Armageddon Sentimental Over You

Way back in the day, I sang in a rock and roll band. As you do in such cases, we lived in a small rented house in the valley with a garage that had been turned into rehearsal space. We filled the space with too much sound and the strident call of guitar solos and screaming vocals filled the neighborhood. For my generation and yes I am a pejorative boomer, this was common. Garage bands we were called. Like most GB’s, these were my friends and brothers and we made music that was our expression of the times. It was our loud siren call. It was in a way, a weird worship service.

One of my best friends was the drummer. We went back to jr. high and high school. His mom was the neighborhood mom. Bob was a cutup and scamp. One day he turns to me with a satire on a song title. He says to me he says: “Armageddon Sentimental Over You.”

For years I have chuckled to myself over this twist, this weird turn of a phrase. And now it means something close to truth. It points in a direction that is perhaps no longer just a funny thought spoke out loud between puff puff pass. Today it is somber look into our cultural mirror.

Buried deep in the satire of Bob’s remark was a prognostication of a time in the far off future that perhaps we never thought we would see. In the days of sex and drugs and rock and roll, we really thought we wouldn’t live that long.

. Deep in the satire is a truth to cling to, not the Armageddon, but the “over you”. There was a tender sentiment in the original title. Back in the day of sunlight and smokey venues it was just a lark, just a laugh. We laughed at it then. We’re not laughing now.

A Shift

I came to a wonderful realization – nobody reads my blog. While this was never intended, (I mean who wants to spend time writing a blog that nobody reads?)  I have resolved that this is only a vehicle for me to hear myself think.

For many years I was a performer. I loved the stage and being in the Klieg lights has always made me feel complete, perhaps even competent at something. My daughter even remarked once that I was the greatest actor she had ever seen. While this succeeded in inflating my balloon, it must be tempered by the notion that she was perhaps 14 at the time. Still…

As I have gotten older, my desire for the stage has waned, not that I don’t still love the spotlight, but because 1) There aren’t many roles for old guys and  2) I have come to appreciate the essence of performing.

Performing can either be a desire to bring something to an audience, or to take something away.

A few months ago I started working on music again just for the pure pleasure of singing. I went back to all the opera and musical theater literature I had performed for 40 years and began the process of rebuilding some competence. I did this for myself initially but also contemplating a little concert or two for neighbors, giving and receiving in proportion. Of course today I live in a world where performance is dead. Dead because of decline and decay and dead because of a global pandemic.

I now work in technology as a trainer. I’m good at it because my history on stage has taught me to engage an audience. Then yesterday happened. My boss at the university scheduled a Zoom meeting he called “Happy Hour”. An opportunity to hang with my co-workers, pour a cool one and shoot the shit.

I think to myself….Maybe I’ll whip an aria on them. Maybe I’ll participate in Happy Hour with a jaunty bit of dead art. Then my motivation became clear. I wanted to impress them not with a gift they would receive but to reassure myself that I was still viable, still valuable, still capable.

Applaud me please. Consider my greatness please.

A tiny voice awakened me. I didn’t want to give them a gift, I wanted to choke them with art they surely wouldn’t want. Instead I posted a link to a video to a Family Feud episode I filmed in 1979, received by all with amusement.

All communication has to be tuned to the same frequency. If I am transmitting on a frequency you don’t receive then it won’t matter.

My IT colleagues surely would have been impressed with a Mozart aria, but rather than excepting my gift to them genuinely, they would have received something akin to opening a Christmas present and finding Fruit of the Looms.

So I will continue to sing in my little home office.. I will sing my heart out for me and my wife who loves me so unconditionally that I could fart an aria from Carmen and she would love it.

The Fish

You’ve been sitting in the rowboat now for a very long time. Like, 15 Gatorades long. You’ve been here since the sun broke and now you watch it creep behind the hills. And then, and then, and then, a bite. Sometimes you can tell what is tugging at the pole, other times not.

I recently auditioned for a book by C.G. Cooper. It was one of those auditions that didn’t just catch my eye, it caught my heart. Even reading just the tiny side (that’s actor talk) that we read for the audition – I knew I was auditioning for something very very special.

My typical habit when auditioning is to prepare the audition and send it off with some pithy and hopefully humorous one-liner designed to get the author’s attention. This has been my practice for years. Just get their attention.

Then I read “To Live”. Usually I read an audition, research the author, edit the piece a couple of times and then whisk it away through the interwebs to the author. I couldn’t bare to do that to this work. I spent an hour reading and re-reading. I recorded, I edited, I revised and edited some more. I spent the better part of a day preparing an audition for a work that for the fist time in a long time I was entranced by. I wanted to thank this amazing author for sharing this little sample of beautiful writing and provide him with an audition with every word perfectly placed, every space with silent meaning. When I was done, I said to myself, “I don’t care if I get the gig, this is an audition from my heart.

You see, I am the protagonist. A two time cancer survivor who has held the hand of more friends than I care to count as they passed. My heart wept for these characters. Then the email came asking if I would be interested in performing the work. This is the reason I do what I do. For a chance to create a performance that will be remembered.

I am renewed, and thankful to a universe that has gifted a writer like Carlos. And ever more grateful that he chose me to produce this work.

Roulette

Ladies and Gentlemen, step right up and spin the wheel.

I think I know now why gambling can be a real addiction. Auditioning for audio books gives you a tingle in your groin (can I say groin)? So here’s the way the game is played.

There are two companies that I work with who produce audio books for Indi writers. The granddaddy of them all is of course ACX. There’s another smaller one on the east coast that a client of mine moved all her work to. It’s called “Findaway Voices” more on that later.

ACX Roulette works like this. The Roulette wheel is the “posting page” where aspiring writers post their works for audition. It is separated into categories and your feed is based on the categories you pick in your profile. As you can guess, I don’t audition for much non-fiction, what a shock.

The titles are spit into three additional categories. Paid gigs,  Doe up front + % gigs , and finally what is called “Royalty Share”. This is where most folks start out, and I still get a monthly royalty check. I consider it a contribution to the Don Warrick retirement fund.

When you’re looking for paid gigs, they are separated into ranges of payment and listed by most recent posting. You got yer category A, B, C and so on. When you go fishin’ first thing in the morning, You obviously start with the A category – the big bucks. There are usually a few books posted there. In the next category a few more, and in descending order of price more and more available titles until you find yourself in the Royalty share zone. I don’t fish this pond very much because ya’ll know I’m a big ho. Occasionally though you find a book in this category that is just so freakin’ good you have to, on religious grounds, audition.

The successful strategy for landing a good size bass is timing. You have to remember that there are 100K narrators enrolled in ACX. Even if you boil that down to folks who are actively auditioning….author’s receive hundreds of auditions the first week a title is posted. What I know about human nature (because I am part human) is that we get overwhelmed pretty easily. I know if it were me, I’d start glazing over after listening to the first 10. I suspect it’s like listening to voice juries in college. You sit there all day listening to singers, some good, some…dot dot dot.  Having been there I can tell you by the end of the day you are willing to fall off the earth which is flat.

So the trick for me, is to try to me high up in that first salvo. I figure that if I do a bombshell audition and the author compares the next 20 or so audition to mine, I might make it to the A pile. Like everything natural selection winnows down the field from there. But we are strong. We are the Voice Actors, we are the makers of audio books, and …we are running numbers.

Bla Bla Blog

My blog is as stale as week-old bread. My blog is as stale as that fruitcake my aunt Gertrude sent only weeks ago. My blog is as stale as…well, you get the idea. Please I beg you not to check the date of the last post. You will be hounded by Ripley’s.

But it is a new year, and as all good producers do, I have made my resolutions. I plan to share what I have learned about producing audio books over the last few dozen books and half a dozen years.

Let’s talk numbers. As a young actor growing up on the streets of LA, we all had the same aspirations. The big party house on the hill under the Hollywood sign, a long running series, a role in a legit film or even, dare I say it? A show on Broadway. Not that the dreams of youth are shattered glass, but rather the furnace that is this life has melted the silica into a different mold.

By now of course you are an addict. Hi, my name is Don and I’m a performer. It’s a drug. Back to numbers cause this is the whole point. When you are doing live performance you take every audition you can. You get an agent, and you sit in hallways surrounded by 14 other guys who look just like you. You’re all auditioning for that Ginzu commercial. The point is, the numbers. If your good, you stick with it, you wait tables and live with 4 roommates, you could beat the odds. If not you move back to Buttscratchawan.

For a few folks, audio books were a safe haven. Then came the Voice-Apocalypse. Yes, ACX you know I’m talking about you. You squeezed a balloon into a blimp. It’s huge.  101,913 people who are vying for what amounts to 10 or so paying jobs a month. The market for self publishing is huge. The number of narrators is even more huge-er.

At this point, you have to become OK with your addiction and channel your energies. You have to focus. You have to build work habits and stick with them. It’s just like the old days when you were sitting in the cold metal office chair, in the stinky hallway in a Hollywood office waiting for your name to be called. You just keep auditioning.

Having said all that, you would not ever consider giving up, so over the next many blog posts I’m going to tell you why and how and what you need to land a fish worth keeping and what you do when they don’t quite meet the requirement of the Fish and Game Department. Stay tuned.

Stand by for important information…

Another Uvi-book as Deb and I like to call them. And in the vernacular of the book’s time-period, this one is a hummdinger. I love how wonderfully Uvi writes. Her attention to detail creates characters in my head that are alive.

Actors create relationships with the characters we portray.  When we perform “live” the process is intense and immersive. Rehearsals begin, and the memorization, and the blocking and the tech, and the…  The process is different with the characters in an audio-book. You get to know them over time. Over months and years you engage with them. You find yourself in each new place they travel. It’s kinda like marriage. Marriage before Death you might even say.

Only they never die. Not really, because we wont let them. Their voices are full in my mind and full in the listener’s. And they last, well…forever.

The story that Lenny and Natasha are in this time is both intimate and epic.  It is our greatest pleasure to invite you into their world.

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Hope

Getting back to work again. Just editing the Epilogue and creating the intro and outro for a fabulous sequel to the last Uvi Poznansky novel I produced.  But there has been a hole you might say in your blog postings. You might say a fairly large hole in time. Which is at very least the stuff of a blog posting, at most a novel of my own.

Cancer caused a hole. I suppose the singular diagnosis that someone who uses their voice for a living doesn’t ever want to receive. Throat cancer.  Don’t freak out. This of course is what I told myself as well as my invitation to you.

It’s been a journey, so when I comment that the intervening period between my last blog post and now might contain the stuff of a blog post; you know a little bit more of the why’s and where’fores.

Cancer for me began this time (yes, I’ve already gone toe to toe once before and kicked it’s ass) with a weird steely determination. I was determined not to lose my voice. The two medicines which I relied on were determination and hope. Medical science of course had it’s own medicine to force feed me and as I have heard many a survivor say:  “the treatment is worse than the disease” – not sure if that’s ever completely true but I think it’s a coin toss you don’t care to make.

When matched against the powerful combo of meds and radiation and hope and determination – poor cancer just had to take another ass-whoopin. I feel bad.

So my dear reader, though I hope none of you ever have to face a dark night, know that if you do – it is possible to come out the other side and still wanna jump up and down, bark at the moon and record audio books. Not necessarily in that order.