Ruminating on How To Be A Movie Star

Hello, everyone! Thanks for finding this, however you did. I don’t normally write blog posts. I might do it more. But for the purpose of this one, I’ve just found so much reflection in getting into this story. It’s such a great world, character and process. It’s been so intriguing to be following in Derrick’s footsteps and finding him here as well, and at the same time finding a new side of TJ I hadn’t seen before.

How To Be A Movie Star is a different kind of book than the At First Sight series and Tales From Verania. TJ covers an entire spectrum within Romance that varies between the OTT on one side and heart-breakingly bare and sincere on the other (I'm thinking Olive Juice or The Bones Beneath My Skin). Sure it's a ying-yang and you've got a little slice of either in either; but the How To Series (or is it the Abby, Oregon series? However, this is referred. I suppose I should know:|) seems to fall right in the middle.

What struck me about this book is how I kept on expecting TJ's signature absurdity to bleed through the characters. For instance, I see a lot of Vince in Josiah. But they are very different. They're both easy-going, charismatic, extremely handsome and a little spacey. But Josiah's not dumb, and I feel like he's got more dimensions than Vince (Sorry, Vince). And he's got a whole life philosophy that's unlike any character I've ever read.

I go through a little Meisner-esque process of living through whichever character I'm doing (I’m pretty sure this is right. I learned theatre theory in high school lol) (also this is largely why I enjoy 1st person narrations) (Also just to note: Josy is totally a Hagen actor in that he invents the backstories for his characters! This is hot.). But this book isn't a first-person narration. It is 3rd person and follows a protagonist. This is the first TJ book (for me reading) where the narration isn't inner monologue, which was an interesting change. I get to be omniscient in this bad boy! But aside from that curious difference, there's also the added factor of becoming this personality that's at once self-assured in what I would describe as a sexuality based on the freedom to not limit attraction to a term. Josy is demisexual, but that's described in the book as being only attracted after a significant amount of time with someone, i.e. based totally on feeling. It's wholly defined by a personal need rather than a textbook-like definition, and that's so groovy.

This personal freedom envelops the character in such a way that he truly feels free. So when I've gone lollygagging around whilst singing in chorus the voice of either Sam of Wilds, Paul Auster or Sandy; it's never felt as cool as Josy. Like, he just feels like such a dreamy, wavering peaceful soul. There's apprehension, but there's no anxiety. I believe that's where the attraction for the love interest comes from in HTBAMS (I'll leave that there to retain a spoiler-free zone).

I wanted to write this blog, because I really love this new experience. I got to get invested in Derrick's masterful narration as Gustavo. I'm trying to live up to it, but I'm also trying to play with my own signature aspects. I found myself approximating his Gustavo and Casey (I'll never reach his mesmerizing 80hz baritone); but I've also given voices to other characters like Lottie and the We Three Queens based on my desire to give them a spice that I've homegrown from the sensory reaction to TJ's writing.

This book also touches me as an actor, because the OTT aspect of it is a commentary on the ludicrous stunts an actor must portray in a modern career. I'm not in LA. I'm not even a visual actor. But this still hits home in a very particularly (not cozy, but) anti-cozy way—as in, I feel Josy's pain. The absurdity of being an actor is living with the strange elements of some genius quasi-psycho's id-born playground. That's not a dig at TJ. Well, a little dig. But, it's like, TJ knows. He wrote this fucking thing. And living in someone else's vision is the equivalence of playing with their angels and monsters. You're giving life to the thing that was so severe to their notion of identity, that they wrote a whole book or script about it. And that's a scary amount of vulnerability. So, it's at once a cocktail of pleasure and pain, the sanity of closure and the insanity of a brewing conflict being sustained. And I suppose like everything that's beautiful, it's a lot to comprehend.

So anyway, I'm not sure if I'll write another blog post. But I'll certainly post promotional stuff for this book! It's awesome, it's strange; but perhaps most strangely, it feels very real. At the very least, Josy and Q-bert's feelings feel very real to me. And I love that. It seeps within me like a sous-vide of emotional pleasure; and I hope it resonates with you in the same way.

If you haven’t picked up the audiobook for How To Be A Normal Person, Derrick does such a sincerely terrific job and I really think that it’s an amazing story. I love that this sequel is both independent and loyal to where it comes from. Here’s the link if you haven’t had a chance:

Can we take a moment to look at how Ryan and Sam's relationship evolves in the Verania series? (Consumption Teaser #1)

It's fascinating to me to see how characters grow in a series.  TJ definitely has a knack for allowing his characters to take patient, revealing turns towards maturity.  Something I've been feeling a lot more in my narration as i slog through the ol' third out of four is how sassy the Knight Commander continues to be, coupled with Sam finally bearing the gravity of his destiny and becoming a little bit more responsible.  

I'll admit there were a couple turns in Destiny that threw me off guard; some setting up situations a little more dire than expected!  But I'm really loving the growth of these characters and getting to play through it.  Every once in a while, they pop out a new dimension and we're gradually building up from one-dimensional stock character to these dodecahedrons filled with such dynamic complexity.  I love how easy and natural it is for me to get into Ryan's voice or Sam's voice at this point.  It really allows me to try things, which allows them to try things; and I think really sings how much they care for each other and how much trust and fun they can share with one another.  What a romance!  What a lovely bunch of dudes.

I love this series.  More teasers to come bb's ;)

Destiny of Dragons Release and when a character has to change slightly

Hey friendos,

The anticipation for A Destiny of Dragons ends today!  It's finally out and I'm extremely excited for everyone to hear this months-long endeavor.  I surely hope people do enjoy it.  I'm working on Consumption as we speak (though I've had to redesign my studio, so that's held up production for this week.  NEVERTHELESS, I will work my damndest to get you Consumed in a timely manner!)

You may notice in the new book that Kevin's voice is not so deep and the echo is a little less pronounced as well.  This is because I'm using different software than I used in The Lightning Struck Heart.  I used ProTools to edit that book, whereas with any production since the beginning of 2017; I've used Reaper.  I prefer Reaper for almost every aspect of production, though sometimes the plug-ins (what's used to manipulate the sounds) are not as good as ProTools.  

Whenever I changed the pitch and echo to try to match the deep sound Kevin had in prior books, it got the desired result but with an added metallic sound.  It was almost robotic.  I felt deep ambivalence about this, because I really don't like changing characters.  In the end, I decided that it was best to not do so much SFX to Kevin (and also Zero's) voice because I found the distraction > consistency. 

I'm sorry if this catches people off-guard.  Know that it was long thought of and I did it with great caution.  I hope the character still comes off as gargantuan and ridiculous as needs be.  

Rediscovering "Tell Me It's Real"

I usually don't go and revisit audiobooks that I've done.  After the final stages of QC and corrections, I treat each book like a message in a bottle and throw it out to the Audible sea.  Any time I've done a series, producing the books has been concurrent so there's no real visitation.  

I finished recording Tell Me It's Real in June of 2014, now more than a year and a half later, I am revisiting the characters which made up my first real success an audiobook narrator.  A few things really strike me:

One of the things I really like about TJ is that he can make a small amount of time last impossibly long, because the neuroses of his narrating character nitpicks every detail in finely-exaggerated flair.  I'm struck by how effective he can compile all of the things that race through Paul's mind into a stream of ridiculous, manic impulses.  Rather than doing 10 minutes in one page, TJ has the uncanny ability to make 1 minute last ten pages.  He bedazzles a scene with detail, which is why his characters are so rich.  They are observing so much!

Listening to me has been a force of extreme ambivalence.  I am guessing it's biological to have the nails-on-a-chalkboard approach to your own voice.  I've become used to hearing me, but 11 books later I feel like my ability to narrate a story has greatly evolved.  I've always had an emphasis on building character voices, but storytelling is something done with nuance.  I'm very excited to add (what I feel) much, much more feeling to the narration of The Queen and the Homo Jock King.  

Settling into this story now, I'm becoming that much more reminded of Paul's beautifully, manically-minded self whose insanity is so comfortably uncomfortable.  I love this character because he actually does the things that in passing, you would only take a second to contemplate then leave be (e.g. googling the minimum sentence for voluntary homicide in Arizona; says the exact joke he was attempting not to say).  You live vicariously through any narrator, and cringing along with Paul's actions brings him so close to my heart.  I'm grinding my teeth in between laughing out loud, embarrassing myself in front of people (I understand the reviews now).

I remember very well feeling these characters.  I remember being in the scene where Helena embarrasses Paul in the drag bar and seeing the stage viscerally.  That helps a lot in narration.  The more I can actually be there, see the characters, hear their voices; the more, I think, that reflects a true identity in the narration.   

I'll be posting more as the book comes along.  I'm very excited to be pursuing this story, which I have reminded myself I have a very tender memory thereof.  I hope you all can fall as much in love with Sandy's story as you did Paul's.