I am on bandcamp

I found out about bandcamp.com recently. I’m still exploring but I love the place already. It is a site designed to let people find music and directly support the independent artists who make it. After knocking about the site a bit, I noticed that they had an audiobook category.

I was delighted to find all the audio from one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman. I signed up immediately. Sad to say, when I visited Mr. Gaiman’s bandcamp page a few days ago to get the next book on my list, it was gone. Most of his audiobooks are no longer listed. I hope they come back at some point. Coraline, a family favorite, is still there though.

Anyway, though I found the thought a little frightening, I decided to put up the audio to a few of my stories. I put three up first: A Tower of Mortars, All Stories Become Ananse Stories, and Ananse’s Brother.

Because bandcamp allows users to stream the stories for free, they got some listens right away. Encouraged by the feedback from a few people who found the first three and actually got in touch, I uploaded six more—all the stories from Today’s Water and Other Ananse Stories and two from The Yam Child and Other Tales From West Africa.

This is what my bandcamp page looks like now. . .check it out:

A. Sakyiama's audiobooks on bandcamp

You can listen to all of them for free on the website or in the bandcamp app for iOS and android phones. You also have the option to buy if you want to download the stories to your library for offline listening. One fan made my day when she bought all the stories and paid significantly more than the asking price to show her support. Happened a few weeks ago, but I’m still basking in the warm feelings.

The audio-ebook is included as a bonus for each story in this first set. For now, that is the only way you can get one of my audio-ebooks. If you’re new to audio-ebooks (also called read-along books), my previous post has quite a bit of information.

When you have a moment, please check out my page on bandcamp. Sit back and let me read to you. If you have questions, want to share your listening experience, or you just want to say hello, whatever the reason may be, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I would love to hear from you.

Something New

Took a planned short break that turned into a long, long break, as my family adjusted to post-grad life.

Palm tree against a brilliant orange and gold sky.

While it is not reflected here yet, things did move along, slowly, yes but there was movement. I wrote new stories, recorded more audio, took a couple of courses to improve as a writer and publisher etc. etc. Murphy’s Law ensured that there were plenty of boulders to be moved and giant pot-holes along the way.

Over the break I also discovered audio-ebooks by ReadBeyond. They put out over 100 of them for free! I’m still working my way through the English stories on the list. As much as I’m enjoying books in this format, the most fun for me was learning how to make one, so I could turn my stories into audio-ebooks.

So, what is an audio-ebook?

A typical audiobook is a recording of a book read by a narrator. An ebook is simply a book in digital format. An audio-ebook is the combination of both formats. The wonderful people at ReadBeyond describe it thus:

“An Audio-eBook combines a reflowable text eBook with an audiobook, enabling advanced functions like synchronous highlighting and tap-to-play.”

Example of an audio-ebook.
Example and description of an audio-ebook produced by ReadBeyond.

In other words, it’s an audiobook with the professionally formatted written text on display or an ebook bundled with professionally narrated companion audio. The magic is in the synchronization of audio and text. You have all the advantages of ebooks and audiobooks combined to give you a wonderfully immersive reading experience. You can switch between reading, listening, and reading and listening at the same time.

Want to try an audio-ebook?

There is no specialized ereader device for audio-ebooks. They are designed to be consumed primarily on smart phones and tablets in ebook apps. Unfortunately, not all ebook reader apps fully support audio-ebooks. I’m looking into it to see if I can do some work-arounds.

Fortunately, the people at ReadBeyond did something about this too. They built an app specifically for audio-ebooks. It’s called Menestrello and you can find it in the Apple app store for iphones/ipads and in the Google play store for android phones.

If you have not already guessed, I think the people behind ReadBeyond are beyond awesome. Here are the direct links to their Menestrello app:

You can even manually install it on tablets (like the kindle fire) that have restricted access to the google play store using their Android APK download.

Speaking of kindles, some of them have a feature very similar to audio-ebooks called Whispersync for Voice. To use it, you must have an amazon account to get the ebook and an audible account for the audiobook. With audio-ebooks however, the text is bundled with the audio from the get-go.

Screenshots of a book in the Menestrello app.
Screenshots of one of my stories, Ananse’s Work Day, playing in the Menestrello app.

Installing and using Menestrello on your phone is a pretty straight forward process but if you run into trouble, they also have a lot of notes to help you out.

If you are using a desktop or laptop, Readium, a free browser extension, can be used to read audio-ebooks. It was designed for the chrome browser but I’ve used it in the firefox browser with no problem.

Incidentally there is a free readium-based app called Cloudshelf Reader which also supports the audio-ebook format. I’ve not tried it out yet. I will let you know how well it works, as soon as I do.

As mentioned earlier, I have been learning how to create audio-ebooks. I’m putting finishing touches to the first batch of stories and can’t wait to share them with you.

In the mean time, if you want to try one out, I recommend The Gift Of The Magi, one of my favorite Christmas stories.

Story Time: Wishful Thinking

It’s story time and I have another hyena tale to share. Poor hyena, an ugly coat was only the beginning of its troubles.

"Wishful Thinking," title card for an African folktale, retold by A. Sakyiama
Image credits: Hyena by Jason Sweeney and shared via flickr.

Once upon a time, a hyena and a leopard met and became good friends. They sometimes hunted together and shared the food equally between them.

One day, the leopard was out alone, hunting for food, when the enticing smell of fresh fish came into its nostrils. The hungry beast followed the smell and found that it was coming of off a cart being pulled by a tough looking man. It was a fisherman hauling home a good day’s catch.

“It would not be wise for me to attack a man,” the leopard thought. “He has all sorts of weapons that can hurt me. I’m going to have to be clever about getting some of his fish.”

Hunger made the leopard’s brain sharp. In a few minutes it had worked out a plan. Staying hidden from the man’s view, it ran ahead and then laid down in the middle of the road.

When the fisherman came to the leopard, he exclaimed,

“What a beautiful animal. Too bad it died. Its coat will make a fine rug for my wife though.”

He picked up the leopard and tossed it into his cart.

In the cart, the leopard lay still and quiet until it was sure that the man’s attention was elsewhere. Then, as fast as it could, it threw out enough fish to make several fine meals and jumped off the cart.

The leopard was very disappointed to see that most of the fish it had thrown out of the cart had already been eaten.

It was not the only beast who had smelled the fish and followed its nose. Its neighbour, the hyena, had done the same. It had followed the cart and gobbled up most of the fish that the leopard had risked its life to steal.

The leopard was very angry but the hyena pretended not notice. It said,

“That was the best meal I have had in a long time. You must teach me how to get into the man’s cart. I promise to share any fish I get with you.”

“Well that is not so easy,” the leopard said, rather grudgingly. “But, since you’re my friend, I’ll tell you.”

The leopard told the hyena to lie in the middle of the road and play dead.

“You must stay still no matter what the man does. He himself will put you in the cart.”

The hyena immediately ran and lay in the path of the cart. The leopard went home in a better mood because it had a very good idea of how things would turn out.

-*-

When the man saw the hyena in the road, he said,

“What ugly thing is this?”

He poked it with his stick and then started hitting it quite hard. Through it all, the hyena lay still as if dead. It held it’s breathe when the man picked it up. Instead of throwing the hyena into the cart though, the fisherman threw it into the bushes by the side of the road.

Poor hyena. It hobbled off in great pain. When it saw the leopard again, it told him about how badly things had gone. The leopard pretended to sympathize.

“Oh, ow, ow, ow, if only I had a beautiful coat like yours,” the hyena lamented, “I would never be hungry again.”

And that, dear reader, is what you call, “wishful thinking.”