Ham, Jam and Spam.

Woah! There’s a whole gamut of stuff to talk about today. It’s been a chuffing amazing week and I am feeling happier than I’ve felt in years, which I am enjoying thoroughly! OK, maybe I’m owed some Karma or something but even the scam phone call we received yesterday morning did us all a favour. First up:

The Audiobook Project

Aroogah! Aroogah! Pretentiousness alert.

OK, now I’m going to get a bit artsy fartsy here and talk about the business of creating … um … can I call it art? Yes, I’m going to call it art! Snortle. What that means, for you, is that this next bit’s going to sound a trifle pretentious. Look I’ll try and keep it funny, OK. But it is a completely fascinating process this and one I’m really enjoying so I wanted to talk about it.

The thing is, I’d thought about doing my own audiobooks, I did stand up after all. I even tried reading a bit of Unlucky Dip. But there’s a big difference between being able to do funny voices and being able to actually act. Acting is an underrated skill. Yep, there’s a reason why these folks who cross into acting from other careers can’t always pull it off. When I played my recording back, I’d managed to make my story so boring and so lacking in energy, and my attempts at the accents were so hammy that I decided that, if anyone did it, it would have to be someone who could do it properly. Which definitely wasn’t me. And that being the case it also, definitely wasn’t anything I could afford. Because you can’t really join audible and offer someone a royalty split when it’s only going to be a couple of quid a month.

And then, up pops this lunatic called Gareth who wants to record my books on audio, lord help him! And he’s brilliant. And extremely professional about it, but not in a boring killjoy I’m-a-professional kind of way. He just is. On a point of honour, I have made it very clear to him that we’ll only make a few pence each a month if we’re lucky, but he seems completely undaunted by this triviality. Well, he enjoyed the books so he’s obviously a bit of a nutter but it does lend this project a whole aura of, is this actually happening?

This week, we’ve been trying to set what the main characters sound like, which is great fun and allows for total geekery. It’s hilarious trying to describe how you want something to sound when you’re not a good enough mimic to demonstrate. And I’m not. Instead I have to go, ‘she’s a bit like so and so in x, y or z film but a bit more gruff,’ or, ‘General Moteurs? Steed from the Avengers with a bit of that clipped Richard Burton delivery in Where Eagles Dare,’ and then he adds a tiny tiny sprinkling of ‘you my fire h-when ready’ Peter Cushing in StarWars because General Moteurs is quite up himself, especially at the start,’ and so on. General Moteurs is quite tricky because he has to sound like an anally retentive neat bot, but at the same time, he can’t sound too elderly because he’s only in his mid 40s and he gets it on with Deirdre. I’ve really enjoyed trawling my memory of old films for the voices I want. It’s like a competition for who can think of the obscurest mainstream film character – Donald Pleasance doing Blowfeldt anyone?

And then Gareth sends through a sound sample in which he talks in his normal voice about what he’s doing and then does thirty seconds of extremely sinister Lord Vernon, and then he flips out of it again and goes, kind of, ‘is that the sort of thing you meant?’ and it’s like two different blokes on the same tape and it’s gloriously bizarre, and, of course, completely hilarious. So I’m sitting there laughing like a drain and McOther is saying, ‘what on God’s earth are you doing?’ And I have to explain and he gives me the kindly smiling-at-toothless-simpletons look. The one he does when McMini and I get giggly about the Arnold’s Produce vans.

And all the time, these characters are becoming more and more real and I am ludicrously excited to hear them taking aural shape (is that a thing? Mmwahahahargh! It is now). I can tell you, for nothing, that if anyone tried to buy the film rights of one of my books, or make a film, and I was remotely involved in any way, I would probably actually die from the excitement. Luckily Gareth seems to be experiencing a similar Tigger-like enthusiasm for it all, so at least we’re both as nuts as each other.

It’s also weird that I have the character voices quite clearly in my head, but when I look at it, it’s more the tone or delivery technique than the actual sound. Does that make sense? So then there’s this odd dichotomy between what I ‘hear’ and what readers might be hearing and what Gareth, who knows and likes the books, hears when he reads them. And also what is possible with one person’s voice – although we haven’t hit any roadblocks on that score yet. So, interestingly, he’s always imagined the Grongles with American accents, like the British baddie thing in reverse, which would have been hilarious, but ill advised in the current climate, I think. I do visit the States from time to time and it would be a pity if I got set upon for dissing the mother nation, especially when so many of them carry firearms.

But the other thing is that the voices in my head are a lot more similar than they can be in an audiobook because they’re basically all talking with my voice, except for the ones I’ve given comedy accents; the Mervinettes and the Parrot and Screwdriver contingent. They need to be different so there’s some re-imagining required, which is where having an actual actor on board changes everything. He did a voice for Sir Robin which sounded exactly like my dad, which is how it is in my head. But then he did this other voice, which is a bit of a cheeky nod at Sir Alec Guinness in Star Wars and obviously there was no contest and the Geek in me chose that one! Mwahahahahrgh!

What I love about something like this is the whole collaboration thing. Writing is a singularly solo pursuit, and now the involvement of someone else brings a different slant to it all and opens all kinds of doors (Lordy me! Pretension anyone? I know, I’m sorry, but I can’t think of another way of putting it). But it’s like having someone else in on the jokes! Also I’m a great believer that a collaboration is just that, and that a person looking at my stuff as a reader will see things I don’t. So, while I’m choosing these voices, some of them are completely new and different to how I thought they’d be and bits of the reading a little different to how it sounds in my head. On the one hand, it’s old ground, on another it’s totally new.

It’s a hell of a thing.

Other news …

After you …

A while back, McMini and I entered a photography competition. It was themed around tall buildings, or at least things, because trees were acceptable too. There were two classes; under 18 and the others (I can’t remember what it was really called) and you could enter up to five photos so I entered five pictures into ‘the others’ section and McMini entered two into the under 18 class.

We were informed that three of mine and one of his had made the shortlist, which was very exciting as it meant they would be part of an exhibition and offered for sale to the unwitting public. We were asked if we could ensure that we, or a representative, came to the exhibition space for the prize giving on Tuesday. We duly turned up, me thinking that McMini had won something. I was dead chuffed when a mum friend from McMini’s old school got a highly commended, but then it turned out one of mine had come chuffing second!!! Fucking Ada I was floored. And then they handed me a big fuck off cheque, which means I can afford to print an eyebombing calendar this year at the kind of price which will give me a proper margin to sell it into other places. So I’m stoked.

For your delectation, the photo which won is the one on the right there.

McOther is also a great deal more relaxed this week, as we get towards a visit from his US-dwelling bro and our trip to Portugal so that’s grand.


Useful things come in odd guises. Yesterday morning some bunch of gitoids with an autodialler rang us early. The entire house was asleep and McOther leapt out of bed and answered. It was the usual recorded message, with a foreign accent, telling us that our internet would be switched off in the next 24 hours unless we pressed one to put us through to the help desk or whatever. Either way, it would be a premium rate line that would cost us £100 a minute or it would go through to someone who’d take a ‘payment’ to get our credit card details. Foggy with sleep, I looked at my watch. It was 7.57 a.m.


‘I have some good news and some bad news,’ I told McOther as he returned to our bedroom. ‘The good news, is, that was a fantastic sleep we’ve just had. The bad news is we’ve both slept through our alarms and McMini is supposed to be leaving for school in three minutes.’

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck! Panic stations!

I ran downstairs and got his bag sorted, stuffing all the PE socks and other bits I’d washed and left to dry over night into it. McMini dressed in about seven minutes flat, McOther too, then with some cheese biscuits in hand (I’m not sure what normal people call those. Savoury crackers?) McMini and McOther fled to the car. McMini didn’t have time for a cup of tea, so he sniffed a tea bag before he left!

They departed ten minutes late and got to the school with five minutes to spare. Go McOther with your flash motor and McMini with your speed dressing prowess! Phnark.

Which just goes to show that even bad things can have good results! Thank heavens it’s half term next week I suspect we need it.


Filed under General Wittering

15 responses to “Ham, Jam and Spam.

  1. WHOOOOOOOO!! Go you! All of you 🙂 sounds like a good streak

  2. How come your life is so much more exciting than mine?

    You deserve some fun – enjoy the audiobook production, and the fan, and the whole thing: I’ll be able to say I knew you when.

    Funny how you can really move, powered by panic. Good job getting all of you out the door. WITH a few calories.

    • Mwahahahargh! Probably because I’m an idiot and I fail to remember, plan or generally do the sensible things normal people do. But I do have to be a bit careful because if I get too bubbly and overexcited I’ll use up all my spoons and then have a bit of a slump.

      As for the panic power, tell me about it! And dry biscuits are king, and fuel McMini most of the time!



  3. Carol Powney

    That Gareth sounds like perfection with perfect timing. More and more people are turning to Audible as well…so who knows. Fingers crossed…no, not your toes, you might fall. x
    As for those bar-stewards who phone, i tried to get them stopped, but police nor phone companies can stop them. As soon as the number is blocked, they get a new one in seconds…now, if i were aware that a number was blocked, would i as a company be dishing out numbers, not realise, and then i could ban the b’s?
    Surely it should be possible.
    Many moons ago, my mum was most upset after a call – pervert – and dad called it a courtesy call. I had to have it explained that some perve had spouted filth to mum, and dad called these courtesy calls.
    So, Comet…in business then, and from whom we’d purchased a new TV…well, man called but didn’t say he was from Comet, he said ‘Hi, I’m Peter, and this is a courtesy call.’
    To which i jumped straight in…calling him, despicable, filthy, foul-mouthed, and f**g perverts like him ought to be castrated with a knife and fork and no anaesthetic… Absolute silence, then, ‘Ermmmm, i don’t think you understand…’
    I told him i understood perfectly well what a courtesy call was and then reiterated what scum and filth he was before slamming the phone down.
    Now i told hubby i’d had a pervert on the line, given him short shrift etc. Felt pleased with myself. Hubby checked the number, did call back, to find it was Comet. He called them to find ‘Peter’ was most upset at the abuse he’d received from our house, when all he wanted to do was check the TV worked well. I was so embarrassed.
    Took a visit to the shop with tub of choccies, and met Peter to explain about my crossed wires. He was only about 17-18, looked at me as if the dragon had come to exterminate him – and that was after i’d explained.
    Sorry, nuisance calls can have some serious effects all round, i will hush and disappear, but hope you enjoy Portugal. Which part are you travelling to?

    • Oh blimey I love your stories! I have signed us up for a nuisance blocking service from BT and apart from that one, there has definitely been a marked reduction in spam calls. The thing is, when you blacklist them, so does everyone else and the number goes to a messaging service nobody listens to. So they think the number is still working and don’t change it, and you get a few spam free weeks before they cotton on. I think the number to dial is 1572.

      And yes, Gareth is awesome!



  4. Oh wow, that sounds great. I’m about two weeks behind you on the audio front, in that the guy I saw on tv has found a slot to do the test audios for Princelings 1 and I might get them next week. I think you’ll probably be working closer with Gareth, but I must ask mine if he’d like to discuss the voices rather than me just write some crib notes for him.

    I always imagined Ewan McGregor would do Fred – but with an English accent. Chris is not far off, from what I saw of his tv interview.

    The only problem is that its sparked a minor edit frenzy and a new edition to be set up relatively quickly. (Actually, after the first two chapters it’s only really minor things, and the main edits will end up being the back matter)

    It’s really, really useful you putting up all your experiences on this, thank you.

    • Very glad it’s useful. I doubt there’s a wrong or right way of doing this, I suspect you and your voice person just do what works for the two of you. From what I gather from the authors I know who have done this, they often ask several different folks to audition and choose one. So if you listen to the sample and it doesn’t work you are fine saying no and looking for someone else. One of the important things, I suspect, is being aware that the person can only do what their voice can do. So they have to fit the narrative in the first place. I reckon Gareth’s about as good a fit for my books as it gets, so that’s lucky! 🤣🤣l

      Re the back matter at the moment mine is lightweight on back and front matter. I may add my website but I like the idea of keeping all the non-story stuff to a minimum.

      Good luck with the frenzied editing and I hope it all works.



  5. Whoot!!!. 😀 … yes, making an audiobook is art, and no, talking about it excitedly to your fans, which we, on the other side of your screen are, isn’t pretentious! 😀 … sniffing a teabag on the other hand is high art, and therefore completely transcends all descriptors. 😀

    • The teabag sniffing was funny, it gave me giggle backs for most of the day. And thanks re the … um … art. Glad it fell the right side of sounding up myself because I am extremely enthusiastic, I have to confess! And thanks for the endorsement.



  6. Diana

    I love your excitement!! nothing pretentious about that. I always think of pretension as pretense. If you are faking all this, you deserve some sort of award!

    I would love to hear that rehearsing and figuring out voices episode. If (or should that be WHEN?) either of you become famous, this stuff could be worth a fortune. Start recording the hilarity 🙂

    Oh — and I love that photo!!

    What was McMini’s best?

    • Nope definitely not faking. The difficult bit is not banging on about it endlessly in Real Life where a lot of people don’t even know I write books. Mwahahahahrgh!

      Thanks for the vote on the photo. McMini’s was a very good shot of the Vimy Ridge monument, all green grass, blue sky and white marble. Unfortunately, it’s not on my phone (which is where I upload all this stuff from) or I’d have put it on. I’ll have to look it out and see if I can post it at some point, although, I’ll have probably forgotten by then.



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