By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Dec 16, 2015 at 1:16 PM

Patrick Lawlor is spending his holiday season as a few strange people.

He’s Ethan, in charge of 3,999 other people – including his pregnant wife – who are in stasis and responsible for watching over them for the next 50 years to make sure nothing happens to them. 

He is also Kaia, the recently widowed secret bride of a dead soldier who has now secretly fallen in love with Ethan. 

Patrick Lawlor is most assuredly not nuts.

What he is, instead, is one of about only 200 people who make their living doing audio books for a wide variety of publishers. Lawlor lives in Milwaukee and has been an actor since he got his master’s in classical acting from the professional theater training program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The book he's reading now is "The Caretaker" by Josi Russell.

Lawlor is an almost perfect example of a highly-talented actor trying to make his way in the treacherous world of theater.

"I have done all I can to make a living as an actor, and part of that has been expanding my definition of what it means to be a working actor," he wrote in a recent blog post. "I have done stage, film, television, radio plays, theme parks, renaissance faires, murder mystery weekends, corporate training projects, industrial films.

"I’ve been an actor, director, stuntman, fight choreographer, teacher, tour guide, dancer, pub singer, bad mime, and yes, waiter, bartender and LOTS of file clerk gigs."

He was in Los Angeles when the audiobook sensation arose, and since then, he has been doing it as steady work, a phrase rarely heard by an actor.

He is close to his 400th book, and the way he goes about it ranges from the relatively simple to the relatively complex.

"I average about 25 or 30 books a year," he said. "The way I prepare is different depending on the book. Each book has its unique challenges.

"Sometimes technical books are the most difficult because they use jargon peculiar to the subject. I try to understand what I’m reading. There is nothing worse for a listener than to hear somebody who is obviously faking it. In those cases, it’s almost like learning a whole new way of talking."

He’s also got to be ready to use an accent or a dialect, or play a man, woman or child. You also have some character voices.

"Generally I read the book first, unless time is a factor, and it’s a rush job," he explained. "I’ll write down all the words I read that I don’t know exactly how to pronounce. I pay special attention to real people’s names, regional pronunciations, odd words and technical words and phrases. If you are reading a book at home, and you see a foreign word, for example, you get the gist and just move on. Not here. I’ve got to give them every word. Sometimes I’ll even talk with the author to get his or her take on pronunciations or anything else they think is important."

"If it’s nonfiction, I then start to record," he continued. "I normally do not do any distinct voices for nonfiction, unless they are specifically called for or the person has a famous voice. If it it’s fiction, this is where the fun starts. Character work! I come up with voices, accents and dialects for every character in the book. I draw as much as possible from clues in the text – accent, stutter, quiet, fast talker, etc. once this is done, I hit the studio!"

Lawlor has a studio in his home and occasionally has to travel to another site chosen by the publisher. He can finish a normal book in a week or 10 days although he sometimes takes longer for complicated things.

He gets the book from a publisher and uses his iPad to record. He uses Pro Tools to record and edit.

"Everything is electronic," he said. "I even sign my contract with my iPad. I rarely make it through a page without making a small mistake, and I just back up to right before the mistake and start over from that point."

Lawlor has narrated works of Anton Chekov, Jack London, Edgar Allen Poe and mystery writer Robert Crais. His titles range from "The Zen of Social Media Marketing" to "Happy City: Transforming Our lives Through Urban Design" and "Happy Gut: The Cleansing Program to Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy and Eliminate Pain."

Some books, he admits, are easier than others.

"When it's good writing, it's like dancing with a graceful partner," he said. "When the writing isn't so good, it's like getting beat up by Mike Tyson."

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.