Book Review: “The Sand Dweller” by Molly Neely

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I don’t do book reviews very often on my blog. Perhaps this is something I should rectify, since, being an author myself, I know how important book reviews are to emerging and established authors alike. Reviews are the best form of publicity you can get for your work. After all, you can shell out your hard-earned cash for all the frills and thrills of advertising and touring, but if a potential reader doesn’t see how other readers have felt about the work—ehhh—they are a lot less likely to give it a read. It’s about time I start putting my money where my mouth is.

I recently read Molly Neely’s The Sand Dweller and it was a delightful read. Neely has weaved the story of Malachi Ben Sanai (son of the demon general Azazael) into well-known theological history easily and almost seamlessly. From the Battle of Megiddo, to an arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Neely brings us on the journey of a young half-breed seeking redemption through the centuries.

Malachi’s fate is forever entwined with Ra, the son of Lillith. Pawns in their parents battle of wills, these two men grow with an instinctual hatred for one another but that is where their similarities end. While one embraces the darkness of Hell, the other only wishes to be truly redeemed by the Almighty and find a place in Paradise. If only Hell would leave him in peace to do so.

The author provides us rich characters and has an unmistakable eye for detail and uncanny ability to connect dots between what we know and what she envisions. I really did enjoy this book a lot.

And now for the downside:

It is a very quick read. I finished The Sand Dweller in two hours and 15 minutes once I was able to really hunker down and dive in. This is not to say it makes it bad, but I truly believe more could have been done to really immerse us. Often fast-paced, I can’t help but wonder if there couldn’t have been more character focus (the characters themselves promise rich variety and I would have loved to see focus about them on a personal level as was put on the plot itself).

Don’t take this as a bad thing! The fact that it was such a quick read and drew me in to the point of wanting to know more in-depth things about the characters only showcases how much I liked it. Gimme more!  (On a side note: I think I overheard a rumor somewhere that Neely is writing a follow up based on this book, but I could be wrong. If I’m not then I am excited to see what she delivers!)

If you want a quick, delightful read then I definitely suggest The Sand Dweller. It is out of my wheelhouse for typical reading, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. I mean, two hours. Come on.

 

 

Having Daughters Is Nothing Like I Expected

Since I was a little girl, about 12-years-old, I knew I was going to have a daughter. There was no doubt about it. I would grow up, get married, and become a mother. I didn’t know how many children I would have, but I knew that I would definitely have a daughter. I want to say when I did just that it was everything I hoped for, but in all honesty it was nothing like I expected.

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I knew that I would dress up my sweet little girl in ribbons and curls and cute little pink skirts. I never thought I’d be telling my daughter that she couldn’t wear her favorite dress to the park because there are predators out there that loiter around the swings watching and as fun as it is to jump from the swing and tumble on the ground, he might see her undies.

I remember people showing their kids embarrassing toddler pictures, which almost always included a bath pic or a nakie-baby pic. I was shocked when it became “bad” to share these precious—and usually hilarious—moments of their childhood because it was suddenly considered obscene. I was even more surprised when I eventually understood that some perverts found something less-than-innocent in these pictures and that they eventually stole those precious keepsakes from me because, God forbid, you actually have possession of one then you are automatically considered a “sicko”.

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I knew I’d want to take her swimming or watch her play in the sprinkler in the front yard, but I didn’t know I’d end up making her wear a pair of shorts over her swimsuit because someone at the pool was gawking at her just a little too hard. I didn’t expect to have to pass on the ultra-cute ruffled two-pieces because a grown man might think her tummy showing meant she was inviting his disgusting thoughts.

I looked forward to going on outings with my daughter and visiting new places. It never really occurred to me that first I would have to teach her that it was safer to use the restroom with someone she knew; something in-grained into our female brains long before there was such a thing as a “transgender bathroom-issue”. That men often mock and tease us for “herding” without realizing they are the cause of it.

I knew I would want to take my daughter to the annual fair to see the pretty lights and ride the rides, but I didn’t expect I would find myself tying a rope from my belt loop to hers out of the growing fear and anxiety that someone might snatch her in the crowd. That people might point and laugh at us and some might even give me dirty looks for being that mom, but somehow that little length of rope would give me a sense of security and ease.

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I came to terms with the fact that, the older and more independent she got, the more she would want to play alone or be more adventurous. She’d want to ride her bike around the block, play in a friend’s yard, or go for a walk with friends. I was heartbroken when I realized I would have make her sacrifice most of her independence for safety, and shatter her understanding of the world around her by telling her about stranger danger and bad people. It broke my heart to watch her lose some of that trust in human beings. It completely destroyed me knowing that I had barely even touched on exactly how terrifying and bad the people in this world could be.

I expected my daughter would eventually have the puberty class, as we all did in school. It would be informative and embarrassing, and a little funny, but she would learn more about her body and what it does and why. What I wasn’t prepared for were special classes teaching her about good touches and bad touches, because 1 in 4 children are molested. That means of the 20 kids in my daughter’s class, 5 of her friends will have experienced “bad touching”.

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When I separated from her father, I knew to expect troubled times and difficulty with co-parenting. I knew there would be times when she was with me and she wanted to see daddy instead. I could barely bear it when I ended up having to keep the truth from her about her bio-dad, because the things he later did to another little girl are too terrible to burden her with, and now when she says she wants to meet her dad, it doubly hurts.

I hate to say it, but I even knew there might be a time or two where my daughter would get in trouble at school and I might even have to come and speak with the principal about it. She’s a kid. It’s a given. But I never dreamed I might be called out of work, missing a day’s pay, to meet with the principal because my daughter wore a tank top to school— which lacked proper air-conditioning—because her shoulders were “distracting” and “disruptive”. Meaning, because my little girl dressed for comfort on a very hot day, she’s not allowed to stay in school because of it, because her education isn’t as important as the boys who were somehow too distracted by her shoulders to focus on their studies (I can tell you, they really weren’t. Give our boys some credit).

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I dreaded, but expected, my daughter’s teenage firsts. First car, first phone, first date, first prom… All scary, but memorable, times. What I didn’t count on was that she’d have to walk in parking lots with pepper spray or self-defense training just to go to the store alone, that she’d be pressured into sending boys nude selfies and then find out at school the next day that everyone saw it, that she would have to be assertive when she said “No” to a boy because they don’t always listen the first, second, or third time, and even that I would have to worry that she knew she was worth more than her body and if he loved her, her boyfriend wouldn’t pressure her to give it to him.

Sending my daughter to college will be bittersweet, and I know I will have to trust in her to take care of herself and get her studies done. I just hope, when it comes time to put down work and go to play, that she remembers to go to parties with friends and watch each others backs, to never ever leave her drink unattended or accept an open drink from anyone, and to not get too drunk that she can’t defend herself because being a girl, she can’t do those inconsequential things like boys get to do.

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But I also knew I would have a son of my own, too. Someone I would raise to treat everyone with respect and to protect anyone that needs help. I just didn’t understand I would have to teach him to not look at girls like meat but to treat them like human beings and to love them rather than lust after them, that he should never ever take advantage of a girl who might have had too much to drink and instead get her to a safe place, that he needs to take responsibility for his own mistakes and not blame his inability to focus on what a girl is wearing, that he is not owed anything from the girl he is dating, and that he should focus on what a girl adds to his life rather than what she can give him for a night. I didn’t understand I would have to teach these things to my son because my daughters will forever be forced to deal with boys who weren’t taught the same by their mothers and fathers. But one day, he will have a daughter of his own and it will hit him as hard as it hit me. When that time comes, I hope he will have lived as the kind of boy he would want his own daughter to date.

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**Not every anecdote written here happened to my daughters. Some are examples of stories I’ve heard from other women, as well.

 

An Interview and a Question: What Does it Take to Make You Feel Like an Author?

Everything I have ever felt and thought about and having to put myself out there as an author while being paralyzingly introverted.

The intangible world of the literary mind

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A strange thing happened on the way to the blog.  I received an email out of the blue from someone I’ve never heard of.  That’s not so strange in itself; I get enough spam to feed a spambot until it vomits flowery poetry.

What was strange is that it was a request for an interview.  This wasn’t the usual, “Let’s fill out interview questions and share them on each other’s blogs to cross promote ourselves,” interview request.  This was a straight up, “I want to interview you.”

It surprised me.  The first thing I did was check the email address it came from.  It looked legitimate.  Then I skimmed (that’s what my eleven year old called it) her online.  I Googled, found and checked profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn, investigating if the person looks legitimate.  She looked legitimate.

uh ohIt was time for the, “Oh, uh, wow?” moment.  Me? …

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The ABC’s of Being a Writer: Impatience

So, I have been a part of the “writing world” for a couple of years now and I’ve learned a lot. While I have been writing for far longer than that, I have never been a part of the writing community or been able to utilize what they had to offer. Hell, I didn’t even know what they had to offer. If I had known the tips, tricks, support, advice, and challenges available, I might have never gone through with self-publishing Deny the Moon as fast as I did.

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Okay, so I know I wouldn’t have. I would have known:

  • Publishers rarely take queries for books that have been self-published.
  • There is a whole society of people who willingly read your manuscripts and tell you what you are doing wrong before you make it public.
  • Putting a book out with basically no online presence gives you about as much exposure as a Puritan woman’s kneecap.
  • Agents are not as out-of-reach as I had earlier believed.

I have suffered the folly of many first-time authors. We are so eager to put our work out there so we can proclaim ourselves as “real authors” that we rush headlong into it without thinking about, or learning, the consequences of it.

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Indeed, there is an overwhelming sense of impatience that comes along with being a writer. Especially one questing for that holy grail of accomplishments: a publishing contract. I mean, take this blog for example. If you notice, I started this series with the letter “I” instead of “A”. If that doesn’t illustrate the impatience of a writer, I don’t know what does.

Of course, it’s more likely that I just like doing things bass-ackwards.

Luckily, over the past two years, I have found my way to some incredible writing groups. 10 Minute Novelists is full of peers in various stages of writing and publishing and are always ready to lend  you real-world advice or give you some support when you need it. There are many agents, editors, and publishers on Twitter that lend you unique insights, like Sara Megabow’s #10queriesin10minutes where she reads 10 submissions from a slush pile live on Twitter and explains why she might pass or accept it.

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As writers, we want instant gratification. We don’t want to write a book for years and years, only to have to wait even MORE years to (hopefully) get it published. We want to see our name on a book now. With the growing acceptance of self-publishing, we are finding ourselves closer to that instant gratification, but at what price?

The markets are being flooded faster than we can keep up with. Not just that, but the ease of access means most of the floods come from novice writers whose manuscripts have no business being published yet. I should know. I am one of them! (I’ve recently pulled Deny the Moon from online shelves, but more on that in a bit.) Because it takes so long to write a decent novel, by the time we finish one traditional publishers and literary agents are sick of the influx of your genre, making all that time and effort feel wasted. Which makes us fall on self-publishing even more and, when the market starts to thin a little bit and agents start wanting those genres again, we are ineligible to submit it to them because we have already published. Impatience thwarts us again!

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As I have said, I pulled my book from Amazon and Smashwords because of many reasons. After a few years being a part of the herd, I have come to the shocking understanding that my book is not the best it could be. -GASP- I know, right?

If I had known what a critique partner was before I tumbled down the rabbit hole, I would have a better grip on my craft already and would most likely be starting the query process with Deny the Moon. And I probably would have been rejected because no one cares about Werewolves right now. Eh. Win some/Lose some. However, because I was more worried about being considered a “real author”—what does that even mean?!—when I am finally done making the book the best it can be, I still won’t be able to ship it anywhere. I mean, I can try, but I know the chances are nil. It’s okay though. Lesson learned.

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So if you take anything away from this rambling, let it be to slow down. I know you want to be on bookshelves. It’s okay, we all do. But take your time. Join some communities, get active on twitter, exchange some chapters with an unbiased critique partner. Do everything you can before making the leap. And if after all that you still wanna self-publish? Eh, go for it. Smashwords is a fantastic platform.

 

On Humility and Shooting Yourself in the Foot

As you should know by now, I am not what you call a consistent blogger. In fact, it usually takes an incredible burst of energy (often fueled by coffee, sudden inspiration, and a virgin sacrifice), amazing news I can’t keep to myself, or having something absolutely ridiculous happen that I feel the need to share with the six, or so, people that actually read this blog. Well, as it so happens, today I couldn’t quite catch me a virgin, and I don’t have anything particularly exciting to share with everyone. That pretty much means that someone has done something unforgivably offensive or spectacularly stupid.

You’re in for a real treat today because it just so happens to be both!

On Thursday, In The Inbox introduced the world to David Benjamin. A crotchety old man who I can’t help but imagine kicks puppies and screams at his blog visitors to get off his virtual lawn.

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Turns out, Davey Boy takes rejection about as well as Kanye West takes the Grammys giving T-Swift the award.

In fact, would it be a reach to call David Benjamin the Kanye of the literary world? Maybe? Eh, I’ll go with it.

Now, I won’t get into all the ugly details (just make sure you visit the blog to read the train wreck for yourself. It could save your career) but let’s just say he knowingly didn’t follow the clearly stated rules of a writing conference, got his 319th rejection, and ran to his blog to throw a tantrum. He was condescending to her, questioned her ability to do her job due to her age/boredom/attitude, questioned whether or not she even wanted to do her line of work, mocked her appearance and choice of clothing, and talked about her like she was an ignorant, weak, sad little girl. Basically put, he’s not only an ass… he’s a chauvinistic ass.

What’s even more mind-boggling is that she is not his only target. In fact, there is a thread on his blog completely devoted to trashing every agent that rejects him, though he is noticeably worse on the females. That being said, why would you very publicly attack the people you are literally begging to validate your life’s work?

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And before you start on that, yes… we very much are begging for validation of our work with every critique, every query, every breath, every word. We feed off of it. It fuels our egos—cause you have to know that writers are pretty egotistical creatures when we are shouting, “Look! Werds! I wrote them! Pay me for them! They are exquisite werds! The werdiest werds to ever werd! What? No? LuLz, okay, thanks anyway! I’m just gonna go cry into a bottle of whiskey now.”

Wait. That’s just me? Oh…

Seriously, though. Let’s just put the whole it-doesn’t-cost-you-anything-to-just-not-be-a-raging-douche-canoe thing to the side for a moment, and focus on the real brain-tickler here.

You want an agent to help you get your foot in the door with a publisher. Do you really think they are going to hold the door for someone who throws bullshit at them and then tries—note I said tries. I do gotta say, I really love the writing community when they band together to defend someone—to not only humiliate them, but completely bully them? No. No, they aren’t going to jump at the chance to work with a complete and total twat-knuckle.

To make it in this business, you need a little humility. Say it with me for the David Benjamins in the back:

HUMILITY

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This is a mantra I, myself, have to repeat everyday in my journey. As it is, I have made the gut-wrenching decision to pull my first book from Amazon to give it a thorough overhaul… again. Having humility in my craft is what allows me to see when I could do something better and give it more attention. My work will never be perfect in my eyes, but it will only get better with each tweak.

It’s okay to believe in yourself. It’s amazing to believe in your work. It’s not okay or amazing to have such an over-inflated ego that you think it’s okay to mock and ridicule anyone who dares to defy your beliefs of being the greatest writer in the history of the world holding the next masterpiece in your sweaty, run-down fingers. I mean, you very well might be just that, but no one is ever going to know if you unload a clip of self-damning venom into the foot of your career.

 

 

What the H@#$ Have I Been Doing?

I’ve asked myself this question a million times lately. I have dreams. I have goals. I have slippery aspirations I just can’t quite keep a grip on. It’s hard, this whole “getting published”  thing. I mean, there’s all the research you have to do to find agents that are open to submissions that actually what to read your dystopian-cycloptic-pirate-romance-thriller novella (Not that I am writing such a genre but omg doesn’t that sound amazing?!) Then once you find the perfect agent, they have to throw your manuscript at the skulls over God knows how many publishers and hope they read it while they ice their fresh skull-knot. Then one of them has to not only like it but decide if it will sell. Is there a shelf at Barnes and Noble waiting for your masterpiece-of-shit?

But before all of that you have to sit and write the damn thing. No, I am sorry to say, there are no magic elves that pop in at night and write up a fresh, engaging, sellable manuscript if you put blank paper under your pillow at night. *Shifty eyes and shoves pages out from under pillow*

I have been trying to become an author for around five years, now, and all I have to show for it is one self-published novel that has earned me about enough for a large one-topping Pizza Hut pizza. With a coupon. They forgot to tell me that, if I wanted to make any money with my book then I had to market it. I got into writing because I am awkward as fuck when I try to talk to people. I can’t very well go out of my comfort zone to try to push some unsuspecting soul into buying my book! (No, seriously…. buy my book. Please?) So if that’s all I have to show for it, then what the bloody hell have I been doing this whole time?!

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Just because I only have one book published doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. Okay so, for me, “writing” basically translates to staring at Facebook and MuggleNet all day but there are the rare days when I can actually find words. Sometimes I even keep those words! But, usually, they get devoured by my delete button. The good news is, if the planets align under the sign of Scorpio with Jupiter rising and all of the cows start to walk backwards, I might finish one or two of them for you to enjoy!

Also, I should mention that training cows to walk backwards is REALLY hard!

If you stick with me long enough, then some day you might see my name on an actual book in an actual store. Sold by actual people. And I might see actual money! Right now I have in the works:

  • A dystopian thriller about human reproduction
  • A psychological thriller with a schizophrenic girl as the MC
  • A supernatural romance about Gods and Wolves
  • A horror novel with a Misery flair
  • Raging Spirit- the sequel to Deny the Moon
  • An erotic short story compilation
  • A feel-good chic-lit comedy novel

Of course, I am only about 1/4 of the way done with two of those, have only a few chapter on three, and have not even gotten past the idea stage with one but Omaha wasn’t built in a day… or something like that. So what else have I been doing if I haven’t finished at least one of these books?

Why, writing for MuggleNet, silly. Oh…. I never mentioned that? Whoops! I guess we can add “updates blog regularly” to the list of shit I can’t seem to ever function enough to do. So, back in November—actually at the exact same time I started the 2015 NaNoWriMo because, you know, I really enjoy stressing myself out to the point of baldness and excessive-drinking—I was chosen to be an intern for the MuggleNet Creative Team. I learned the ins and outs of MuggleNet and how to churn out Potterific articles for one of the most insane fandoms out there. I have since been made a full staff member and am still churning out articles for the site. In fact, I have three on the table due in just a few short days! I told you how I love to kill myself with deadlines, right? *weak laughter* I have written about many hard-hitting topics over there. Such as:

So, there you have it. I may not have a finished manuscript to pimp out to the next literary sugar-daddy, but I have been writing. And that’s the first step to becoming an alcoholic. No, really. I’m on a first name basis with the clerk at the liquor store, now. At first, I thought he wanted my signature because he’d read my book but then I realized it was for the credit slip because I was dropping over fifty bucks on booze.

Rule #1: You MUST Talk About WRiTEClub2016!

Recently, I entered a little contest called WRiTEClub. Basically, you anonymously enter a 500 word under a pen name, they vett the entries (there were hundreds this year!) through a panel of judges until there are 30 WRiTERS, and they match those entries up in bouts each day. Today has marked the end of week one, where 10 WRiTERS battle it out in 5 bouts. How do they choose the winner?

They don’t. YOU do.

In order to be declared a winner, people like you need to come onto the site, read the entries and use the comment section to vote (and give a small critique). The entry with the most votes moves on to the next round and so on.

The catch?

You can tell NO ONE which pen name you are writing under. Sorry. The votes must come simply from love of the writing… something I can appreciate a lot!

Once a bout is announced, they are given ONE WEEK to gather votes. Once the week is up, they are closed and the votes are tallied, declaring the winner. A week is not a long time, and votes are already flucuating so much that it’s really anybody’s game! We need you to vote, to spread the word!

I was lucky enough (and I say lucky because HOLY COW there is some major competition!) to make it through the vetting process. Which one am I? HA! Sorry, can’t tell you. You’ll just have to read and vote! The first round of voting will start closing down this coming Monday. That means you only have three days to make your vote count! In as close of a race as it is right now, your vote could mean winning or losing for any one of the participants!

 

One thing I did notice is the high-number of dark entries (many of them dealing with children). While this is a huge turn off for many readers, and it can start to get wearing reading one after another of the same theme, please keep in mind that these sort of themes were unintentional. Meaning, none of us could see or know what the other entrants were submitting. We simply sent in what we felt was our best example of writing. Whether you are sick of hearing about werewolves, or traumatized kids, or teen angst romance stories, just keep in mind that it’s supposed to be about the writing. It can get discouraging to know your stuff won’t be liked simply because everyone else ended up doing the same thing without knowing it. That being said, there are no rules or criteria for voting. The vote is ultimately up to your tastes.

On the flipside: To Writers,

Try your best not to let this occurance get to you. The sad truth is that, this is good practice. Think of it as a thickening of the skin for when you are ready to query your work to agents and publishers. More often than not, the agents we vie for have the very same “seen this before, ho hum, ugh why is everyone sending me werewolf vampire love-story thriller novels????” feeling that some of the voters have. It’s not our fault that there are so many themes similar to our own flooding the market– and more often than not, that very fact is going to get your manuscript overlooked– but it does NOT mean that you suck as a writer. Even the best stories can be overlooked simply because the market is flooded with similar genres already. Keep at it! This contest, or any other, does not define you as a writer!

CHECK YOUR FACTS! A Warning for Authors

I don’t normally do this sort of thing, but hopeful (and sometimes desperate) authors should be warned when there is someone out there that will try to take advantage of them or promise them things that they don’t deliver. There are enough scams and half-assers out there, but when someone can stop someone else from making a big mistake, this is exactly what should be done.

I want to talk to you about seriousreading.com and the bullshit I just dealt with. Maybe, once you see for yourselves what it is they *actually* deliver, you can avoid making the DUMB mistake I did.

On Feburary 19, I came across a suggested post on FB. I wish I had taken a screenshot of it so I could relay their pitch word-for-word, but you will just have to go onto their FB and read for yourself because they have blocked me. Basically, it offered review and promotion services for $49. You pay the fee, they have “one of their reviewers” take on your book. If they feel the book is something other people would want to read, and meets standards of grammar and so on (I assume that’s what they meant) they publish a review of your book on their site, and then promise to “promote” the book on their site and Facebook page. If they don’t feel it meets their standards, they will not review it and will refund your money.

Yeah, I can hear you cringe all the way over here.

Let me just say that I am one of those “too good to be true”, paranoid, always looking for the other shoe to drop sort of people. I shy away from anything fee-related, even well-known, established, and reputable book promotion sites. When I read through the THOUSANDS of comments, I noticed a trend of positivity. Should be a good thing, right? However, I was concerned about the lack of even ONE person saying “Nah, this place is a scam” or that one person that is always there lurking in the comments saying that they were ripped off (whether legitimate or not, there is always one person like this in EVERY company.) After a little callous back and forth between myself and the admin of the page, regarding this very issue, I figured whatever. $50 isn’t too much and if they refund it then what’s the harm?

On Feb 19th, I made my payment. I received quick confirmation of receipt and shortly after that I was asked for the info on my book. Shortly after I sent that in, they sent me an email asking for me to complete and author interview at my earliest convenience and send in a picture. Sounds good.

At some point in my researching the FB page, I saw the admin answer another potential customer regarding how they would receive their books for review. They were told that they would either purchase the ebook, or would acquire it from a lender. Since I had no knowledge of my book being a part of a lender, I figured that they would be purchasing it and so I watched my sales reports (which were SADLY dismal so it would have been easy to spot the sale, lol. I mean I was looking for them to PROMOTE my book for a reason: I just don’t have the time myself) hoping to see one sale pop up so I could gauge how long til I would have an answer whether I was accepted or rejected. After two weeks-one day shy of two weeks, actually-I got antsy.

Below are screenshots of our interaction.

I know you started reading that last juicy tidbit, but let’s back up just a smidge here. So, after I thanked them again (I realize at times I am bitchy, but c’mon you don’t mess with someone’s money and I felt like I was being chastised for a very LEGITIMATE concern) and that was that for a few hours. Oh, but then I saw my review had been posted. Oh boy, time for the worry to be erased, right? WRONG.

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Okay so, I know it’s hard but let’s just ignore the incredibly obvious lack of knowing how to string two sentences together. Let’s even ignore the fact that this is not a review… it’s pretty much just a synopsis. The site promised to “read and publish a review” of your book. I already had a synopsis, thank you, and mine actually pertained to my book and made sense. Theirs, as you can read above, was barely coherent. I am also 95% certain they did not receive a copy “from their lender” as they told me in PM, but instead just went to my Amazon account and created some half-assed thing out of the collective reviews there. Most pointedly, the fact that they called one of my characters a “younger sister”. A legitimate reviewer on Amazon made this same mistake in her review and I went back through the book to make sure I hadn’t goofed. Between that and how fast I was suddenly reviewed after complaining, I can guarantee they did NOT read the book.

But that’s not even the worst of it!

No, they created an “about the author” at the very start of their “review” and suddenly I found myself to have “travelled to various territories” and was a “survivor of a series of murders” and also ended up having a dead uncle. Um… WHAT?! No, I am sorry, as interesting as that would have made me, none of that is the case. When I brought this up, though, I had the blame shifted onto MYSELF.

So, let’s make something clear. There are two authors. Melissa A. Graham- me, author of Deny the Moon. There is also Melissa Graham- not me, author of traveling books. Below is her Amazon bio for ONE of her books.

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Now, that explained the traveling around the globe thing but I have YET to come across anything on this author about being the survivor of murder. So I googled the quoted phrase he gave me and you can imagine my surprise when my Createspace page is at the top of the list. I click it and read the author bio and about die.

About the author:
To get down to the nitty-gritty of it, I am a young mother of four, insanely in love and married to my best friend, and looking for my purpose in the world. I work, I keep a not-so-tidy house, I raise kids, and I do every mundane thing that every other person in the world does. The only difference between me and 80% of the population is while I am driving to the store, cooking at work, throwing in yet ANOTHER load of laundry, and even sitting down watching T.V., I am also traveling to uncharted territories, trying to survive a mysterious string of murders following my rich uncle’s passing, being whisked off my feet by a penniless Puerto Rican painter, and concocting diabolical schemes for world domination. Granted, the last few activities are going on in my twisted little brain but it is happening whether I wish it to or not. At any given time, I have dozens of characters, stories, places, and even arguments whirling around in my brain. My goal is to get those creations out of my head (I need some quiet every once in a while!) and into the hands of avid readers everywhere. One day, I will be a known author. Even if it’s only in another one of my stories.

Okay so I can concede to the fact that those words were on my bio… but COME ON. Really? It’s incredibly obvious that I was not being literal. I meant IN MY HEAD. And this clown used it as a dead-serious about the author intro to me- I still use the term loosely- review? A “review” he admitted he uses a template for every single person, and that, after looking at the review and then reading the reviews on Deny the Moon’s Amazon account, you can tell he just pieced something together from those?

So, no, he does not “read and publish reviews” on books as promised. He copies from already written reviews and bios. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what you are giving this guy $49 for.

Do yourself a favor, and save the money. Do a little research (unlike dumb ol’ me) and find a legitimate book promo site. And do other wet-behind-the-ears authors a favor and make sure everyone knows what is it seriousreading.com REALLY does for your money.

If I have to say something good about this place I will say this… at least they refunded me my money promptly.

Blood and Rain: Bringing Classic Horror Back

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                 I recently had the honor of discovering an up-and-coming author that I really enjoy reading. Now, like a lot of people, I have enjoyed the works of Stephen King but I will openly admit that the Horror genre has not necessarily been my go-to when it comes to personal reading. I think the closest I come on a regular basis is the Zombie Fallout series by Mark Tufo. For the most part, I am a paranormal/fantasy/magical realism type of girl (including all the sub-genres in between) but when I was able to sink my teeth into Glenn Rolfe’s Blood and Rain I was hooked.

The werewolf has been through many variations and transformations in literature. From blood-lusting monster to just plain lusting heartthrobs, it has evolved from irrational killer to personable beings that the readers can relate to in some way. Let me be the first to say there is nothing wrong with any of it; I love seeing things evolve in different ways. However, there is something beautiful in nostalgic monsters of days gone by and Rolfe delivers a healthy dose of monster in Blood and Rain.

I will give you my thoughts on the novel in just a moment but, first, I took some time to talk to Glenn and ask him some questions. As someone who is starting to snowball into the biz, he is a prime candidate for some brain-picking by yours truly. My hope is that you, my lovely readers, might glean some insight from him.

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Melissa: First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this. As I’m sure you know, for the unversed writer, it’s frightening venturing out onto this path. Any guidance and advice we can glean from an established author is invaluable.

Glenn Rolfe: Thanks for having me. I’m glad to help out any way I can.

M: To get us started, you are pretty well settled in the horror genre. Most of your readers are aware that your reading tastes and influences are steeped in King, Little, and other horror masters. As an author, when was the moment you realized this was it, this was your niche?

GR: I knew from the word go. I got started in the writing thing pretty late. I wrote songs and sung in a bunch of punk bands for years. When it came to reading, it was always horror. King and Rice to start. Little, Laymon, Ketchum, and Keene after that.

In 2011, I had started a family, had two baby girls, was out of bands and out of work. I had dabbled with short stories in a notebook from time to time from about 2002 to 2007. Maybe like eight pieces total. When I was out of work I decided to start typing them from spiral notebooks onto my computer.

The piece that stood out had no title. It was about a small town, a sheriff and his daughter, and a werewolf. I was off and running. That story became this novel, Blood and Rain.

Horror is what I primarily read, so that’s where my writing always goes. I tried to write a sweet love story a couple years ago, but it went dark. It became a short story called, “Sweet 16.” It’s in my collection, Slush.

M: People have said you take your werewolves back to their roots by returning them to their former bloodthirsty monster-selves. With the recent years of romanticizing traditional monsters (I.E. Vampires, Werewolves, even Zombies) this path is very against the grain of the current trend. Have you ever worried that this choice might affect your success or readership?

GR: No. I don’t think about that stuff. You can’t chase trends or you’ll always end up behind the ball. It’s not an honest thing to do. It cheats yourself and your fans to go after “what’s hot.” There’s a cool song from an old band called, Extreme. The song is called “Hip Today.” Basically, if you’re just trying to be trendy, that has a limited shelf life. If you’re not being yourself and writing what YOU like…you’ll be gone tomorrow.

When I write, I write strictly for myself. As for my story, I think if I would have gone lovey dovey hot and fluffy with my werewolf, then my brother would have found a way to strike me down from Heaven.

There’s a place for that kind of wolf man. Just not on my computer.

EXTREME: Hip Today

M: What are some current trends in werewolf fiction you catch yourself rolling your eyes over, if any?

GR: None. I don’t keep up with that stuff. I know that there’s a romance niche for it…

I like W.D. Gagliani’s take with his Nick Lupo series. His wolf man is a detective. He keeps the novels moving with great prose and the perfect dash of sex and violence.

I just read Jonathan Janz’s Wolf Land, too. His beasts are no hold barred like mine, so of course I dig that. His story is pretty personal. He covers a lot of different characters and shows you a lot of different things in one novel. Pretty intense in some spots. One in particular has a very Bryan Smith feel to it.

No eye rolls from me. Just love.

M: Did you ever– or do you plan to– dabble in other genres? Aside from horror, what else tickles your fancy? (in either reading or writing)

GR: I will eventually. I have a crime novel in my back pocket to be written sometime in the next few years. Also, there’s a pretty sad story in there somewhere inspired by a song I love.

M: Do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser? Was it always that way?

GR: Pantser. All the way. I only start to plot when I’m about 2/3 of the way in. I feel like by then I have an idea where the story is going. Even then, if it wants to veer off, I let it.

Always done it that way. Could change. I never say never.

M: What are your pre-game rituals? Anything that really gets you in the “write” state-of-mind.

GR: Ha! I love that. I like to have a cup of coffee, sometimes I light a candle. I get some tunes going to set the mood, and then I open the current manuscript and go. That’s when I have the time and space to write.

My schedule is a bit too hectic to be able to settle into that each time, so I tend to work when and where I can. Sundays I’ll have football on the TV and my laptop on my lap and try to get some revisions done. Overnights at the hotel, I’ll put some tunes on and write…

I wish it could be a ritual every time. Maybe someday.

M: What stage of writing do you find the most difficult?

GR: That changes from project to project. Sometimes the first draft is the hard part, sometimes it’s the second run through where you find all these plot holes and characters that changed…sometimes it’s just coming up with a cool title.

For me, novels and novellas have come pretty easy. Short stories…that’s where the biggest challenge for me has been. You can’t get away with any missteps in a short story. There’s no room for it. It has to be good from start to finish or you’ll never keep the reader engaged.

M: What are some writing “rules” you love to break?

GR: Oh, I love to break as many as I can! No, I don’t worry about the rules until I have to. When I’m writing the first draft of anything, I just let it all come out how it wants to come out. I don’t plan things, so I’m not out there being rebellious on purpose.

I’m not afraid to kill characters. No matter how big they are to the story. If the story calls for them to hit the floor, I submit. Not sure if that counts as rule breaking, but I know it’s not easy for some writers to do.

M: You’ve put out a total of four works in the last year (with 5 more coming in 2016). That is quite a lot of writing in a very short amount of time, especially with your extra-curriculars and being a father of three! How do you remain so focused with so much going on at once?

GR: I’m almost never focused! Ha!

I’m driven. My dad and brother both died at young ages. My dad was 52 and my brother was 36. I live by the mantra “Life Won’t Wait”. You never know how much time you have on this Earth, don’t waste it. If you have something you want to do, something you love to do, do it now. If you wait until you have time, you’ll never get to it. You have to make time to do the things you love.

My brother and father lived pretty full lives for themselves, but they should have had a lot more time here. I’m kind of working for them, too.

M: Was there ever a point where you felt you might not make it? If so, what dragged you out of it?

GR: No. I didn’t have time to think about that. I mean, I made a goal. Get published. Did that in 2012. Get a novel published. Did that with a small publisher in 2014. Sell a story to legendary horror editor, Don D’Auria. Did that in 2014. My next goal, probably for 2017, is to get an agent and try my hand at landing a book with a big publisher. I think if I keep busting my ass, keep learning from my peers, I can get there. We all fail, but you just take the hits, roll with them, and keep moving forward. That’s always been my strategy.

M: In a few words, what do you feel is essential in becoming a published author, traditional or otherwise.

GR: Continually learning, reading, writing, and setting goals. If you think you’ve got it all figured out, you’re done. We can always get better. If you’re always studying your craft and aiming higher, you’ll stand a better chance at achieving success. Being a New York Jets fan, I hate to point to Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, but he is the epitome of “what it takes to make it happen.” He’s so driven. He’s a Super Bowl champion, an MVP, and 37. He could sit back and coast, but he doesn’t. He hits the gym, the film room, the practice field, and game day like he’s still trying to prove himself. That’s what I strive to do as a writer. I can always be better, but I have to keep after it like I’ve never had it. I’ll read more, write more, study more, and always take advice when it’s dished out to me. I’m always listening.

M: Is there any part of your particular journey that you may feel you blew out of proportion? Something that, when the time came, you realized it wasn’t as scary as you thought it might be or, maybe, something that was unexpectedly world-altering?

GR: I haven’t run into that yet. I think maybe if you reach the top publishers and have some success, that would come with some new challenges. I hope to find out for myself.

M: When you spend so much time on one of your babies, it’s hard to hear that it’s not perfect in every way. What advice can you give our nervous up-and-comers or newborn writers on handling a bad review of something you hold so much pride in?

GR: Oh, boy! I love this subject. You can’t please everyone! Writers have to know this. It is impossible to please each and every person who dives into your tale. Just be grateful that someone took the time to read it, say thank you, and move on. If you’re like me and read every review of your work that you see… you have to have this mindset. There are things that can be learned from bad reviews. If you have one aspect of your writing that is constantly popping up (poor character development, bad dialogue, boring narrative sections…) you might have spotted a weakness in your work that you can work on. In that case, be grateful someone was honest enough to point it out. Take the negative and make it a positive. Again, that’s if it is something that is a common thread in your reviews. Not if Jack Booksnob is the only one who thought your characters seemed wrong because he couldn’t relate to them. Could be Jack just doesn’t know anybody like your characters. Maybe he lives with his mom and doesn’t have any friends? Who knows. I’m just saying that one review doesn’t prove jack. If it becomes a trend in your reviews, then it’s worth looking into.

You’re allowed to be bummed out. That’s human nature, but don’t let it cling to you. Taylor tells me to Shake it off. So I do. You should, too.

M: Is there anything you wish to say before we wrap up? Something you’d like to announce or maybe some words of wisdom– or warning– to give us baby writers out there?

GR: If you’re going to self-publish, take it as serious as if you were working for one of the New York publishers. That means PAY for a real editor. Do NOT trust yourself. You ALWAYS need another set of eyes to check your work. Especially someone who has a degree or background in doing so. Never skimp on cover art! There are a lot of great young artists out there. DeviantArt is a great site to check out and meet artists.

I’ll just say from experience that going the traditional route is for the best. No editor is going to kiss your ass. You have to prove yourself. Their job (the good ones anyway) is to be the quality assurance for the would-be readers out there. They are needed now more than ever. Don’t be in a hurry to publish your story. You only get one chance to make a first impression (said Head and Shoulders).

I’d advise going the traditional route. But if you still decide to self-publish, do it like a professional. Editor, cover artist, and if you don’t know how to properly format your book for the eBook transference, find someone who does. Help is out there!

 

It’s a relief to hear that other authors, especially ones that are starting to see the success we so eagerly chase after, are not too different than us. They were once exactly where we are standing in our career. It gives us hope when the concept seems so much more fantastical than the stories we write. I want to give Glenn a huge THANK YOU for taking the time to answer the questions of an absolute unknown writer-wannabe. If you want to take a peek at my review for Blood and Rain, you can find it here. Please, do yourselves a favor and take a look. Or, do one even better, and dive into one of his books. I know I have three other books to crack open and I think I am going to start with Slush. Keep an eye out for a review in the future.

Blood and Rain, Synopsis

The light of a full moon reveals many secrets.

Gilson Creek, Maine. A safe, rural community. Summer is here. School is out and the warm waters of Emerson Lake await. But one man’s terrible secret will unleash a nightmare straight off the silver screen. Under the full moon, a night of terror and death re-awakens horrors long sleeping. Sheriff Joe Fischer, a man fighting for the safety of his daughter, his sanity and his community, must confront the sins of his past. Can Sheriff Fischer set Gilson Creek free from the beast hiding in its shadows, or will a small town die under a curse it can’t even comprehend? One night can-and will-change everything.

Find Glenn Rolfe at: http://glennrolfe.com/ as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Biography, Glenn Rolfe

Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King and Richard Laymon. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

He is the author the novellas, Abram’s Bridge, Boom Town, and the forthcoming, Things We Fear (March, 2016), the short fiction collection, Slush, and the novels The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain (October 2015). His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, will be released in March, 2016.

He is hard at work on many more. Stay tuned!

Praise for Blood and Rain

A major new talent rises from the Maine woods…Rolfe is the real deal, and Blood and Rain is a classic monster novel, full of blood and teeth and the kind of razor sharp writing that makes the pages sing. Small town horror is back, with a vengeance!” –Nate Kenyon, award-winning author of Sparrow Rock, Diablo: Storm of Light and Day One

“With slashing claws and blood-soaked fur, Blood and Rain will have you howling in terror and delight. A welcome addition to the werewolf mythos, and proof that we’re in the presence of a rising star in the genre. Highly recommended!” -Ronald Malfi, author of The Floating Staircase

Rolfe tells a tale that captures your attention like King without all of the wordiness. He also spills the red stuff like Laymon…” – Into the Macabre

Blood and Rain is a monumental piece of horror fiction. It represents everything I love about werewolves, creature features, siege films, and everything else in between. It is still early in the year, but this is a clear cut candidate for my favorite book of 2015.” — Horror Underground

Wow! Easily one of the best werewolf books I’ve ever read.” – Hunter Shea, author of Tortures of the Damned and The Dover Demon

Some good ‘ol fashion violence and gore…” – Jason Parent, author of Seeing Evil

Glenn Rolfe takes a swing at the werewolf genre and hits a home run.” – Russell James, author of Q Island and Dreamwalker

“…not just another werewolf story, Rolfe has managed to take the werewolf to a-whole-nother level…” – Horror Novel Reviews

The best werewolf novel I’ve read since Jeff Strand’s Wolf Hunt.”–Horror After Dark

Purchase Links

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Rain-Glenn-Rolfe/dp/1619229854/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443335652&sr=8-1&keywords=blood+and+rain

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blood-and-rain-glenn-rolfe/1122198363?ean=9781619229853#productInfoTabs

Samhain

https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5587/blood-and-rain

Giveaway!!!

For a chance to win a print copy of Glenn Rolfe’s short story collection, Slush, or a chance to win your choice of any of his titles in e-book format, go to the link below for the Rafflecopter sign-up. Good luck! The print copy is only good for those in the United States. Questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/231aa30b22/?

Excerpt

Stan Springs stared at the curse in the night sky. His curse. He clenched his jaw, and bit back the grunts that demanded release from within his sweat-covered body. His muscles tightened and took turns throwing fits. He could feel his heartbeat’s thunderous barrage at work inside his heaving chest. It was only a matter of minutes before the changes would come.

He ripped his gaze from the clouds, moved away from the window and knelt down next to the bed against the concrete wall. He slipped one shaky hand beneath the mattress and found the small incision he’d made when he first arrived at the institution. He had traded a guard, a heavyset fella by the name of Harold Barnes, his prized Ted Williams rookie card in exchange for a copy of the key. Parting with this gold mine had been necessary. Stan Springs had nothing else of value with which to barter. Harold trusted him enough to make the swap; he told Stan there were crazies here by the dozen, but he could tell that Stan was not one of them.

No, Harold, I’m something far worse.

Key in hand, Stan stepped to the unlocked door and cracked it open. The hallway was clear. He moved down the corridor, as stealthily as during his heydays working on the force in New York. Hearing footfalls ahead and to his left, he fell back and pressed his large frame against the custodial door. Hidden by the entryway’s shadow, he watched Nurse Collins—a tall, thin woman with a dark complexion—pass fifty feet from where he stood, before she disappeared into the nurses’ break room.

Barefoot and dressed in only a Red Sox T-shirt and his sleeping shorts, Stan made a break for the staircase across the hall. His breaths were coming faster now. If he didn’t hurry, he wouldn’t make it outside. He crept down the steps leading to the main hallway.

Through the small window on the stairwell door, he could see Harold Barnes’s haunted jowls illuminated by the laptop screen in front of him. The old man’s eyes were closed, his mouth open. Harold hadn’t even made it an hour into his shift before he was out. Stan knew Harold also ran his own antique shop in the neighboring town of Hallowell. He’d told Stan that working both jobs on the same day, which was sometimes unavoidable, made it difficult for him on the night shift. It was another shared nugget Stan had stored away for nights like this one—the nights the beast in him needed to get out.

Easing the door open, Stan skulked his way along the shadows on the wall, and tiptoed to the main entrance door. Despite the cramps now rampaging through his calves and thighs, he slipped the procured key into the lock, slow and steady. The door clicked open, and he stepped out into the night.

As the cool breeze brushed against the sweat of his brow, the tendons and bones in his face began to shift. The rest of his body followed suit. He dropped to one knee and cried out. His skin, his scalp, his eyes, his muscles were all too tight. He reached behind him and managed to push the door shut.

If you could see me now, Harold.

The private roads out front were deserted. He launched from the building’s stairs and landed on the lawn below, making a beeline for the woods to the left of the large property.

He was twenty feet from the forest when the change hit him like a massive wave, crashing him to the ground. His muscles clenched and squeezed and tore, while the bones of his face continued to crack and grow. His teeth began to fall out in place of the monster’s. Down on all fours, he crawled to the tree cover and vomited. A mix of last night’s cafeteria meat loaf, black coffee, loose teeth, and blood splashed the ferns before him. Stan’s fingers extended as his claws dug into the soft soil of spring’s floor. He moaned and grunted his way through the rest of the fluid process.

In full beast mode, Stan Springs stood and howled at the cloud-covered sky. The creatures of the night became ghosts among the trees. He felt the strength flowing through him and the hunger begging to be sated.

He burst forward, headed north. Despite Stan’s best effort to control the beast’s killing zone, he found himself heading home.

Review: Blood and Rain by Glenn Rolfe

So I recently finished a book that surprised me. It didn’t surprise me that it was good, I already had that impression when I first came across the author and looked into it. No, It surprised me because I am not really a Horror fan. I mean, I like Stephen King but that was always more because I grew up knowing his name and, naturally, sort of just liked his stuff. As far as the Horror genre itself, I was always sort of “meh” towards it. They weren’t bad feelings. Just indifferent. I appreciate the genre and what it takes to write and create it but I don’t put it first in my life. I have friendzoned the Horror genre.

I like you, I just don’t feel that way about you.

So, getting back on track, I came across Blood and Rain and pre-ordered a copy. Of course, I spent the cash before I was presented with an opportunity to receive an ARC (advanced review copy) but that’s just the luck I have. I can’t call it bad luck, though. This book was soooo not a disappointment.

If you see something with a strike through, like this, that is because it may be a spoiler. You can skip possible spoilers by just not reading the strikethrough bits of text. You’ve been warned and advised.

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This isn’t the type of werewolf book you’ll find on the YA shelves, covered in teenage angst and glitter. The werewolves in Blood and Rain are the real deal. The real, blood-thirsty, savage, terrifying deal. Vampire-human-werewolf ménage à trois need not apply.

There was little to dislike about this novel and everything to love. However, I like to get the bad news out of the way as soon as possible. If there was one thing that I found difficult about Rolfe’s work, it was that there are SO MANY PEOPLE to keep up with! It could be just a personal taste of mine, but once you get beyond five people, I find myself spending far too much time reading back to make sure I’m visualizing the right person in a given scene.

I love that he brought the whole town in on the terror– after all, it always seems hokey when there’s like two or three people dealing with a living monster yet no one else ever seems to take notice of its existence– but there does come a point when there are too many people vying for the little spotlight. It doesn’t happen too often in this novel, but it does happen.

As far as everything else goes? FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC. There is just the right amount of character building, the right amount of realism, the right amount of blood and gore to keep me riveted throughout the read.

Rolfe manages to make you get to know enough about the many characters involved to care but not focus so much on their day-to-day lives that you feel like you’re never going to get to the juicy parts.

I thoroughly enjoyed each and every attack on the township, though I will have to say that there seemed to be a little bit of repetition here and there. Like how the wolves seem to always attack by jumping on top of cars. It happened a lot. However, it did keep it fresh enough to satisfy and make me wince in sympathy.

Rolfe doesn’t hold back. Like at all (other than gratuitous sex scenes. He seems to take the fade-to-black approach and I can appreciate that. I love gratuitous sex scenes as much as the next girl but this book had a focus and he stuck to it and I think it kept the story on track). If someone needs to be maimed, or even killed, for the sake of the story he lets it happen. I mean he is trying to compete with George R.R. Martin it seems, but I can respect that.

If you are a Horror nut, or even if you just dabble, you will not be disappointed in Blood and Rain. Rolfe brings the werewolf back to its monster roots and satisfies the bloodlusty monster in all of us.

If you would like a peek into the mind of the author, Glenn Rolfe, he was kind enough to stop by my blog for an interview. Don’t forget to check out his other works: Slush, Boom Town,  and Abram’s Bridge and keep your eyes peeled for some future books in the works.