Samhain Publishing

Win a $50 Amazon gift card!

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Greetings y’all! I’m doing what many unknown authors do: coaxing readers into reviewing my work for the chance to win something!

Here’s what’s what: Twelfth Krampus Night (Samhain Publishing) is my first-ever novella and I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. And it costs less than certain drinks at Starbucks!

So, if you’d like to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and a print copy of my first book, The Dark Servant, follow this Rafflecopter link to see how to enter, which you can do multiple times.

Also, and this it the REALLY IMPORTANT PART: If you review Twelfth Krampus Night and send the link to Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com, and click you’ve done this on the Rafflecopter section for it, you will get 5 extra entries! Any questions, defer them to Erin as well. Click on the Rafflecopter daily to enter!

Dark servants clash!

Medieval maiden Beate, who’s grieving over the mysterious evisceration of her best friend, Gisela, must escape a Bavarian castle under siege by sadistic creatures.

Standing in her way—beyond towering walls and crossbow-toting guards—are Saint Nicholas’s demonic helper, Krampus, and Frau Perchta, a belly-slitting hag who prowls the countryside during First Night festivities to punish naughty teens. Beate wants out. Krampus and Frau Perchta want in, determined to breach the castle to snag their prey. Beate has no idea why these monsters want her, but she must use her wits to save herself from horrors both human and inhuman—lest she wind up like Gisela.

Having a Howl of a Time Talkin’ Horror with Glenn Rolfe

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When you meet Glenn Rolfe, the first thing you think is “Why is this 12-year-old kid trying to sell me a werewolf book?” That’s my way of saying that Glenn looks young (and he is—still in his 30s; when you’re 40, like me, anybody in their 30s is young). In all honesty, when I first met Glenn in person last year in Cincinnati at HorrorHound, the first thing I thought was “Glenn really loves horror.” His love for the genre is infectious. He’s tremendously supportive of his fellow writers too. So when I learned Glenn had a werewolf book, Blood and Rain (Samhain Publishing), scheduled to drop in October, I couldn’t wait to help him try to promote it to all 4 readers of my blog. And Glenn’s take on the age-old legend defied my expectations—it wasn’t what I was expecting at all! But that’s not a bad thing. I’ll let Glenn explain it. Here’s my Q&A with him. Enjoy!

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Q. Many werewolf stories revolve around not knowing who the monster is until the big reveal at the end of the book, but not so in Blood and Rain. We know full well the identities. Did you ever toy with keeping the identities hidden? If so, what made you change your mind? If it was always your plan to reveal who’s who up front, what was the reason?

A. I changed it in my re-writes last summer. The original manuscript was about 60% different. It was a mystery that I ran to have people guessing whether it was one or the other and then the big surprise was that it was both. I liked it, but I ended up completely changing one of the characters. When I sat down to get real last July, I started by writing the prologue. I revealed it right there. And I liked it. To me, it doesn’t matter if we know or not. If you want to do that, go for it. I decided to run straight ahead and just have a lot of fun with the story and these creatures. So, to answer that one, I guess the story demanded that I reveal the identity of the beast right off. I love how it came out.

Q. You’re a Stephen King fan. Publisher’s Weekly even likened your approach in Blood and Rain to the horror master. How did King’s Cycle of the Werewolf influence you? I know it did because A.) you’re from Maine and pronounce lobster entirely different from New Jerseyans, and B.) Blood and Rain is set in a small Maine town much like Cycle. Am I correct in these observations (don’t worry about the lobster one)?

A. Of course. Yeah, I’d seen Silver Bullet a million times growing up and in 2004 I finally read Cycle of the Werewolf. When I finished it I knew I wanted more! I wasn’t a writer at that time, but I jotted down an idea for a story. Years later, that idea became the first few original chapters of my first real work, Blood and Rain. I love small towns. I’ve lived in them almost my entire life. It’s what I know best, so it’s what I use to paint with. King’s beast is bad news, too. I made sure mine was also going to be mean and nasty.

Q. How come your werewolf isn’t a shirtless teenaged Native American boy who can’t act? You do realize you’re alienating 99% of the high school-aged female readership by going out of your way to make your werewolf a vicious, man-devouring monster.

A. Ha! Hey, Taylor Lautner is a good looking kid. But, yeah, no. I had no romantic notions circling my brain during this one. No way were my monsters going to be pretty and lovely.

Q. Werewolf novels you’d recommend to your fans?

A. The Howling by Gary Brandner (if you go to the movies, The Howling IV is actually the story from the first book). Cycle of the Werewolf. I also loved what Ray Garton did in his book, Ravenous. That one had a lot of influence over the original manuscript, too. Outside of Garton and King’s books, I hadn’t read that many werewolf books prior to writing Blood and Rain. I’m catching up now. W.D. Gagliani has an interesting take with his Nick Lupo series, too. I’m getting ready to read book 3 of his saga. Jonathan Janz’s new one, Wolf Land, is pretty vicious, too.

Q. What’s the most difficult part about writing a werewolf novel compared to your earlier works (Abram’s Bridge, a ghost story; and Boom Town, aliens)?

A. It wasn’t any harder than the others. It was a lot of FUN. The most difficult part was re-writing it. It was the first real thing I’d written. The manuscript had all of my “I have no idea what I’m doing” bits in there, but I knew the heart of the story and the characters I’d created were good enough. I refused to give up on them. I did a crazy re-write marathon for about three and a half to four weeks at the end of last summer. I was lucky to have my friend Ben there to tell me yes or no on the changes. He beta read both versions. Once he said “Dude, this is it”, I knew I had it. Then I let Erin at it and she cleaned up the rest of my mess (Thanks, E!) and helped me tweak the last couple of pieces I wasn’t comfortable with. So, much much kudos to Ben and Erin!

Q. I read Blood and Rain and will say this, you spare no one. I won’t spoil anything, but my god! I will tell the reader not to get attached to anybody. What compels you to kill off characters (some the readers might like) or keep them alive? I must admit there were some characters I wish had survived.

A. I don’t worry about whether it’s going to upset anybody. I let the story do what it wants. If they live or die, that’s whatever I felt the scene wanted. It’s not plotted out at all. I just go with the flow when I’m writing. I like to think if this was real life and this shit happened, it wouldn’t be pretty. You’re lucky if you come out in one piece or at all. I write for myself. If anyone else enjoys it, awesome! But you have to write for yourself first. Looking back after I’ve finished at a piece like this, or my other novel, The Haunted Halls, when I see the carnage and death toll….I like it. In real life, shit happens. Life doesn’t play by the rules. There’s something about going into a book or a movie where you don’t know who is or who isn’t going to make it out. I never understand why some writers choose to play it safe every time out. It is what it is. And I dig it. ###

I wish Glenn the best of luck with Blood & Rain. And for those of you in Maine who are eager to meet him. He’s having a book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Augusta on Saturday, August 24, from noon to 2 p.m. So get out there to pick up a copy, and talk to the guy about horror. You’ll learn a lot and have a great time doing it!

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The ebook promotional numbers are in …

Back in March and April of this year, I embarked on a near three-week-long 99-cent promotion for my debut novel, The Dark Servant. I documented which promotional sites I paid to advertise my book, and how many books, according to those websites, I sold. Here’s the original post, and I suggest you read it to see which sites I plan on using again, and which ones I’ll avoid.

Long story short, I paid $506 to advertise my (discounted) 99-cent eBook directly to readers through nearly a dozen websites. According to my publisher, Samhain Publishing, I sold a total of 1,265 promotional copies through various retail outlets. I don’t mind saying my royalties amounted to $386.10. So, based on promotional copies alone, I came out behind financially. But I don’t mind because I always viewed this endeavor as an experiment for future promotions. I know which sites to use before my next dance with Sentinels (available November 3, 2015). I hope for a 99-cent promotion for that book next spring. But that will depend on one big thing: whether I can land a BookBub slot. BookBub rocked and alone was responsible for moving more than 800 books! It’s pricey (around $280, I think), but worth it. So, as promised long ago, here’s how I got to 1,265.

Retail breakdown:
Amazon: 889
Amazon International: 117
Apple: 39
B&N: 157
Google: 26
Kobo: 33
Samhain: 4

All hail BookBub!

And for anyone out there who reads this and has a question, please, fire away!

An Apocalyptic Interview with Hunter Shea

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Hunter Shea has had a slow summer. Normally he releases 12 books over a three-month span (or at least it seems that way), but this summer it’s only two: The Dover Demon, through Samhain Horror, and the book we’ll be discussing today, Tortures of the Damned, a novel, released through Pinnacle, about a doomed cluster of reporters forced to cover Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

I’m kidding (sort of).

TOTD ventures into post-apocalyptic thriller land, but I don’t think post-apocalyptic accurately covers things because the book begins pre-apocalyptic in a New York City suburb. Full disclosure: I’m not quite through TOTD, but I’m easily more than 70 percent done, and I’m digging it. Without spoiling anything, TOTD focuses on a loving family (mom, dad, four kids) and their resourceful neighbors hunkering down in a fallout shelter during some sort of chemical/bomb attack on the city/country/world? It’s hard to say at this point. I still don’t know what the hell happened! But when our intrepid heroes emerge from the bunker, they encounter what would be otherwise friendly city creatures—rats, dogs, Italians (I’m kidding! I’m Italian so I can make that joke)—gone berserk! Attacking and biting anything that moves!

What struck me as most scary was the book’s beginning, when New York City falls under attack. Hunter’s a New Yorker, and I’m from neighboring New Jersey, and we both experienced 9/11 somewhat firsthand simply because of our proximity to the attack. Naturally I was drawn to that upon reading TOTD and asked Hunter about how the worst terrorist attack on American soil impacted him and his writing.

Q: Were you in New York City on 9/11/2001? If not, where were you and what’s your most vivid memory of that day?

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Hunter: I was at work in CT when the planes first hit. Once we heard on the radio that other planes were missing and the towers collapsed, I got in my car and sped home like the devil was on my tail. My house has a view of Manhattan, and we watched the smoke billowing with fighter jets screaming overhead. Friends and family all gathered there to watch the aftermath and wonder what was going to happen next. It was scary as hell. One of my best friends was working in the area and we couldn’t locate him. Phone lines were down. We thought this was just the start of the end of everything. And through it all, my kids were only 4 and 2 and we took turns keeping them away from it all so for them, it was just another day. The one good thing to come out of it was my friend checking back in 2 days later. I don’t think we ever breathed a bigger sigh of relief.

Q: How did 9/11 influence you in writing Tortures of the Damned?

Hunter: It taught me that we’re never, ever safe. We live in a very dangerous world. Living so close to a major target has changed my view of everything. I refuse to be lulled into a false coma of numbness, nourished by a steady diet of Kardashians, Donald Trump pretending he can be president and social media. There’s real danger around us all the time. The weapons unleashed in Tortures of the Damned exist. They’re on the black market right now. Any lunatic with enough cash can get their hands on them. A 9/11 event will happen in the U.S. again. Let’s all just hope Tortures of the Damned, as crazy as it sounds, isn’t a glimpse into a crystal ball.

Q: What is it about apocalyptic novels that appeals to both readers and writers? And with so many out there, how do you make them fresh?

Hunter: I think there’s a big obsession with them right now because we’re all uneasy. Despite the news telling us things are better, we’re not stupid. I grew up with air raid tests every month, the tail end of the Cold War all too real. What we see today makes me even more uneasy. Maybe we read and watch these stories to prepare ourselves. How would we react? What would we do? I know there are some folks out there that dig them because they hope it will happen. They picture themselves alpha male/female types that can take on the end of the world and spit in its eye. As a nation, I believe we’re at a glass half full period. You’ll know things are turning around when there’s a resurgence of what they called in the 80s tits and zits movies and stories with brighter endings.

As for making a post apocalypse story fresh, I think if you strip out zombies, you’re already ahead of the curve. You need to add a dose of hyper realism and a dash of the fantastic to grab the reader by the throat and scare the bejeeezus out of them.

Q: Do you have a favorite apocalyptic-themed novel? If so, which one and why?

Hunter: I absolutely love The Stand, especially the extended version. But my favorite is Robert McCammon’s Swan Song. Why? Because McCammon’s work in the 80s and 90s is some of the best horror fiction ever written in any time period. He can take an impossible premise and make it seem real. His writing is that good.

Question from Hunter to me: Now, since you live in Jersey, I have one question for you – is your go-bag stocked and ready and do you know where to hide your head when the shit hits the fan?

Matt: Whoa! What the hell is this?! I wasn’t expecting an inquisition! But to answer your question: I’d be screwed if the shit hit the fan right now. I don’t even have a 12-pack of bottled water in my basement. The closest I’ve come to witnessing first-hand the degeneration of society was the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which knocked out power to my house for two weeks. I am ill-prepared. But after reading Hunter’s book, and given our country’s inexplicable apparent willingness to help Iran develop a nuclear bomb, I’ll be going to the grocery store tomorrow, and bottled water will be on the top of my list.

Tortures of the Damned tour logo

Sentinels cover reveal 

Coming in November, my second Samhain Publishing novel, Sentinels. As it happens, it’s set in Reconstruction-era South Carolina in 1872. Someone’s killing KKK members and the Northern Soldiers responsible for helping keep the peace during the rebuilding effort. Who would want to slaughter these two diametrically opposed forces of good and evil, and why? Find out November 3! And there’s not one Confederate Flag mention in the book.  

I’m attending BEA 2015! Come say hello!

Manochio_BEA15I’m pleased to announce I’ll be signing copies of The Dark Servant from 2 to 4 p.m. on Friday, May 29, at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City during Book Expo America 2015! Please stop by the Samhain Publishing display and say hello.

Author Glenn Rolfe: Horror enthusiast, friend

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I get the sense that Glenn Rolfe doesn’t just love reading horror, I believe he loves reading. He adores books and always is eager to help his fellow writers. Glenn and I both write for Samhain Publishing, and he was one of the first people out of the gate to support my debut novel last December. Glenn’s newest novella, Boom Town, was released earlier this month, and I’m happy to help him however I can to spread the word of his new work. 

I’m always curious about the writing process, so where do you write (at a desk, man cave, Starbucks where you can talk about race relations while writing horror)?

I write the majority of my stuff on my overnight shifts (two nights a week) at the hotel I work at. It is quiet (most nights). I can disappear into my mind. I work at home if I have something that is time sensitive, but my three kiddos usually have a way of barging in and keeping me out of “the zone.” So, yeah, work is the best place to create. 

Do you have a specific word count you try to reach?

Depends on the piece. Novels, I aim for 70K words (settle for 63K and up). For novellas, I aim for 20K (and welcome more if they come). For short stories…anything goes. 

Do you prefer silence when writing, or is it OK to have music/television in the background? I almost always have music going. Sometimes I use it to set the mood of the scene I’m writing. Sometimes, when you see a song mentioned in one of my stories, it’s just the one that happened to play on my computer while typing. I never have the TV going. 

Are you able to write multiple projects at once or do you prefer to focus solely on writing one novel or novella at a time? I always have multiple projects going at once, so I always have something to work on. I have four novels at various word counts going right now. I also have a novella started, and multiple short stories that need to be completed. I have a bit of a writer’s ADD going on. If I get an idea for a story, I have to sit down and start it. I’ll find my way back to it eventually.

You’re a voracious reader – at least I believe you are – so please tell us about some of your favorite books, regardless of genre, and how they influenced you. Oh boy, you want me to talk books? Sure thing.

‘Salem’s Lot has to be at the top of the list. That’s my favorite novel of all-time. It has everything in a story that I want to deliver as a writer myself. A great array of characters. Creepy atmosphere in all the right places (The Marsten House, the dump, the cemetery, faces in the windows). A love story (Does it get any better than Ben and Susan?)

For other King works: The Shining, Joyland, The Dead Zone,The Green Mileare all favorites.

Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi and Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes M. Yardley each had a HEAVY influence on Abram’s Bridge. Malfi’s descriptions are perfection. He never over does it. I strive for that in my own work. Yardley showed me that you could bring sweetness into your bloodbaths. I never even considered doing that before. I owe Sweet Kate (the ghost girl from Abram’s Bridge) to her.

Richard Laymon and Bentley Little have their fingerprints on my first novel, The Haunted Halls.

I also have started reading some classics to broaden my range. To Kill a Mockingbird was brilliant, as was Brave New World. Character and storytelling for Mockingbird. More social awareness, bigger picture-type stuff with World. I looked to improve in those areas moving forward.

Brian Keene’s Ghoul and McCammon’s Boys Life are two more of my favorites. They offer up that coming of age magic that bleeds its way into a lot of my stuff, too. And magic definitely feels like the right word there. My goal is to one day write a story as good as Boy’s Life (probably my second favorite book of all-time).

I’m also influenced by plenty of the Samhain authors. Being on this roster with you and the rest of the gang definitely makes me want to be a better writer. I don’t want to spoil the quality of the line.

What is your definition of horror? I’ve always contended it’s a tough genre to pin down. Some might think “blood and guts” others might think “monsters.” I love horror. It give you another set of buttons to push on a reader. You can have the love, romance, mystery, sci-fi, psychological. You can have all of that in a great horror book. Plus, you can get downright scary and terrify the reader so that they have to leave the light on when they’re ready to call it a night. A great horror story should aim to push as many buttons in a reader’s mind as it can. It makes the horror go that much deeper. If you have blood and guts, you better make me care about the people getting torn to shreds. I was taught early on to make sure you earn every drop of blood. I probably miss a beat here or there, but it is something I constantly look at in my work.

What scares you? I mean, what genuinely frightens you? (For me, it’s heights. Hate em.)

Spiders. Losing people I love. Our government. The future of Rock n Roll. My daughters in their teens (luckily I have a few more years there).

What inspired Boom Town? The spark was a news story from back in 2012. In Clintonville, Wisconsin, they had these nightly underground “booms” that were (at the time) unexplainable. Over the course of four days or so, they hit like mini-earthquakes, shaking houses and scaring the crap out of locals. I thought it sounded like the perfect idea for a story. In the first draft, there were no aliens. I didn’t dare to go there. I figured I had no right in the sci-fi realm, but then I remembered reading that King had said somewhere “Write fearless” or “be a fearless writer.” It was something along those lines. I knew I wanted my “booms” to be alien related. Once I sacked up, and dove in, it came together so easy.

Thanks for having me, Matt.

☺