Time Travel

Share

It seems that nearly all of us have imagined traveling in time, either forward or backward, and even if you haven’t, you must have read or seen fictional tales of time travel. The first for me, even before I formed my own thoughts, was the great novel by Wells…The Time Machine. There have been many novels and movies, even radio productions, about time travel. It catches our imagination like nearly no other subject. For me, the lure is the past, not the future. The future is unknown, unknowable and, for that reason, frightening. No, I like the past, where I feel comfortable, even masterful, about where things are headed. Even Mark Twain wrote a captivating tale about time travel, or was it only an unconscious dream, and he also ventured backwards.

I actually did visit Fermilab years ago, because my daughter was there doing research at the time and had access. It was an unforgettable experience for me, and I just had to resurrect the sensation I experienced of being overwhelmed by the scale and the science of the place. It was a key to presenting my version of time travel in a more or less believable way, or at least as plausible as any other so far.

So, prior to beginning my book, Revenge of Jesus, I had to read nearly everything out there about time travel, all fiction of course. In addition, my novel required a solid working knowledge of the ancient world about the time of Christ, geography and history as well. Any one of these areas would take a lifetime of study to prepare, but more importantly, there are large gaps of knowledge making a fiction out of anything but a presentation of superficial facts. In other words, I had to make an educated guess, using scant facts, as to how the area would look to us if we were to travel back in time. The religious aspects are in some ways even more difficult, not only because little hard information is available, but because adherents to the faiths hold their views sacred and in their hearts, whatever the facts. I had to be careful not to offend the religious, the historians or even science fiction buffs. And likely others who would find issue with unexpected portions of my book.

Not everyone will agree on the way I presented this story, but I am personally satisfied that I gave it my best try, and so far I have gotten positive feedback from everyone who has read this work.

One concept that returns again and again about time travel to the past is the issue about changing things and the unknown effect of doing so. As an author, you can’t ignore what has come to be  common wisdom about such things. That is, if the past is altered, the future will be different. Agreeing with that view always makes the storyline more difficult yet more exciting as well as full of possibilities. My studied view, and the one that I took in the book, does agree that changes in the past will alter the future. But…only significant ones. I took the tack that much of what we would do back in the past will make no difference that you could detect. Another way of viewing it is to decide that something that happened in the past is still part of history. After reading Revenge of Jesus, you can decide for yourself if I managed the subject successfully.

Revenge of Jesus isn’t just about religious issues or time travel. It is more fundamentally a story of three people who grow to love and depend on each other. Revenge of Jesus is, at heart, a love story. At the end, you will realize that one of my characters has become immortal, but I’m not about to tell you which one. Read and discover!

In a future blog, I will share with you interesting facts I discovered while preparing to write Revenge of Jesus.

 

Alexander Francis

Writing The Green Scarf

Share

Discovering that the title you chose for your current book has already been used…multiple times…can be a downer. Trust me, not as much as having criticism regarding the name of your principal character. Yes, you can randomly choose a name which could be, and probably is, the name of some really notorious person. It can’t be helped. Ever try to invent a name for a .com address? If you have, you quickly discovered how many people had the same idea first.

The Green Scarf didn’t start out to be a book. After writing several serious books, at least with serious subjects, I elected to write a light, even humorous, one. Fifty pages later, I had the makings of a story about a naive college student who was drooling over a classmate who didn’t even recognize his existence. Parts of it were funny, and it did recall my own experiences in college. It could have been submitted as a short story as it stood. Instead, I gave it to a couple of trusted friends to read and give comment. As an afterthought, I asked them if I should continue or quit with fifty pages. Three of my friends encouraged me to continue, but none of them knew that I would darken the mood and take the book in a different direction than they expected.

I realized that humor would only go so far and that I could contrast the remainder of The Green Scarf with its beginnings: a carefree college boy pursuing a lovely female who discovers not only love but a darker side of the world, an evil that he hadn’t known existed.

Those same friends, after reading the complete novel, were all surprised at the ending. Not at all what they expected. However, after a period of contemplation, they all agree that the ending of The Green Scarf is the correct one.

Don’t worry. I’m not about to divulge the plot or the ending and ruin your reading experience, though I still defend the name of my principal…Rick James. No, I don’t need you to also tell me that there are negative connotations to that particular name. By the way, I did a bit of research and found that there are thousands of people in the U.S. with the same name, so I’m sticking with Rick, because I created him in utter innocence.

One thing for sure, you will agree after reaching the end of The Green Scarf that the title was well chosen. Guaranteed.

Alexander Francis

Logic Pro X Filters

Share

As a last comment on building our sound booth and recording as well as editing the sound track, I wish to share our settings.  After much experimentation, we have settled on a simple set of three audio filters using Apple Logic Pro X software.

When we started, I had an idea that our narrator’s voice should change dramatically between characters she is portraying, and I made a concerted effort to find plug-ins which could handle the task.  I used both Antares and Flux, both highly rated, for voice modification.  You see, I wanted to create a male voice or a youthful voice, or even separate female voices.  Much like hiring different actors for the various parts.

It didn’t work.  Even though these add-on filters are excellent and expansive (yes, a bit expensive also), they create a strange voice instead of a natural one.  Try as I might, I could not achieve the effect I desired, and we went back to the tried and true method of voice control by the narrator.

Noise Gate

A major goal is to eliminate any unwanted sounds as  we discussed previously, and it comes down to careful editing and noise control inside the booth.  There are sounds, though, which creep into the highest and the lowest frequencies no matter how careful you are. These can be controlled with the right settings on your filters.

Channel Equalizer

Another issue is the dynamic range of the narrator.  In our case, Janel can become hyper-charged during reading of an exciting section, and the result is a very wide range of dynamics captured faithfully by the mike. Again, this is managed by the appropriate settings of the software.

DeEsser

Some speakers, particularly female ones, tend to emphasize the “S” sounds of words.  Good, clear speaking demands that it be so.  But, it can be too obvious and a distraction as well.  We use a nice little de-esser which diminishes the pop of an “S” sound without removing it.  Less is better than more in this case.

For our needs, the three filters produce a clear sound which converts to a high quality MP3 and is easy on the ear as well.

To be clear, we record the narration on a track without filters and do the editing and post-processing later, outside of the studio.

Good luck on your own efforts, and I hope this series has been helpful.

Alexander Francis

Cords…They Hate Me

Share

It’s one of those things I have to get off of my chest, an admission, a coming out, and it will surprise even you, my dear readers.

I am troubled by cords…they are out to get me, and they have, many times. No, I’m not talking about musical chords. No problem there. I’ve made friends with musical chords, and we share mutual respect, even longing for each other. Its just cords, and by that inclusive word, I mean ropes, electrical wires, cables, hoses and the like. Just about anything that is rather round and linear.

My troubles started long ago, but at the time I attached no significance to it. Rather, I was self-depreciating about my experiences and travails, blaming any difficulty on myself rather than accuse an inanimate and otherwise harmless object. As a youth, I worked with my father in the summertimes, helping him with electrical work. I even got paid a minuscule sum, likely what I was actually worth. Several times, I was asked to perform a simple task…roll up the extension cord or unroll the extension cord. Never could I do this elementary task without creating a hopeless tangle…a gordian knot of electrical wire so hopelessly intertwined that I considered using a pliers and cutting myself free. More often though, my irritated father would snatch it away mumbling “gimme that” and in a few furious seconds, the matted tangle would disappear but not his scowl in my direction. It was so bad that I would even trip over any cord or line innocently lying on the ground under my clumsy feet.

How could I know that it wan’t an adolescent clumsiness at fault? It was a cord conspiracy, and it got worse over the rest of my life. Later, I took part in vertical rock climbing with my son, and during training, our instructor would frequently yell in my direction that I was “ Yo! Standing on the rope…again!” Sure I was, but what he didn’t know was that it was a protective move on my part. I was simply holding down the rope to prevent its mischief. Try as hard as I might, the habit persisted until the instructor gave up. I was hopeless. Later, my son and I hired a professional guide for some really hard climbs. Heading up Devils Tower, I was entrusted to carry the spare rope, coiled in neat even coils and tied off like experienced climbers do. All I had to do at the appointed time was to tie one end off and toss the loops into the void, supposedly allowing the rope to uncoil and hang down obediently all one hundred eighty feet along the sheer wall. You know the rest. When the time came and the rope went down, there were not one but three knots swinging defiantly along the course of the rope. After I pulled it up, nearly being pulled off the side by the rope trick of wrapping around my feet, I untangled it and tossed again. It took three tries to finally get it straight. When we started down, I gave some thought to what the rope might try to do to me as I used this single important device on which to dangle my life. I’m sure I would still be up there trying to descend, but the calming hand of my son on the lower end of the rope demanded order instead of allowing chaos. Cords don’t hate him.

By now you are convinced that either I am exaggerating or am headed for therapy and medication. I assure you that I am totally sane and physically competent. The stark truth is that cords hate me. Let me give you an example. Any time, any day, in my basement projects I have to be unusually careful about cords, air compressor hoses, pull chains. They all give me trouble and are particularly devious about it when I am not attentive. For no reason at all, the electrical cord of the saber saw will end up in under the basement door. I don’t put it there or even allow it to happen, but when I try to extract it, the plug becomes wedged on the hinge side and nearly any effort won’t budge it. Still think I’m crazy? Then here is another example. Under my computer desk there are, of course, many cables. Given my lifelong experience, I am ultra careful about routing, grouping and securing the cables, nearly to a mania. It doesn’t matter in the least, because the wires and cables, alone for a few moments will creep relentlessly into a tangle.

I’ve had to deal with my fate as best I can, coping without anger most of the time and only occasionally giving in to shredding and cutting…and cursing. Thinking it over, I surmise that one innocent day in my youth, I gave offense to a well-meaning cord, and well, so it goes.
Alexander Francis