After a nice long break, I’m back at it. I finished The Plainsrunner, my 2018 novel, did all the prep work, published it and completed recording the audiobook before Christmas. Then I took a few weeks off, ignoring the pathetic whimpering of my fountain pens as they stood unwanted in their cup on my desk. Now, at last, I’ve filled one of those pens and begun writing my 2019 novel, tentatively titled The Prime.
It felt good to sit on my exercise ball at my desk this morning, with the familiar weight of a pen in my hand. I was slightly concerned about this year’s goal of a thousand words per sitting. Last year I was able to do 750 words without any problems, but who knows where the limit might be? I needn’t have worried, as it turns out. I got a thousand words this morning, and it didn’t feel as if I was over-extending myself. It felt as if I should be able to reach that level on most mornings. The worst of it was the time it took. Writing for that long each morning is going to push back my other activities accordingly, so I’m going to have to get used to getting everything done that much later.
The Sun is shining here, with a mild temperature and gentle breezes. If I were one for taking omens, then I would be feeling pretty good about the coming year, and about the novel I’ll be writing during it. I’m not one for taking omens, as it happens, but I’m still feeling pretty good.
I have three previous posts about Andrew Updegrove here on Green Comet. The first is about “egregious nonsense regarding ebook standards,” referencing his blog post on that topic where he explains why closed proprietary ebook formats are bad for readers and writers, and why they exist anyway. The second is about “open source pharma,” referencing his blog post about that and why it would be better for patients. The third one is a book review about his novel “The Lafayette Campaign,” where I give a mini review of the book, and also explain the experiment he is performing on “the evolving self-publishing labyrinth.”
Andrew has written three other thriller-style novels in the series, and the experiment continues. All of them have been self-published, and he has kept his readers informed about the many twists and turns he has encountered on the journey. Now he is taking another step that moves him into new territory. He has had one of the novels –The Alexandria Project — professionally recorded, with plans to record the rest in the near future. Here’s what his website says about the book:
“Thank you for your contribution to the Alexandria Project” is the message cyber attackers leave behind as they delete crucial data from computer networks across America. It’s not long before the nation is on the verge of collapse as unknown assailants take down Wall Street, the transportation system, government agencies, and the rest of the infrastructure upon which our internet-based economy depends.
As the public outcry builds, Frank Adversego, a brilliant but conflicted cyber security expert, finds himself under suspicion and trapped in a power play between the FBI and the CIA. Only by tracing the Alexandria Project back to the source can he clear himself.
What follows is a fast-paced, satirical tale of cyber sleuthing, international espionage, and nuclear brinksmanship that accurately portrays our increasing vulnerability to cyber attack. The shocking conclusion will leave you ready for the next Frank Adversego thriller – and concerned about where our headlong rush into the Internet Age is leading us.
That’s a pretty good synopsis of the book, so I don’t need to repeat it. I will say that I enjoyed it and found it to be a well-written thriller, with good characters in believable, if bizarre, situations. Updegrove also has a penchant for humor, and doesn’t miss the opportunity to drop a bit into the book.
All that being taken care of, this review is about the audio recording of the book. Andrew has chosen Tantor Media for the production, and the narrator is Roger Wayne, who has a solid and extensive track record. He has given the book its best chance by entrusting its recording to professionals.
I received a download code for a review copy and immediately went and got it. It consisted of a ZIP file of almost 400MB, which upon extraction revealed a single high quality cover image and thirty-two individual MP3 files — an introduction, thirty chapters and an epilogue. I couldn’t wait to get started listening to it.
I must admit that part of the reason I wanted to do this was so I could compare a professionally created audiobook with the ones I have made of the Green Comet trilogy. I wanted to see how mine hold up, and perhaps to pick up some pointers. I won’t bore you with the details, but mine turn out to hold up pretty well. And listening to a professional can’t help but make my own future readings better.
Roger Wayne reads The Alexandria Project in a straightforward manner, without sound effects, music or dramatic excess. He does use different voices for different characters, complete with some regional accents, and he does allow the inflection of his voice to communicate the drama of the moment, but he never goes overboard. I was impressed by how he kept the reader’s attention on the story, rather than the narrator.
I can comfortably recommend The Alexandria Project, both in book form and as an audiobook. It’s a good story, well written and well read.
MP3 file structure – CC-BY GFDL – If you want to read this tap for larger
When I started recording readings of these books, I chose to offer them in OGG Vorbis format because it’s a free and open standard. That meant there would be no encumberances on the audio files due to patents or any kind of imaginary property (IP.) That’s important to me. I have licensed my novels with Creative Commons enhancements to their copyright, to ensure their freedom. They are not weighted down with digital restrictions management (DRM) because I want readers and listeners to be able to enjoy my books without having to restrict themselves to any single device or place. I use Free Software to write the books, and to convert them to useful formats, which are also free and open. I use Free Software to produce the audio recordings, and I use open standards to present them. For the audio, that meant OGG Vorbis, the best choice for the lossy compression needed to make the file sizes reasonable for downloading. At the time, the more popular format, MP3, wasn’t free or open. It was locked in a proprietary web of patents. I couldn’t insult my listeners by offering them something like that. It’s possible that this choice has meant fewer downloads of the readings because many people only recognize MP3 and might be unwilling to download something with a strange name like OGG. I was willing to take that risk because freedom and openness are important to me.
Vorbis trademark – Credit xiph.org – CC-BY
Lately the patents on the MP3 format have run out. Well, as far as I can tell. There were a mess of them held by a mess of people and organizations and I don’t have the training or experience to sort that all out myself. I rely on other sources for that, and they’re all saying that, once the patents finally ran out in the US, MP3 became an open standard. They hedged a little on that, apparently unwilling to commit themselves fully in the face of the the, uh, complexities of IP. I was hesitant too, but I decided to take the plunge and accept MP3 as an open standard. This meant that I could finally offer people the readings in a format that they recognized. This is good because, even though all modern operating systems and devices should be able to handle OGG, it sometimes requires the extra step of installing some necessary software to do so. People don’t like extra steps. After paying, sometimes quite a lot, for their operating systems and devices, they shouldn’t have to take extra steps to get them to handle a simple open standard like OGG. That’s annoying, and now I can finally make it a little less annoying for them by offering my audiobooks in MP3 format.
You’ll find them on the downloads page. Along with the direct links to the OGG Vorbis-encoded files hosted at the Internet Archive, there are now links to MP3-encoded versions. Don’t hesitate. Download them now.-)