lou Grant from the old Mary Tyler Moore series.  He may not sound like Lou Grant to anybody else, and it's probably better if he doesn't, but when I do MY impersonation of Lou Grant, the voice comes out the same every time.  So, that really works for me.  The hard part is coming up with the representational character to go with the description I have of the character.  So, sometimes, I have to modify it somehow like maybe a character would be Lou Grant if he talked out of the right side of his mouth or in a higher pitch, for example.  Every time you add a little twist like that, you get a new character voice.  I had a multi-tabbed spreadsheet to help me as well.  One tab listed all of the characters and the chapters they were in with color-coding to remind me of what species they were.  Another tab had each character's voice description and representational character.  So, when I went into the studio with a plan of which chapters I would be reading, I could quickly see which characters were in those chapters and then familiarize myself with their voices before I started.  If one had spoken several chapters ago, I could also go back to that earlier chapter and just refresh my memory of that voice.  Don't let anyone tell you this isn't a lot of work!

SF Girl:
What was the most challenging voice in Outer Diverse and why?

Dawn:
The most challenging voice for me was Shlsh Shle She.  He was described as having a squealing, slobbery, mushy voice like he had a mouth full of wet food.  His speaking apparatus was made up of a number of wet folds resembling female genitalia.  It was a real challenge to honour his physical characteristics while still being understood.  Not much point in speaking if the listener can't understand what I'm saying.  I cringed when I did my character analysis and realized how many lines he had!  Apparently it all worked out ok in the end but that was scary!

Sf Girl:
What is your favorite voice in Outer Diverse and why?

Dawn:
My favorite voice is Benny, Rhea's ship.  He's my version of C3PO from Star Wars.  I just love his character and he has the same name as my youngest son who, though named Benjamin, decided he was to be called Benny when he was 5 years old.  At 15, he's still Benny!  I just loved the coincidence.

SF Girl:
How did you end up with Iambik? How do you like it there? How does Iambik compare with other audiobook companies, say Audiobook? 

Dawn:
I submitted my audiobook demo to them in the fall of 2011 and was accepted onto their roster.  When the next set of auditions came up, Outer Diverse was among them so I auditioned, and the rest is history.  Since this was my first book, I can't really compare to other companies.  However, I understand that the big publishers do the editing for you so I'm looking forward to working with them.  As much work as the audiobook preparation is, the editing takes twice as long yet again.  I would be so much happier if my job ended at the mic!

SF Girl:
Tell us a little about the process with Iambik from receiving the book in your hands to the final proofs and edits.

Dawn:
Iambik sends me the book, we agree on a delivery deadline and sign a contract.  Iambik loads the book up into a shared Dropbox folder and I download it and start my review.  After I have recorded and edited a chapter, I upload it to the same Dropbox folder.  A proof listener reviews the file and send me any corrections required.  I do the corrections and upload it again.  They check it again.  This continues until all is well and is repeated for each chapter.  We work from a shared spreadsheet (see, spreadsheets are my life) so we can keep track of where we are with each chapter.  Once all of the chapters are complete, Iambik compiles them into one document to be ready for download and releases then to the public.

SF Girl:
Have you ever turned down a narration job and why?

Dawn:
Yes, but so far only because I didn't have time to fit it into my schedule.  

SF Girl:
Tell us about Poker Girls…I know you want to (big silly knowing grin). What other roles have you played as an actress that you are particularly proud of?

Dawn:
Poker Girls is a 1/2 hour crime drama whose central character is Summer, an undercover cop, who uses the game of poker to catch unsuspecting criminals.  I play Theresa, an alcoholic judge who was just recently kicked off of the bench by her boss, Sophia, played by Judy Norton (Mary Ellen from the Waltons).  Poker Girls began as a film making apprenticeship assignment and morphed into a webseries and now a TV series.  The creator, writer and executive producer, Jewelle Colwell, who also plays the lead role of Summer, has put her heart, soul and a lot of money into making this happen for over a year now and, as always, persistence pays off.  We have been picked up by the Converge network who has a contract to provide roughly 240 hours of programming in China.  Poker Girls will be on that line up.  Converge will also air in Florida and they continue to seek a wider, international audience.  We are committed to providing 10 episodes but have only one "in the can" as they say in the biz.  Just a few weeks ago, the financing was secured to shoot the remaining nine episodes so we expect to begin shooting next month.  For anyone interested, we continue to seek product placement opportunities.  Give us a product and the next thing you know, it'll be in an episode of Poker Girls, being viewed in China with a potential audience of 2.5 billion!  You can find us on Facebook if you'd like to make contact with Jewelle (Poker Girls, TV Series).  

SF Girl:
Dawn you are BOSS! Are there any awards or accolades out there for voice artist? If so, can you name them so I can vote you in. Also, how can we help promote Dawn Harvey? How can people show their appreciation for your fantastic voice and dedicated artistry?

Dawn:
There are awards.  Those I know of are the Audies (the academy awards of Audiobooks), the Audiophile Earphone awards and you can become  a Golden Voice.  I think the latter requires a few more books in the "amazing" category than I have so far - LOL.  Someday.  I looked in Wikipedia and it lists five awards, the Audies, Galaxy National Book Awards, Odyssey Award, Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album, and TDK Australian Audio Book Awards.  I don't know about all of the other awards but I do know that for the Audies, the 2012 deadline for books released by the end of July is Aug 31 but the submission has to be made by the publisher.  That's about all I know

As far as helping me, the best you can do is download the book, listen to it, love it, tell all of your friends about it.  You can contribute reviews to the Iambik site and, once it is available on Audio, you can contribute reviews there as well.  You could also put comments on my website, DawnofVoice.com.  Oh, and don't forget to help me get in touch with Stephen and John - let's get that 6 degrees of separation thing working for me, shall we?

SF Girl:
Thanks so much for joining me here on my ship and answering all my annoying questions.

Dawn:
Thanks for giving me this opportunity to spew forth ad nauseum.

SF Girl:
No problem. I’ve been having some issues with parking my ship lately—orbit taxes and such—so, I might be coming to you for advice…

Dawn:
Sure. I’d be happy to help.

You can hear a sample of Dawn’s work on "Outer Diverse", the Prologue, on my Tumblr site, SF Girl:


To get your copy of the audiobook go to the Iambik Audiobook site. Purchase your copy for $6.99 and enjoy some pure entertainment. Thanks, Dawn!