100k Downloads!

It’s hard to believe this day has come. When we first started The Alexandria Archives podcast, we never thought it would get much of a listener base. Really, it was more about entertaining ourselves than anyone else. But we put a lot of work into the podcast, and little by little it started to pay off. Our audio quality got a lot better and we even started to receive listener submissions! And fan art!

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But it wasn’t until we hit 100k downloads that we started to realize we’d actually Done a Thing. We took a vague concept, played with it, and eventually managed to produce something that other people listen to and apparently enjoy. There’s no denying that we still have a long way to go, but it’s a good time to take a step back and recognize that we’ve come a long way already. And that’s really awesome.

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In Repair

My first attempt at a post explaining my absence came off as embarrassingly whiny. My second attempt was curt. Third time’s the charm?

So, things have not been going As Planned. I’ve hit a bit of a writing roadblock of late, and it’s a relief that the podcast is on hiatus as we get our older episodes remastered. It’s crazy how much we’ve learned since we started The Alexandria Archives just a few months ago. But in that short time, we’ve come a long way. I’m pretty proud of everything we’ve accomplished. Unfortunately that’s more than I can say for my day job, which I’ve been struggling with for a while now. It’s been some time since I felt pride in my work, and while I suspected that my current arrangement would only be temporary, I’m forced to admit that it may not work out much longer. There’s a (RADICALLY different) position I interviewed for recently that I’m waiting for news on. I’ve also sent out applications in other states, and it’s looking like my move this summer – if it’s even as late as summer – might be a longer distance than I’d anticipated. While I think a change of scenery might do me some good, part of me feels a bit like I’m running away. It’s a weird, kind of sheepish feeling at this point in my life. The current political situation has been another drain. I know better than to read the comments, right? So why do I keep reading the comments? Keeping abreast of what’s going on in the world has never been so bone-deep exhausting. It’s like everywhere I turn, there’s another piece of bad news waiting. And it doesn’t look like it’s about to let up anytime soon.

But back to writing.

Before there was The Alexandria Archives, there was Eldritch Nonsense, a NaNoWriMo project that was a  mishmash of some story concepts I’d been working on since I was a lowly undergrad. I signed up, I wrote, I finished. Hooray! And then the project sat untouched for over a year while I worked on Other Things. Work on the podcast has gotten me thinking about that old story once again, and I thought I’d dust it off and give it another go. Easier said than done, turns out. Gone are the days where I could churn out content without so much as a coffee break. These days, getting a word down is like pulling teeth. And getting feedback has been even harder. My podcast collaborators are busy with work/school/family stuff, my writing buddy is knee-deep in revision, and my writing group is…well, they’re an odd lot, so I’m not exactly sure what they’re up to at the moment. But whatever it is, it’s not reading the excerpt I handed out at our last meeting. I’m stuck. And I’ve got the anxiety about my finances, my depression, my job, and my move hanging over my head, further complicating things. I feel a little lost.

Life doesn’t come with instructions. I’m doing all I can to move forward – I know that – but process is a little more sluggish than I’d like. And it’s ok to feel like that. The problem comes when you get bogged down and trapped, wrapped up in your preoccupations and fears. I’ve been fighting that. I’ve got the tools I need to get to a better place…I just have to use them. So I’m sticking it out, doing the best I can where I am now. And that’s all I can do.


 

Lucky Ducks

There’s a joke my mother likes to tell. Two women who went to school together as girls are reunited, and the first woman talks about how wonderful her life has been. She went to college, met a great guy, made lots of money, and traveled the world. The second woman responds to each milestone with a “Well, isn’t that nice!” When asked what she’s been up to, the second woman answers that she went to charm school. When the first woman asks her what she learned there, she responds “I learned to say ‘Well, isn’t that nice!’ instead of ‘Fuck you!'”

What I mean to say is, fortune seems to smile on some people. I’m one of those brain-dead consumer-types who eagerly devours lifestyle blogs and Youtube vlogs featuring the everyday doings of people I’ll never meet in person. I tell myself that my fascination comes from my identity as a storyteller. I like watching others’ stories unfold. And they really can be fascinating. Yes, watching Jenna Marbles roll around with her dogs and go to Target is fascinating. Fight me.

Point is, we all have a sort of idealized life. We all envy those who have apparently achieved it. I was the kind of kid who couldn’t bring herself to say “yes” when someone asked her if she wanted a soda for fear of seeming rude. Now that I’ve gotten my various neuroses mostly under control, I find myself facing a new set of hurdles.

In May, I’ll be 30 years old. And I’m only just acknowledging my idealized life. I’d like to be a content creator. Or rather, I’d like to support myself as a content creator. Anyone can make stuff. I make stuff. I’m making this blog post right now. I play a role in making the Alexandria Archives podcast. I make fiction, I make pictures, I make stupid tweets that only my closest friends understand well enough to laugh at. But with bills and a career I’m only just finding myself entrenched in, it’s a little late to play the starving artist card.

So that’s where I stand. I feel envious of those people who doggedly pursued their dreams for years and are finally making headway, because I feel so far behind. I don’t know where to start. Except I have started, sort of, haven’t I? And that’s something.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to make a living doing what I love. Maybe it’ll forever remain a hobby. But I certainly don’t intend to stop, not now. It’s definitely too late for that. So I plan to plod along, saying “Isn’t that nice?” and (mostly) meaning it. I’m going to envy the lucky ducks, then I’m going to bust my ass to catch up. Because I make shit. It’s what I do. And that makes me lucky enough.

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Things We’ve Learned

The Alexandria Archives is finally 3 episodes in. “The Tunnels” went live on Friday night, late by a few days but  better for it, or so I’d like to think. We’ve already recorded a few tracks for episodes 4 and 5, and yesterday it was looking like the script for episode 6 is about complete, as well. Things tend to move in fits and starts – when we’re feeling inspired, all we can do is run with it.

I didn’t think podcasting would be as labor intensive as it turned out to be. The first thing I learned is that you’re always working on the podcast – always. Even when I’m at my day job, odds are I’ve got an in-progress story open in a browser in case I get the urge to put down a line, or a comment. i

I learned the value of a dry erase calendar, for when the 12th becomes the 19th, which becomes the 23rd, only it’s more like the 22nd because we got excited and were so pleased with how the Halloween special turned out we aired it early. Deadlines have been pushed to and fro like a hockey puck, occasionally flying off to smack someone in the face.

I learned that even the best of friendships can bend. Like, a lot. But if it starts to look like they’re in danger of breaking, it’s probably best to take a few steps back. Group work is never really easy. It might start to get easy to forget that you came together for a reason – a really good one, if I may say so myself.

And I’ve learned that first and foremost, this is supposed to be fun. And it has been fun. Even when it’s been hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing stressful, it’s been really, really fun. I get to produce content with two awesome friends, find new outlets for the stories that have been living quietly in my head for years. We made this thing, and then we sent it out into the world to see how it would do. And so far, it’s not doing too  bad. I’m excited to see how it grows, and where we go next.

What We’re Listening To

There’s a lot more than time and dedication that goes into getting a podcast off the ground. Nobody tells you about the other stuff. Heck, there’s a lot more than nagging your friends to download/listen/review. For one thing, there’s the money. Advertising is a bigger deal than I would’ve thought. Gone are the days when you could get by with a plucky attitude and a whole lot of heart. These days, you’ve got to shell out to get your name out there.

A part of deciding where we wanted to advertise (never mind whether or not we could afford to do so) was listening to new podcasts.  Most of us had our go-to’s, like WTNV, nosleep, Drabble, etc. But we really wanted to get to know more about the weird fiction podcasting scene, make some connections, get more involved. This meant listening to new stuff. And man, did we find some great new stuff.

I almost feel silly discussing THE BLACK TAPES when it’s blown up so big, but it really served as an inspiration for us with its radio play format. Love of horror and mystery kind of goes hand-in-hand, and TBT meets those loves pretty thoroughly. After LIMETOWN, I was eager for a new spooky, investigative series to listen to. TBT filled in the gap extremely well. It’s the kind of story you burn through, then turn right back around to listen to it all again. Which is what I’m currently in the process of doing. Both seasons are suspenseful, dark thrillers that leave you on the edge of your seat. It sounds cliche, maybe, but it’s true. There’s no telling where the adventures of Alex and Dr. Strand will take us next,  but it’s bound to be somewhere fascinating.

LORE was the next series I came across, suggested by Twitter thanks to whatever algorithm it uses. Produced and performed by Aaron Mahnke with music by Musician, it recounts strange and sordid true tales from history. Touching on urban legends and true crime alike, Mahnke highlights the ugly side of human history. Lore’s episodic nature makes it easy to pick up – there are no seasons, no storyline to keep track of. Just pure weird history. This makes it great for easy listening, something to fill the time on a jaunt to the grocery store or while taking a long walk.

THE BRIGHT SESSIONS was recommended by the inimitable Aaron Rehdactedd. I couldn’t say  how he stumbled across it, but I was glad that he did. Each episode features the recordings of the enigmatic therapist Dr. Bright, whose practice specializes in a peculiar kind of patient. Despite her patients’ superhuman abilities, their problems are all too normal – they struggle to connect with those around them, wrestle with their own emotions and shortcomings. It’s easy to lose yourself in Dr. Bright’s professional voice, encouraging but also calculating. What does Dr. Bright want from her patients? Just what makes them assets to her?

SPINES is an ominous, eerie blend between Alias and Re-Animator. It’s a masterfully produced lovechild between mystery and the grotesque. Narrated by Wren, a young woman missing memories after waking from a bizarre cult ritual, the story features a cast of curious young men and women with even curiouser abilities. She’s clever and resourceful, more so than even she knows. All the while, Wren searches for the mystery man she believes holds the answers to her search – who she is, what brought her to this point, and what becomes of them next.

If you haven’t checked these series out, I highly recommend them! There are so many good podcasts out these days, it’s hard to keep up – I still have a few on deck I haven’t even gotten around to sampling yet. But if you’re looking for a place to start, look no further than this post, mystery lovers – I’ve got you covered.

Conception

Another day, another daily prompt from the kind folks at wordpress.

And it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this post is, yet again, about the Alexandria Archives podcast.

Hey, the mommy bloggers get to blog about their children – why can’t I blog about mine? And it’s a special week for the Archives. For one thing, we were accepted to the Google Play store, which means we can be downloaded properly by Android users! Huzzah! It was a timely development, seeing as we went ahead and dropped our Halloween special early. My baby is officially two whole episodes old. I feel like such a proud…creator? I guess if this was anything like a mommy blog, I’d be more of a Dr. Frankenstein.

The Alexandria Archives was born from scraps of material shamelessly pilfered from projects coddled, then abandoned over the years. In its very earliest days it was just the Kings Library in a story I started back in undergrad, almost ten years ago now. Wow, I feel old. Alexandria University as an institution came tumbling along not long after, like Jaime Lannister clinging to Cersei’s ankle, only less gross and murderous. It’s carried me through two years of NaNoWriMo and countless nights spent scowling over a mug of lukewarm coffee. It’s the idea that wouldn’t be, but wouldn’t let me be.

I’m a novelist at heart, I say unironically, as if I’ve ever published a novel. Completed one, certainly, more than one! But I’m terrible at revising my own work. Which is to say, I tear it to shreds and bury it out back before anyone notices. This is getting a little gruesome, isn’t it? I write horror for a reason, folks. But the fact is, while I still hold out hope for finishing the AU novels (yes, novelS) someday, I had a story that needed to be told. It’s fitting that it became our secondary tagline – Have You Got a Story to Tell? – because we all did.

I had AU. Aaron had his beloved comic characters. And Uri is apparently a never-ending fount of ideas, each burning brighter than the last. Putting our ideas together into something admittedly monstrous but pleasantly functional was a means of survival. And wouldn’t you know, it worked? For all that the road to “Service Call” dragged, limping all the while, we got there. “House Painting on Halloween” came along nearly twice as quickly. I’d like to believe eventually we’ll have the formula locked down. Whether or not we achieve any real success or a solid listener base, we’ll have something we can point to without hesitation and say “We made this.” Piecing the building blocks of our ideas into something new and wonderful will become second nature.

But that’s a story that’s yet to be told, isn’t it?

 

“Original”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/original/

The Corpus Christi Writers & Bloggers group is posting a word a day for those bloggers out there to gain some inspiration from. And wouldn’t you know it, this one really got me going.

“What’s your podcast about?”

I’ve never been good at describing my work. In fact, I prefer not to. I’ll waffle, hem and haw, before giving a not-quite-right answer with the hope that the person I’m talking  to will go away. The ones who question further earn my undying enmity. The podcast situation is much the same, because my initial not-answer is always met pretty predictably.

“Do you listen to WTNV/Limetown/The Black Tapes?”

The answer to this question is, of course, yes. If anything, I’d have to say that Limetown is what really got me thinking about this podcasting business. It was so different from anything I’d ever encountered before, so intense, so incredible. It was horror in a format I’d never considered. How did they do it, I wondered? I’ll never forget listening to Episode 4 while driving (DON’T DO IT) through Houston en route to Baton Rouge. I was so frightened that I had my first ever “Jesus, Take the Wheel!” moment. It left a hell of an impression.

“So your podcast is like those?”

God, I wish. And while no one wants to be accused of being a copycat, I’d be lying if I said the media I consumed didn’t have a significant impact on my work. WTNV inspired the radio element, though my love of college radio played as much a role in that decision, and of course there’s the whole “weird, spooky little town” thing, colored by the whole team’s experiences in academia and university communities. Limetown made me want to write something scary. The literary aspect of The Alexandria Archives tends to invite questions about Drabble or nosleep, though without having listened to those, I’d compare it more to knifepoint horror. My point is, sometimes I wonder if what we’re doing can be called original when…well, it’s not. Other people did it first. Other people did it better.

“Haha so you want to be a famous podcaster, huh?”

Well…no. That would be a bit silly. I’m not about to quit my day job – which, incidentally, I rather like. When it comes down to it, what we wanted to do was make something. For one of the guys, the idea was to remake something rather important to him. The Alexandria Archives has got a lot in common with bigger, better things, but it’s got a lot of us in it, too. And that makes it original. No one’s done exactly what we’ve done, because no one’s experienced exactly what we’ve experienced. And at the end of the day, even if we do hope people are liking what we’re doing, damn, we’re having fun! That’s the part that matters.

Fun with Milestones

Last night, The Alexandria Archives website officially launched! With it went our contact information, access to episodes, and submission guidelines for horror shorts and weird fiction. It’s still hard to believe that we did The Thing. It went from being a vague concept joked about in a D&D thread to a real podcast! It’s officially too late to chicken out.

On Friday night, I attended a meetup for a local writing group, Corpus Christi Writers & Bloggers. There were about 10 writers present, mostly fiction with a couple bloggers, and I had a much better time than I thought I would. Everyone had their own motivation for their work, their own Best Tips and Tricks, their own way of looking at the process. I stayed longer than I thought I would, connected with some folks and hopefully made some new friends. I’ve been in my current city for a little over a year now, and I feel like I’m still just getting to know it.

When I got home, I made myself hold still for about an hour or so and finished recording my tracks for Episode 2. It’s in Uri’s hands now as he edits and mixes the tracks, after which Aaron gives it a second go. I’m especially happy with how spectacularly well our guest VA’s tracks turned out, and I think listeners will enjoy them as much as I did.

300-odd likes on FB, a few visits to the site, and the news that the folks at home have been listening – it’s been a curious weekend. If it’s a sign of things to come, I think I can handle it. There’s nowhere to go but forward, now, and see where this thing takes us!

Podcasting in Paradise

How long does it take to get a podcast off the ground, anyway? Probably a couple weeks, I figured at the outset. It started as a running joke.

Then halfway through October, a running joke became a long joke fueled by excitement and maybe more than a few beers. And suddenly, a website domain was purchased. A Facebook page set up. An argument ensued over a Twitter handle. Then we were off, careening down a seriously bumpy road. Also, the road was flooded, and there were piranhas in it. I would’ve at least liked to have anticipated the flooding.

The Facebook page was set up August 19th. The first episode of the podcast launched October 5th. About a month and a half from inception to release. It was a month and a half of commissioning artwork, disagreeing about editing decisions, writing and rewriting and rewriting again. I learned how to use a proper mic. I learned that I still really didn’t know how to use a proper mic, and also that the AC unit downstairs was a lot louder than I’d ever noticed, as was the jingle bell on my cat’s collar. I learned that it’s hard to get in the spooky, weird fiction mood when you’re mere weeks out from Halloween but the weather is balmy at most and the palm trees are thriving under a blue sky. Deadlines loomed and friendships strained. I got home from my day job and schlumped upstairs to try, yet again, to record passable audio. Then came the endless rounds of mixing and editing, all while work and social commitments loomed over head. Family travels, conventions, homework, internships. It started to feel like the damned thing would never be finished.

Then, unexpectedly, it was.

Episode 1 of The Alexandria Archives, Service Call, is by no means perfect. I won’t lie to myself about that. I might have started tearing my own hair out again over it. But it’s done – we made a thing, our team, and we sent it out into the world to see how it would fare. And that was something.

Now it’s a waiting game: waiting for results, for feedback, for some more energy so we can keep this thing rolling before it rolls right back down over us. It’s a little scary, but also pretty exciting. We’re ready for the flooding. The piranhas are probably going to take a little more work. But we’ll get there, or so I’d like to think. And that really is something.