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Grandads …and (one) other small stuff

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks, so I’ve not got to this page very much and when I have started writing I’ve always out-thought myself afterwards and erased what I started.  But I kept the last thing I did, because I rather enjoy the nostalgia thing… and you can see what that is below.

Before I get there let me pat myself (and my wife) on the back: We managed to complete the patio area in our backyard in record time – we had a party scheduled and we needed to finish by last weekend.  I’ve mentioned in past video blogs how barren it was out there but it’s not so barren now.  We did it all ourselves in the early mornings and evenings (with a couple of days thrown in when I rented a Bobcat – that was fun) and I especially want to thank the weather gods who gave us the coolest summer in years, without which we would never have done what we did… it was exhausting.

The party was partly to entertain our friends but also to celebrate a very good friend’s birthday.  His partner was in her ninth month of pregnancy and I think we only just got the party done in time… more later…

But first, the blog I intended to post several days ago, but never finished:


I missed out here… I’m not unique, I know that, but if there’s something I would have wished to have more of in my life, it’s the living experience of having a grandfather.  My grandfathers existed, of course – both of them (well, duh!).  But my father’s died a few years before I was born, and my mother’s when I was nine months old.

I don’t have any photographs of my father’s dad, he was a doctor (like my dad), but here’s one of my mother’s father—>

He was a commodore in the Merchant Navy, lost his ship to a German U-Boat in the Mediterranean during one of the Malta Convoys in WWII, made friends with the German captain of that U-Boat after the war and was later awarded the OBE by King George VI.  Now those were just a few of his life experiences… imagine the stories he’d have told.  I know he cared about me and there’s a picture somewhere of him holding me in his arms – but, darn it, he died shortly after the picture was taken.

I mention all this because the blogger known as ‘The Literate Housewife’ just lost her grandfather, and it made me think… She provides such a moving tribute to him on her website that I became a little jealous.  Not for her pain in the loss, of course, but because of the years of companionship and fun she must have had and the stories she must have heard.

I haven’t missed out entirely on the experience, though.  My wife’s grandfather died only a couple of years ago – he made it to twelve days past his 100th birthday!  His grand-daughter and I had been married several years when he died and although he lived somewhere north of Seattle we did visit on a number of occasions (should have been more, I know – but kids today… they don’t call, they don’t visit…).Born in 1907, Warren lived a long and very full life and he loved to tell stories about his experiences – and, oh my, he really could tell stories… sometimes at great length.  His favorite was the story of  ‘The Cougar and the Blueberry Pie’! Perhaps one day I’ll put it in print… if I can remember it all.

My own dad would have loved to be a grandfather, I’m sure, but he missed out by almost a year.  I’m hoping to be a grandfather myself one day – although (note to sons) I’m not in that much of a hurry.

Some people have quite a ways to go… and that brings me back to my very good friend whose 56th birthday we celebrated last weekend.  Last Thursday he became a father for the first time (three weeks earlier than expected).

This little fellow (the ‘small stuff’ mentioned in the blog title – he was 4lbs 3oz) may one day be a grandfather himself… Hope he has lots of great stories to tell his grandkids.

Take Care

Comments { 5 }

Proust, Joyce and a dead rabbit…

I think I’ve mentioned here, or at least in a video blog from my studio, that from where I sit as I record my books I can see out of the front window to the street.  In our front garden we have a couple of medium size trees and just last week, as I was in the middle of recording ‘Tongues of Serpents’, I became aware of a kerfuffle in the branches of one of those trees.

It turns out there was some kind of hawk, with prey in claw, being harassed by a couple of scrub jays (who must have had a nest, or young, they were protecting).  We have a large open space nearby and I’m fascinated by the amount of ‘natural’ life we get to see.  I paused my recording, grabbed my camera, and crept around the side of the house to witness what was happening.

There was the hawk sitting on a branch with a quite substantial animal gripped beneath its claws – it looked not dissimilar to a small stuffed rabbit that a child might have….  Christopher Robin would have been most upset!

After withstanding the barrage from these scrub jays for several minutes my hawk took off when a couple walking their rather large dogs came a little too close… Scared the dog walkers almost out of their skin as it soared out of the tree and over their heads.


Now, despite being linked in the title of this blog the events describe above have nothing to do with Proust and Joyce (sorry if you were expecting me to reveal some unknown interaction between the two authors – an argument in the woods, perhaps?):

I have just embarked on a recording of ‘Swann’s Way’, the first of the seven volumes that make up Marcel Proust’s mammoth ‘À La Recherche du Temps Perdu’ – which translates directly as ‘In Search of Lost Time’, but for many years has been better (if erroneously) known in English as ‘Remembrance of Things Past’.

Whenever I am asked to pick up and record a ‘classic’ I have to pause and take a breath before accepting the assignment.  The first and most important question I ask myself is: Can I really do it justice…? Has it already been done … and better than I could do it? (Maybe Hollywood should ask itself the same question when thinking about remakes)

Sometime early last year I was asked by a publisher to take on James Joyce’s Ulysses.  I hate to turn down work, especially something that could keep me busy for many, many days (as this would have done).  But I did turn this down for two very good reasons:  It would be an extremely difficult novel too do well (I just wouldn’t have the time to spend preparing every inch of this novel in the way it deserved), and there was already a most amazing version available to the listening public in which great work had been done to produce an authentic ‘Irish’ version (Jim Norton and Marcella Riordan, directed by Roger Marsh).

In being asked to narrate Proust I had a similar sense that I should pause and think hard.  Before accepting the assignment I read parts of the book… and fell in love.   I think this came along at just the right time for me.  I’m at an age now where I find myself in reveries of nostalgia, searching in my memory for those sensations of the long past… the same very small details of childhood that Proust begins his journey with.  I love the way he finds his way around in his memories, there’s no sense of rush, this is not a book in a hurry.  As I write this I have only just recorded about three hours of what may be around 20 (it’s doubtful that any future volumes will be recorded, but you never know) so I don’t know how I’ll feel by the end, but right now I’m relishing it.  I hope that comes out in the final recording.

By the way, this is a photograph of me at three years old – and I remember with fondness that polka-dot bow tie….

Take Care

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I’m naming names…

First of all I must apologize to anyone who has been expecting me to update this blog regularly. I was keeping a pretty good pace until this last week or so, and then a break in Maine and a couple of rather difficult books (or, at least, ones that required more prep work than others) and suddenly I find it’s been somewhat over a week since I exposed myself on this site.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the last blog contained a blatant advertisement for books from which I might profit. The fact that that blog was left in a prominent position for longer than any other was pure coincidence.

I’m so glad that is cleared up, now on to today’s business:

I recently heard that the librarian to whom I and several other narrators wished a happy birthday (including in our wishes all other librarians who had birthdays this year – just to be fair) was going to try to name all the narrators lined up behind me in the video (the one posted on July 27th from Maine).  Now, she’s already having too much fun for a birthday girl, so I’m putting a stop to all that and naming them myself – just so we’re clear on who the guilty ones were.  I shall also reveal the evil genius (!) who shouted a rather offensive comment to me as I was speaking (he can be heard in the video asking me to… no, why don’t you go listen to it yourself).

So here’s a picture taken at the time of filming:

And here are the names, from left to right (not including me, as I’m already making myself rather obvious – practicing my Broadway number):

Richard Ferrone, Ellen Grafton, Kymberly Dakin, Davina Porter, behind Davina (not quite visible in this photo) is Julia Whelan, Bill Dufris (aka the Mailman), Tavia Gilbert, Dion Graham, Hilary Huber, Grover Gardner, Ralph Cosham, Anne Flosnik and Wanda McCaddon.

The gentleman whose voice came down from above and insulted me (with friendly intentions I’m sure) was a man who knows a thing or two about audio drama: the Irascible Yuri Rasovsky – winner of two Peabody Awards, a Grammy Award, eight Audie Awards, two Corporation for Public Broadcasting Awards … I could go on (I said he was a genius).

That’s it for now – I have to get back to work.
Take Care

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I am shameless, absolutely shameless…

Oh, not at first, of course, you’ll have to read to the bottom to find out how shameless I can be – I get nothing extra for promoting the following:

The thing is, have finally released the four volumes in the series by Anthony Powell:  ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’.  Each of these volumes (or ‘seasons’ as they are termed) is about 20 hours long as they each contain three of the original twelve novels that make up this ‘universally acclaimed epic… of twentieth century London’ (from the publisher).

I recorded the series last August/September/October and have been waiting since then to see how it is received.  I, personally, loved it… to give you a brief idea of the time period covered in each volume here are a couple of lines from the publisher:

A Dance to the Music of Time opens just after World War I. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, Nick Jenkins and his friends confront sex, society, business, and art.  In the second volume they move to London in a whirl of marriage and adulteries, fashions and frivolities, personal triumphs and failures. These books “provide an unsurpassed picture, at once gay and melancholy, of social and artistic life in Britain between the wars” (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.).  The third volume follows Nick into army life and evokes London during the blitz. In the climactic final volume, England has won the war and must now count the losses.

I’ll be honest here and say that some might find the story boring, it certainly doesn’t pretend to be any kind of a thriller, more of a vintage soap opera – but the writing is beautiful, the characters engaging and the feeling of being immersed in another time and place all-engrossing.

I’m happy to note also that all three novels in the Millennium series are still in the top five downloads list!  Which makes me think that if I had been able to negotiate residuals I’d be able to retire about now (or at least take a little more time off).

I don’t know if you’re aware but the vast majority of audiobooks are recorded as a work for hire agreement: we’re paid a flat rate (which is negotiable) usually based on the duration, but we don’t make any extra if the book is a success (and we don’t lose anything if the book is a failure).  Nothing to get too upset about as it’s the way the business has operated for a very long time.

Here comes the really shameless part:

However… if, at, you search for the narrator ‘Simon Vance’ (er…that’s me) on the latest releases page below the A Dance to the Music of Time novels you’ll see two books: Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals and The Big Questions in Science and Religion. Now for these two I have entered into a rather unique arrangement with University Press Audiobooks.  I recorded these two books for no advance payment whatsoever…  but, in return, I will see residuals!

Will this (in essence, working for nothing) be worth it?

Well, that’s entirely up to you.  If you choose to buy either, or both, of these books you will be enabling me to clothe my children (oh, okay… you’ll be enabling me to start saving to buy an iPad or some such gadget) and you’ll make me very happy.

To be honest they are quite intellectual books (they call them scholarly) that require you to do some thinking in order to follow the arguments, but even I like thinking from time to time.  And if you do buy one (or two :)) you’ll have that feel good sensation knowing you’ve rewarded me in the process.

I said I was shameless…

Take Care

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Who ARE these guys?

The glimpse you get above is of two gentlemen I call my very best, least met with, friends… Let me explain:  To do so I must take you back in time.  I have in the past referred to my recording booth as a time machine (or ‘TARDIS’ for Doctor Who fans, amongst which I number myself).  For this exercise I am going to take you back around 35 years to the campus of a University in northern England – namely, Leeds.

In my first full year away from home I had the good fortune (some might debate that point) to fall in with a bunch of US students who were taking part in their states, or cities, various ‘Study Abroad’ programs.  Within a day or so of arriving I was helping Chris (he’s the slightly demonic looking guy on the left) adapt to life in a foreign country – specifically by introducing him to that great British institution ‘the pub’.

A short while later Paul (he’s on the right) joined the gang.  The three of us (and several other US students, including Russ from Brooklyn whose photo I don’t have to hand – but he has corrected me: He’s from Yonkers, see comment below) began to hang about in our spare time – and a lot of merry adventures we had over the following months (none of which I care to share here, even if the statute of limitations has run out).  Chris was from Bakersfield, CA, and Paul from Queens, NY.

At the end of the year we all went our separate ways – unsure whether we would ever meet again.  Ten years later I sent a letter to the address I had for Chris, and his parents (who, fortunately, still lived there) forwarded it and we became reacquainted.  By this time he had become a doctor with a very respectable practice in the vicinity of Washington DC – I will not be more specific even though I doubt that his patients will recognize him from this photograph:

(he’s on the right – that’s me making a pathetic attempt to look tough on the left – I think Chris has it nailed)

So Chris and I have kept in touch and have met on several occasions – the most recent just a couple of weeks ago when he made a flying visit to relations not far from here (though, to be honest, it had been 15 years since we met face to face).

But Paul is another matter:  He and I parted on a London train station platform 35 years ago and haven’t met since… We’ve had a phone conversation, but our only attempt to get together failed due to the traffic in Boston making it impossible for him to reach me at the airport in my all too brief stopover on the way back to the UK in 1990.  Pathetic really, isn’t it?  So this photo was probably taken around the last time I saw him:

Emboldened by the visit from Chris and knowing that this year my trip to Maine was going to involve a few hours stop-over in Boston I became determined to finally make contact in the flesh with Paul, now a successful psychologist in the Boston area, and I sent him an email.

I received this reply:

You are probably going to be surprised to hear this .. but I am in not in Boston at the moment
(#@%^*@*&^!!!!). I am deployed with the US Department of State in Afghanistan.
I do wish I was home to hang out with you mate!  This will need to wait a bit…

Wait?  I guess so!  Apparently he’s an ‘In-Country Psychologist’ somewhere in Afghanistan and he included a picture of himself with a rifle and the caption ‘Does this M-4 make me look fat?’

Now Paul was the first person I’d ever met who said ‘take care’ at every parting of friends.  It’s impact on me was probably the same as the impact on an American student of a Leeds man calling him ‘Love’ (they call everyone ‘love’ in the north of England); it felt rather strange… more like the kind of thing my Mum might have said.  But I thought about it, and began to rather like it from Paul… It seemed, and still seems, an important thing to say and eventually I adopted it and still use it from time to time myself (nobody really notices here in the US but in the UK, it’s probably still unusual).

Hey, Paul, it may seem insignificant but thank you for that small influence on my life.
I’m proud to know you, mate.

And to you, my friend, the ‘In-Country Psychologist’ somewhere in Afghanistan, and to everyone who is a part of the allied effort in that country… Take Care


Comments { 5 }


That’s a great word to play with… “Abundance”! There was a BBC radio comedy sketch many years ago in which a man (John Cleese was the man) was demonstrating, in court for some reason, that if you say any word often enough it’ll become ‘funny’.  In that instance the word was ‘teapot’.  Today for me it’s ‘abundance’… a bun dance…. ab’nd’nce… ahhh-b’n-daahnsss.

Yes, sometimes my mind wanders into very strange territory.

We have a large number of raised beds at the end of the garden and although we’re only beginners at this home harvesting business we’ve seen a wonderful ‘abundance’ of vegetables coming into our garden through the back door rather than the front.  Not to mention the endless supply of Dahlias adorning our new outdoor table.

Just below you can see (well, maybe, they’re rather small photos I’ll admit) pepperoncini, melon, red lettuce and tomatoes:

We have four different tomato varieties alone – the three you see above are from an Italian Heirloom we bought at one of our local farmer’s markets.  We’ve had one already from this plant and, thick sliced with a layer of mozzarella and dribbled with balsamic vinegar, it’s gorgeous….

We’ve two different melon plants (promising many melons already) and two Japanese eggplant… or is it plants?  There are also a couple of zucchini plants that have been producing for weeks now (and seem never to stop providing a couple a day at least) as well as a bed of Swiss chard and, our great joy, two large beds providing us with load after load of fingerling potatoes – five different types i believe we have in there.  I’ve never tried potatoes before so thanks to the Urban Farmers, who provided the seed potatoes and the advice for us to get them right first time.

It really is … an abundance.

I mentioned the Dahlias above – I photographed a couple of them for an earlier blog (the one about drugs) but here’s another look along with some coral pink Gladioli:

I’ve never done Gladioli before so it’s good to see them thriving here.  There are also Lilies to come, but they’re not quite out yet… watch this space!

There are days when nothing seems to go right – those days when the bread always falls butter side down, the lights are always against you and you not only stub your toe, but hit your head on that open cupboard door as you straighten up… When the abundance is of things you really would rather have less of.

This garden, for me, is the antidote – and long may the buns dance for you too!

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Stieg Larsson – His Part In My Success…

The fact is, I don’t really remember how it happened.

I can’t find an email suggesting it, so I think it must have been a phone call in June of 2008 – almost exactly 2 years ago.  Dan Musselman – the ‘man’ at Books on Tape – probably called me and said something like: ‘Hey, Simon, how’re things with you?  What’s the weather like where you are…?’ (we always waffle for a while before getting to the point – it’s a habit we have).  Then, sometime further on in the conversation, he may have said: ‘Look, I’ve got a book here I think you’d be right for.  Have you got any space in the middle of July, say?’

Now, this is where things could have gone so wrong…  I was already recording The Terminal Spy for Books on Tape at the time, I had The Black Tower scheduled next for Blackstone Audio, to be followed closely by Great Expectations for Tantor (which went on to win an Audie in 2009).  I think I also had the three Kushiel novels by Jacqueline Carey for Tantor lined up for later on.  So it wasn’t as if I was desperate for work.  But when Dan chooses a narrator for a book he usually knows what he’s doing – so, of course, I said ‘Yes, I’d love to do it.  What’s it about?’  And so it began…

Did I know at the time how successful these books were going to be?  of course not.  I had no idea if I’d even be asked to do the second one.  But I was – this was part of the email from Dan in March of ’09.

Hi, Simon. DRAGON TATTOO is certainly getting a lot of attention. I’m so glad it was you who read this for us. There will be another by Mr. Larsson later this Spring. You simply must read it for us, lest I shall perish.

I’m fascinated by those books that have been made about The Beatles recording career in which are listed all the times they were in a recording studio and what songs were recorded when.  So, for anyone who plans to make a book of my career 🙂 – here’s a helping hand:

Looking back in my calendar I see I recorded The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo quite intensively on the 14th, 15th, 16th, 22nd and 23rd of July in 2008.  The Girl who Played with Fire was recorded much more slowly between the 11th and 20th of May 2009… and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest I recorded between the 9th and 15th of March this year.

Now a word about the (Swedish) movie:

I enjoyed it very much! It was extremely well made – painfully well made in places (you’ll know if you see it) – and it made me want to go back and begin recording the books all over again.

But the question is how Hollywood will deal with it. Of necessity there were many plot points and other parts of the book left out of this Swedish version but the essentials were all there. I’m left wondering if Hollywood will allow so much to stand, or will they have to water it down for our delicate (US) sensibilities? Also, although I’m a huge fan of both Daniel Craig and Natalie Portman who, I’ve heard, are in line to play the leads (Natalie kissed me on the cheek, once – did I tell you that?), I really can’t see them doing as good a job encapsulating the characters of Mikael and Lisbeth as the Swedish originals in this movie. They certainly have an uphill struggle. That said, if any actors can do it I think these two can…

My verdict, then, is that if you have already read the novels, or have no intention of ever reading the novels (there must be some), then see this Swedish version (and I believe it’s due out on DVD fairly soon). If you haven’t finished the series then wait until you’ve read the lot – as it may spoil your enjoyment of the later books. As it stands I think it’s a great compliment to the original dish as served up by Larsson. Bon Appetit!

Comments { 30 }

Life is Good (a Father’s day blog)

Some weekends resolve themselves so pleasantly it’s awe-inspiring. We (Dad, step-mom, two boys) have, for several years, been taking off on Father’s day weekend for a campground near Ashland, Oregon for my annual bacon eating ritual. Well, several other things as well including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but it’s the bacon that I enjoy the most.

Several years ago I decided meat in general and bacon in particular was probably not good for my system if I continued to eat it regularly, so now I limit myself to meat very sporadically and bacon on maybe two occasions a year (Christmas being the other time).

This morning my wife prepared for me the cooked breakfast I love the most: bacon, fried eggs, fried bread and baked beans (the English Heinz Baked Beans – so much better than any US variety available).  The bacon was particularly good this year – I dismissed the prepackaged bacon and went to the deli counter and found some local smoked peppered bacon, probably my best decision since taking on the Stieg Larsson Millennium series nearly three years ago (guilty of hyperbole? – surely not).

On arrival at the campground last Thursday we were surprised to find that the powers that be have started taking reservations for sites where it used to be first come, first served. We were dismayed to find that so many sites had been booked ahead of time. But then, to our joy, we saw our favorite site was only occupied for one more night. So we settled in to an inferior space briefly and transferred everything the next day.

Why do we like this site so much? This is the view when we open the tent flap:

I mentioned OSF above and we’ve seen some wonderful theatre this weekend. My wife and I come a couple of times a year to see the plays (and meet old friends), but it’s gratifying when I bring my boys and they can enjoy the performances as well.

I particularly want to mention the musical ‘She Loves Me’. OSF have only recently introduced musicals and I’m not a big fan of the genre – but this was an excellent show in so many respects. The male lead is a fellow called Mark Bedard who is just wonderful in this and has been a joy to watch in almost everything we’ve seen him – very versatile (well, it can’t hurt that my wife coached him when he was an undergraduate in the drama department of UC Irvine…). But the whole cast was admirable and the show a high spot of the weekend.

Earlier in the day we’d met with fellow narrator Grover Gardner and family, and went for a picnic up a nearby hill (lovely views). We stopped on the way back for wine tasting at RoxyAnn Winery (I recommend the Merlot).

Being a Dad is a mixed bag… but it’s so much better than the alternative. Bringing up kids (even when sharing the time with their real mom) can sometimes be a trial…. But the rewards are so huge that I can’t conceive of what my life would have been like without them – I certainly would not be where I am today, or probably who I am, without them. Father’s Day is a good time to reflect on the joys of fatherhood (and forget the rest).

I don’t remember much about Father’s days in the UK when I was a child. Being English we probably didn’t ‘celebrate’ in quite the way Americans do. When I was the age my eldest son is now (20) I had no idea I was going to lose my father three years later. He was not a demonstrative man but I know he loved his kids.

At twenty I’d just failed out of my first year at university and was taking a year off before going back and trying again at something else (Civil Engineering first and then Economics – they were more forgiving times).   When he died I was 23 and had an undergraduate degree – but became a bus driver.  Probably not the future that he foresaw for me after my earlier promising start in school (grade school as it’s called in the US).

It’s the desire of so many in later life; but I wish my Dad could see me now.

Someone recently asked what was the reason for my Stakhanovian work ethic (look it up – I did) and maybe I’m still trying to make up for what must have been his (unspoken) disappointment in my early life achievements.

So one of the reasons (if not the main one) for cutting back on bacon – and unhealthy foods in general – is a wish to have many more than four years to spend watching my own sons grow and find the road that will help them achieve their dreams. Not to mention having more time to paddle my feet beside my wife’s in a beautifully refreshing lake. I think it’s a sacrifice worth making.

In the meantime though, I thing there’s some bacon left over – and six months is a long time to wait before it’s on the menu again…

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Experimenting with drugs

Shortly after we moved house I received an email from an admirer of my narration saying ‘I know where you live’… Obviously my mind turned toward the possibility that I had earned my first stalker. Wow, am I that well known?

I was so impressed I asked the alleged stalker to our house warming party (please don’t take this as an invitation – I do not normally invite random e-mailers into our house). Actually this correspondent was someone who lived quite close to where I used to live, had become a fan of my narration and had often hoped to see me around our local grocery store. Seemed like a nice fellow so I felt safe enough inviting him (and his wife) round. That he was an ear, nose and throat specialist didn’t hurt either (you see, I’m not extraordinarily open and generous – I had an ulterior motive in welcoming him into my circle of acquaintances)

After blowing my voice out a couple of weeks back at APAC (see this earlier blog) and following several occasions when I felt my voice becoming rougher than usual I thought it best to have a specialist take a look just in case there was anything out of order there (my voice is my most important asset after all). So I gave John (may or may not be his real name) a call.

He was very generous in getting me in promptly and proceeded to poke a long piece of plastic down one nostril to look at my vocal chords. Thankfully he gave me a clean bill of health, but as the plastic tube was starting its journey into the hidden depths he noted there was some evidence of an allergic reaction. I didn’t want to argue with him but as far as I know I’ve never had an allergic reaction to anything in my life (I’m one of the lucky ones, I know).

However, it occurred to me that maybe I had started to become allergic (pollen levels are very high right now) and we do have a bigger backyard with a lot more trees and undergrowth around (not to mention all the weeds…). He gave me the name of a mild over the counter allergy drug and left it at that.

A week or so later when I had a day or two free of recording I thought I’d give it a try – even though I’d still only experienced a slight roughness – to see if I felt anything different in my throat. Well, I don’t think I’ll try that again… Nothing terrible happened (what, after all that build-up?) but I felt so spacey and mildly ‘out of it’ for most of Friday and Saturday that I wonder anyone gets anything done when under the influence… I didn’t take one on Sunday and my clarity of thought improved 100 per cent – I felt awake and alive once more.

My father was a GP in the UK (or ‘personal physician’, as I think they’re called here) and actually had very little sympathy when anyone in his family suffered any kind of illness (strangely I think he was a very good doctor to patients he wasn’t related to) and I think I inherited his lack of sympathy. But now, thanks to a ‘stalker’ and a decision to experiment I can declare that anyone who suffers from allergies now has my immediate and wholehearted sympathy. Not only does the actual allergic reaction cause you grief – but the drugs you take to counteract it leave you feeling wacked out as well.

To celebrate, my wife and I went to the movies on Sunday night – we saw ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. The story seemed strangely familiar, as if I knew what was going to happen next (or perhaps it was just the after-effects of the drugs).

What did I think of the movie? Maybe I’ll tell you later…

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Do you know the way to San Jose?

Fortunately I had my GPS with me so I had no trouble at all… I was heading south (I live inland from San Francisco) because I had been invited to make an appearance at All Ears Audiobooks on Saturday last for an event they termed ‘An Evening with Simon Vance’ (though, in keeping with my theme of complete honesty on this site I should say it was more like an hour and a half). The excuse was the launch just over a week before of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

There was a time when I would have been extremely uncomfortable with something like this. But maybe I’ve changed, because I was certainly more at ease than I expected to be – when asked by Julie if I was interested in making an appearance I did not have to be dragged kicking and screaming. Perhaps I feel a responsibility to give something back (does that sound a bit corny?…it does to my ears), especially after the many great emails I’ve been receiving in recent years. Perhaps it’s that I can no longer retreat into my studio and ignore the requests to talk about myself and what I do. Let’s face it, that’s what I’m doing here with this website and I seem to have no trouble with that!

I also know that I want to bring more awareness to audiobooks in general. That sounds a bit altruistic, but by being ‘out there’ I’m hoping to get more people to pay attention to audiobooks, bring in more customers and thereby improve the standing of the industry – I think audiobooks deserve the biggest audience they can get. Of course, at the same time, it probably won’t hurt the amount of work going around for us narrators.

Though I should be clear here: In the current format all narrators get paid a flat rate for their work – there are no residuals for narrators in the audiobook world (there may be occasions where a narrator has been able to negotiate one – but I’m not personally aware of any). If there were residuals (payments based on sales) I could probably retire early on the proceeds from the Dragon Tattoo books! So if I make any appearances it’s not going to increase my income through extra sales of books already recorded (unlike an author’s book tour, for example). That may change, especially as it becomes clearer that people buy audiobooks based as much on the narrator as on the book itself – who knows what the future may bring?

But back to last Saturday: My thanks to Julie and the staff at All Ears for putting on the evening and making me so comfortable. I enjoyed talking, demonstrating and working through the Q and As. They’d put together a display in advance of the event with many of the books that I had recorded (that’s me beside part the display in the photo above) – it was good to be reacquainted with so many earlier projects (it’s amazing how quickly I forget what I’ve recorded). It was a fun evening and, I hope, not the last time I get to enjoy something like that.

Now, enough of the bright lights – I’m retreating, for now, to the dark recesses of my studio to record…

Listen to the audio here!

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