Brian Moreland

To Don D’Auria, my editor

Don D'Auria, myself, and a really patchy beard, at BEA 2015 last spring in NYC

Don D’Auria, myself, and a really patchy beard, at BEA 2015 last spring in NYC

Tonight I drink to Don D’Auria.

I rarely drink. I originally planned on having a beer tonight to celebrate the release of my newest supernatural thriller, Sentinels, from Samhain Publishing, where Don was my editor. I say “was” because Don informed his stable of writers he’s leaving the company this Friday. Why and how this came about, I can’t say. Samhain turns 10 years old this month, and for a majority of that time has published romance, lots of it, and has even seen a few of its titles make The New York Times bestsellers list. Don was hired in 2011 to start a horror line, and he’s done so quite ably. Three of his edited works have been nominated for the coveted Bram Stoker award presented by the Horror Writers Association. He discovered a bunch of eventual Bram Stoker-winners during his days with Dorchester Publishing, where my history with him began.

Don plucked me out of Dorchester Publishing’s creaking slush pile in 2010. I’d written a straight crime thriller and Don offered me a small advance to make the book part of Dorchester’s Leisure line. I agreed, and then promptly saw the deal collapse—and Don laid off—a few months later because Dorchester went bankrupt. I stayed in touch with Don and heard he’d landed with Samhain. I couldn’t follow him there because my book wasn’t horror, but I kept him in the back of my mind, and when I got the idea for my Krampus novel, The Dark Servant, in 2012, he was the first guy I emailed—Don’s primary method of communication. He expressed a few concerns, nothing major, and was enthusiastic to see what I could do. He encouraged me to write, making no promises, and to send him some sample chapters. A line from his email, which I saved: “I have no doubt the book will be well written, unless you’ve had some serious head injury you haven’t mentioned.”

Don believed in me, and that was important. And what I’d hoped to have happen in February 2011 (a book with Dorchester) happened a few years later in December 2014 (a different book with Samhain). And I’m eternally grateful to have earned Don’s trust. He’s easy to work with, states up front his concerns about a character or a plot point. And he’s an exceedingly nice man. I was fortunate enough to attend BEA 2015 in New York just this past spring, and Don was there. We caught up, discussed horror, the publishing industry in general, and it was simply nice to finally see, after five years, the first editor to appreciate my work and offer to pay me for it.

So what now? Here’s my message to the Big 5 publishers: Hire this man. He knows what he’s doing and will bring talented authors with him. I’m not the only author who’s reeling upon learning about his unexpected departure. But I’m also not the only author who believes that Don will land somewhere else and succeed. I have a feeling I’m going to work with him again.

My beer is Michelob Ultra. Don’s apparently a martini fellow. (Sorry, I can’t do that.) But I will be drinking my beer tonight and celebrating two published novels, and an upcoming Krampus novella, Twelfth Krampus Night, which drops in December. I’m proud to say Don D’Auria helped make them happen.

I have a bookshelf of Samhain Horror works by Jonathan Janz, John Everson, Tamara Jones, Brian Moreland, Hunter Shea, and Glenn Rolfe, and I’ll be adding more in the months ahead. (Russell James, Ron Malfi, you’re on notice.) And tonight I’ll drink to all of them and to the man who edited them—Don D’Auria, who gave me my start. Cheers.

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Review: The Devil’s Woods, by Brian Moreland

Brian Moreland’s The Devil’s Woods includes on both the cover copy and within book’s text the phrase “Fear wears many skins.”

Courtesy, Brian Moreland's website. Thanks, Brian!

Courtesy, Brian Moreland’s website. Thanks, Brian!

 

“That makes no sense,” was my first thought while ruminating over the phrase’s possible meaning, which doesn’t become clear until well into the book. But when it does, the payoff smacks you in the face–“Ah, so that’s it!”–and rolls through the final chapters of this ghost/monster/serial murder story. Yes, it’s all of those things creatively blended together.

The hero, Kyle, a Seattle-based Cree Indian from Sort-of America (Canada), along with his brother, sister, and their significant others, visits his grandfather and a family friend on the Cree reservation in the Canadian wilds. Not only has Kyle’s father gone missing while exploring the Devil’s Woods around the reservation, we learn people, mainly young women, have been vanishing from the area for more than a century. Now, with a title like The Devil’s Woods, you figure there’s a monster running around in there somewhere. And there is. (Oops! Was that a spoiler? I think it was. But if you didn’t see it coming …)

But what the creature is, how it operates, and, more specifically, why, makes the book compelling. Moreland paces the answers to leave the reader satisfied. He builds up to them by effectively developing Kyle (a tortured soul who sees ghosts), brother Eric (an arrogant lawyer [go figure] who openly flirts with other women while on vacation with his girlfriend Jessica), and Jessica (a sweet Aussie who’s conflicted over her feelings for Eric and someone else on the trip). Those are some notable characters but by no means all of them. The group of youngsters soon realizes they’re being stalked by something while they’re living on the dilapidated Cree reservation (Curse you! Alcohol and Westward Expansion)! I couldn’t help but thinking at times that Jason Voorhees stalked the forest. No, wait, maybe something from The Howling? Or Predator? Honestly, I had no idea what it was, and was pleasantly surprised when I finally understood what lurks in The Devil’s Woods.

Authors have been telling “There’s something scary in the woods” stories since man first chiseled bears onto cave walls. So, what new twist can it possibly be given after all of this time? Moreland slyly accomplishes it. My only gripe is that the book seemed slow at first, but once the action gets going, it’s a juggernaut, one you’ll want to finish reading despite it being 1 a.m. and having to work the next day.