Is This Microphone On?

The intrepid Peter Dudley — a man among men which, interestingly, makes him a man among many women — asked writing friends to post audio or video clips that show us reading recent work. (I may not have done this properly, but I don’t fraking care! It’s been a rough month. :-)

Making a recording means heart in my throat time. I hate the sound of my voice and, if you listen for more than 20 seconds, you’ll understand why I chose print over broadcast journalism. I can’t seem to make my mouth do what my brain wants it to do. I particularly hate how I make Erasmus sound like a cowboy instead of an irritated Oxford don.

But all my reasons for not doing this video became my reasons for doing it. I want to improve my diction, and become more comfortable speaking in public (Well, I am comfortable, but I’d like to become better at performing in public). I want this to become second nature, and to enjoy the experience.

So… let me know what you think. The excerpt follows.

Vaguely, Galen was aware of smoke from a fire, and it seemed a fragrance more beautiful than anything he had ever inhaled.

He came to a clearing, with a cottage just a dozen yards from the trees’ edge. A large one, but rustic, with uneven logs visible even in the deep night. He could hear a half-squawking rooster and stumbled through evidence of a much-larger animal. What he didn’t see was a car, or any lines that would suggest a telephone. Galen swore. He knew some Scottish farmers saw no need for electricity, but he would have thought that, along the River Tweed, modern conveniences would be thick on the ground.

Through a rough cottage window, he could see the remnants of a fire glowing in the hearth. A pack of dogs suddenly began thunderous barking inside. Galen struggled onward, his energy fading fast, darkness threatening to overtake him. Just a few more steps. He could just manage two firm knocks on the door, though whoever was inside must know he was there… But, God, he couldn’t wait forever for an answer, so he fumbled the latch, and stumbled forward.

He stepped into a low-ceilinged entry, barely ducking in time to avoid smacking his poor head on the beam. He noticed a wooden bench and a handful of sturdy walking sticks by the door. The room was dimly lit by a light flickering in from another room, but Galen’s attention was arrested by the commanding presence of the farmer himself.

This scarecrow of a man sent his head spinning again. He seemed old, but somehow vital, his long ruddy white hair suited to a grey robe tied at the waist . He was spry and at the ready, with a stout stick to strike Galen if necessary. The dogs snarled, crouching as if to spring, but stayed behind the man. Without thinking, Galen instantly assumed a defensive stance, moving instinctively in spite of his pain.

“Who the hell are you?” the old man said plainly, his voice strong and resonating. “Ah, I see you’ve hurt yourself. I’m afraid that’s not very convenient.”

None of it made sense. From his stance, Galen felt the darkness circling, but managed to croak— “Gandalf. You’re Gandalf!”

Then his legs failed again, and he started to fall. But the old man was quicker than that, catching Galen under his arms. He staggered slightly, but not from the teenager’s weight. He felt a physical shock, an intense jolt that made him gasp, and pulled the air from his lungs.

But first things first. The old man quickly half-carried Galen into an adjoining room—the now-silent dogs at his heels—and laid him on a compact bed. Then he fetched a lantern and blankets. He cut off the boy’s odd, blood-stained shirt, and covered him with warm woolen blankets. His nose was obviously broken, and the dried blood had even soaked into his strange-looking trousers, but his pulse was strong. With rest, he would be fine. With a skill and economy that suggested long years of practice, the old man administered a sleeping draught that Galen choked down without waking. Then he cleaned away the blood with a cloth that he rinsed in a stone bowl, and realigned the nose with a grinding crunch, which again made Galen stir, but not wake.

With his guest now safe and sound, he left the room. The old man was shaking. He looked down at his hands, and willed them to be still. If nothing else, these long years had taught him patience. He seized the taper from his writing desk, then moved to the far corner of the room. He threw aside a threadbare rug, revealing a trap door. The hinges creaked when pulled and the old man lifted his billowing robe so he could safely navigate the treacherous spiral staircase. Each step left a footprint in the dust, and cobwebs grabbed at his hair. One dog cautiously followed him down, the other remained on guard in the room above.

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5 Responses to Is This Microphone On?

  1. Peter Dudley says:

    Awesome. I am totally hooked into this story now. And you read it really well.

    At first I didn’t follow along with the text, but then I did and noticed several times where your reading deviate slightly from the excerpt; which came first, and did you do some last-minute revision before reading or make the changes on the fly, or a combination?

    Dude, I’m hooked on this story. I hope you’ll let me read it some day. Or if you want I’m happy to wait for the launch and will buy the hardcover then. (or both :-)

  2. Richard says:

    Peter… You REALLY know how to give a compliment, my friend. Thank you. I really don’t like my reading at all, but I think the story has potential.

    It’s still first draft stage, and I rewrite way more than most people, so I’m always finding lots to change. And so, yes, I read it through a time or two, and made changes to make it sound better (and make it easier to read). The posted words don’t reflect the changes. Good eye. :-)

    And if I ever get the chance to finish it, I’d be happy to let you read it. Unfortunately, I’ve only written only four chapters so far… but this is the book I’ve wanted to write for a very long time.

  3. Donna Hole says:

    Hi Richard. I hopped over from Peter’s posting. No, I didn’t post a voice thingy of my own – I’m a lousy reader, and even worse at figuring out the vlog stuff.

    I did enjoy your story. I’m a visual person, so had to read along, and I did notice the changes. It was a little distracting. I don’t think the audio revisions detracted from the story if all I did was listen. Or read.

    I am intrigued by the story concept. I turned off the sound and just read it – sorry, I did say I’m not auditory? – and was completely drawn in. The voice in the story is different than your author voice – not that that was wrong. I do think Peter’s reading voice would be great for this excerpt.

    His voice, your words; I might buy the audio to listen to at work . .

    The writing is good. The reading not too bad. Had it followed the words exactly, I would have listened all the way through. Whatever practicing you’ve been doing on your public speaking is paying off. You sounded good. If you’re really interested in the voice thingy, I think you’ll get there sooner than you expect; especially if you keep up this high level of writing.

    The written word comes first . .


  4. John Kauffman says:

    Don’t disrespect the voice man! How many folks do like the sound of their own voice? I’d wager not many. Of those that do, I don’t think there are many I would want to sit and chat over a warm cup of coffee.

    And I really like coffee.

    The voice was just fine. The delivery was pretty good, and the subject was excellent.

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