Outfitting an Adventurer

 

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When we first started writing these books, Omen dressed in generic leather armor and wore his great sword on his back. But after a while I started to wonder, just how generic IS leather armor, and is it really practical to wear a sword on your back? Certainly popular movies and video games would imply that such is the norm. Of course if you watch carefully you’ll notice some curious things — you rarely see a movie actor actually drawing the sword from the sheath on their back — the camera cuts away, and when it cuts back, there’s the sword in their hand. And you NEVER see them sheathe the sword. They might mime putting it behind their back, but you never see it actually go into the sheath.

Video games are even worse — typically the sword just sort of floats on the character’s back and is drawn with the click of a button.

Thus started the research.

There are some awesome Youtubers who have actually covered both these topics in length: Shadiversity and Metatron.

I am a fan of both and have taken a lot of their advice for my writing over the years. Shadiversity has several detailed videos about leather armor — no, it was not ‘generic’ and while you do occasionally find some instances of its use, it was fairly rare. It was a lot more practical to make useful things like shoes out of leather back in the day. A knight who was not wearing full plate armor, was typically wearing a gambeson made of cotton. The gambeson was also worn under the plate armor for both added padding and added protection. Multiple layers of cotton actually make great armor — capable of even stopping an arrow. Leather, unless specially treated or inset with iron, probably won’t stop an arrow.

And so Omen’s leather became a gambeson in the first book, Night’s Gift. He’s actually wearing real armor in the Autumn King trilogy made of specialized alloy found in his homeland of Lydon. (Yes, I researched iron, iron ore smelting, the differences between iron and steel, and how to make alloys. I’m addicted!) As a prince he’s able to get any type of armor he might want — but when he’s just goofing around and not expecting trouble (silly boy!) the gambeson was sufficient for his needs.

Which brings me to his sword — he DOES wear his sword on his back. Both Shadiversity and Metatron have covered this subject repeatedly. Originally both said that no, wearing your sword on your back is not a thing — especially a long sword (there are historical records of people wearing swords on their backs, but it was fairly rare). It’s extremely difficult to draw a sword worn on your back — you can’t draw it past a certain length simply because your arms are not long enough. And putting it away is a bit of a nightmare — same problem with the length, but also how are you supposed to see where to put it?

My problem was the sheer size of Omen’s sword. Omen is freakishly tall and freakishly strong due to his immortal heritage. The great sword he carries is also extremely large — at least six feet in length. It would be highly impractical to carry such a weapon on a belt holder at his side. It’s just too big. He pretty much has to carry it on his back. And so I came up with the idea of the quick release latch on the baldric (strap worn across the body to hold the sword in place). When he needs to draw the weapon, he simply releases the strap, and the sheath and sword slide free of his back allowing him to draw it with two hands.

The reality is swords are not really ‘quick draw’ devices. This isn’t the old west where survival depended on who drew first. Typically you have some sort of warning when it comes to a sword fight. And in Omen’s case he can also use his psionics to push an enemy away from him while he draws his weapon.

This research (both Shadiversity and Metatron) is also the reason why Dev does not wear his arrow quiver on his back. Ever tried to run with a quiver of arrows on your back? (I actually have.) They fall out the moment you pick up even a little bit of speed. They need to be firmly secured in the quiver — which pretty much defeats the whole quick drawn idea as well. An archer who wanted to shoot quickly either carried the extra arrows in his hand, or kept them stuck in the ground within easy reach. Otherwise they were securely bound to keep them from falling all over the place.

So yes, Omen wears his sword on his back — or keeps it strapped to Tormy’s saddle when it isn’t needed.

To my surprise, a few days ago, Shadiversity released a new video on this subject. He was so excited to announce that he had discovered a way to actually wear your sword on your back (he’s a delightful personality if you’re interested in this sort of topic). He’s invented a specialized sheath for exactly this purpose — allows him to both drawn and re-sheath his sword with one hand. And in his words — it really does look cool!

Cover art for Night's Gift

 

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Hurrah! The SUMMER’S FALL audiobook is here!

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Now on Audible – download here

Listen to the dulcet sounds of Tormy’s brogue and Tyrin’s cursing grawlixes!

Click here to sample

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SUMMER’S FALL

What do you do when your talking cat accepts a crazy quest?
If you’re Omen, you jump right in.

And before Omen knows it, he’s crossing the Luminal Sea on a miraculous ship called the Golden Voyage. But the voyage is anything but golden.

In the shadow of a devastating hex, pursued by a stealer of souls, with both interference and help from Tormy and the potty-mouthed kitten Tyrin, Omen faces monsters, ghosts, and grave troubles unshackled by the volatile seasons.

The entire OF CATS AND DRAGONS series is available on Audible right now.

Click here to view.

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⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Nominated by the SOCIETY OF VOICE ARTS AND SCIENCES as best audiobook of the year in both Young Adult and Fantasy categories

Nominated by the AUDIOBOOK REVIEWER as best audiobook of the year in both Young Adult and Fantasy categories

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Listen as Etar finds Tyrin at the edge of a broken world.

Listen as Omen and Tormy chase magic mice in the Divine Library of the Soul’s Flame.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Move over Potter. Stand aside Aslan. There are new heroes in town and they’ve got a giant talking cat! – Amazon review

“Redwall, Nimh, Middle Earth—Of Cats and Dragons will soon stand alongside them. Full of wonder, humor, and adventure, this is the rare series guaranteed to thrill young and old alike. Close your eyes, put on your headphones, and strap on your seat belt! Audie Award winner P. J. Ochlan’s brilliant performance is about to transport you to this enchanting world.” 
—Brent Simons, screenwriter for Megamind and Penguins of Madagascar
Find even more magic, monsters and talking cats at http://ofcatsanddragons.com

Werewolf Wednesday: Beast Navidad

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The holiday season has arrived. At my house, the holiday TV watching started with one of our favorites — Love Actually. It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story are scheduled for their regular Christmas Eve slot, but in the meantime there will be Charlie Brown, Rudolph, Prep and Landing (both episodes), and a selection of random Christmas specials.

This year, we’ve also added The Man Who Invented Christmas to the list. Funny, charming and particularly satisfying to the indie author, this take on A Christmas Carol makes me want to cuddle up in front of the fire and drink hot chocolate — even though it’s currently 80 degrees in Los Angeles.

And of course, I can’t forget the new Doctor Who Christmas special. We will be saying goodbye to Peter Capaldi, but having survived the departure of David Tennant and Matt Smith, I am just focusing on what the future of Doctor Who has to bring.

The fun of putting the season’s pressure on characters we love didn’t escape team Werewolf Whisperer as Bonita and I made the decision to write a little holiday tale starring Lucy and Xochi. ’Cause nothing says Christmas like Werebeasts. At just slightly over 10,000 words (45 pages) it is just a wee nibble, a fast read or a quick listen. And for the holidays, we want to share the story with all of you, both in e-book and audiobook form.

The BEAST NAVIDAD audiobook is performed by Nicol Zanzarella, Audie-winning narrator and genuine badass — (available through Dec 31, 2017)

Click here

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Merry Christmas and have a Werebeast-free New Year!

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Audiobook Magic

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NIGHT’S GIFT has been turned into an audiobook!

It is done, delivered, and I will shout from the rooftops where you can get it. I am so thrilled.

Hearing our story performed has been nothing short of magical for me. As I wrote about in Finding a Voice, it’s an incredible thrill to hear your words performed. As the narrator lends talent and voice to the characters who have only resided in your head, the story goes from ephemeral to real.

So, how did we get here?

This process was somewhat easier for us as authors because my husband P.J. is part of the audiobook industry. He is an Audie Award-winning, multiple Earphones Award-winning, and Voice Arts Award-nominated narrator of hundreds of audiobooks. And, as a narrator, he has a very particular set of skills. Skills he has acquired over a very long career 😉

OF CATS AND DRAGONS‘ audiobook narration requires voices and dialects for scores of monsters, intrepid heroes and talking cats from a range of families, countries, and realms. P.J. more than delivered.

But if you don’t happen to have a narrator in the family, how do you turn your book into an audiobook?

If your publisher bought your audiobook rights, then you just sit back and wait until someone tells you that your audiobook is done. Under those circumstances, sometimes authors get input, sometimes they don’t.

If you are taking the process on yourself, here are a few things to think about:

How to prepare:

Finish your book. Really. Edit your book. Really. Once you give your manuscript to your narrator, you will not be able to do any more editing. It will be set in stone, so make sure you are happy and your manuscript is done, done, done.

Your narrator might find typos and minor grammatical mistakes, and he or she might tell you about them in time to make fixes. But that is not their job. You have to assume that the narrator will read what is on the page, even if it’s utter nonsense. You wrote it, it’s on you and not on them.

I highly recommend you have someone read your work out loud while you follow along in the manuscript. Carol and I have a process that is pretty OCD, so I won’t go into it here. But let me assure you that we read aloud and listen to the manuscript many, many times during our joint editing process. Siri (or any text to speech program) can help you out. The robotic read is torturous to listen to, but you aren’t listening for entertainment, you are listening to catch word repetition repetition and other anomalies.

This is the time to make firm decisions, especially if your book is part of a series. Look ahead. Make sure you describe what characters sound like the first time they appear. And then stick with it. Don’t give recurring characters surprise accents or vocal characteristics in later books. I remember hearing about one extreme example where an established character all of a sudden had an accent in book three of the series. A professional narrator will typically prep the entire manuscript before recording and will know about late surprises, so you have a bit of a safety net with your audiobook. But, and this is just a side note, for your writing in general, it’s a good idea to offer vocal descriptors up front. Whether you are writing a series or a standalone book, it can be jarring to your readers to have an imagined sense of a character radically upended for no reason. You risk taking them out of the story and losing them as a fan.

These are just a few things to consider as you prepare your book to be narrated.

Carol and I have tried to be very conscious about what is to come in OF CATS AND DRAGONS. Book one — NIGHT’S GIFT — is fairly contained. One city, only a handful of characters, but we know the requirements of books to come. We are ten books deep into the series as we are releasing book one, and we have hundreds of stories to draw from.

For example, Avarice, who only has a few lines in NIGHT’S GIFT, will be featured more prominently in other books, and other characters come from the same country she’s from, so her accent has to be logical and sustainable for the overall story.

Further, when you write, keep in mind that your words will be spoken. Have that audiobook in mind. Even if you end up not doing an audiobook, you will improve your writing if you keep an ear to the soundscape you are creating. Write dialogue that can be spoken by humans — this goes for interior thoughts too. Long convoluted sentences, crazy alliteration, and accidental rhyme are the bane of the audiobook narrator (and the reader).

Selecting a Narrator

Unless you are already an established and successful voice over/audiobook narrator or a bankable celebrity, resist the temptation to narrate the book yourself. The technical challenges of audiobook narration are numerous, and as a newbie you’re just setting yourself and your book up for failure. Who needs that pressure?

Think about what voice you want for your narrator: Male? Female? Do you need different voices? Accents? Dialects? Before listening to narrator samples, be really clear what you are searching for. If you just go in and listen to a bunch of samples, you may be swayed away from what’s right for your book. Hear the book first, then listen to narrators. Also, and this is no small consideration, understand what style of narration you want. Do you want a straight (Siri-like) read where the narrator adds no performance? Or do you want a voice performance? There are so many great narrators. And their styles and talents run the gamut. Find the one that is right for your vision.

Once you are certain you know what you want, start exploring professional narration.

You have a choice here to enlist the help of an audiobook producer or you can go it alone with ACX. Either way, you want to be involved, so take your time listening to samples or listening to narrators’ reels. Some authors have gotten very excited about auditioning narrators. Please be respectful. Don’t waste people’s time. Chances are, everything you need to know is already available for your listening pleasure. Do your research, but don’t take advantage of actors’ willingness to do free work in order to win the job. You don’t like writing extra samples to prove you can write when you already have work available for consumption.

But depending on your relationship with the process — producer/publisher/directly with the narrator — you may or may not be in a position to weigh in on the casting and performance. Some audiobook publishers and producers invite the author to complete a questionnaire to provide character input, pronunciations for invented names, places, languages, etc. If you’re working independently and directly with your narrator/producer through a platform such as ACX then you certainly have the opportunity to share your guidance and requests. But just as with the communication through a publisher, timing is essential. Input is welcome prior to production.

If you aren’t married to name pronunciations, it’s actually fun to hear what the narrator comes up with. I had a different pronunciation in mind for the character Riaire, but Carol and I ended up preferring how P.J. said Riaire’s name. So, stay flexible. It can be a fun collaboration if you are open to it.

The ACX platform is set up so the narrator/producer must provide the first 15 minutes for your approval before moving on with the recording. This is an additional opportunity to weigh in on technical quality/production value, tone, and also your last chance for input. You may not rewrite the book at this point. You may not spring brand new, not previously discussed requests on the narrator (“I really need the character to sound like a Scottish Greta Garbo — and please scream all the lines”). However, if you hear something is going in a wrong direction — maybe tonally (“She’s actually happy as she’s sawing through the intruder’s leg”), or something that could generally improve the book — this is your time to speak up.

However, even at this point, be aware that you’ve already cast this professional actor to perform your book. Not every one of his/her choices will match what you’ve imagined, but their creativity and freedom is integral to this stage of the process. Most professional narrators understand the responsibility they have to capture the tone you’ve intended and to not reimagine/reinterpret your book. Attempting to micromanage line readings or character voices is never productive.

When It’s All Done

Carol and I were positively giddy when we first heard P.J.’s narration of NIGHT’S GIFT. Omen has been an important character in the landscape of my imagination, but he’s only ever had my voice. Since this book is written with a tight POV, we get a lot of Omen — both action and his internal thoughts. Hearing Omen’s characteristic swagger mixed with his constant self-examination brought him to life in a whole new way to me. The same is true for Templar — more layers. And forget about all the cool creature voices. It’s one thing to read about the undead alchemist’s hissed “s” and the ringmaster’s flourishes, but hearing these characters spring to life is awesome.

The glory of hearing your book read is unequal to anything I’ve experienced. Screenwriting gives you the great pleasure of seeing your work performed, but remember scripts are rewritten and changed until they are sometimes unrecognizable even to the writer.

Your book is your book. Every word is yours. And once it’s an audiobook, it’s alive.

Alive!

And now it’s time to shout it from the rooftops:

Audible : http://adbl.co/2tPp4NK

Downpour: https://www.downpour.com/night-s-gift?sp=205944

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