Mortality Bridge – Chapter 2 audio online

The audio recording of “Chapter 2: Crossroad Blues” from Mortality Bridge is online. I had to replace my normal audio player with a freebie version till I can figure out why my preferred one’s playlist functions aren’t working. Meantime this one seems perfectly spiffy.

In case anyone’s curious about how these get created, it takes me about an hour to record 30 minutes of spoken narration, and probably four to six hours of post-recording editing and audio processing after that. Because of my DJ career I have a decent little home recording setup. I use an MXL condensor mic connected to an ART Studio V3 tube pre-amp and an SE Electronic Reflexion Filter “portable vocal booth” (pictured). I record & post-process using Sony Sound Forge Pro 10 on my laughably large (21″) Acer 9800 laptop.

After the raw narration is recorded I do “gross edits,” which is a colorful way of saying that I delete the bad takes and pick the best of any alternate readings of lines. I mark any pops or clipping that will either need to be eliminated or re-recorded. I mark any lines that just plain didn’t work for one reason or another. Replacement recordings for these are called “pickups,” and are recorded in a later session.

I use a chain of Waves audio processors for post production — a noise gate to get rid of background hiss, a de-esser to squelch hissy “s” sounds that spike the meters & stand out, a de-breath plugin that figures out when you take loud breaths and mutes the volume on these so it isn’t distracting (what an amazing timesaver this thing is), a 16-channel EQ to enrich the lower end & add some sparkle to the top just a tiny bit, and the L3 Multimaximizer to normalize volume levels so that they are more consistent.

I get rid of any extraneous noise — swallows, smacks, pops, thumps, etc.; it’s always surprising how much of that there is even in ideal conditions. I do a “tightening” pass, which is simply eliminating longer pauses and finessing the timing so that it scans more naturally.

I don’t usually add sound effects or apply weird fx to the vocals, but it seemed like a good idea in Chapter One to add a short plate reverb to Jemma’s dialog while she’s in the CAT scan, and a “phone line” EQ to the med tech on the intercom. Since there are three people talking in that scene, it helped to differentiate them, and also to distract from the fact that I probably don’t do a woman’s voice very well. (For Chapter 2 I did some slight panning to add some subtle emphasis to one character interrupting another a few times — along with the different character voices, it helps to distinguish them. A little of that goes a long way.)

I do final volume tweaking and then another light normalizing pass to add a bit of compression and even out the volume levels just a little bit more. I save the file in stereo (most recorded books are mono) as an mp3 at a bitrate of 192K. A lot of the narration you hear online is recorded at 96 and even 48K, which makes for smaller files, but introduces a lot of distortion and artifacts — I can’t stand to listen to that for very long, and I don’t want to make anyone else listen to it either.

I add information & cover art to the ID3 tags on the mp3 file and upload it to the website and then update the site page.

Good lord. Seeing all of the above makes me wonder why I go to all this trouble. And truthfully I have no earthly idea. But then I’m not entirely sure why I write the things in the first place. But why make anything? Cuz it’s fun, it’s challenging, it teaches you, and it feels good to make stuff.

In any case, I’m very happy with how this turned out. is live

The Mortality Bridge website just went live. It’s got three sample chapters you can read online or download as PDF, ePub, or MobiPocket files for your e-Reader.

It also has playable/downloadable audio of Chapter One (with more on the way over the next few weeks), and some background information on the novel’s origin and history.

Following publication in July the site will have Google Earth maps of the routes taken at the novel’s beginning and ending. (The middle’s going to have to wait until Google’s mapping cars complete their survey of Hell — I’d say a year or two, given the rate at which Google is digitizing the universe.)

I’m considering putting up some deleted scenes after the novel’s release as well.

I like each of my books having its own website, but since my writing website and blog weren’t designed to be an umbrella over these, I’m starting to feel spread a bit thin. So over the next few weeks I’ll also be updating this blog and my website with a view to centralizing and consolidating a lot of these disparate sites. The book sites will remain the same, but the blog & writing site will be fused and better designed to act as a hub.

Meantime, please take a look at and let me know what you think!

Subterranean 2 is Shipping

Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2, edited by William Schafer, is in print after a slight delay due to a printer’s error attended to by Bill Schafer. He’s a stickler for quality control, which is why the books he publishes are highly prized — they’re gorgeous, and they just plain feel like great books.

Anyway, S:TDF2 (to be all cool-title-sounding) contains my novelette “Not Last Night but the Night Before,” which is in some pretty august company. Check out this table of contents:

Joe Hill, “Wolverton Station”
Jay Lake & Shannon Page, “The Passion of Mother Vajpai”
Kelley Armstrong, “Chivalrous
Glen Cook, “Smelling Danger: A Black Company Story”
William Browning Spencer, “The Dappled Thing”
Steven R. Boyett, “Not Last Night but the Night Before”
Caitlin R. Kiernan, “Hydraguros”
Bruce Sterling, “The Parthenopean Scalpel”
David Prill, “A Pulp Called Joe”
Norman Partridge, “Vampire Lake”
K.J. Parker, “A Room with a View”

S:TDF2  got a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. You can pick it up from Amazon for a pretty darned good price. I just got my copies yesterday and it’s an awfully good-looking book.  I’m looking forward to reading it!

I should get out more often

So now whenever someone asks me, “What’ s the best meal you’ve ever had,” I get to say, “A can of Spaghetti-O’s and a vanilla pudding pack.”

Cuz then I get to follow it up with, “On the edge of a 2500-foot drop near the top of Yosemite Falls during a two-and-a-half-hour climb.”

Yessir. Best Meal Ever.

What a glorious couple of days. It was so fun to go alone and just explore. And I’ve heard rumors that there are several other interesting, memorable, and attractive geological features worth visiting in my very own country. I may have to investigate this further.


Off to Yosemite & Misc.

I’ve written here and elsewhere about how I have difficulty setting fiction in places I’ve never been. This is especially true for fantasy, which for me apparently needs to be solidly grounded in reality and concrete detail to give a firm foundation to the bullshit I must necessarily shovel.

Some of the sequences in the last act of Avalon Burning take place in the Yosemite Valley, which I’ve never been to. I caught myself trying to fake it through armchair research, and then said, Really, Steve? You’re going to fake Yosemite? Aren’t you the guy who said that the reason you go to these places is for the One True Thing you’ll find there that absolutely and unequivocally sells the rest — that thing you wouldn’t have experienced without going there? Plus, I’ve lived in California since 1984 and claim to love love love it, and I’ve never been to Yosemite? Yeesh.

So: Three days in Yosemite it is! Not purely research — I could definitely use a little getaway. I tend not to be very good at vacations. I always need to be doing something — making stuff, making stuff up, whatever. So making myself stop making stuff takes a bit of effort and some time to decompress. Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve actually enjoyed my vacations until I come back from them. Silly, innit?

The Mortality Bridge website will be ready for launch in a week or so. I’m definitely looking forward to that. John Scalzi, bless his heart, sent in the most wonderful blurb ever for the book:

Luminously tragic, darkly funny and deeply moving, all in turns and sometimes all at once. Steven Boyett is one of the very few writers who will make you eager to go into Hell, and not worry about whether you return.

Yowza! John is signing at Borderlands in SF on May 16, and I intend to be there scattering rose petals before him as he passes by bestowing his blessings upon the gathered throngs.

PW Review of Mortality Bridge

Publisher’s Weekly has just given Mortality Bridge a Starred Review, saying:

Dark, grotesque, and eerie, Boyett’s behemoth reimagining of Orpheus’ descent into the Underworld blends Faust and Dante with Greek myth. Through unusual turns of phrase, violent and bloody imagery, heartrending introspection, and mythic tone, Boyett  explores themes of betrayal, redemption, and personal sacrifice in a tortured landscape of bedlam and pandemonium.

I think that’s Pretty Spiffy. Standout words for me are behemoth and heartrending.

If you’re curious, the entire review is here. I’m a smiling lad today.