Hurrah! The SUMMER’S FALL audiobook is here!

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Now on Audible – download here

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

Click here to sample

_I'll bite the &!%@_ monster!_ copy

SUMMER’S FALL

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

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

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

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

Click here to view.

Cover art for Night's Gift

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

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

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

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

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

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

Finding a voice

Cover art for Night's Gift

Finishing my first novel was a magic moment for me. The first release party. The first 5-star review on Amazon. Finishing the second book. Releasing the first audiobook. All supernatural in my world.

Writing is a roller coaster of emotions. Not all days are good. Some are dark. Some are sad. Some are just confusing. But writing is the road I have chosen, after traveling down others and turning back. I will stay on this road to the end, and so I make a point of marking those magic moments when, just for a moment, all is right in the universe. I keep them as my store of ammunition to battle frustration and resistance in all its forms.

One big magic moment occurred just last month:

My husband and I traveled to Kansas City for the HEAR Now Festival, an annual audio fiction conference and celebration. Organized by the dynamic Sue Zizza, HEAR Now offers educational opportunities, innovative performances and highlights achievements in the industry. I was invited to premier NIGHT’S GIFT for the festival’s take-over of the Kansas City Library’s Family Fun Night. Thrilling but also a little scary. Fortunately, I have a secret weapon.

My husband, P.J., is a working actor for over thirty years and an award-winning narrator of over two hundred audiobooks. He’s got a great knack for character voices and accents. I knew OF CATS AND DRAGONS would be in good hands with him, but at the live performance, I discovered something else — magic.

It’s an incredible thrill to hear your words performed. As the narrator lends talent and voice to characters who have only resided in your head, the story goes from ephemeral to real. That afternoon, in the Truman Forum at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, in front of rows and rows of kids and parents, Carol’s and my imaginary world sprang to life for half an hour. The moment P.J. started speaking, he had the audience in the palm of his hand. The entire auditorium locked in. I could feel the focus of their collective energy. And I could hear — nothing — not a sound emanating from what had admittedly been a fairly rowdy crowd. Where there had been rustling and children’s voices (normal stuff for any performance for kids), there was utter silence. And in that silence, the scene between Omen and the undead alchemist Gerdriu unfolded. And we all experienced it together. The storyteller took us to the arcane city of Hex where young Omen and Templar battle giants and monsters, play dangerous games and rescue a talking cat.

Magic — like I said.

My writing partner, Carol E. Leever,  hadn’t been able to join us in KC. When it was over, I thought, “I wish Carol was here to hear that.” I actually wished everyone had been there to hear that. Then it occurred to me that we’re doing the audiobook. This magical experience will be out there and available for anyone to listen to.

And that’s a huge moment for me — after three decades of having these characters and this world to ourselves, Carol and I are sharing the contents of our imagination. And the audiobook narration brings our story to life with energy, zest, fun and — magic.

You can find us many places:

ofcatsanddragons.com

www.facebook.com/ofcatsanddragons

Camilla:

Twitter ‪@CamillaOchlan

Instagram:  www.instagram.com/camillaochlan

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/CamillaOchlan/

Tumblr: https://camillaochlan.tumblr.com

Carol:

http://caroleleever.deviantart.com

 

Holding Tight and Letting Go

The night of November 14th we lost our cat, Roo.

My husband wrote this:

“Our boy. Our sweet little Roo.

His full name was Arcturus. He had 59 lives and twice as many nicknames.

Under the super moon he crossed the rainbow bridge.

He loved us. We loved him.

We love him still.”

I actually couldn’t write anything more or anything else. And as I am sitting here nearly two months later, I am crying “Rotz und Wasser” — which is my mother tongue’s way of saying, “I am crying my eyes out” but literally means, “I am crying snot and water.”

Can’t be any clearer about why I love the German language. It is direct. To the heart. And completely raw. If you connect to its true poetic depth. There’s more to it than that, of course, but that is for another time.

We lost Roo. And my heart broke. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t focus. And I felt I let my writing partners down by being a completely unreliable mess over the holidays. They were both very understanding.

Most people I know understood, by the way. Even though we always want to apologize for grieving for a pet, people get it. Because people understand loss. And if they don’t — they will.

I lost my mom in 2002. Cancer. Brutal, fast cancer. She was 61, which seemed disturbingly young at the time. Now it seems like very “The Pit and the Pendulum” — a ghost in my mind chanting, “Get it done. You’re gonna die.”

My dad passed in 2005, too ill to attend my wedding (I never thought I’d be a bride) only three months before. My dad was 81. Seemed like a ripe old age at the time. But guess what — now, not so much.

We learn that death is a reality when it keeps happening around us. My Homeric Imagination professor at university, Kathryn Hohlwein, a lovely lady and astounding scholar, taught a rebellious and impatient twenty-year-old me that at some point we all learn that we are going to die. And then we learn that we are going to live.

What she couldn’t teach me then is that the lesson circles back again and again.

After losing my parents, I thought I knew the depths of grief and regret. But I didn’t know that grief and regret reside in a space in our minds that we return to over and over with each loss, as if it were a country we travel to, getting our passport stamped each time we cross its border.

You are never prepared, whether you know it’s coming or not. It’s always different. And it always changes you. At first, there is the loss of the loved one, all the things you wanted to share with them and never will be able to, the finality, the not knowing, the worry, the longing, the empty space where vibrant, living love used to reside, but once you get past all of that, there is another heart-wrenching element. The thing that takes your breath. The thing that freezes your inside. The thing you just can’t allow yourself to think about: The undeniable knowledge that this will happen to all of us.

This will happen to me.

I will die.

What do you do with that? What does it mean?

I don’t have an answer. And even if I did, like all things intangible and larger-than-life, the answer would be intensely personal and wouldn’t translate to anyone else. Not really.

But sometimes, something resonates.

Ray Bradbury said, “Writing keeps death at bay. Every book I write is a triumph over death.”

And for what it’s worth, I am writing as fast as I can.

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Werewolf Wednesday: In the thick of the action

At the release party for book one, The Werewolf Whisperer, my husband, actor and audiobook narrator P.J. Ochlan, gave our guests a taste of the pace and force of the series. After discussing which selection would be most appropriate, Bonita, P.J. and I chose the pit bull raid scene from chapter two. I am happy to be able to share a link to P.J. narrating that section of The Werewolf Whisperer and to discuss my approach to action writing a little more in depth:

from-the-heart

http://bit.ly/2h6zjbd

In his blog post “A Symphony of Adrenaline and Drama: Writing Epic Action,” author J. Edward Ritchie highlights three aspects of action writing: 1. Striking but economical details, 2. Constant focus on the main player and 3. Fluid placement of words on the page. Ritchie used concrete examples to illustrate these points, including passages from The Lord of the Rings, A Game of Thrones, Fall from Grace (his own book) and The Werewolf Whisperer. Bonita and I were thrilled to be included in such august company.

To me, action writing is making sense of so much chaos. We write The Werewolf Whisperer from pretty limited points of view, so when I write the action scenes from Lucy’s POV my lens is focused on the details she sees and experiences. As the raid on the dogfight ring falls apart, I go to where Lucy’s attention is:

“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.

Staying on the one character also means understanding what things would mean to her — in the heat of battle. Her thoughts would be fragmented and not necessarily kind. Her ragged thought process is really just giving quick words to a visceral reaction. As adrenaline and anger carry Lucy forward, her instinct to protect drives her to actions:

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.

I found J. Edward Ritchie’s assessment of “fluid placement of words on the page” a great insight into how the reader reads action. Along those same lines, I had thought of matching the speed of the action to the brevity of the lines — allowing faster reading for faster scenes. But once we reach the point where Gabe changes for the first time, I found that I had to slow things down again. The action still happens very quickly for Lucy, but the reader needs time to experience the impact of what is occurring. This is the moment everything changes:

“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?

The last section is about aftermath. The action is over. The immediate danger has passed. But here’s the full force of the consequences. To me, the reality of what happens after a big blow up is far more devastating than the big blow up itself. Often adrenaline can carry a person through a particularly tough moment, but what happens after the adrenaline fades? To me, the gut punch of aftermath is a natural end to an action moment but also what carries the character forward into the rest of the story:

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 chords 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.

www-web

https://www.amazon.com/Werewolf-Whisperer-Book-ebook/dp/B00OAKIPX0