Friday, August 7, 2009

Let Me Whisper In Your Ear

by Helen E. H. Madden

Digital vs. traditional. What a discussion! I've always considered my writing career one giant experiment, so it should be no surprise that I'm quite happy being e-published. I've even taken to reading e-books myself (yes, really!) now that I have a decent device to read them on. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to have a library of books on my little Asus EEE netbook. But the net book wasn't my first means of getting my fiction fix digitally, nor were e-books my only means of getting electronically published.

A few years ago, at a science fiction convention not too far from my home, I attended a workshop on podcasting. I had no clue about what podcasting was, only that it had something to do with iPods. This particular workshop was billed as a must for writer interested in promoting their work. Since I was a new writer who had just signed a contract for my first e-book, I decided to look into it. That's where I met Tee Morris, the godfather of podcasting.

Tee is one of many authors, and I believe the first, to create an audio recording of one of his book and post it to the internet for free. He has not been the last, not by a long shot. That weekend, I sat through several hours, listening to Tee and Rich Sigfrit and others talk about the benefits of creating free these free audio recordings and giving them away. I got my degree in broadcast journalism, so it wasn't hard to convince me. that this was somethng I wanted to try. All I would need was a USB mic, some audio recording and editing software (which I could get for free), enough space on my hard drive to store my recordings, and a website to post my work.

Oh, and I needed a topic.

Yeah, that last part was tricky. I was all a-buzz with the want, the need, to get my work out there on the intertubes, but I had no idea what to say. The one thing Tee Morris had emphasized over and over again in his workshop was the need for good content. A podcaster could get away with an okay technical set up, so long as what they recorded would grab the audience's attention.

In search of ideas, I bought a tiny little iPod and downloaded a bunch of other people's podcasts. I listened to fiction and non-fiction, full length books and short stories. There was Tee Morris' Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword, Scott Sigler's Ancestor, Mur Lafferty's I Should Be Writing, Danni Cutler's Truth Seekers, and dozens of others. Pretty soon, I was getting my geek fix with Escape Pod, Psuedo Pod, and then Podcastle, all podcast magazines of short genre fiction. There was even an erotica author out there, Nobilis Reed of the Nobilis Erotica Podcast. I was in heaven, listening to all these stories while I exercised and cleaned house, taking them with me anywhere I wanted to go.

But I still didn't know what **I** wanted to podcast myself. I was getting desperate. I so wanted to get out there on the net and have my own show. The amazing ability to whisper my thoughts, my stories, my ideas, into people's ears seemed like such power ot me. The answer of what to record finally came to me while listening to Jared Axelrod's Aliens You Will Meet. This was my favorite podcast of them all. It was simply a very short spiel told by a computerized assistant to a galactic ambassador, detailing the aliens he would meet that day. It sounds strange. It's hysterically funny. As a story telling device, it's brilliant. Imagine what your day-planner would say to you if it could talk!

But the thing about it was, it was short, really short. I suddenly had the idea that perhaps I could write a series of flash ficiton pieces and record them. Writing flash fiction made sense. I had a tight schedule. Any new project I took on couldn't take up too much time. So I made a plan to write twenty or so pieces of flash fiction, to see how that would fit into my schedule. I would write the stories first before recording a single line, to give myself plenty of lead time on the techincal aspect of things. I knew it would be important to keep up with regular output. Once I got started, I'd have to keep going to build an audience, and that meant writing in well in advance of recording and producing and posting my work. What I didn't know, didn't count on, was that I would fall in love with what I was doing right off the bat.

I wrote my first piece of flash fiction for the podcast, a horror piece that I submitted to the storytime group at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. No sooner was it done than I was suddenly inspired to write a whole series of horror stories. "That's it!" I thought to myself. "I'll start in October, with a monthly theme of horror stories. Then in Novemember I can write about feasts. For December, I can write about gifts..."

It was already the first week of September. My plans to write 20 stories in advance went straight out the window. I spent the rest of that month knocking out four more horror erotica stories, buying a mic, setting up audio software and getting an RSS feed for my show. I mixed my own music from some free sound loops I had, and over that in as sexy a voice as I could muster, I recorded the following:

Warning, this podcast contains sexually explicit material, and is only intended for listeners ages 18 and older...

In the background, you could hear what sounded like the engine of a space ship revving up. Then the bomb sirens kicked in, along with the music, and "Welcome to Heat Flash..."

Heat Flash, the intense burst of heat that accompanies a nuclear explosion. Also, short erotic fiction available in audio format every week. That was my show. And it all started two years ago. Since then, I've written, recorded and produced over 100 stories for the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast. It's science fiction, fantasy, and horror erotica, the stuff I love the most. It's also completely free to anyone who wants to listen. I don't make any money off of it, at least not directly. I do think it keeps me out of the slush pile when I submit for anthologies, and it goes a long way toward promoting me and the other projects I work on. Last winter, I was picked up by Radio Dentata for part of their erotic story time line up on Thursday evenings. Again, still no pay, but you know what? I don't care. I'm addicted to the format. Each week, I can't wait to sit down and read my stories into the mic. I can't wait to mix those recordings together with some music and then send it out to whole wide world. I've had over 40,000 downloads of my show in the last 2 years. That's a lot of ears to whisper into. And I'm no longer the no-name writer with a handful of publishing credits to her name.

I'm a podcasting star, baby. And you could be one too. All it takes is a USB microphone, some free audio editing software, a little hard drive space and a website with an RSS feed.

Oh, and content. Something you want to record, something you desperately need to share with the rest of the world, to whisper into eveyrone's ear. That's the hard part, but it's also the best part.


  1. Helen,

    Excellent advice frm a podcasting star! I can totally sympathise with your advice about content. Podcasting is something I've previously considered but I just wouldn't know what to say into a microphone.


  2. Hi, Helen,

    This is a great twist on the "digital" theme. Certainly podcasts count as epublishing.

    I couldn't do it though. My voice is just too icky.

    By the way, I use my Eee PC as an ebook reader, too. While it's not the smallest or lightest solution, the fact that it doubles as a travel computer for writing and communications made it worth the investment.

    That and the geek appeal (I run Linux!)


  3. I admire your energy and enthusiasm, Helen. Continued good luck with the podcasts!

  4. What a great idea. How long are your stories? And do you make them to fit a certain time or length?

    I have an awesome ipod and do just about everything else on it, including reading books... yes all this talk about expensive e readers and you can do it on your ipod for free... yes I said free. There are lots of apps out there that will read pdf's and other types of books that are free to download... so who needs kindle.

    Great addition to the e market. I think we all just need to be patient. The new generation... yup my kids... live to do everything on the computer. Give them a school assignment on the computer and they actually enjoy doing it. IT's the way of the future, and while print books will always hold a certain appeal, they will eventually go the way of records with a better, more enviro friendly way already here. It's just going to take time.

    Great post.... congrats on embracing the new age of information gathering.

  5. Helen, I'm in awe of you and your podcasting adventures. I know it's an amazing way to promote, but it's just not something I feel I can do. Congratulations on the success you've had and I hope it continues to be a pleasure for you to do.

    Oh, and I take you're a big fan of the E aspect of this weeks topic. LOL


  6. Ashley,

    I had no idea what to say either at first! It took me months to figure out an idea for a show. I actually work on two podcasts now - Heat Flash, my erotic fiction podcast, and The Good Parts, a show I do with Ann Regentin and Nobilis Reed. Each month, we pick some aspect of writing erotica and we beat it to death with a stick. People seem to find that funny for some reason!

    If you do decide to do a podcast, let me know! I'd love to hear it ;)

  7. Lisabet,

    With regards to the voice, I have to work on mine. I have a very nasal voice, so I started doing vocal exercises to fix that problem. It's extra work, but it helps a lot.

    As for the Eee, that sucker is going with me to Chicago next week. I've got a ton of books to read, and hopefully plenty of time to read them ;) Plus I have a story or two to work on!

  8. Jenna,

    Thank you! I'm getting ready to start up the third year in October, and I've got a few new things planned for it. I can't wait to see how they turn out!

  9. Kris,

    Originally, the stories were 1000 words and under, but this past year they've crept up to around 2500 on average. The longest story for the show was over 6K, the shortest only 42 words. It all depends on the story itself. My goal is to write one new story a week, and however long it turns out, that's how long it turns out.

    The stories are all in MP3 format, so they're ideal for the iPod. What I like is that with an RSS feed for the show, I can also drop in PDFs as well and have them delivered to subscribers. So if I do a special story as a PDF with cover art and buy links to the rest of my work, then I have a nifty way to reach my target audience!

    Thanks for the wonderful comments!

  10. Jude,

    The podcast is a huge experiment for me. I never have any idea from one week to the next whether the stories I record will work or not. I just know that I need to keep putting out content on a regular basis. That seems to have been a key factor in the success. And with writing a story a week, I've really had to push myself to do different things with my work. That aspect of the experiment has been very successful, I think.

    And yeah, I love the E. The digital domain is my home sweet home ;)

  11. I started podcasting interviews for Freya's Bower and Wild Child, but for me, it's time in editing. I need the time. I love doing it. I give good phone (or so I've been told), so talking into a microphone and recording a story isn't a long stretch. (Not to mention, I've done a bit of acting. A great actress? No, but decent enough to do this. :)) Oh, and now that I have a child, I have a lot of practice reading, reading, reading the same story over and over again without losing much of the enthusiasm. Well, that's not entirely true. If I have to read another My Little Pony book... HAHAHAHA

    So, yeah, the moment I have time to do it again. I will.

    BTW, do they have a podcast on cloning. I sure could use one. ;)


  12. Marci,

    Sadly, I know of no podcasts on cloning. I could use a few extra copies of me myself! As for My Little Pony, I have banned that critter from the house! Disney Princesses are bad enough.

    But seriously, I find I don't have to reread that often, though I do have to invest the time in editing the audio. It's work, but it's worth it! Let me know if you start podcasting again, because I would be interested in hearing that!

  13. Damn - Helen!

    I got so many good links out of this. I had no idea there were these things out there. I also had no idea Nobilis was so prolific. He's got some wonderful stuff going out there. I think I'd like to do this someday with some of my stories. My author web site is so wretched I don;t try to draw attention to it but someday I want to get it going. This was a very useful post - thanks!



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