The Werewolf Whisperer: The Raid — Part 4

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— from Book 2 of THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER series (THE ALPHA & OMEGA gives us a glimpse of the same moment in Gabe’s perspective)

They locked eyes, and for a moment he felt safe. He struggled to say her name.

Lucy.

Pain seared his back, but he could tell the bullet hadn’t hit anything important. It couldn’t stop him.

He moved on the gangbangers as they moved toward her. He didn’t know much, but he knew he had to protect her.

He lunged, crashing into his assailants with all the force his injured body could muster. His hand swept down, long fingers sharp and strong, and he cut through one throat with magnificent ease.

He grabbed the smaller man by the face, dangled him off the floor and shook until the spine cracked and life left. Another gangbanger backed away still holding his gun, pointing it toward her.

Protect Lucy.

The urge came to bite down, bidding him to crunch through skin and bone. His teeth violently punctured the flesh like the pressurized pointed bolts of a cattle gun. And blood madness shot through him.

This human was his food. His to eat, and it was good. This food asked to be eaten. It presented itself to him; the unspoken agreement made long ago. He was predator; it was prey. It was food.

“Stop!” Her voice told him what to do. She screamed at the crowd moving toward them. He wanted to spring up, but she blocked him from lunging.

“Down, Gabe.” Lucy pointed to the floor. “Down.”

Everything went very still and very cold. She wanted him to stop feeding, to stop moving. It was in her hands now. Her command. He could rest.

The pain spiked suddenly, and he dropped to the floor, all strength gone. Terror ripped at the edge of his consciousness, but her voice protected him.

“It’s okay. You’re okay.” And he believed her.

 

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The Werewolf Whisperer: The Raid — Part 3

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—from book 1 of THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER series

“LAPD!” Gabe shouted as he and Lucy burst from the shadows.

Tuti, tilting a red plastic gas can, hunched over the injured pit bull.
”Down on the ground!” Gabe followed up. Tuti froze.
An incredulous roar rose from the surprised Locos as Lucy rammed her full force into Tuti, taking him down and knocking the gas can from his hands. She jumped to her feet and buried her boot in Tuti’s midsection. He gasped and curled in on himself.

The crowd of Locos reacted with indecent speed, scrambling down the alley, climbing fences, grabbing dogs and cash as they fled.

A few took in the fact that all that was threatening them were two cops — alone, and one of them was a woman. Like pack predators they closed in, toothy smiles flashing in the glow of the streetlights.

The back door of the bar flew open. A skinny teenage boy wildly waving a handgun ran toward Gabe in a straight line.

“Manny! No!” A screech Lucy barely recognized as belonging to Xochitl Magaña rang out from inside the hallway.

Gabe clotheslined Manny effortlessly and sent his gun flying through the air. Hitting the ground it went off, prompting other frenzied Los Locos to fire blindly in return. The sound of feet running from both sides of the alley, the whirring sound of helicopter blades overhead, the sudden warning shouts of police and ACTF overlapped with the howling and barking of dogs and hollers from Los Locos escaping over the fence. Bodies in flight and pursuit, knocked over cages, men crashing or being thrown into the chain-link — the chaos all around made Lucy feel a weird calm.

She noticed Flaco holding up his phone, filming the entire scene, turning his narco-pop to full blast while tears flowed freely down his scrunched up face.

Freak.

Near her, Gabe scooped up the injured pit bull and bolted towards the safety of the door propped open by Xochitl Magaña.

“You idiots weren’t supposed to grab the dog!” Xochitl sounded furious.

Men came at him from all sides, shouting and flailing. Gabe barreled through them as if they were nothing.

Screeching, Flaco raised his Browning to take aim at Gabe’s back. Lucy clocked the boy in the face with her Beretta. He went straight to the ground.

“You fucking weasel!” she spat and bent down to scoop up his gun.

Someone grabbed her from behind, but she twisted out of the way, losing her grip on Flaco’s 9mm. There was nowhere to go now but to follow Gabe and the pit bull through the open back entrance to Xochitl’s Cantina. Lucy sprinted ahead, tripped over the stoop and gracelessly crashed onto the cantina floor, cutting her hands and bruising her pride.

Crap!

A shot rang out, and for a moment everything seemed to slow down. Lucy saw Gabe, who’d been in front of her and was already in the room, go to his knees on the blue linoleum. He bent forward unnaturally, releasing the pit bull who scrambled under a wooden table.

Lucy lurched forward on the floor to half push and half drag Gabe out of range of the shots that were continuing through the backdoor. From behind the bar, Lucy heard Xochitl scream, “Stop shooting, you assholes!”

The gunfire stopped.

“Lucy.” The deep rumble of Gabe’s voice took her complete focus. Something was very wrong. Gabe’s face had turned pasty white and glistened with sweat. Lucy locked onto Gabe’s eyes — normally deep chocolate brown, they now glowed a mesmerizing amber.

Before she could react, five Locos burst into the room, shouting and waving their guns. Gabe sprang up, knocking Lucy on her back, and crashed into the Locos with breathtaking force and speed.

Gabe’s already large frame now appeared monstrous, the muscles of his back and arms bulging and pulsing, his bones lengthening and cracking. Clean-shaven a moment ago, his face looked dirty with dark stubble. His hair, always cut high and tight — a remnant of his time in the service, now brushed his shoulders and rolled down his back like a messy lion’s mane.

Gabe roared like an animal in agony and ripped through one of the men’s throats with the startling long, curved claws of his bare hand.

He grabbed a gangbanger with the other hand, dangling the man off the floor and shaking him by the face like a rag doll.

Lucy started to black out as what felt like a massive shockwave rocked through her body. She fought to keep her eyes open. The small coherent part of her brain observed that Gabe’s Kevlar vest had a small rip in the back. Even if the vest had stopped a bullet from going through, it couldn’t have saved his ribs from being broken. Yet Gabe moved unencumbered, with the power of ten men.

She fixated on the shaggy black layer of fur that covered her partner’s head and arms. Just then he turned in profile; large pointed, fur-covered ears swiveled back like those of an aggressive dog. Razor-sharp teeth flashed in a tapered lupine jaw, and he bit down on the last gangbanger.

My partner’s a werewolf?

Lucy convulsed as hysteria shot through her like an electric shock.

“SWAT! Drop your weapons! Nobody move!” At that moment, the SWAT team burst through the front door of the cantina.

Gabe spun on the armed men, ready to attack.

“No, Gabe! Stop!” Lucy screamed the command, instinct trumping fear. Gabe hesitated and looked at her with curiosity.

Holy shit! He’s listening to me.

“SWAT! Get on the floor!” an officer roared as the team closed in.

“LAPD. Don’t shoot,” Lucy yelled out and lurched ahead to put her body between Gabe and the SWAT officers. “Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot.” Lucy’s voice gave out. Tears streamed down her face as she tried to squeeze sound from her throat, but her vocal cords wouldn’t obey anymore and violent coughs shook her.

She felt Gabe’s hot breath on her neck and turned to face him, slowly and deliberately.

“Down, Gabe.” She pointed to the floor. “Down.”

For a split second, everyone in the room stood still and watched Gabe. The massive man swayed briefly and then dropped to the floor like a puppet that had had its strings cut.

“Officer down. Code 33. Echo Park. North Alvarado and Clinton. Officer down. Start me additional units and medical. Code 3. Officer shot. Approach from northwest.”

“On their way.”

Lucy heard the shouting but didn’t comprehend the words. She crouched down beside her partner, holding him tight as convulsions wracked his body. She saw blood drip to the floor. Gabe had been hit despite the Kevlar.

“Don’t die. Don’t die. You can’t die.” Lucy’s words ran together in an incessant chant. She was lost in his pain, unable to focus, oblivious to the pandemonium all around her.

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The Werewolf Whisperer: The Raid — Part 2

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—from book 1 of THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER series

Xochitl Magaña paced nervously behind the bar of her cantina, anxiously waiting for the cops to arrive.

¡Santa Maria, reza por mí!

Turning in her gangbanger boyfriend Memo was dangerous at best.

I’m gonna be in deep shit if this doesn’t go down right…And Miguel, Memo’ll…

“No,” Xochitl hissed, squashing the sprouting thought before it could ripen. “This’ll work.”

She snatched a towel from its hook and began wiping down the individual liquor bottles that lined the shelves behind the bar.

El Gallo’s done.

Memo Morales preferred the moniker “El Gallo” and fancied himself Tony Montana.

¡Híjole! What’s with vatos and Scarface?

And like an over-glorified, self-obsessed crime lord, El Gallo had exploited his relationship with Xochi, using her bar as his headquarters — his command center for the gang’s illegal operation.

And I let him.

But El Gallo gave her protection — something Xochitl desperately needed after her papa had died. And she had to admit, just as Memo liked having the only fair- skinned, light-eyed, natural blond ruca in the neighborhood, she’d initially liked the attention he’d given her.

It had been hard growing up a “güera” in the barrio — a place, despite being Mexicana, Xochitl had never felt she truly belonged.

School had been her refuge, and she’d even won an academic scholarship to UCLA.

I was so close to getting out.

Then everything changed. Her father had a stroke. His health rapidly deteriorated. She dropped all her classes. Moved back home. Took over the bar. Took over care of Miguel.

Back in the hood, back in the life — with Memo.

But Memo went too far. Gun running. There was no way Xochitl could live with herself knowing she had let this thug take over the business her papa had worked so hard to build.

God, what would Papa think of me now? I just wanted to keep the bar going and Miguel safe.

Xochitl hated all of it: the dogfights, the guns, the East Los Locos — Memo.

She shook off the flutter of nerves vibrating up and down her spine and noticed she’d been wiping off the same fifth of tequila. As she carefully placed the Cuervo Gold in its proper slot between the Don Julio and Patrón bottles, she caught the reflection of her cantina in the mirrored glass that backed the liquor racks lining the wall.

Wood and leather tables filled the space. A ’50s style jukebox, her papa’s pride and joy, played only vinyl from the ’60s and ’70s. “Mija, there’s no other music.” He would tell her whenever she’d begged him to update the playlist. Various paintings of matadors and bullfights attempted to lend a Spanish flavor to the rugged bar.

Xochitl’s Cantina had been Xochi’s home since she was six when her father, Carlos, had left the Marine Corps, following her mother’s death. And in its heyday, her papa’s bar had been the favorite local hangout.

The barrio Cheers.

By the time she was eleven, Xochitl had a stepmother she couldn’t stand and a new baby brother she adored.

¡Híjole! In one shot, Anita went from barfly to mother. What was Papa thinking?

But Xochitl remembered how sad and lonely her papa had been after her mom had died. He was honorable and would never have considered not marrying the mother of his child. Carlos Magaña was the finest man Xochi had ever known.

Biting back tears, Xochitl clenched her eyes. Her papa’s warm and inviting spirit echoed within every element of the cantina.

I miss you Papa.

For what seemed like the millionth time, Xochi looked up to the neon DOS EQUIS clock hanging over the bar.

2:37 A.M.? They’re late. The fights’ll be over and Memo’ll leave soon. He’s gonna wonder why I’m still here and not waiting for him upstairs.

“Where the hell are they?” she mumbled.
”Where the hell’s who?” Memo Morales asked. Startled, Xochitl whipped around, knocking over several liquor bottles. She barely registered the clamoring rattle of glass hitting glass as Memo, who had come in from the back without her noticing, stood behind her.

Shit!

Despite the frozen crush of heart-stomping anxiety, Xochi couldn’t help admire Memo’s movie star looks and how his white T-shirt and jeans emphasized his strong, lean build. His big, hazel eyes always took her breath away. Tonight was no different.

Still the best-looking guy in the neighborhood.

“Who’s late?” Memo asked again, grabbing a beer from the cooler under the bar. “Huh, what?…Uh…no one. I mean, Miguel. He’s late.”
Memo wrapped his arms around Xochi and tugged at her rose embroidered peasant blouse. “¡Ay, mamí! Let the boy be. He’s almost eighteen. A man.” He began kissing her neck. “Why don’t you go upstairs, put on that sexy slip thing I got you? I’m all wound up. You can help me relax.”

Wrinkling her nose at the smell of stale beer and dog, Xochi shrugged Memo off her. “What do you know about it? He’s not one of your boys.”

Xochitl knew she shouldn’t be flippant with Memo. He had a short temper and could be aggressive with her when he didn’t get his way. But she couldn’t help herself when it came to her little brother Miguel. She hated it when Memo thought he had any say in how Miguel was raised.

She wanted to yell in Memo’s face, “Stay away cabrón! He’s mine!” Instead she whispered, “I’m tired.”

Xochitl walked around to the front of the counter, trying to put distance between herself and Memo. She could see in his eyes he was losing his patience.

Where’s la chota already?

Undeterred, Memo closed the gap between them and grabbed her arm, yanking her to him. “I said go upstairs and get in that pinche slip, bitch.”

Xochitl pulled her arm back and without thinking threw a right hook to his jaw. Instantly, she felt pain shoot from her fist straight up her arm. “¡Ay carajo!”

Shaking out the sting from her hand, Xochi looked up and saw Memo stunned, holding the left side of his face.

Oh, fuck! What did I do?

Instinctively, she began backing up toward the bar’s front door to make her escape.

As she turned from Memo, Xochi heard a menacing laugh and the distinctive clicking sound of a gun being cocked.

“Not bad for a little güera bitch. Daddy teach you that?”

Xochitl grabbed for the door.
”Don’t you fucking move, puta.”
Naked fear blasted through Xochitl’s body, leaving her feet bolted to the floor.

She had nowhere to go. If she moved, Memo would shoot her.

He’s gonna shoot you anyway.

Taking a chance, she slowly turned back to face Memo. He stood at close range, his gun pointed at her chest.

Oh, God.

Xochi raised her hands in the air.
”Please, Memo,” she tried to placate him. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean—” “¡Cállate!” Memo growled, pacing back and forth in front of her like a wild beast about to pounce on his prey.
An odd bubble of calm enveloped Xochi, and — as if locked in stasis, she stood immobile, waiting, contemplating her next move.
”You think you can do this to me and not pay, bitch? I’m El Gallo!”
Xochitl stole a glance at the bar.
Behind the counter. Papa’s shotgun. If I’m quick enough…
“I run this—” Memo raged on only to suddenly cut himself off.
Xochitl brought her attention back to El Gallo. He stared past her at the frosted glass window. She slowly craned her neck to follow his line of sight. A shadow moved swiftly by the front of the bar.

¡Híjole! About damn time!

She turned back to Memo. His eyes again fixed on her. Xochitl could see by the amazed and — hurt? — look on his face that he’d puzzled out she had betrayed him. Why Memo hadn’t made a move on her yet she didn’t understand. She wasn’t about to ask. Keeping him in her sights, she began inching her way to the bar.
Xochitl had almost reached the end of the counter when Manny, a fourteen-year-old boy, one of Memo’s lookouts, sprinted into the cantina from the kitchen. “¡Jefe! ¡La chota! ¡Afuera!”

Memo regained his senses. “¿Dónde?”
”Everywhere. I came from the dumpsters out back,” the boy answered. ¡Carajo! The cops didn’t find the kitchen entrance!
The side alley door was hidden by the dumpster enclosure. Xochitl’s produce vendors constantly complained about the difficult access.

If I get out of this alive, I’m gonna move those pinche dumpsters.

“Did anyone see you?” El Gallo asked the boy as he moved toward the kitchen and peeked through the swinging door.

“No, Jefe,” the boy replied, pulling out a 9mm handgun stuffed in his pants like a gangster out of a movie he’d probably watched a million times.

“The cops will find the kitchen door soon.” Memo stepped back into the bar.

Xochitl eyed El Gallo, as he searched the room for another way out, revulsion churning her guts.

How did I ever get mixed up with this monster? What am I gonna do if he gets away?

Memo glanced down the hall toward the restrooms. His mouth turned up into a sly grin, and Xochi knew he had figured out his escape.

¡Hijo de puta! Where’s pinche Xena warrior cop?

Unsure, Manny took a tentative step closer to El Gallo.

Memo put up his hand, halting the boy. “Stay here, homes. Pinche cops can’t touch you.” The gang leader beat his chest with his fist and shouted in salute, “¡Órale! East Los!”

“East Los!” The dutiful boy soldier mimicked.

Some day this kid’s gonna get himself killed by these pendejos. That will not be my Miguel.

El Gallo turned back to Xochitl, “I’ll deal with you later.” Then he ran down the hall toward the women’s restroom.

Xochi stood next to the bar, staring after Memo. There was nothing she could do now except hope the cops would nab him crawling out the bathroom window. She looked over to Manny, who appeared lost now that his leader had ditched him.

Poor kid. Doesn’t even know Memo could give a shit what happens to him.

Shouting and gunfire blasted from the back lot.

Officer Lowell.

Xochi darted behind the bar, grabbed the Smith & Wesson 12 gauge, checked it was loaded and readied herself. Looking up, she watched Manny cock his gun.

“Wait,” she hissed.
Manny smiled at her and ran for the back exit.
”Shit!” Xochitl, shotgun in hand, took off after the boy.

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Movie Monday Labor Day Special!

guest blog by Bonita Gutierrez

Summer Movie Recap art

Summer is winding down (though, as I write this, it’s 105 degrees outside), and the blockbusters have all been released. So, I thought I’d recap my favorite movies from the past few months. Most you’ve probably seen, but there might be one or two that you haven’t checked out yet.

So, here are my top flicks of the summer…

Baby Driver — A crazy good heist movie with a kick-ass soundtrack.

Written and directed by Edgar Wright (Sean of the Dead)

Blurb: Talented getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. After meeting the woman (Lily James) of his dreams, he sees a chance to ditch his shady lifestyle and make a clean break. Coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), Baby must face the music as a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom.

Wonder Woman – This movie still makes me giddy every time I think about it. I need the DVD to come out!

Directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster)

Written by Allan Heinberg

Story by Zach Snyder

Blurb: Before she was Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, Diana meets an American pilot (Chris Pine) who tells her about the massive conflict that’s raging in the outside world. Convinced that she can stop the threat, Diana leaves her home for the first time. Fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, she finally discovers her full powers and true destiny.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword — I just watched the movie again on DVD and I still love this reimaging of the mythic tale!

Directed by Guy Ritchie (Snatch)

Written by Guy Ritchie and Joby Harold

Blurb: After the murder of his father, young Arthur’s power-hungry uncle Vortigern seizes control of the crown. Robbed of his birthright, he grows up the hard way in the back alleys of the city, not knowing who he truly is. When fate leads him to pull the Excalibur sword from stone, Arthur embraces his true destiny to become a legendary fighter and leader.

Spider-Man Homecoming — Tom Holland delivers a charming, full-of-heart performance. Of all the Spidey incarnations thus far, Holland is my favorite.

Directed by Jon Watts

Written by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley

Blurb: Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker returns home to live with his Aunt May. Under the watchful eye of mentor Tony Stark, Parker starts to embrace his newfound identity as Spider-Man. He also tries to return to his normal daily routine — distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a friendly neighborhood superhero. Peter must soon put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear.

Wind River — This film blew me away. Could contend for an Oscar this year.

Written and Directed by Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water screenwriter)

Blurb: Cory Lambert is a wildlife officer who finds the body of an 18-year-old woman on an American Indian reservation in snowy Wyoming. When the autopsy reveals that she was raped, FBI agent Jane Banner arrives to investigate. Teaming up with Lambert as a guide, the duo soon find that their lives are in danger while trying to solve the mystery of the teen’s death.

Dunkirk — A heart-pounding 90-minute masterpiece! Best film of the year so far (IMHO).

Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight)

Blurb: In May 1940, Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated.

War for the Planet of the Apes — The heart-wrenching, action-packed wrap-up to the reimagined Planet of the Apes trilogy.

Directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield)

Written by Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback

Blurb: Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson). After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face-to-face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both of their species and the future of the planet.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — A great follow-up to Vol. 1! The ending will break your heart.

Directed by James Gunn (GOTG Vol.1 & Slither)

Blurb: Peter Quill and his fellow Guardians are hired by a powerful alien race, the Sovereign, to protect their precious batteries from invaders. When it is discovered that Rocket has stolen the items they were sent to guard, the Sovereign dispatch their armada to search for vengeance. As the Guardians try to escape, the mystery of Peter’s parentage is revealed.

Logan Lucky — A delightful hillbilly, “Ocean’s 7-Eleven” heist movie.

Drected by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven)

Written by Rebecca Blunt

Blurb: West Virginia family man Jimmy Logan teams up with his one-armed brother Clyde and sister Mellie to steal money from the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. Jimmy also recruits demolition expert Joe Bang to help them break into the track’s underground system. Complications arise when a mix-up forces the crew to pull off the heist during a popular NASCAR race while also trying to dodge a relentless FBI agent.

Alien Covenant — Ridley Scott has taken the best of Prometheus’ intellectual science fiction elements and combined them with the original Alien/Aliens’ sci-fi horror awesomeness (I was on the edge of my seat the entire time) to create a very smart movie worthy of the series.

Directed by Ridley Scott (Alien)

Written by John Logan and Dante Harper

Blurb: Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, members (Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup) of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. The mysterious world soon turns dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life-form forces the crew into a deadly fight for survival.

The Big Sick — Sweet, sad and hilariously funny, this film offers a glimpse into the world of a Pakistani-born comedian and the challenges he must face when he falls for a non-Muslim American girl.

Directed by Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer)

Written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon

Blurb: Kumail is a Pakistani comic who meets an American graduate student named Emily at one of his stand-up shows. As their relationship blossoms, he soon becomes worried about what his traditional Muslim parents will think of her. When Emily suddenly comes down with an illness that leaves her in a coma, Kumail finds himself developing a bond with her deeply concerned mother and father.

Honorable Mentions:

The Beguiled — A beautifully shot and wonderfully acted remake of the 1971 film; based on A Painted Devil by Thomas P. Cullinan.

Directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation)

Story by Thomas P. Cullinan

Original screenplay by Albert Maltz

Blurb: Cpl. John McBurney is an injured Union soldier who finds himself on the run as a deserter during the Civil War. He seeks refuge at an all-female Southern boarding school where the teachers and students seem more than willing to help. Soon, sexual tensions lead to dangerous rivalries as the women tend to his wounded leg while offering him comfort and companionship.

Atomic Blonde — A cool Cold War action movie that’s more James Bond than John Wick.

Directed by David Leitch

Written by Kurt Johnstad and Anthony Johnston

Blurb: Sensual and savage, Lorraine Broughton is the most elite spy in MI6, an agent who’s willing to use all of her lethal skills to stay alive during an impossible mission. With the Berlin Wall about to fall, she travels into the heart of the city to retrieve a priceless dossier and take down a ruthless espionage ring. Once there, she teams up with an embedded station chief to navigate her way through the deadliest game of spies

The Dark Tower — A fun fantasy flick with a pinch of spaghetti western thrown in; based on the novels by Stephen King.

Directed by Nikolaj Arcel

Written by Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner

Blurb: Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), also known as the Man in Black. The Gunslinger must prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower, the key that holds the universe together. With the fate of worlds at stake, two men collide in the ultimate battle between good and evil.

 

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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

 

dhscc

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)

7thcoverbook copy

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

Art Talk: Werewolves

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guest blog by Carol E. Leever

My writing partner Camilla writes another series with our friend Bonita Gutierrez. The Werewolf Whisperer is urban fantasy about two awesome women fighting their way through the werewolf apocalypse. It is predominately set in modern day Los Angeles and other parts of California. Camilla and Bonita have lived most of their lives in California (so have I for that matter) and they write about places they know with such clarity that the setting becomes a character unto itself in the stories.

Recently they asked me to do a cover for their story No Beast So Fierce. They kicked around various ideas for what they wanted on the cover, and I made a couple of attempts at painting something. But none of it was quite right.

And then they came up with a rather ridiculous idea — why not just do a cute werewolf plushie? (Word of caution — The Werewolf Whisperer series is violent and dark, filled with dystopian brutality. And while there is humor in the story — it is not cute.)

The setting for No Beast So Fierce is the Folsom Renaissance Fair near Sacramento, California. The story actually does feature a stuffed werewolf child’s toy wearing a Renaissance costume, complete with a full Elizabethan collar.

While I was a bit skeptical of the idea, painting a child’s toy was actually on my list of things to do. I keep a list — a long list of things I want to paint. Some of them are paintings of images and scenes I want to illustrate, but many of them are things I want to paint for the learning process alone. These are what artist call ‘studies’ and often consist of painting random things, or copying the various paintings of the masters, all in an effort to improve your technique. Every beginning artist should be doing studies. (From what I gather even the professionals who have been painting for years still do studies.)

A child’s toy was on my study list specifically for the process of learning how to paint different materials — the soft fur of a toy (not the same as cat fur), as well as the different texture of clothing, and the hard surface of button or glass eyes. So the request lined up well with my planned practice, and I was happy to get started.

1500659577plush2

 

The first step was coming up with a basic design. This was my initial sketch — I’m a terrible line artist, and like I’ve said before, most of my paintings start out as something a child would draw. Camilla has seen some of my horrible sketches and understand the process I go through to get to a finished piece, but poor Bonita looked at it and immediately went ‘uh oh’. (To be fair, that is also my reaction — every single painting I start makes me want to give up. They’re REALLY bad for the first 10 hours or so.)

Now while the final image was meant to be the poor little toy after the climax of the book (the toy does not fair well), I decided to do a a clean, pristine version of the toy first (image at the top of the article). The Elizabethan collar in particular was time consuming. Drawing anything that is ‘white’ is tough; you can’t really use white as a color — it isn’t a color (okay, technically it is considered a color without hue, but that wasn’t the point). White is a highlight. To paint something that is white, you have to use a different color — some sort of shade of gray (I could do a whole blog on ‘gray’ — it’s an awesome color).

1500659586tornplush2

 

Between the collar, the tunic and the fur I got my full share of ‘materials’ to study. And I was pretty pleased with the final results. The eyes actually took me the longest time — not because they were hard to do (they’re just black ovals) but because I tried about a dozen different designs before deciding on the simplest version possible. At one point he even had googly eyes.

1499900427eyes

 

Once the ‘clean’ version of the toy was done, I had to tear him apart. This also allowed for another material study as I needed to draw the stuffing coming out of the tears. That meant more white that can’t actually be white. I’m not sure the stuffing was as successful as the collar was — but in the end he looked sufficiently pathetic.

The blood splatters were the last thing I painted. The drips on the sword were just painted normally, but the splatter on the collar was done using a few red swipes of paint on an overlay layer that blended the color into the existing material nicely. Last minute, I decided to put his missing eye on the ground beside him.

You can download the book for free here: Book Funnel. And here’s the final version of the cover.

1500664012nobeastcover

You can find us many places:

ofcatsanddragons.com

www.facebook.com/ofcatsanddragons

http://www.werewolfwhisperer.com

www.facebook.com/werewolfwhisperer/

Camilla:

Twitter ‪@CamillaOchlan

Instagram:  www.instagram.com/camillaochlan

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/CamillaOchlan/

Tumblr: https://camillaochlan.tumblr.com

Carol:

http://caroleleever.deviantart.com

Bonita:

Twitter: @BonitzMG

Tumblr: https://bonitamg.tumblr.com

High Fantasy

Cover art for Night's Gift

 

Guest post and art by Carol E. Leever

You may have noticed that we modified our cover art slightly — adding in the dark background element of the skull.

When I was kid, genres were simple. Most of what I liked was labeled “SciFi/Fantasy,” lumped together under one term. There were some subcategories such as “high fantasy,” or “military science fiction,” but most of those terms were in the mind of the readers and not formal designations. Much of what I read back then would be consider Young Adult (YA) today. There have been many essays written discussing whether or not YA is considered a “category'” or a “genre,” but regardless of the conclusion you reach, it is still a very broad term that doesn’t tell the whole story. For that you have to look at the genre and sub genres.

As near as I can figure, the term YA is given to a novel if the protagonist in it is “young” –between the ages of 12-17. That means the classic series The Belgariad would be considered YA — Garion was a child when the books started. For that matter, much of what Stephen King wrote would technically be considered YA since he has many young protagonists, some not even teenagers yet. It’s an odd designation which doesn’t tell a reader much about the book itself — only that the main character (or characters) are young. But I think for many people (parents particularly) they see YA and think — it’s safe for children.

And what do you do with a series like The Game of Thrones? Many of the point-of-view characters in that series are young — very young in some cases. Does it meet the criteria for the YA label?

Now a days I think it’s more important to pay attention to the sub genre. The Twilight Series is YA as is The Hunger Games — but one is a vampire romance series and the other is a post-apocalypse, dystopian battle for survival. The sub genre tells the more accurate story and these days we have literally hundreds of sub genres.

So what does this have to do with changing our cover?

Our series Of Cats And Dragons is extensive — book one and two follow one of our main protagonist’s early journey to find his companions. He’s young in these books — so are his companions. But he will grow up. And we have other stories in this series about adults — as well as stories told from the point of view of very young children. Some will be humorous and lighthearted. Some will be dark. We will try our best to label the stories as such.

Which brings me to my cover — the cute, fluffy orange kitten is obviously dominant on the image. There is a cute, fluffy orange kitten in the book — and he talks. He’s adorable. And he’s integral to our hero’s journey.

Cover art for Night's Gift

 

But the book is also violent — our hero Omen has to fight for his life, and the life of the kitten and the people of his world. And the monsters he faces are vicious and horrific.

So can a ten-year-old read it? Well, that would depend on the ten-year old. I know many ten-year-olds who read and watch things that terrify me. And I know ten-year-olds that can’t make it through a Disney movie because they’re too scary or too sad.

And that’s why we changed the cover — because, yes this is a high fantasy novel with a fluffy orange talking kitten in it. But as the old maps proclaimed — here there be monsters.

 You can find us many places:

ofcatsanddragons.com

www.facebook.com/ofcatsanddragons

Carol:

http://caroleleever.deviantart.com

Camilla:

Twitter ‪@CamillaOchlan

Instagram:  www.instagram.com/camillaochlan

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/CamillaOchlan/

Tumblr: https://camillaochlan.tumblr.com

Blame the Odyssey

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My love of reading fantasy and science fiction clearly determined my choice to write in the genre. But where did that eternal, unshakeable love come from? What formed my writing brain? What made me such a weird kid? I blame THE ODYSSEY. When I was eight years old I discovered the tales of Odysseus struggling to get home. I listened to the audio drama on my little kid record player over and over again — until I had the lines memorized, until I could recite the episodes in my sleep.

I didn’t know that THE ODYSSEY was a classic. I actually thought that it was my story, told just for me, my secret knowledge, my superpower. I felt that I knew something arcane about the world that nobody else knew (or so I thought). I was delighted to find D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths in the library and couldn’t believe my luck when I found a book of Norse myths on my stepsister’s bookshelf. Indiana Jones couldn’t have been more excited when he finally snagged that golden idol. I really thought I had uncovered ancient, forgotten lore. And in a way, I had because I internalized the hero’s journey so early on that it became my foundation for understanding story. Without realizing it, I judge all stories — subconsciously — against Homer. And that can’t be so bad. Knowledge and endless wonder is there for the taking, but just because a book sits on a shelf (or on a Kindle) doesn’t mean that anyone will crack it open and discover the joy of becoming engrossed in a story.

I devoured books as a child, always looking for that next great story. This never-sated hunger led me to find so many wonderful tales over the years, from THE BELGARIAD to THE FINNOVAR TAPESTRY, from Valdemar to Xanth, from Katherine Kurtz to Neil Gaiman.

And eventually I went from tracking down the best fantasy stories I could read to trying to write some fantasy stories myself. My first series — THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER (co-written with Bonita Gutierrez) — is a genre-bending, dark urban fantasy/science fiction take on the evolution of the human race via a werewolf virus. But with the OF CATS AND DRAGONS series, I am returning to my roots: epic fantasy, magic, creatures, adventure, heroes, and a huge sense of wonder. I am so thrilled that Carol and I are finally sharing these stories, and I hope they bring others as much joy as they have brought me. But no matter where this ends, it all started with a blind Cyclops and a clever Greek who was just trying to get home.

 

You can find me many places:

ofcatsanddragons.com

www.facebook.com/ofcatsanddragons

Twitter ‪@CamillaOchlan

Instagram:  www.instagram.com/camillaochlan

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/CamillaOchlan/

Tumblr: https://camillaochlan.tumblr.com