Winter Tithe: A Solstice Story

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This holiday, I’d like to share a little tale we wrote for the season. If you are already familiar with the OF CATS AND DRAGONS fantasy series, you will recognize some names and references. But this story stands alone as well.

WINTER TITHE takes us to another corner of the world OF CATS AND DRAGONS. We find ourselves in the land of Kharakhan on the eve of the winter solstice. This time our hero is in fact a ten-year-old girl — Tokara, one of Omen’s young relatives on the Deldano side of the family, whose strong curiosity and loyalty to her sister drive her toward a dangerous encounter. But our girl has a brave heart and an irrepressible spirit, and the longest night of the year still holds many secrets:

 

Chapter 1: Storybook

Tokara Deldano eyed the leather-bound tome resting in her mother’s lap. The girl had seen the dusty book before, high on the shelf and out of reach. Is Momma going to read to us? She pressed her lips together, trying to suppress the squeal of joy building up inside.

They had retired to the castle’s solar, the place where the whole family usually spent winter evenings playing board games or cards. Unfortunately her father and brothers were away for the evening.

Despite the early hour, it was already dark, and — even though it was well before her own bedtime — Tokara felt tired and chilled to the bone. Caia, who was four years younger than Tokara, had started yawning before the pudding had been served and was half-asleep by the time they had climbed the tower stairs to the solar. The relentless harsh winds and weeks of icy temperatures were taking their toll on everybody.

Tokara let her eyes drift over the solar, her favorite room in the castle. Intricate tapestries lined all four stone walls. Her mother had brought the hanging pieces from a faraway land only last fall. Enormous, they depicted faerie stories and tales of magical beasts that made Tokara’s imagination tumble.

The room’s chilly stone floors had been layered with plush rugs, which created a spongy cushion for her every step, but this evening she’d pulled on two pairs of knitted socks before cramming her feet into her sheepskin-lined house boots. Leaning slightly forward on the stuffed leather hassock, she wiggled her toes, grateful for the arched fireplace so big that it could fit a team of pack mules. Fed throughout the day and evening, the fire kept the solar toasty and drove away the dampness.

Tokara turned her back to the fireplace, enjoying the warmth that spread from her lower back to her shoulder blades. She was glad her mother would not be traveling again until spring. Home was always merry for the Deldano children but never as merry as when their mother returned from one of her long voyages. Tokara also noted happily that her mother’s tremendous desk was bare. The farmers’ tithes had been collected after harvest, and the annual review of the estate and the Deldano lands had been concluded in time for the midwinter feast. According to tradition, the family would soon bring solstice gifts to the inhabitants of the Chain and the farms that surrounded the villages. Tokara always looked forward to the village celebrations and the feast that would follow at the castle.

As an early present, her father had taken both of her brothers ice fishing on Garganey Lake. Tokara shivered to think just how cold her father and the twins would be on this long and starless night. While she liked fishing, she was happy to have stayed behind. Her mother traveled so often throughout the year that having her home was solstice prize enough for Tokara.

The flames in the fireplace jumped up and sent a pleasant blast of warmth up her spine. Tokara looked over at little Caia. The six-year-old lay contently curled on the thick lambskin rugs, nestled between the family’s five hunting dogs. Caia and the dogs were fast asleep; the youngest, a seventy-pound monster of a six-month-old puppy, snored in Caia’s tightly wound grasp.

“I think Howler belongs to Caia,” her mother said softly. “He’s taken to her.”

Tokara nodded firmly. She longed to pet the pup’s short velvety coat but kept her hands to herself.

“You don’t mind?” Her mother turned her bright and penetrating gaze on her.

“A little.” Tokara could never lie to her parents. “I thought Howler would be my special dog.” She shifted her body and leaned toward the leather chair to be closer to her mother. Dressed in warm robes that brought out the green of her eyes, her honey-blond curls loose around her shoulders, Kadana Deldano looked far less commanding than usual.

Tokara loved these rare moments, when her mother was relaxed and completely present. She admired her mother greatly, but at times like this, Tokara’s heart swelled with adoration as well. Momma is the most beautiful woman in the world.

“Why did you think that?” Her mother wasn’t searching for a specific answer; she just wanted to know the truth.

“Well, I thought, since Fergus and Liam and Becca and Rawley are twins, they obviously belong to our twins.” Tokara thought about how one of each of the hound twins had sought out one of her twin brothers to follow around and worship. “Fergus and Becca are always with Rask. And Liam and Rawley can’t wait for Reeve to play with them, even though they are really working dogs.”

“You noticed the dogs didn’t go ice fishing with the Rask and Reeve?” her mother pointed out with a smirk. “The dogs stayed here where it’s warm.”

Tokara nodded, aware. “I though when Daddy brought home a puppy this summer, that it would be my puppy. Because I’m next in line.”

“I see why you might think that.”

“But Caia loves Howler. Can’t sleep without him.” Tokara spoke from experience. “He’s a baby, and she’s our baby. So, it all does make a lot of sense.”

“You sound very grown up, my sweet girl.” Her mother put her hand on the leather tome. “The giants of the earth could learn from you.” She smiled. “Did I ever tell you the story of Straakhan . . . and Bumpus?”

Tokara leaned against the overstuffed arm of the chair. “I don’t know that story, Momma.”

Kadana opened the great book to the middle and began to flip pages, searching for the story. The leather binding brushed softly against her woolen robes.

Tokara held her breath. Her mother didn’t often take time to read to them. Far more often she’d take her children hunting or run them through sword drills or archery practice. Under her mother’s strict tutelage, Tokara had learned to ride a pony when she was only three. Story time was more the realm of her father and sometimes the Melian relatives on the rare occasions they visited.

Kadana carefully shifted the book, folding out a longer page to three times its length. The rustling of paper caught Howler’s attention. The puppy raised his copper head, looked around the room, bleary-eyed, and gave a hearty yawn. Then he settled back down and rested the full weight of his head on Caia’s shoulder. The little girl didn’t stir.

“In days long ago . . .” The story began the traditional way. “Straakhan built his castle in the impenetrable forest of—”

“Is it our castle, Momma?” Tokara thought she already knew the answer.

“Yes, this is the castle Straakhan built,” her mother confirmed.

Tokara sighed. “A castle built by the one of the giants of Imlidral. . .” She let the mystery of it hang in the air.

“Straakhan wasn’t just one of the giants of Imlidral, you know. The blood of the faerie coursed through him as well,” her mother went on. “And once, when the days were short and the nights were long, Straakhan left his castle to search for a companion.

“He didn’t like spending time with the other giants. But he had grown weary of being alone. So, he sought new company.” Her mother looked up from her book. “What kind of companion do you think he found?

“Wouldn’t he seek a human companion?” Tokara asked. “A friend?”

“Remember, this was in days long ago,” her mother said. “So long ago that there were no humans.”

Tokara considered. “Was it a cat?” she asked, finally. “A mighty, fierce cat like Tormy?” She’d never met the talking cat, which was rumored to be the size of a pony, but the stories told of Omen and Tormy’s adventures were fantastical and amazing. She wondered if they were all true.

“I don’t know if Straakhan knew about Tormy’s kin,” her mother said. “I’ve never heard stories of such cats before.”

“My third guess . . .” Tokara looked at the pile of dogs. “My third guess is that he sought the company of a dog.”

“He would have, my dearest.” Her mother flipped the pages of the book. “But in those days so long ago, there were no dogs.”

“No dogs, Momma?” Tokara set her lips to a pout. “Dogs have always been. Haven’t they?”

“Nothing has always been.” Kadana tapped the page.

The story wasn’t going the way Tokara had expected. Her lips trembled slightly, questions dancing through her head like snowflakes caught up in an unexpected gust. “Did Straakhan ever find a pet?” she asked finally.

“Not a pet,” her mother corrected. “A companion. There’s a big difference.”

“Did he find a companion, Momma?”

“Straakhan went out into the forest. In the deepest, darkest part of the woods, he saw a great beast. The creature was so large and so fierce, he dared not approach it, but he watched its movements for many days.

“It was mighty indeed: large jaws filled with fearsome, snapping teeth; fat paws round as stones with claws drawn out and sharp; a coat as brown as the earth and as thick and long as pine needles. When it roared, the trees trembled and the moon hid behind the sun.

“The creature holed up in a cave for a long time, and Straakhan lay in wait, his patience growing thin. When the mighty one emerged from the cave again, Straakhan knew the wait had been worth it.

“With her, for Straakhan learned then that the creature was a female, were four little ones of her kind. Three were brown like their mother, but one — the largest — was white as milk and had eyes blue as the sky at noon.

“Over many months of waiting and watching, Straakhan won the trust of the mother. He brought her food, watched over the cubs, and protected them from enemies. A season passed, and the cubs grew.

“One day, the family moved on while Straakhan slept. He woke to find them gone and the cave empty. His heart was broken, for he had come to love them all.

“But as he turned away, knowing he would have to return to his empty castle all alone, the snowy white youngling with the blue eyes came to his side.

“He named him Bumpus.”

“Bumpus is a funny name,” Tokara interrupted.

“Bumpus is a funny name, and Straakhan was delighted by his funny companion.” “Was Bumpus a good companion?”

“The very best, most loyal companion. Bumpus grew to be incredibly big and strong. His long coat was white in winter and golden in summer. Bumpus followed Straakhan everywhere, like a puppy.”

“Is there a picture in the book?” Tokara asked impetuously.

Her mother stiffened slightly, but she turned the book so Tokara could study the folded-out page.

The parchment was brittle but the picture seemed fresh, nearly gleaming. A tall, handsome man in leathers stood next to an enormous creature Tokara thought looked like both a wolf and a bear.

“Is that Bumpus?” she asked, pointing her finger at the white wolf-bear. “His neck is thick; his legs are like tree stumps; his jaw is round like a bear’s, but everything else about him is like a wolf. And he walks on four feet.”

Her mother nodded. “And don’t forget, Straakhan was a giant. So Bumpus is much larger than a regular wolf standing next to a regular man.”

Tokara thought that Straakhan in the painting was nearly as handsome as her oldest brother. “Straakhan looks a lot like Beren,” she said absently.

Her mother chuckled softly.

“I don’t recognize this language, Momma.” Tokara tilted her head to look at the odd letters, which appeared to her as if a chicken had danced across the page.

“The writing is very, very old,” her mother said. “Don’t worry. You won’t have to learn it.”

Tokara wanted to hear more, but a powerful yawn took hold of her. She quickly flung her hands to her face to cover her mouth.

“Straakhan and Bumpus were the best of companions. They traveled the world and had many adventures.” Her mother closed the book, stifling a yawn of her own. “It’s getting to be bedtime, for all of us.”

“Were Bumpus and Straakhan companions forever?” Tokara hoped to draw out the tale.

“Not forever, my sweet.” Her mother returned the book to the side table.

Though afraid to hear more, Tokara couldn’t stop herself from asking. “What happened?” she whispered anxiously.

A sad smile played on her mother’s lips. “What always happens. When it was time for Bumpus to pass, Straakhan wouldn’t accept it. Straakhan, through his faerie blood, was immortal. He wanted his companion to be immortal as well.”

“And that couldn’t happen.” Tokara felt a lump form in her throat.

“Oh no, Tokara.” Her mother took a deep breath. “It did happen. Straakhan railed against the gods and nature. He found a way to make Bumpus immortal.”

“But then everything was all right.” Tokara didn’t understand why her mother had made it seem like the story’s end would be sad.

“Straakhan made a lot of enemies in his quest to make Bumpus immortal. He defied many powerful immortals and put worlds in danger. He cared for nothing but obtaining his goal. Straakhan got what he wanted. But not the way he wanted it.

“Once Bumpus was immortal like Straakhan, the powerful ones he had offended punished Straakhan. They banished him to a solitary realm, a place that could only hold one immortal at a time. If a second immortal joined him there, they would both be torn apart, splintered into the tiniest bits of energy and pure power. Destroyed for eternity.

“If Bumpus hadn’t been immortal, he would have been able to join Straakhan in his exile. The very gift of immortality held them apart, will hold them apart for all eternity.”

Tokara’s eyes stung. “What happened to Bumpus?”

“Bumpus was left all alone. His family long dead, none of his kind walked the earth.”

Tokara frowned. “This is only a story, right Momma?”

Her mother tilted her head. “This happened in days so long ago, it might as well be called ‘only a story.’ But I want you think of the responsibility that comes with gaining a companion. Straakhan ruined himself for the love of Bumpus; and his heart breaks every day anew.”

Tokara looked over at Caia snuggling closer to Howler. “So, is it bad to have a companion? Does it always end in sadness? If it’s like that, I don’t think I want one.”

“My little philosopher,” her mother said. “You have to live and love wherever your heart takes you. And sometimes love of another takes you down a thorny path. That is life.”

Tokara looked at her mother’s smiling face and the cozy dog pile, her sister at its center. “Life is beautiful and cruel then.”

“Let’s get you girls ready for bed,” her mother said. She scooped Caia from the rug, lifting the sleeping girl as if she weighed less than a feather.

Howler, stretching and yawing, padded out of the room after them.

Tokara’s eyes fell on the leather tome. Impulsively, she picked it up from the table and followed her mother and sister to the sleeping chambers.

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To download the whole story for free  visit us at

http://ofcatsanddragons.com/books/11/

 

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Don’t Judge a Book by… Its Indie Author Roots #2

guest blog by Bonita Gutierrez

I’m a fan of books. I love to read. I read almost every night. Best sellers. Comics. Small press. Self-published. You name it. But it wasn’t until I became an indie author/publisher myself that I realized just how hard it is for a self-published author to get exposure for his/her work. That’s why I pitched Camilla this blog series (Check out our first installment here), and why we’ve made it our mission to get the word out about the great indie authors you should be reading.

So get those e-readers ready. (Don’t have a Kindle. No problem. Just download the FREE app to the device of your choice and voilà you’re reading 21st century-style!)

Here’s the next batch of books to download…

Four o'Clock Alice

FOUR O’CLOCK ALICE

by Vanessa Ravel

Dark Gothic Fantasy

Book blurb:

Alice Davies would rather die than harm another living soul, but death seems to follow her everywhere. And as the corpses start to pile up, the villagers of Dolwicke start to whisper.

Little Alice may seem terrifying, indeed, but there is another, more sinister threat afoot in Dolwicke. An ancient diabolical entity has infiltrated mankind, its essence spreading like a cancer among men, women and children and drowning their humanity in a cesspool of wickedness. Finding nourishment in the ravages of war and plague, the insidious being also pines for Alice, who can’t shake the feeling that someone or something is watching her from the forest just outside her bedroom window. But as long as she obeys the mysterious four o’clock curfew imposed by her parents, she is safe from her invisible stalker. At least, that’s what her parents tell her.

Desperate to uncover the truth behind her mysterious curse, Alice embarks on a frightening journey of self-discovery and transformation that will ultimately lead her to face an ancient enemy and to discover a world she not only belongs in, but where she reigns supreme. In her courageous attempt to destroy her enemy and save mankind from its infusion of evil, Alice will have to open her eyes to truths that seem too ugly to face.

FOUR O’CLOCK ALICE link

 

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DEMON HUNTER SACRIFICE

by J. Thorn, Lindsey Buroker, Zach Bohannon & J.F. Penn

Supernatural Fantasy Thriller

Book Blurb:

A relic thief.
An ex-military Mom.
A grief-stricken father willing to do anything to save his son.
An American Demon Hunter.
All aboard the 8.05pm from Chicago to New Orleans for 19 hours that will change their lives.

When the relic of an ancient blood cult is used to summon the dead and open a portal to the beyond, demons escape onto the train. As the body count rises, each must fight to save their own lives and those of the people they love. New friendships are forged in the battles and love blossoms in the carnage.

But who will have to pay the ultimate sacrifice?

A dark fantasy from four bestselling authors who just happened to be on the 8.05pm from Chicago one March evening…

DEMON HUNTER SACRIFICE link

 

Enchanted

THE SUMMER SOLSTICE ENCHANTED

by K.K. Allen

Young Adult Fantasy

Book Blurb:

After Katrina Summer’s mother dies a mysterious and tragic death, she is hurtled into life at Apollo Beach where she learns the legends of her Ancient Greek ancestors. Kat’s world unravels as secrets from her heritage are exposed—secrets that her mother purposefully concealed. Leading to her 16th birthday, the day of the Summer Solstice, Kat becomes frightened when enigmatic visions and disturbing dreams haunt her. As her visions become reality fear turns to terror as powerful forces threaten the lives of those around her. Amidst the turmoil, Kat meets the gorgeous boy-next-door, Alec Stone, who becomes her sole solace in an evocative world of mythological enchantment and evil prophecies that lurk around every corner…

THE SUMMER SOLSTICE ENCHANTED link

 

Translucid

TRANSLUCID (DRAGONFIRE STATION BOOK 1)

by Zen DiPietro

Science Fiction

Book Blurb:

What if you woke up knowing how to do your job, but not your own name? What if you had to rely on other people to tell you who you were?

What if you thought they were wrong?

Emé Fallon is the security chief of Dragonfire Station, and she does a damn good job of it. That’s where her competence ends. Outside of work, she has a wife she doesn’t know, a captain who seems to hate her, and a lot of questions that don’t add up.Without a past, all she has is the present, and she’ll stop at nothing to ensure she has a future.

Dragonfire Station is sci-fi thriller series with technothriller and cyberpunk elements. It features adventure, plot twists, action, witty and amusing dialogue, and most of all highly developed characters who feel like real people you know. In a nutshell, it’s about kick-ass, flawed people who are doing their best overcome the challenges thrown their way.

Fans of Firefly and The Expanse will love this new series.

TRANSLUCID link

 

And last but not least, Camilla has written an extraordinary Urban Fantasy Myth Punk story that I absolutely love. And right now, it’s FREE! (8/7/17 – 8/11/17)

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THE SEVENTH LANE

by Camilla Ochlan

Urban Fantasy Myth Punk

Blurb:

When work-a-day corporate stiff John Cade makes a delivery to a prodigiously eccentric client, his world spins out of control. Hunted by otherworldly creatures in a wild chase, he hurtles through an abruptly unfamiliar Los Angeles as the boundaries of reality bend and blur. Will Cade hold on to his sanity or be driven off the edge by forces beyond his comprehension? The answer can only be found in the Seventh Lane.

THE SEVENTH LANE link

Experience The Seventh Lane on Audible, narrated by Audi Award winner PJ Ochlan!

https://www.amazon.com/The-Seventh-Lane/dp/B00QKZ0NM4/

 

Check out all The Werewolf Whisperer series books on: http://www.werewolfwhisperer.com

Like and Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/wwwhisperer

And Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/werewolfwhisperer/

 

Audiobook Magic

Cover art for Night's Gift

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

downpourOCAD

OF CATS AND DRAGONS: Start here

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Epic adventure. Arcane magic. Monsters. Heroes. Talking cats.

And we’re just getting started!

My best friend Carol and I have roamed the OF CATS AND DRAGONS world for over three decades, creating our stories in the telling — from our high school Dungeons & Dragons games to a private website where we’ve posted over three hundred stories and story fragments for each other alone. But now we are getting ready to share what we’ve conjured up.

It wasn’t easy, sorting through generations of characters, plots long and short, episodes half-forgotten and threads of tales never completed. From the moment Carol and I decided to write that first OF CATS AND DRAGONS novel, it took nearly a year of combing through storylines, weighing character arcs, before we arrived at a starting point.

Other decisions had to be made as well. While our stories range from Grimdark to slapstick, we had to pick one path. Ultimately we had to go with what the core really was — heroic fantasy with a touch of whimsy. A GAME OF THRONES without the naughty bits.

And while we had literally dozens of possible protagonists to choose from, we agreed that Omen and Tormy were at the center of our fantastical universe.

And from where should we launch the tale of their beautiful friendship? After a couple of false starts and at least another year of trying to figure it out, we decided to begin — at the beginning.

NIGHT’S GIFT is the pilot to our new series, one we hope to renew book after book for as long as we can still put word to page.

We are aiming for a late summer 2017 release date, but if you want to get a free pre-release ebook copy of NIGHT’S GIFT, just sign up here.

You can find us many places:

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Camilla:

Twitter @CamillaOchlan

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Carol:

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Seething about Indie Books

Indie Publishing is in transition. What used to be sneered at as a vanity press is now an acceptable option for publishing. The hardest part about being an indie author is getting your book to the right reader. And as a reader, it’s not easy finding the right book when all you have to go on is a cover and a quick description. You’re more willing to invest your time when some trusted source has vetted the book for you. But big publications and many bloggers won’t review indie authors. Understandably, they are inundated with requests from traditional sources. And there are just so many indie books available.

Ever the proactive badass, my writing partner Bonita — who reads a ton — has made it her mission to get the word out about some awesome indie books. And The Seething Brain is happy to host the new series:

Don’t Judge a Book by its . . . Indie Author Roots

Self-publishing isn’t new. Authors such as Mark Twain and Stephen King published their first works themselves. So why do the independent, self-published books of today get such a bum rap? Yes, when this new world of self-publishing first emerged (largely due to internet giant, Amazon), a great deal of indie books may have been poorly written and poorly edited (I know. I’ve been reading e-books since the first generation Kindle hit the market). But what was once true a decade ago is not necessarily true today.

When Camilla and I first entertained the idea of self-publishing, I asked a good friend (and best selling author) what we should do. Without hesitation, he told me to self-publish. Not because he’d thought we couldn’t get published, but because publishing houses were just not making the deals they once had. He told me that I’d be better off doing it for myself. And I had to agree (Besides, I’m not one to sit around and wait for someone’s approval. Nope. I’d rather get it done and get it out there).

It would seem other writers feel the same. As the book publishing industry continues to be in flux, many authors — both conventionally published and first-time novelists — are forgoing the long and arduous submission process (a process made a thousand times harder if you don’t have an agent) and uploading their e-books to Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Add in the rapid development in technology and the common use of social media, and today’s authors are unshackled from the traditional publishing houses. (By the way, you don’t need a Kindle to read a Kindle e-book. Just download the FREE app to the device of your choice and you’re off to the races!)

And many self-published authors have gone on to become Best Sellers, which in turn, opened up new opportunities and propelled their careers to new heights. Lisa Genova’s Still Alice stayed on the New York Times Best Sellers list for 40 weeks and was adapted into a major motion picture, garnering both an Oscar and a Golden Globe in the Best Actress category. While Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series helped land him the coveted job of writing Star Wars: Aftermath. (One of my favorite authors writing my favorite series. Yay for me!)

Like the indie film boom of the 90’s, the independent, self-publishing industry is experiencing its own exciting renaissance. So in the spirit of this literary revival, Camilla and I will be writing an on-going blog series, highlighting exceptional indie novelists and their work.

Without further ado, here are a few books I think are well worth a read…

richbook

FALL FROM GRACE by J. Edward Ritchie

Fantasy

Book blurb:

Heaven: a paradise of all that is pure in Creation. Led by brothers Michael and Satanail, the Angelic Host is a testament to cosmic harmony and love. When an unprecedented revelation threatens to uproot their peace, a schism splits the Host’s loyalties. Every angel has to make a choice: faith or freedom. Good or evil.

Salvation or damnation.

War consumes Heaven in the first and most destructive loss of life that Creation will ever know. As brother turns on brother, the fate of both Heaven and Earth rests in the hands of the Creator’s chosen son, Michael. How far will he go, what will he sacrifice in the name of their Father, to protect his family?

Witness the tragic downfall of a civilization as told from both sides of the bloody rebellion. More than myth, more than legend, Heaven’s war will forever stand as a harrowing warning that even the purest of souls can fall from grace.

https://www.amazon.com/Fall-Grace-J-Edward-Ritchie-ebook/dp/B00UJVMN32

Fear U

FEAR UNIVERSITY by Meg Collett

Urban Fantasy

2017 eLit Awards Gold Winner in Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Book Blurb:

I’ve always known I was a monster, and I don’t mean some teenage vampire shit either.

My mother abandoned me when I was ten years old because I have a freakish mutant disease that makes me incapable of feeling pain. I bounced from one foster family to another because too many people like to test my medical condition in a game of “Try To Make Ollie Scream.” At sixteen, I killed a man for taking that game too far.

Two years later, I’m still on the run in Kodiak, Alaska. Here, I’m the most dangerous person around, until I come face to face with a creature that should only exist in folklore. The monster is an aswang, and I, with my medical anomaly, am uniquely qualified to hunt the beast that haunts the night. At least, that’s what the two scarred, mostly crazy ’swang hunters tell me when they kidnap me and take me to Fear University, a school where young students learn to hunt and kill aswangs.

I arrive at the university a prisoner, but I stay because I finally find my freedom.

For once in my life, I belong. I’m needed. I make a home for myself inside the university masquerading as an old Alaskan prison. Something close to happiness warms my icy heart when I’m with my scarred, still mostly crazy tutor, Luke Aultstriver. For a murdering runaway like me, Fear University is a haven where I can put my skills to good use hunting monsters in the night.

But when certain truths come to light and even more lies are exposed, I fear that I, Ollie Andrews, am the worst kind of monster of all. And, maybe, they should be hunting me.

https://www.amazon.com/Fear-University-Meg-Collett-ebook/dp/B017CK0K28

roestta1

ROSETTA by Stephen Patterson

Science Fiction

Book Blurb:

The future isn’t what it used to be for Tony Calanis Palermo. He’s a man with a past.
It has been a long fall from a member of the most clandestine branch of Lunar Intelligence to a mere able spaceman first class aboard a merchant starship. But after his latest misadventure, it will be an even longer fall to working out a long term indenture on a backwater sugar plantation. In fact, it would be a death sentence.
Except that he’s just been offered a single chance at freedom: If he uses his skills to obtain the language key of the mysterious, and dead, alien Galactic race before anyone else can get it. That anyone else may include, but may not strictly be limited to, interplanetary policorps, super soldiers, genetically modified assassins, heavily armed colonial revolutionaries, and the combined military might of the Union of Man.
Enough trouble for anyone’s plate, perhaps.
But once on the ground, Tony discovers the still functioning personality daemon of a quasi-religious mutant criminal megalomaniac that had once tried to start World War Four just before Tony . . . killed her. Turns out, that’s a problem.
Only he also decides to rescue an indentured savant slave girl and her dying pet Angel.
Has he finally bitten off more than he can chew?
But the real question is: Can he stay alive long enough to succeed?

https://www.amazon.com/Rosetta-Stephen-Patterson-ebook/dp/B01M9F625F

wetwoman

THE WET WOMAN by Alejandra Díaz Mattoni

Urban Crime Thriller

Book Blurb:

Magdalena, or “Magda,” Amador kills people for a living. Spending her teenage years in forced prostitution, befriending the pharmacist who lived next door to the brothel, and building up a steely facade made her the perfect candidate for the murder-for-money lifestyle. It’s not sexy, but neither is flipping burgers.

Sex slavers kidnapped Magda when she was seven and smuggled her to Barcelona, Spain. Decades later, she returns home to the Los Angeles suburbs to find a bickering blended family nose-deep in money laundering, human smuggling, and death threats. Magda wants to protect her family and their business, but what she needs is to make amends with her wrongdoings, face her past traumas, and finally find a place in the world where she can fit in.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MJ485A2

And a final seethe on what’s new in indie publishing news:

 Somewhere in the recent general news splat, I picked up on the narrative that e-book sales are down. I didn’t really know anything about it until I listened to The Creative Penn podcast #320. It seems that after the UK Publishers Association reported that e-book sales are down, some news outlets turned the Publisher’s Association’s findings into “the sky is falling.” CNN and The Guardian ran articles that made the outlook for e-book publishing’s future look pretty gloomy.

Since I came into the story a little late, I heard some facts that put things in perspective before I fully grasped what had been said and what repercussions that could have.

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn said, “Whenever you see these stories, remember they only report books with ISBNs – so most indie e-book sales are not included, and neither are Kindle Unlimited page reads.”

That information makes all the difference. Penn also linked to an article from the Digital Reader that breaks down how, without taking into consideration the non-ISBN books (like the Amazon ASIN – Amazon Standard Identification Numbers ), the Publishers Association missed about 38% of sales (indie authors). A more comprehensive look at the numbers is posted on the Author Earnings site.

So, why was the story presented as the death of the e-book when the facts support that the e-book market thriving? Was it a misinterpretation or is something more nefarious going on?

I don’t know.

But, in case you’ve heard the dirge for the e-book, there’s more to it. E-books aren’t going anywhere. Not to worry.

Check out all The Werewolf Whisperer series books on: http://www.werewolfwhisperer.com

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