Wait, Who Is This?

One of the cool things about being a fiction writer is that I’m constantly learning new things.  Some are interesting and useful; some are boring but necessary; and a few are downright disturbing.  Sadly, the disturbing ones can never be purged from my brain.  (Like the photo of the naked woman holding a severed pig’s head that I discovered back in 2013 when I was looking for cover art for Book 6.  Why?  Why???)

But mostly my new discoveries are fascinating and fun.  F’rinstance, until I decided to publish the Never Say Spy series as audiobooks, I knew nothing about ‘voice artists’.  My narrator, Michelle Armeneau, has opened my eyes (or rather, ears).

What a talent!  She makes each character’s voice distinctive by subtly modulating the pitch, cadence, accent, speed, and forcefulness of her speech.  I’m blown away by her ability to create unique voices, because I have absolutely zero vocal ability.  I don’t have a great track record with voice recognition, either.

I have a few friends with similar voices who occasionally phone and start chatting without identifying themselves.  If I’ve grabbed the phone without checking the call display, it can get awkward. When somebody’s yakking away like we’re best friends (and I’m pretty sure we are), I’m embarrassed to stop them and ask, “Wait, who is this?”

Plus, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by not recognizing their voice, so I try to figure out who it is by the context of the conversation. Usually that works, but sometimes it backfires badly when I’m long minutes into the conversation and still have no idea who’s on the other end of the line.

Then I have to do the Talk of Shame: “Um, hey, it’s been great gabbing to you all this time, but… I have no idea who you are.”  I’m sure most normal people don’t have this problem, but ‘normal’ is another one of those admirable qualities that seems beyond my grasp.

Anyway, Michelle and I have always communicated via email, and a few weeks ago we decided to have our first phone conversation.  I’d like to proudly point out that, having just finished reviewing eleven hours of Michelle’s narration, I recognized her voice instantly.

I’d like to point that out; but I can’t.  The truth is that if I hadn’t been expecting her call at the appointed time, I wouldn’t have known who it was.  I thought her speaking voice would be the same as her narrative voice, but that’s yet another persona.  I’m in awe!

And a bit worried.  If she ever decides to mess with me, she could call me with a different voice every day and I’d be doomed to repeat the Talk of Shame over and over.

Fortunately, she’s far too nice to do that.  And she’s far too busy to waste time on prank calls — she’s hard at work narrating Book 4.

Yes, it’s true: Book 3 is now available in audiobook, and Book 4 is under way – woohoo!  Thanks, Michelle!

Get REACH FOR THE SPY on Audible

Middle-aged bookkeeper Aydan Kelly never wanted to moonlight as a spy, but she doesn’t have a choice. Working with computer networks in a secured building sounds safe, but it turns out the job’s a killer – literally.

When Aydan’s trusted co-worker is shot while committing an apparently treasonous act, Aydan embarks on a secret mission to clear his name.

But her investigation casts suspicion on the director of operations himself. If he’s a double agent, Aydan’s in more danger than she ever imagined…and national security hangs in the balance. 

29 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life, Writing

29 responses to “Wait, Who Is This?

  1. I think it’s great you found such a diverse voice artist….congrats…sounds great. I frankly have not had the problem of not knowing for sure who is calling….I never answer the phone to caller ID I don’t recognize (usually a robo call). Maybe that’s cheating, but then again maybe not!! Just sayin…

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    • Nope, not cheating at all; just smart! But I sometimes still get caught when Hubby answers the phone and then hands it over to me without saying who it is. I’ll never know whether he knew who it was and just didn’t tell me, or he had no idea either. 😉

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  2. Sounds like your Michelle is a gem. Good find. Some people have different voices for different situations. My late wife has a business voice and a personal voice. My friend who is now retired from the RCMP, even in civies, would revert to his police voice when asked a police question. We used to tease him that when he put on his hat he was a different person. Not many people phone me so I can usually identify the voice but certainly not always. I have tried like you to pick up the caller from the conversation but have also had to embarrass myself and ask.

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    • Back in the long-ago days in my first-ever job as a receptionist, I used to have a “business” voice, too — completely different than my normal speaking voice. I stopped using it when the male clients started to call just to hear me talk. Apparently my voice was a little too, um… “professional”. Dang, if 900 numbers had been invented then, I could have made a killing! 😉

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  3. That is so awesome that you found a fantastic narrator. She brings your books to an entire different level, Im sure. As far as voice recognition goes… I don’t have that problem since 1) I don’t have a phone, 2) I prefer writing emails over calling (and usually have two clues – the email address of the sender and the signed name under the message), and 3) I only Skype with two parties (my best friend and my parents), one in English and one in Dutch and one of them a video call. Yep. I think I’m pretty safe from that “Talk of Shame”. 🙂

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    • Yep, I think you are! Well played. 😉 Now I’m imagining your life without a phone — I can see a lot of advantages, but I think I’d be a little worried about being unable to make emergency calls. How does that work for you?

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      • My husband has a phone and we’re pretty much together 24/7. To be honest, I don’t really think about emergencies. My desire for simplicity might get me in trouble one day, as I rarely carry ID or a wallet with me (only when I know I’ll need it for sure). Not even when walking our dog by myself. I take my desire to be and feel free a bit to the extreme sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Having listened to many audiobooks in my travels on the Canadian prairies, some are better than others. It sounds like you have found a gem in Michelle, even if you can’t recognize her voice. Once I hit the road again I’ll definitely be downloading!

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  5. Rudy™

    I used to be a slave to the phone for at least eight hours out of the day when working in sales/purchasing/customer service, and I found that I recognized the voices easily once they had called in a few times. It got so I could tell which part of the US some of the callers were from, based on their accent. The southern drawl of Cincinnati customers was distinctly different from what we’d hear from Texas or Alabama, not to mention learning how the New England accent translated to written names. “Worcester” is “Woostah,” they’ll have you know. (Once I learned to separate the name like “Worce-ster” vs. “Wor-CHES-ter” it all made sense.)

    What surprised me more was meeting a few of them over the years and the faces sometimes did not match up with the voices! Not much different from meeting online pals and finding they sound or look nothing like I’d pictured them in my head.

    I will also say to anyone: Please don’t call. After dealing with phones as long as I did (20 years), let’s just say I’m over it. 😁

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    • Oh, I completely understand. When I first starting working, I was a receptionist for two years. I got so conditioned to jump at the sound of the phone that I was browsing in a store one day, heard an identical ringtone to our office line, and reflexively lunged for the phone. Fortunately, I squelched the impulse before I actually grabbed the receiver, but it could have been embarrassing.

      As a child, I remember my dad explaining to me that Worcestershire Sauce was actually pronounced “Wooster Sauce”. I always thought he was pulling my leg, but I guess he was closer to the truth than I knew! 🙂

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  6. I have trouble (lots of it) when I see people out of context. I once commented seeing another swimmer (male) in town ‘I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on’. And unfortunately saw the expression on the face of a passer-by.

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  7. I am pretty good with voices. Faces not so much. Which has led to some embarrasment.
    Like the time my partner was chatting to a couple and their children in the supermarket. I didn’t know who they were and continued shopping/skulked away. When he rejoined me I asked who he was talking to. He looked at me in total amazement. It was my neice, her partner and their kids. I have also failed to recognise a sister-in-law (who has been married to my middle brother for over forty years).
    Big, big oops.
    And woo hoo on the audio books.

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    • Oh, big oops! I frequently have trouble recognizing people I’ve only met a few times, too, but I usually catch on after a while. Maybe you have a touch of prosopagnosia (face blindness). I can’t imagine having to live with the profound form of it, but even being on the less-severe end of the scale must make life difficult (and occasionally embarrassing).

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  8. jenny_o

    That must make for some uncomfortable calls, for sure. My problem isn’t incoming problems, it’s when folks answer the phone, because “hello” isn’t much to go on. I know a woman whose husband sounds exactly like her. Or she sounds like him, would be more accurate. It doesn’t matter if I guess it’s her and then I’m wrong, or if I guess it’s not her and ask to speak to her, and then I’m wrong – it’s embarrassing for all of us: her, her husband, and me 😀

    Having the ability to modulate one’s voice for audio recordings is a definite talent most of us don’t have. Yay for skilled readers!

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    • Yay, indeed! I’m so enjoying hearing Aydan and the gang come to life!

      I feel for you with the husband/wife mixups! I’ve done that, too. My voice is in the lower range, so I usually answer, “Hello, Diane speaking”. That just makes it less stressful for everybody. 😉

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  9. That’s great that you found a voice artist that good.

    I have the opposite problem with family who call me. My brother calls me and always starts out with, “This is you brother.” 60 years and he’s still reminding me he’s my brother. Dude, I get it …

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  10. Michelle is great at the audio books, I just wish they were all ready.

    I have to agree in part with not recognising voices, I hate answering my house phone, coz I have no idea who is calling no caller ID. I love my mobile as it always shows the ID. Though my parents love to confuse my as they each have a mobile but sad never uses his so I’ve often started a call hi mum only for dad to say nope it’s not your mother. Like I can actually see who is at the other end and know who is calling.

    I often don’t answer numbers I don’t know, coz I don’t want to know who it is as generally they want to sell me something or convert me to something new.

    I start working from home on Monday so I’ve been spending time making meals for the freezer so I don’t have to worry about what to eat after working all day. I know what to expect so I’m looking forward to it, its the same job I’ve had for almost 3years but now we work from home.

    I feel like life has definitely changed in some ways for the better but I still miss going out to meet friends and have a meal or go shopping.

    Hugs to all

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    • I feel the same about answering calls from numbers I don’t recognize — usually I just ignore them and let them go to voicemail. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message. But every now and then I pick up anyway; or Hubby hands me the phone without telling me who it is (usually because he doesn’t know, either). 😉

      It’s great that you’re able to work from home! I hope you don’t miss the interaction with your co-workers. And aren’t you smart, doing all your meal prep in advance! We always start out with a giant batch of food and good intentions, but then we eat up all the leftovers before we can get them frozen. I guess it doesn’t matter — it’s still the same number of meals that we don’t have to cook from scratch.

      And I’m so glad that you like Michelle’s work — I’ll pass than on to her! 🙂

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      • I can’t wait to hear how she interprets the characters voices, I was surprised by stemps voice, I look forward to hearing how she does moonbeam meadow sky and skidmark.

        Yes please tell her I love the way she reads them

        Liked by 1 person

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