Last night on my way home from work, I took advantage of an hour drive to listen to the audio version of "Heroika: Dragon Eaters." This is a collection of Dragon themed short stories compiled by the great Janet Morris. I'm proud to say the collection features a story of mine, and though I tried to listen to the recording from the beginning, excitement got the better of me and I ended up jumping forward to my contribution.
This is actually the second professional audiobook featuring my work. The first is a version of Beyond Birkie Fever that Rhemalda put together back in 2012. I've never listened to that one though as I sometimes have a hard time setting aside the editor part in me and just enjoying the work. However, the free sample of Heroika features the first few pages of my story, and I listened to that without initially recognizing the story as mine. I enjoyed hearing the clip, so that broke through my resistance to settle down and listen to the whole thing. It's always nice when you are exposed to something of your own without recognizing it and your honest thought is "hey...that's pretty good!"
It's pretty exciting to have something of yours packaged up and presented in a way that's so polished and professional. The narrator selected for "Heroika" is Rob Goll and his voice is so good I'd pay to hear him read the phone book. Goll inflections are right on, and that was a tremendous relief. It may not sound like much to expect a professional to read, for example, a question as a question, but you'd be surprised. It has always driven me crazy the way Elijah Wood says, "Do they Gandalf?" in the "Fellowship of the Ring"--and Elijah Wood is an actor I respect.
What you get in "Heroika" is a very sophisticated reading. My story, "Aquila of Oyos", is written in a kind of classic style that isn't particularly easy to read aloud (I know because I read it aloud about fifty times during the course of composition). Goll hits the rhythm perfectly though, which shows he had a deep understanding of the mechanics of how the story functions. Again, you'd think that would be expected from a professional performer, but believe me it's a relief when it's done well. For example, the pause he throws in before the final word creates a wonderful finality. As a writer, I know the reader gets that same sense of finality simply due to the fact that they can see the text is about to end. That doesn't exist for a listener, so it's up to the narrator to indicate the end has arrived (simply stating "The End" would be a disaster...the listener has to know).
Of course, even though I read this story aloud multiple times, as I listened to Goll perform I realized I could have made his life easier in about a dozen little places. There are three or four pronouns I should have removed, and one descriptive scene goes on about a sentence too long. Sometimes I wonder, though, if my impulse for constant tinkering actually makes a work better after a certain point. None of what I might change now represents a catastrophic error, and I've found that eleventh hour edits sometimes reduces the effectiveness of the story as a whole.
Listening to Goll really served as a very powerful lesson for me. There is a precision that must be achieved in the final drafts of your work, and that comes from an almost obsessive attention to detail. I knew this already, of course, but it's valuable to have the lesson repackaged and presented again in a new way that further underscores its importance.
All that being said, I was really happy how well the story worked. When I set out to write a dragon tale, I decided it must include several things: a mound of treasure, a dragon melting something in the most graphic way possible, and a sense of tremendous age. The last one is the hardest, and I feel that I achieved all of these points. I'm looking forward to applying the lessons learned to my next project, and with the very real possibility that somebody as talented as Rob Goll will be performing...well, there's no better source of motivation!
I'm also looking forward to listening to the works of the other very talented authors in this collection.
Also...an audiobook of this one would be nice! There will be a Goodreads giveaway of that going live shortly, so look for me on Goodreads here.