A Year Later

I’ve been working on taxes for the past week or two, trying to get it all completed before the April deadline. As I was entering information on Turbo Tax today, I realized that it has been exactly a year since I decided to focus my efforts on building a business and creating my next “job” for myself. I still keep a resume or two floating around cyberspace and I will occasionally send one to a specific job opening I come across, but for the most part, I am one of the statistics that make the monthly jobless figures difficult to tally at best. I ran out of unemployment benefits and never officially got a new job… So, I am no longer among those counted as “unemployed” but I’m not employed full time either. Its as if I dropped off the radar (almost).

Here I am a year later… now listing my official occupation as Voice Actor, Voice Over Artist, or whatever you want to call it. I make my living using my voice. And the more I study my tax information from the last year, I realize that I have done better than some thought I could do at this. I have not struck it rich… I still get behind on bills now and then and I have had to go beg clients to pay what they owe me so I could put gas in my truck now and then, but looking at the invoices I have sent out, I’m doing ok. In fact, I am now working from home and making pretty close to the same kind of money I was making at my previous job… but without the politics, the stress and the commute.

In the past year I have been able to take my work on the road, delivering local newscasts for radio stations up and down the West Coast and on AM 700 KSEV here in Houston from hotel rooms in Pennsylvania, Boston, New York, among others, my daughter’s apartment in Dallas and my mom and dad’s home in East Texas. Best of all, my official place of business is in my garage in Missouri City, Tx near Houston. Its amazing what you can do with 120 square feet of space that would otherwise be collecting junk… (I was never going to be parking a car in there anyway…)

I have also been able to do jobs for clients all around the globe. This weekend, I did repeat business for a video producer in Israel. I’ve also produced scripts for clients in Singapore, India and all over the USA… Technology not only allows that but it also helps me get paid almost immediatly if not sooner by the use of Paypal, I am now the voice of several web sites and internet based presentations, I helped bring life to a portrait by providing the voice of General Sam Houston at an exhibit for a San Antonio museum, and I recently completed recording my first audio book, “The Surviving Spouse Club,” by my friend Charles Foster. It is in the final editing stage and should be available on his website soon. http://www.survivingspouseclub.com/

I have invested more in myself during the last year than in my life in general. I joined the Audio Publishers Association and attended their annual conference in New York City in May. It put me in the same room with the people who make audio books come to life from the publishers side and the narrator side of the business. I am already making plans to attend the event again this year. I have also attended several training seminars and webinars hosted by veteran voice talent and coach Bettye Zoller of VoicesVoices.com, and I have spent more time reading about and studying the business of voice over than even I thought I would. My goal? To soak up all the knowledge and information about my chosen career as possible so that I might become the person others turn to and say “I want to do what he does for a living!”

I have also made a lot of new connections with people in the business of Voice Over and am able to learn from them by simply asking questions through facebook or Twitter connections. Its a business full of people who love to share ideas, technology notes, editing tricks and techniques, just about anything you want to know. And even though its a highly competitive business, we all celebrate when someone lands the next big gig and becomes the new Aflac duck or lands a role in a major animated production. I guess it has to be the fact that we all have our own unique sound, so we are not afraid of sharing some of our tips and techniques. So that is where I am one year later… I’m pleased with the progress I have made… and looking forward to the next leg of the journey.

Here’s an idea… lets meet back here in 12 months and see where we stand then. In the meantime, checkout the demos I have on my website. http://www.provoices.net/. You never know, maybe at this time next year, I could be your new voice.

No One Answered…

Many of us these days use our driving time to take care of making phone calls. I know that’s usually when I get to talk to my mom as well as several of my friends. I reserve the drive to and from work for those who I know I will be on the line with for awhile. But there are times when I dial… and no one answers.

That was the case this afternoon as I left my house headed for work in the Galleria area. Its a good half hour or so of quality talking time (using a hands free device of course)…but no one answered. I tried about three numbers in my cell phone before figuring out that I had wasted about a third of my talking time trying to find someone to talk to, when in reality, there was someone with me the entire time just waiting for me to talk to Him.

It brought back memories of the days gone by before cell phones when those drive times were my quiet time to be with God…praying.. singing…meditating on lessons learned or the ones I needed to learn. It felt good to talk to Him on the way to work… and yes I talked out loud. We worked through several issues that had been on my mind… I unloaded plenty of things that had been weighing heavily on me, some of which had caused me to lose sleep at night. I also spent a lot of time telling Him thank you for being so good to me and providing for the things my family needed. It was as if I were talking with an old friend..one who was happy to hear from me and wants me to stay in touch more often than I have been doing. I plan to do just that… so if you’re one of those folks I usually call while I am driving, you may have to wait your turn for a while. I know you won’t mind.

I still got to talk to my mom for about an hour a little later in the evening… and I got an email from one of the friends I had tried calling…so everything worked out according to God’s plan. Looks like He was the reason why no one answered…

Three Friends In Need of Your Prayers

While most of us were enjoying our Thanksgiving feasts, visits with family and friends, vacations from working, and football games over the past few days, it was easy (*at least for me) to put the troubles of the world on hold for awhile. That was not the case for many others though… daily doses of chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments could not be put on hold…

I got back to Houston this evening just in time to go to work for 5 hours on the radio… I thought about how much I would rather not have to go to work tonight… but then realized quickly that at least I had this job to go to… and that I was physically able to go to work. I have plenty of friends who have no job… and others who physically cannot go to work.

In most cases, those who are out of work, will eventually find a new job. But those who are facing major health issues and are out of work too, often do not see much of a future ahead of them. They’re afraid. They’re trying to be strong. They want their lives back.

As you continue to thank God for your blessings, remember in prayer those who are not feeling as blessed these days. Pray for jobs… pray for healing… pray for peace.

Three friends of mine in particular need much prayer and support right now as they fight cancer. I hope you will join me in praying for them by name for the next week or so. Lift up their names before the Creator who has the power to give them life and health.

These are the names and situations for my three friends… I am sure you have others that you would like to share as well. If you do, please mention them in the comments section below and we’ll add them to the list.

Jo Knight… Jo lives in Fort Worth now… she is married to my good friend and business associate Cecil Knight…(former traffic reporter in Houston) Together they operate Knight Sounds, a mobile DJ entertainment company. Jo has been fighting cancer for many years. She is already a miracle in motion…but now she has been diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer too. She’s facing new Chemo treatments and the two of them are making regular trips from Fort Worth to Houston’s MD Anderson. They are self employed, so you can imagine the situation of trying to run a business and deal with a crisis like this at the same time. The physical and financial tolls are astounding.

John Prince (aka John Hourani) is my good friend from the world of radio. He had surgery to remove some brain tumors in July of 2009. After months of hospitalization and rehab he was finally declared cancer free and was regaining the use of the left side of his body which was left paralyzed after the surgery to remove the tumors. He did great for about a year, then the cancer came back. John is now back in MD Anderson getting checked out after a new round of chemo and radiation to treat tumors on both sides of his brain this time. John has been out of work since before the first surgery in 09… Cobra ran out since then too and he has no income. His mobile DJ business, Entertainment Tonight, is drying up because he is not able to conduct business as he would like to do.

Gary Hourani… Yes the same last name as John… its his brother! Gary moved to Houston from California last year to help care for John during his surgery and rehab. He gave up his Chiropractic practice to work with John on regaining the use of his motor skills… He has literally been Johns left arm and leg at times.. Gary was recentlly told he too has a tumor at the base of his skull. He is scheduled to have it removed this week. That leaves his and John’s mom and dad to deal with two sons in the hospital fighting for their very lives.. and with little to no money to pay for it…

I’m sure there are others… these are just friends of mine that I am thinking of right now. Please say a prayer for them specifically…

One last thing… an account has been set up at Bank of America to help John and his family pay for his treatments and other needs. I’m told they have plenty of food…but they still need your love and support and prayers. The account information is listed below if you can help. A benefit concert raised close to $1000.00 for John just a week or so ago…but much more is needed.

Sorry this is not the usual light hearted fare that I have been writing about… but these are good people who are suffering right now…And I hope you will help.

ACCOUNT INFO

Bank of America
Account # 586-023-486-976 for John Hourani

Ready to Pay It Forward

Today, my faith in human kind was restored.

I hate to admit that I allowed myself to run out of gas but I did it. I was hoping beyond hope that I would have just enough to make it to the end of the Fort Bend Toll Road where a Kroger gas station was waiting… but no, my tank ran dry about a mile before the road basically dead ends into the Kroger parking lot. I coasted along down hill as long as the truck would roll and then set out walking.

Those who know where I live, know its not too far from where I was. Perhaps a couple of miles, less if I could have cut through the woods and private property to get there, but I didn’t. Amazingly enough, I only walked about 2 minutes before a car pulled over and a nice gentleman stopped to offer assistance. I explained where I was going, what the problem was and he said hop in. It was not something I would recommend for my wife or children to do, but from outward appearances, he was a nice man offering to help a guy in need. Thankfully, he was just that…nothing more.

Dave took me to my house, allowed me to bring an almost full can of gas into the front floor of his very clean car… and then drove me back to my truck and waited while I put the gas in and started it up! The entire episode which could have taken all afternoon, was over in a matter of minutes and we were both on our way feeling pretty good about life. He had helped someone and now I feel the need to pay it forward… so watch out. Someone out there is about to benefit from the kindness that Dave extended to me. I have no idea where or when it will happen, but I plan on making sure that it does… and I hope it continues to grow and grow from there.

This world could use a few more guys like Dave.

Life Lessons Learned On A Train Trip

Many who know me, have already heard all about the big train trip my youngest daughter and I took back in May when she was moving to New York to begin an internship on Long Island. While planning the trip, we decided we wanted to do something different and fun instead of simply jumping on a plane and flying up there and back… so we decided to take Amtrack from Houston to New York’s Penn Station. Here are a few of the lessons learned along the way… some are quite noteworthy, others might come in handy for you someday if you should decide to ride the rails instead of flying.

– First of all, a train trip is going to take much longer than flying, so be sure and work that into your schedule…its not the fastest way to get to a destination if you are in a hurry.

– When you take an overnight train trip, get a sleeping car ticket. Its worth every penny. We chose to have a sleeping car for the trip between New Orleans and New York, which was to last about 25 hours or so… But the sleeping car was not just for a place to stretch out… it was also the first class ticket of the train world… we had special boarding accommodations and a special lounge to wait in at the New Orleans terminal on the morning of our departure. The room’s cost was a single charge that covered two of us in the room… and it included all our meals in the train’s dining car! Not bad, because you have to eat something and there are not too many choices unless you bring your own sandwiches etc… We feasted on burgers, sandwiches, steaks, salads, omelets and much more… and didn’t even need to bring a wallet to the table with us.

– The sleeping car also provided us with our own private toilet while traveling… and shower facilities were available just down the hall..

– We got to meet some interesting folks in the dining car during meal times and up and down the narrow hallways to and from our room… One couple across the hall from us had brought some movies on DVD to watch while riding… they were nice enough to loan us a movie which we never even took the time to watch.

– Sitting facing each other in a space that is just barely big enough for two adults to stand or sit in sounds like it could become a problem in itself by the end of a long trip, but it wasn’t. In fact, it encouraged more communication between us than if we had been sitting side by side. We didn’t go stir crazy… we didn’t get tired of talking to each other…

– The most interesting lesson learned during the trip was when we got to discussing the things we were seeing out the windows as we rode along…. I was facing forward.. Andi was facing backward… So I would see a cool looking house or beautiful scene as we approached it… then she would get a good long look at it as we pulled away from it. We could each see the same distance ahead and behind, but yet for me seeing something in the distance getting closer, it took awhile for me to determine exactly what I was seeing… then by the time it was close enough to really see, it would zip right by and out of my view.. but then it was in her view and it stayed there until it faded out of site. We talked about how that was such a metaphor on life… we can’t really see into the future to know what is coming our way…until it is upon us. On the other hand, we can see our past very clearly… we can study it… we can hopefully learn from it…

I think that was the best lesson learned from the train trip.. that and the fact that men should probably sit down when using the restroom on board a train… otherwise it can get pretty messy.

Thats all for now…
Kevin

Reunions and Homecomings

This past weekend I did something I have wanted to do since the early 70s… I got to attend the homecoming festivities in Mineola, TX, the town where I lived through the first half of my 7th grade year.

My memories of the friendships I had there and of the places we went when I was living there are quite vivid, even though I have basically not seen any of the people I was in school with since we moved away. I have found many of the people from that period of my life thanks to facebook and that led to my invitation to attend this weekend’s events.

Now I have been back to Mineola many times since 1972. In fact my mom and dad live there now, my brother and sister and their families have each lived there for a time too, but not me. When I would visit family that was it, I don’t recall seeing anyone I grew up with unless we bumped into someone at Walmart or my mom pointed them out at the grocery store… so in a way this trip was a bit intimidating at first, because I kept thinking that just because I remember these people, they may have forgotten all about me… after all, I was the one who left, not them.

I was pleasantly surprised at the reception I got from the core group of former classmates (Class of 1977) who welcomed me into their lives again. In fact, I had a blast. It didn’t matter anymore what any of us looked like…or how much we weighed…how gray our hair was…or any of those physical things that used to be so important. It was instead as if we had a connection that went beyond those things to a time when all our lives were less complicated… when the world was that way too.. less complicated. We talked about who had had a crush on who all those years ago.. we talked about our current families..husbands, wives, children, and grand children…. each of us eager to share a little bit of our world with the others… eager to find out about friends who were not able to make it for whatever reason… some were no longer with us… some facing serious illnesses now… others just decided not to come for one reason or another… some of them are already saying they plan to make it to the next get together. I hope they do, and that I get to be there as well. These people were an important part of my formative years. And while we sat and reminisced about years gone by, we also re-established friendships based on where we all are today. And I like that feeling.

Kevin –

Things Found Along Life’s Road

I read an article full of rambling thoughts in the paper several years ago. You remember the paper don’t you? Its that thing you used to read every morning while drinking your coffee before facebook came along…but that’s another story.
Among the questions raised in the article was this… Why is it that at least one or two times a week you see a single tennis shoe on the side of the freeway? Where did the other one go… and how did this one get here? Good questions… but even more interesting to me is finding something on the road that is worth stopping to pick up. I’ve seen mattresses, refrigerators, sofas, ladders, lumber, even a brand new BBQ grille laying on the shoulder of Highway 6 about a mile from a Home Depot store where it had just been purchased. (it still had the sale tag on it) Each item caught my eye and I considered going back to take a closer look, but I didn’t. Until one day I saw the one thing I could not just leave there in the street. A gasoline can.

For some strange reason, I thought “what if its full of gas?” That would be 3 or 4 dollars worth just waiting for someone else to pick up. It appeared to have fallen from a lawn service trailer…and the guy who didn’t secure it before he started driving from one job to the other was probably quite upset when he went to look for it the next time. The container turned out to be over three quarters full of fuel…and I couldn’t let it go to waste.. in fact, I noticed it was already mixed for use in my weedeater… That same can of gas has now powered my weedeater for most of last season and the beginning of this spring’s mowing season.

Now before you start thinking I must be nuts to stop and pick up something valued at 3 or 4 bucks on a freeway, I didn’t. The gas can was on a street in my neighborhood. There was very little traffic and it was a hazard because it was literally in the middle of my lane. Who knows, I may have saved a life…or prevented an accident. Most likely I just frustrated the lawn guy even more when he tried to retrace his route to find the missing can.

Now back to how do those items get there on the side of the freeway? I can actually answer that one from personal experiences.. One happened years ago when we were coming home from a camping trip with friends. They had all their camping gear in one of those backpack looking gizmos that you strapped to the roof of your car. You guessed it, one of the straps broke and the entire contents of the backpack, all of the family’s camping supplies, basically exploded along I-10 near Columbus. I would imagine they might have left an item or two during the cleanup.

A second incident happened to my family as we were leaving town for yet another camping experience. We were pulling onto the Sam Houston Tollway in Southwest Houston pulling our pop-up camper… when someone flagged us down to tell us the door of the trailer was hanging open… After inspecting it, we discovered that a basket of items, some of value…some of sentimental value, was missing… That time I did stop on the side of the toll road to retrieve the items. Many broken and destroyed, but some salvageable… There were some items that we never found including the basket itself. I have to wonder if somewhere there’s another guy like me who occasionally stops to pick things up and puts them in my basket.

ProVoices.net

Hurricane Ike blew through the greater Houston area in September of 2008… just one week later I found myself unemployed for the third time in my career. After over a year of searching for and almost having other full time jobs working in my chosen field of radio, I have recently come to the conclusion that September 2008 is going to be the last time I will be a victim of corporate downsizing, position elimination, moving in a new direction or whatever they are calling it now.

I like many others have decided it is better to work for myself than to face the uncertainty that comes with what I once considered the best job on earth. So its official… I’ve dug out the storage room in my garage that I originally built as a home recording studio. It is now where I work every day. Some days more than others, but I am out there every day trying to put together enough voice over and production jobs to make a living. So far, it seems to be working out. I’ve decided that after 30 years or more of being on the air and behind the scenes in radio, that I still have allot to offer in the form of my voice, and my creativity and editing skills. Now all I need to do is figure out the best way to let everyone know that I’m here and doing what I do. In other words, how does a guy who creates advertisements advertise? Thus, the creation of this blog and the updating of my website www.provoices.net.

I have also realized that even though I have all these years experience behind me, I still need to learn… still need training… still need to practice my craft. I’m doing my best to attend seminars hosted by pros who have been successfully doing this kind of work for years. I’ve rediscovered the joy of reading and learning which had been all but lost while working the world of modern radio where very little is required of the talent outside of the ability to recite a few standard liners, give a brief forecast and punch a button now and then. I find myself soaking up knowledge like never before. My brain is like an old sponge that has been laying around drying up over the years and now its being revived with all sorts of new information, new technology, and new adventures.

For the past 5 or 6 months I have been doing some audio and voice over work for Mike Landry, host of the Purchase Like Pros radio show. It’s all about home improvements, with a focus on finding the right contractors and products to get the job done right the first time. The program airs on Saturday afternoons on “The 9-5-0″ in Houston. Mike has kept my studio busy doing all of the promos, imaging and commercial production that goes into the making of his program. Here is one of the TV ads for an outdoor home show that Purchase Like Pros hosted this past weekend in Spring.

This is just one of several local clients I have recently completed work for. You’ll also hear my voice on some of the commercials and promos airing on AM 700 KSEV as well as KVCE, AM 1160 Highland Park, Dallas-Fort Worth. You gotta love modern technology that allows me to sit in my garage producing audio that is being used all around the world. Last week, I did a PowerPoint presentation that was being put together in Singapore. Before that I was doing a television voice over for a Phoenix, Arizona pawn shop.

I say all this to say thank you to all those who have helped to shape me into the person I am today. I have worked with and for some mighty talented and dedicated people in the past 30 plus years and every experience was preparing me for what I am doing now. Thank you for teaching me, mentoring me, putting up with me, guiding me, correcting me, encouraging me, and yes even firing me. Because it was during those tough times that I have been able to discover who I really am and what I am made of. I have also learned that the words to a song my children used to sing in Bible school are quite true! “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty… there’s nothing my God cannot do..”

And with Him on my side, there’s nothing I cannot do!

Kevin

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Like I really need another reason to sit in front of my computer all day. I have finally decided to enter the blogosphere and see who pays attention and how this goes. No guarantees that I will update this site daily or if it will be worth reading when I do, but I will give it a shot. The first entry will be very short as you can see, but I really just wanted to get something online and get it set up before I put a whole lot of thought into the content. Check back later and we’ll see how things develop.

Kevin