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Tag Archives: Narration


It’s really awesome to learn so much at work.  I don’t mean employer-sponsored training in this case although that is an outstanding thing which I do wholeheartedly support.  No, I’m talking about ingesting so much fabulous information (and trying to retain at least a small portion of it) contained in awesome books written on interesting subjects.

Last year – yes, I’m way behind on my posts here – I got to read/narrate The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham by Selina Hastings.  Wow, was that a fascinating and informative read!

A Synopsis —

He was a brilliant teller of tales, one of the most widely read authors of the twentieth century, and at one time the most famous writer in the world, yet W. Somerset Maugham’s own true story has never been fully told. At last, the fascinating truth is revealed in a landmark biography by the award-winning writer Selina Hastings. Granted unprecedented access to Maugham’s personal correspondence and to newly uncovered interviews with his only child, Hastings portrays the secret loves, betrayals, integrity, and passion that inspired Maugham to create such classics as The Razor’s Edge and Of Human Bondage.

Hastings vividly presents Maugham’s lonely childhood spent with unloving relatives after the death of his parents, a trauma that resulted in shyness, a stammer, and for the rest of his life an urgent need for physical tenderness. Here, too, are his adult triumphs on the stage and page, works that allowed him a glittering social life in which he befriended and sometimes fell out with such luminaries as Dorothy Parker, Charlie Chaplin, D. H. Lawrence, and Winston Churchill.

The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham portrays in full for the first time Maugham’s disastrous marriage to Syrie Wellcome, a manipulative society woman of dubious morality who trapped Maugham with a pregnancy and an attempted suicide. Hastings also explores Maugham’s many affairs with men, including his great love, Gerald Haxton, an alcoholic charmer and a cad. Maugham’s courageous work in secret intelligence during two world wars is described in fascinating detail—experiences that provided the inspiration for the groundbreaking Ashenden stories. From the West End to Broadway, from China to the South Pacific, Maugham’s restless and remarkably productive life is thrillingly recounted as Hastings uncovers the real stories behind such classics as “Rain,” The Painted Veil, Cakes & Ale, and other well-known tales.

An epic biography of a hugely talented and hugely conflicted man, The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham is the definitive account of Maugham’s extraordinary life.

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A few months ago I had the opportunity to narrate a biography about the modern composer John Cage.  The book, Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage, was written by Kenneth Silverman who has tackled other influential historical characters such as Edgar Allen Poe, Erich Weiss (Houdini), Cotton Mather, and Samuel Morse.

Begin Again was a fascinating read chock full of fabulous details about John Cage, his work in modern music and other art forms, his relationships (both personal and professional) in the world of music and dance, and even his interest in and work with mushrooms.  What an interesting man and an interesting life.  Influential?  Well, he was one of the first to work in electronic music.  He was at the forefront of music written for prepared piano as well as the use of non-traditional (everyday items as) instruments.  He wrote compositions – the best known is 4’33” – that call on the audience to explore the idea that there is no such thing as total silence here on earth and that there is music in the most mundane of sounds around us.  He also pioneered the use of “indeterminacy” in music and music composition.

And he’s still influential today – even outside music.  Just a few weeks ago I attended a seminar for theater professionals.  The focus was on exploring “moments” through the use of the various elements available (props, costumes, other actors, lighting, etc.).  It was hosted by The Arena Stage in Washington, DC and presented by members of Moisés Kaufman’s Tectonic Theater Project.  In the process, guess whose work (among others) was referenced briefly?  John Cage, of course.

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):

John Cage was a man of extraordinary and seemingly limitless talents: musician, inventor, composer, poet. He became a central figure of the avant-garde early in his life and remained at that pinnacle until his death in 1992 at the age of eighty. Now award-winning biographer Kenneth Silverman gives us the first comprehensive life of this remarkable artist. We follow Cage from his Los Angeles childhood—his father was a successful inventor—through his stay in Paris from 1930 to 1931, where immersion in the burgeoning new musical and artistic movements triggered an explosion of creativity in him and, after his return to the States, into his studies with the seminal modern composer Arnold Schoenberg. We see Cage’s early experiments with sound and percussion instruments, and watch as he develops his signature work with prepared piano, radio static, random noise, and silence. We learn of his many friendships over the years with other composers, artists, philosophers, and writers; of his early marriage and several lovers, both female and male; and of his long relationship with choreographer Merce Cunningham, with whom he would collaborate on radically unusual dances that continue to influence the worlds of both music and dance. 

Drawing on interviews with Cage’s contemporaries and friends and on the enormous archive of his letters and writings, and including photographs, facsimiles of musical scores, and Web links to illustrative sections of his compositions, Silverman gives us a biography of major significance: a revelatory portrait of one of the most important cultural figures of the twentieth century


I can’t believe it!  Sometimes the stars do align.  I mean, just two days ago I read a Reuters news piece indicating that there are plenty of folks – public and private sector alike – that believe we will some day in the not-too-distant future be snapping up asteroids and harvesting their riches (from precious minerals to water).  And yesterday the audiobook version of popular Sci Fi author David Gerrold’s double paperback Digging in Gehenna/Riding Janis was released at Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

What’s the connection?  Well, the second story in this Sci Fi double-header written by Mr. Gerrold and published by Digital Fabulists is all about a family of asteroid miners and comet tossers.  You should check it out!

If you don’t know David Gerrold by name, you probably know his work.  His novelette Martian Child won Hugo and Nebula awards and was made into a movie of the same name starring John Cusak.  He has also authored two popular series of books — The War Against Chtorr and Star Wolf.  In addition, Mr. Gerrold has worked extensively in television, penning the iconic The Trouble With Tribbles episode from the original Star Trek series.  Aside from continued involvement in the world of Star Trek, Gerrold has also written scripts for a number of other series, including Babylon 5, Land of the Lost, Sliders, and Twilight Zone.

Here is the publisher’s synopsis of this entertaining two-fer:

A Digital Fabulists double paperback by renowned science fiction author David Gerrold! Two electrifying stories in one book: “DIGGING IN GEHENNA” Daddy was arguing with Dr. Blom again, so Mom told me to stay away from the dig for awhile, at least until tempers cooled off. That was the only thing likely to cool off anytime soon. Spring was rising, and so were the daytime temperatures. We would be heading back south to the more comfortable polar zones as soon as the last trucks were loaded and the skywhale arrived tomorrow morning. Twenty-four months would pass before the sand would be cool enough to stand on again, but nobody knew if we would be coming back. “RIDING JANIS” Out in the asteroid belt, the mountains fly. They tumble and roll silently. Distant sparkles break the darkness. Someday we‘ll get out there, we‘ll catch the mountains, we‘ll break them into kibble to get at the good parts. We‘ll find out if the centers are nougat or truffle. And some of us—some of us will even become comet-tossers, throwing the mountains around like gods.


Not too long ago I got the chance to narrate the book Doll Bones by Holly Black.  So as not to confuse those of you who are audiobook fans, let me explain that you will not find my read of this story at an online retailer nor in your local bookstore.  This project was a noncommercial narration for the Library of Congress which makes it available as part of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).  If you are interested in this book but are not a member of the NLS, the book can be found at the usual places in hardback, paperback, and kindle with illustrations by Eliza Wheeler.  There is also a commercially available audiobook on CD.  Now for a bit …

About The Author *

Her first book, Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, was published in 2002 by Simon & Schuster. Tithe was called “dark, edgy, beautifully written and compulsively readable” by Booklist, received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, and was included in the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults. Holly has since written two other books in the same universe, Valiant (2005), and the sequel to Tithe, Ironside (2007), which spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Valiant was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award for Young Readers and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

Holly collaborated with her long-time friend, Caldecott award winning artist, Tony DiTerlizzi, to create the bestselling Spiderwick Chronicles. The first two books, The Field Guide and The Seeing Stone were released together in 2003 by Simon & Schuster, with the next three, Lucinda’s Secret (2003), The Ironwood Tree (2004) and The Wrath of Mulgarath (2004), following in rapid succession. The Wrath of Mulgarath climbed to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The five-book serial has been called “vintage Victorian fantasy” by the New York Post and Time Magazine reported that “the books wallow in their dusty Olde Worlde charm.”

The Spiderwick Chronicles were adapted into a film by Paramount Pictures in conjunction with Nickelodeon Films and released in February 2008.

Doll Bones is the tale of an adventure experienced/undertaken by three close friends.   The book is written about and for readers in the Middle Grades but could probably be enjoyed by younger and even older readers, too.  In relating her story, Ms. Black is able to reach into the world of Middle Graders and touch on some of the issues that present themselves to folks in her target audience in such a way as to make it relevant even to someone like myself who graduated from 8th grade quite some time ago.  Anyway here’s more …

About The Book *

Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her.

But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen—and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave.

Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?

* The excerpts about Holly Black and Doll Bones are quoted from Ms.Black’s own website at http://www.blackholly.com.


Are you familiar with Eric Flint?  Have you read his best-selling alternative history novel, 1632?

That seminal novel launched an entire movement and a collaborative writing effort that involves myriad authors and contributors which has, in turn, grown into what could be described as the 1632 Universe.  Among the writers published via the resulting Ring of Fire Press and the Grantville Gazette is Rick Boatright who authored this highly entertaining story, The Society of St. Philip of the Screwdriver.  Better yet, this fun short story is NOW AVAILABLE as an audiobook at Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

Synopsis:

Take a town full of West Virginia coal miners, 17th century nobility, one of the longest and bloodiest wars in history, d’Artagnan (without the three musketeers), Blaise Pascal, Rene Decartes, Galileo, Oliver Cromwell and Gustav II Adolph. Shake well and simmer for thirteen years.

Eric Flint’s world of 1632 is an amazing and complex alternate history universe that split off from ours one spring day in 2000 and 1631.

The Grantville Singles provide readers with the opportunity to sample some of our favorite stories from the semi-monthly magazine devoted to the series, The Grantville Gazette. We hope you enjoy them.

In this story, Rick Boatright’s popular character Father Nick Smithson returns. While part of the action of the story is set, as usual for Fr. Nick, in the Library, there is rather more ‘action’ than librarians are used to.

Father Nick and his associates continue their work to keep Murphy’s Imp directly in front of them lest a moment of inattention result in disaster.

Yes, I did the voice acting on this project.  It was a blast!!  I even got to use just a touch of my German (having lived there for 5 years, I still have a touch in me).   So … grab a copy using the links below, take a listen [46 mins. running time], and enjoy.

via Audible


The One and Only Ivan is a children’s books written by Katherine Applegate.  I got to narrate this little gem not too long ago.

When we meet the titular character Ivan, a gorilla, he is in captivity at an enclosure in what is described as a mall.  A mall?  Well, yes!  Evidently, this story is based on a true case in which a gorilla was kept in a kind of mall circus in Washington State for some 27 years.  No, I’m not kidding.  27 years!!  I’m pleased to say that both Katherine Applegate’s fictional account and the real story of Ivan have happy endings.  Ivan is saved from his lonely, solitary existence at the mall and gets to go to a zoo (Zoo Atlanta in real life) where he is able to be with other gorillas.  After all, gorillas are social animals.  That’s one of the things I learned about gorillas by reading The One And Only Ivan.

In Applegate’s book, Ivan doesn’t have any gorilla companionship at the mall, but he isn’t completely alone.  There’s his best friend, Bob the stray dog, who manages to elude mall security and the circus manager to sneak in and sleep in Ivan’s enclosure at night.  There is Stella the older elephant who is part of the odd little circus,too.  There are the circus caretaker, George, and his daughter Julie who visit regularly.  And in comes the new, young elephant Ruby.  The story that Ms. Applegate shares is entertaining, educational, and touching.  If you have young children, it seems like this would be a good one to share with them.  You could read it to them or have them read it to you.  It’s formatted – intentionally, no doubt – in such a way that it should be easier for new readers to get through the material successfully.

If you want to learn more about the book, the real Ivan, or the author, you can click through on the picture above.

A brief synopsis from the book’s website

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.


I think Devil’s Peak is a very good book.  I recently did some narration work on it, and I enjoyed the story a lot.  The story is by South African author Deon Meyer and the English translation by K.L. Seegers.

It is a fairly dark story, to be sure.  So it isn’t for readers who are looking for fairy tales and happy endings.  Not that there aren’t happy endings – sort of.  And I didn’t find the three main characters the easiest folks to empathize with because they weren’t always doing the nicest things or making the wisest choices.  But they did come across as interesting, complicated, and somewhat messed-up human beings – emphasis on their being human added by Deon Meyer on page after page.

Along the way I got some education in South African culture.  I also had to learn how to recite lyrics from popular songs in Afrikaans (Loslappie and Waterblommetjies).  I did my best with the Afrikaans!  I also tried to get down the palatal tick required to properly pronounce Nxele, the name of a Xhosa warrior, chief, and prophet.  Heck, there were a lot of proper names – places, roads, people – that took considerable research to track down as far as pronunciation.  From a narrator’s point of view, it was hard work.  But it was work that I enjoyed.

Here is a brief synopsis from goodreads.com

From rising South African thriller writer Deon Meyer, a gripping suspense novel about revenge, forgiveness, and the race to catch a trained killer. A young woman makes a terrible confession to a priest. An honorable man takes his own revenge for an unspeakable tragedy. An aging inspector tries to get himself sober while taking on the most difficult case of his career. From this beginning, Deon Meyer weaves a story of astonishing complexity and suspense, as Inspector Benny Griessel faces off against a dangerous vigilante who has everything on his side, including public sympathy.
A gruesome abuse case has hit the newsstands, and one man has taken it upon himself to stand up for the children of Cape Town . When the accused is found stabbed through the heart by spear, it’s only the beginning of a string of bloody murders – and of a dangerous dilemma for detective Griessel. The detective is always just one step behind as someone slays the city’s killers. But the paths of Griessel and the avenger collide when a young prostitute lures them both into a dangerous plan – and the two find themselves with a heart-stopping problem that no system of justice could ever make right.


I’m a bit behind in my posts here.  I had the opportunity to narrate this book some time ago but just hadn’t gotten this together until now.   By “this book” I mean, of course, Custer’s Brother’s Horse by Edwin Shrake.

As you may know, Edwin “Bud” Shrake was a journalist and screenwriter as well as a novelist.  During his career Mr. Shrake spent some 15 years writing for Sports Illustrated.  He authored a number of non-fiction works, including a biography of his friend Willie Nelson and a series of books about golf with Harvey Penick.   Custer’s Brother’s Horse was Edwin Shrake’s last novel, having been preceded by Blood Reckoning,  But Not For Love, Blessed McGill, Strange Peaches, Peter Arbiter, Limo (with Dan Jenkins), Night Never Falls, The Borderland: A Novel of Texas, and Billy Boy.

I have to admit that when I saw the title of the book, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  I hadn’t read any of Shrake’s previous novels.  I found it quite interesting.  The characters he populated the story with were very diverse – from a stoic Texas scion to a colorful British adventurer to a beautiful young New Orleans soothsayer.  And those were just the three that were traveling together!  Of course, the time in which this story is set was a very interesting one for Texans, and Shrake does a good job of providing and then using the historical context into which he places his characters.

Here is a brief synopsis –

A young Confederate captain with a grisly past as a cavalry raider in Tennessee is on his way home to his family plantation north of Houston in the last days of the Civil War. In Austin, Capt. Jerod Robin is accused of murder and is thrown into the stockade by U.S. Army Capt. Santana Leatherwood, a Texan whose family has feuded bitterly for decades with the Robin family. In the stockade Robin meets British novelist and adventurer Edmund Varney, in Austin to write the life story of Lt. Tom Custer, heroic younger brother of famous General George Armstrong Custer. Varney is charged with attempting to steal Tom Custer’s legendary warhorse, Athena, upon whose back Custer recently won two Congressional Medals of Honor. The two prisoners stand trial beside a 16-year-old mulatto girl, Flora Bowprie, who has come from New Orleans searching for her father but has been arrested as a runaway slave. Homicidal events cause the rebel captain, the British author and the young fortuneteller to flee from a Cavalry squad led by Santana Leatherwood and Tom Custer, mounted on his great Arabian horse. The story races to the inevitable showdown between the Robins and Leatherwoods, two families on opposite sides in the Civil War. But, before the final confrontation Jerod Robin hears a dark accusation about his birth and his mother that lends a special ferocity to the showdown. Then the story of “Custer’s Brother’s Horse” takes a surprising twist. This is a horse for the ages.


In recent narration projects I’ve gone from Jepp to Lemony Snicket and now Miss Peregrine and her charges.  Not a bad run of books aimed at younger readers.  The LOC annotation says this book written by first-time author Ransom Riggs is intended for senior high and older.  So, that includes me, right?

I think so!  Because I enjoyed this book very much.  I’ve always liked stories that step outside the bounds of what we collectively believe to be reality into the realm of “what might be.”  You want to call that fantasy?  OK!  But the trick to writing a story like this is stepping over the line without stretching the story’s credulity so far that the thread binding the reader to his or her own willing suspension of disbelief is pulled to the breaking point.  I know that may be different for different readers.

For me, I have to say that Mr. Riggs did a nice job in putting together characters that I wanted to care about so that I stayed invested in this very entertaining tale. For example, his young protagonist Jacob Portman is a fully modern teenager with the attendant social angst, complex family relationships, and even a therapist to help him through tough times.

Does Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children break new ground?  No.  As many before him, Ransom Riggs borrows from old world folklore to support his plot devices and “unusual” characters.  But he does it successfully.

I understand that there will be a sequel.  That’s good news!  In addition, it appears a movie based on this book is in the works.  Those involved reportedly include 20th Century Fox, producers Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, and Jenno Topping, screenwriter Jane Goldman (adapting the book into a screenplay), and director Tim Burton.  Whoever does it, I look forward to the movie.

Here’s a quick snippet from the book jacket –

A mysterious island.  An abandoned orphanage.  And a strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience.  As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar.  They may have been dangerous.  They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason.  And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Check out this trailer for the book (directed by Ransom Riggs) which may give us some ideas about the movie project under development.


Lemony Snicket: Who Could That Be at This Hour?

I have to say that I always enjoy narrating kids books.  They don’t always come my way because so many are more appropriately voiced by female narrators.  But when I get one, I like the fun characters that children’s books allow me to inhabit.  So I was really psyched when I was given my latest project – a book by the incredibly popular Lemony Snicket.

You know what?  This is my first Lemony Snicket book!  I did see the 2004 movie, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  But not having read the other books, I wasn’t sure what to expect.   Well … this book is fun.  It has some crazy shennanigans.  And you can never tell exactly what’s up because “the map is not the territory.”  And everyone – esp. Lemony – keeps asking the wrong questions.  But that’s what keeps us in suspense.

Here is a brief teaser from Lemony Snicket himself –

In a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket began his apprenticeship in an organization nobody knows about. He started by asking questions that shouldn’t have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not be published, in four volumes that shouldn’t be read ….

The 2004 movie is an adaptation of the first 3 books in the A Series of Unforunate Events series and follows the Beaudelaire orphans.  Just in case you missed it, you can watch the trailer below.