Tuesday, December 8, 2015

AMONG THE STACKS: Matt Manochio


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hi, Matt.  Welcome to The Gal.  I have recently become a fan and I am super excited to have you here today.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Matt Manochio:
I'm a 40-year-old single dad living in northwest New Jersey, where I write and edit guide that help insurance underwriters understand various businesses and industries.  If that sounds boring, it can be. But I have a great job that allows me to write my stories in the afternoon and, more importantly, be a dad.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Matt Manochio:
That's a tough one.  I honestly can't think of one thing, let alone five.  But I'll try.

1. I was once obsessed with throwing knuckleballs and baseballs and, at one time, fantasized about being a knuckleball pitcher.  The only problem is you really need to be an outstanding baseball player in order to do that, and I couldn't even make my high school team.  Ah, the follies of youth.  But I cannot wait for my son to become old enough to throw a baseball.

2. I've performed stand-up comedy six times in my life in 1998 when I was working as a newspaper copy editor in South Carolina.  When it works, and you can make people laugh, it truly is one of the best feelings imaginable.  When it doesn't work, and you bomb, you feel like crap.  But there are worse feelings in the world.

3. I own every Enya album, including the new studio release, Dark Sky Island.

4. When I was a newspaper reporter, I once appeared with On the Record with Greta Van Susteren to discuss the tragic death of a young vocal woman who died in Hawaii.

5. I love ventriloquists. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Matt Manochio:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Matt Manochio:
Finders Keepers by Stephen King.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Matt Manochio:
As far back as elementary school, when I would write silly stories and read them in class with the sole purpose of making my classmates laugh.  I enjoyed writing and got into newspapers - I was a daily newspaper reporter from 1999-2011 - because it was an outlet to write.  I began trying to write novels in 2007 and just kept at it, and am glad I did.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Matt Manochio:
Nope. Either sitting on my couch or sitting on my bed.  Either works for me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Matt Manochio:
I'm working on what I hope turns into another Krampus novel, knock on wood, and firmly believe a book begins taking shape once you've finished the first draft and begin re-reading what you wrote.  So I suppose that's a process, not really a quirk.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Matt Manochio:
Just how long it takes to write even a short novel, one that's 65,000 to 70,000 words, which is sort of the minimum that publishers tend to accept and probably 250 pages long.  I'm amazed by authors who write 1,000-page books.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What book shave most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Matt Manochio:
That's a touch one because I'm not a voracious reader.  I've read more Dave Barry books that I can count, but most of them weren't novels.  And the first novel he wrote, Big Trouble, I didn't find funny.  I love humor writing and try to find a balance in my works.  The aforementioned Hobbit, along with Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park and Stephen King's Salem's Lot, are the books that I have gone back and reread time and again.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Matt Manochio:
Good question because I have no idea how to answer it.  How about one that keeps you engaged?  I felt that way about Justin Cronin's The Passage.  I loved lying down at night to read it and didn't want it to end.  And I can't attribute it to wonderful characters (I can't name any of them off the top of my head).  I suppose it really depends on your own personal preferences.  I know there are people who hated The Passage.  Why?  We all read the same book.  You have to into the book with interest in the subject matter (The Passage dealt with vampires) and hope it grabs you.  That's still not a good answer!  I wish I had a better one.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Matt Manochio:
You're good.  This is another question I'm having trouble answering.  I don't really love characters or become obsessed with them.  Here's what I mean: there are people who've read every Harry Potter book, can name all of the characters, recite their back stories, etc.  I can't do that with characters in my favorite books.  I know Bilbo Baggins is the protagonist in the Hobbit, but for the life of me cannot rattle off his relatives, and I'm sure there are people who can.  When I'm writing my characters, I try to envision whether I want the reader to like the character or hate them and proceed accordingly.  (Or at least I try.)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Matt Manochio:
Probably Billy Schweitzer, the protagonist from my first novel, The Dark Servant.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Matt Manochio:
No.  You're not looking at the cover when you're reading a book.  You're reading the pages, what's in them is what matters most.  And my publishers ask for input into the cover design.  I try the best as I can to describe what I'd like to see, and hopefully my publishers can come up with something that closely mirrors it.  The cover for my second novel, Sentinels, is by far my favorite.  It's almost exactly what I was looking for.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Matt Manochio:
Just how aggravating the editing process can be.  You spend months writing a book, more months refining it, then you proofread it before sending it to the publisher, then you get it back (sometimes a year later) from your editor with his comments and those of a copy editor's.  You make your changes, return it, and then get the corrected version to go over one more time - all the while hoping, praying, you've caught every possible typo or missing word that could be hiding in there.  And when you've learned you've missed some after the fact?  It's deflating.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Matt Manochio:
From Sentinels: What it was like for a black teenager to be sold to slavers and chained within the bowls of a ship bound for the United States from Africa.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Matt Manochio:
That I try to use humor whenever I feel it's warranted.  Most horror books, at least the one's I've read, don't include boatloads of humor - be it in dialogue or when describing something.  And humor lines that I do read tend to be throwaway lines, like the author knows something should be inserted to lighten the mood but doesn't really think about how to do it, inserts a line or two, and then moves along with the horror story.  Humor matters to me because, if done correctly, you might have a reader for life.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Matt Manochio:
They're important.  I've come up with all my book titles.  I originally named my first novel The Dark Companion but was informed by my publisher that a Ramsey Campbell book that is published had a similar title, so I opted for Servant.  As for Twelfth KRampus Night, one of the book's antagonist's Frau Perchta, historically, made her rounds in Bavaria during Twelfth Night festivities.  As for Krampus, there's Krampus Night, which is December 5, the Night of the Krampus, which is when he supposedly makes his rounds to beat up the bad kids.  So I took both Twelfth Night and Krampus Night and came up with the title, and it really works, if you ask me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Matt Manochio:
It would have to be a novel.  Realizing that something that started on a single page and then results in a 300-page book that you can hold in your hands - and reading the blurbs that you managed to score from more famous writers - is quite rewarding.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Matt Manochio:
My target audience would be high school-aged kids to adults who want to have fun when they read.  I want my books to be entertaining, first and foremost.  I try not to get all deep and philosophical or preachy.  That's best left up to others.  I try to impart a little moral of the story, and I do try to include a twist or two.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Matt Manochio:
I don't really have any that I can think of.  I might have versions of a scene that I cut and paste into a different Word document to come back to for whatever the reason.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your 'trunk'?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Matt Manochio:
I don't really operate that way.  I don't have multiple projects floating around.  I currently have two projects that, at some point, will be completed.  Which leads to the next question.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Matt Manochio:
I like Krampus.  Love him.  And I find it challenging to come up with new stories that feature him.  Krampus was put on this earth to catch and torment kids.  I introduce him in my first book doing just that in modern times.  I never thought about a sequel because, really, what more can you have him do that would be totally different?  So with Twelfth Krampus Night, I worked backward and include two dark servants - Krampus and Frau Perchta - that are in competition with one another to infiltrate a castle to get their prey.  All the while, all hell is breaking out in the castle and everybody inside it wants to get out but dares not because Krampus and Perchta are outside.  That was a lot of fun, and I'm currently working on another Krampus story that I hope becomes a full-length novel.  I'll see where it takes me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Matt Manochio:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything that you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Matt Manochio:
What a thorough interview!  Thank you.  If someone is reading this and hasn't read any of my works, well, please give me a try.  I have a warped sense of humor (like Krampus does) if that helps.  Also, to anyone who might or who has read my work: if you haven't already, please leave a review on Amazon, which, to me, is the site that matters most.  If you want to put it on Goodreads and B&N and elsewhere, please do.  The more the merrier.  Those reviews can help authors like me and others get noticed.  And that's important.  And it really means a lot to me that you took the time to do it.  Thanks!


About the author:
Matt Manochio was born in 1975 in New Jersey and graduated from The University of Delaware in 1997 with a history/journalism degree.  He spent the majority of his 13-year newspaper career at the Daily Record in Morris County, New Jersey, where he won multiple New Jersey Association Awards for his reporting.
            He wrote about one of his passions, rock 'n' roll giants AC/DC, for USA Today and considers that the highlight of his journalism career.  He left newspapers in 2011 for safer employment.
            His debut novel, The Dark Servant, was published with Samhain Horror in November of 2014.  His second novel, Sentinels, was released November 2015, just prior to Twelfth Krampus Night in December 2015.  He currently lives in New Jersey with his son.

REVIEW: Bad Apples 2


Bad Apples 2
By: Edward Lorn, Evans Light, Jason Parent, Adam Light,
Kealan Patrick Burke, Gregor Xane

Genre: Horror, Anthology
Publisher: Corpus Press
Publication date: 10.2.2015
Pages: 260

Recommended by: Read 2 Review
Date read: 11.6.2015


I have read quite a bit from every person in this book, so when I found out that Bad Apples 2 was out, I could not wait to get time to read it.  And, as usual, I was not disappointed.  Another quality anthology, and one I hope continues for years to come.

Halloweekend - 3 1/2
A story about a haunted house with misbehaving animatronics, done in typical Edward Lorn fashion. A good story, but not his best work.  I like the things he comes up with, the stories he tells, and sometimes the way he tells them, just not always the way he writes them.  I think he has a tendency to go "too far" not because the story needs it, but for shock value.  I enjoyed the way the animatronics were depicted and the fact that there was a surprise "appearance" from a character seen in last year's story, but I found this comical instead of scary.

Candy Apple - 5
I enjoy this story a little more every time I read it.  Evans has a way of creeping you're reading his words, and at the same time giving your imagination everything it needs to run wild with the story and characters he's played out before you.  This story, to me, is a bit of a warning about the things that can happen to you when you play a holiday game by yourself... and what happens when you're not careful about the wishes you make.

Dia de los Muertos - 4 1/2
Two Bad Apples, two times Jason Parent has scared the nonsense out of me.  Last time, I knew a child with the same name as the child in his story... with an imaginary friend of the same name.  This time, upon reading the line that mentioned the lights going out, the ones in the room I was in turned off, leaving me in complete darkness.  And I could have sworn I heard nails skittering across the wall.  It was a bit before I was able to pick the book up again.
            A very good story that went in directions I never expected, with a "hero" that is not typical in stories.  Mr. Parent's writing is never a disappointment and I look forward to what he comes up with next.

Tommy Rotten - 5
I have been impressed with Adam's writing since the first story of his that I read.  With each new piece, I am more and more amazed at his imagination and talent.
            I was super excited about this story.  It has been one of my favorites of his and creeps me out every time I read it.  The ending was really good and made me wish that there was more to the story.  Like his brother, he has a knack for giving your imagination the extra push that leaves you laying in bed, lights out, eyes as wide as saucers, watching every shadow, questioning every sound.

The One Night of the Year - 5
Kealan Patrick Burke being part of this was a huge surprise and made Bad Apples 2 more enticing than it already was.  Talk about a talented guy.  And this story was perfect.  
            I was lying in bed, reading this book, enjoying every second of this story... until I got about halfway through.  I will admit that I had to close my Kindle, vowing to continue reading once the sun was back up.  I want to thank you for that, Kealan.  You have a way with words and an impressive talent - and you managed to scare me enough that I wasn't sure I wanted to pick this book back up.  The characters are well written, and the story will be haunting me, and keeping me wondering on Halloween for the rest of my life.

Doctor Proclivity & Professor Propensity - 5
Ever since I experienced Six Dead Spots (a book I still have problems describing with anything more than "Gregor writes crazy so well"), I have been a fan and, in all honesty, his story is the one I looked forward to the most in this collection.
            All I can say is: Gregor Xane has done it again.  I had wondered why his was last and now I know - it would have been tough to follow.  The characters are great, the story so intriguing that, once it began, I could not stop reading until it was done.  Twists and turns, unexpected moments, and the end nowhere close to what I expected, open enough to keep my mind in the story long after I had finished.  I am left wanting to know more - and wanting more from this author.

About the book:
The minds behind the bestselling Bad Apples: Five Slices of Halloween Horror return this October with another batch of frightful fare.  This time, they brought along a friend - Bram Stoker Award-winning author Kealan Patrick Burke!
            Dive into the season with these six Halloween treats:

Two boys enter a Halloween attraction that holds a devilish secret - but one of the boys has a surprise of his own in Edward Lorn's HALLOWEEKEND.

Halloween was his birthday, and all poor Bob Talley wanted was for his family to be together again.  This year, his wish might come true amid whispers of CANDIE APPLE, from Evans Light.

A deserter seeks to escape the horrors of war and pave a new existence in a foreign land in Jason Parent's DIA DE LOS MUERTOS.

Does something putrid truly reside in a small town's pumpkin patch, or is it only a local legend?  Find out in Adam Light's TOMMY ROTTEN.

An old man and his dog await Halloween visitors with candy and a shotgun in Kealan Patrick Burke's THE ONE NIGHT OF THE YEAR.

Jimmy Stones and his Uncle Shel uncover the dark secrets of Medium, Ohio's annual Halloween puppet show in Gregor Xane's DOCTOR PROCLIVITY & PROFESSOR PROPENSITY.

REVIEW: Twelfth Krampus Night


Twelfth Krampus Night
By: Matt Manochio

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: 12.1.2015
Pages: 121

Recommended by: Hook of a Book, Read 2 Review
Date read: 12.6.2015


Anyone that knows me knows that I am a HUGE fan of the Krampus myth.  It all started when my  nieces were 3.  There was an article in the Houston Chronicle that told the stories of Krampus, as well as several other "characters" that deal with naughty children this time of year.  To me, his story was the best, and ever since then, any time something is devoted to Krampus, I have to read it or see it.  (Yes, that means I did see the movie - and I really liked it.)

This is my second Manochio novel, and I have one more planned for the month.  As with the last one, I found this very enjoyable, and I'm glad that I was introduced to his talent.

The characters in this book are well written, especially Frau Perchta and Krampus.  I love the competitive streak between the two that lasts the whole story, and how they deal with each other.  I also like Beate and how much she grows as the story goes on.  There were a couple of unexpected twists, and some things that kept me wondering until the answers were given at the conclusion.  And what a conclusion... I really like how the story ended, but also what was laid out in the final pages, which put in my mind so many further stories that could be written starring these two amazing characters.  (Yes, I am now a fan of Perchta, too.)

To me, this book was more like a really good action movie with some frightful moments.  There were some parts that kept me on the edge of my seat, that had my heart pounding and my stress level up, but I didn't find it, as a whole, scary.  That's not saying this isn't a great book because it really is.  I just don't find Krampus himself to be "scary," just more a natural part of life, and I wish that he had more than one day to do his duties, or maybe a longer list.

This is a great read and I highly recommend it, especially to people who love Krampus as much as I do.

Favorite line: "Do you think it is okay if I eat some of him?"  (Epic!)


About the book:
Dark servants clash!
            Medieval maiden Beate, who's grieving over the mysterious eviceration 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 you.  Krampus and Frau Perchta want in, determined to breach the castle to snag their prey.  Beat 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.

About the author:
Matt Manochio was born in 1975 in New Jersey and graduated from The University of Delaware in 1997 with a history/journalism degree.  He spent the majority of his 13-year newspaper career at the Daily Record in Morris County, New Jersey, where he won multiple New Jersey Association Awards for his reporting.
            He wrote about one of his passions, rock 'n' roll giants AC/DC, for USA Today and considers that the highlight of his journalism career.  He left newspapers in 2011 for safer employment.
            His debut novel, The Dark Servant, was published with Samhain Horror in November of 2014.  His second novel, Sentinels, was released November 2015, just prior to Twelfth Krampus Night in December 2015.  He currently lives in New Jersey with his son.

Friday, December 4, 2015

REVIEW: Wolf Land


Wolf Land
By: Jonathan Janz

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: 11.3.2015
Pages: 314

Recommended by: Hook of a Book, Read 2 Review
Date read: 12.3.2015


Jonathan Janz is an amazing author and a really nice guy, so when I saw that he had a blog tour coming up with Hook of a Book - and for Wolf Land - I jumped on board.  (Book tours always give me a reason to move books I have on hand further up on my TBR list haha.)

Janz has a talent that, unfortunately, most writers do not have.  He not only knows how to write a story that stays with you and gets into your head, but his use of characters and setting are simply spot on in every book I have read of his.  His characters, even the bad ones, have a way of grabbing your attention (and sometimes your heartstrings), and I'm always surprised to see who makes it through the story (they really are never the ones I expect).  His settings could be anywhere; you could walk past "this place" everyday of your life and never even think about it until you start reading his latest... and that's where he first gets me every time.  His description of events are powerful - and sometimes so gory - but so... perfect.  

From the very first page, I was drawn into a story that, to be honest, scared me.  I mean REALLY scared me.  And not just while I was reading it.  Even after I put the book down, the story remained right there on the very outskirts of my thoughts, waiting to sneak back in when the lights were out, when I was walking past a large grouping of trees down the road from my place, when I came home from the grocery store in the dark.  I'll be honest: When I finished this book last night, I sat there for a good half hour taking it all in.  This was after two days of sleepless nights, of not getting to bed until really late (like 3am and after) unable to put the book down.  And, after enjoying my view of the trees behind my building... and being convinced that I saw something moving in them, something large and... We'll just say that all my lights stayed on last night.

As usual, I enjoyed his characters - and was a tad disappointed when some of the characters (the ones that typically survive these kinds of things) died early on.  I really liked Duane and Joyce - Duane because he grew after the horrific event, and Joyce because I completely relate to her.


About the book:
An unholy predator on the prowl!
            The small town of Lakeview offers little excitement for Duane, Savannah, and their friends.  They're about to endure their ten-year high school reunion when their lives are shattered by the arrival of an ancient, vengeful evil.
            The werewolf.
            The first attack leaves seven dead and four wounded.  And though the beast remains on the loose and eager to spill more blood, the sleepy town is about to face an even greater terror.  Because the four victims of the werewolf's fury are changing.  They're experiencing unholy desires and unimaginable cravings.  They'll prey on the innocent.  They'll act on their basest desires.  Soon, they'll plunge the entire town into a nightmare.  Lakeview is about to become Wolf Land.

About the author:
Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, and in a way, that explains everything.  Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows "the best horror novel of 2012."  The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, "reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub's Ghost Story."
            2013 saw the publication of his novel of vampirism and demonic possession, The Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species.  Of Savage Species, Publishers Weekly said, "Fans of old-school splatter punk horror - Janz cites Richard Laymon as his influence, and it shows - will find much to relish."  Jonathan's Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.
            Jack Ketchum called his vampire western Dust Devils a "Rousing-good weird western," and his sequel to The Sorrows (Castle of Sorrows) was selected one of 2014's top three novels by Pod of Horror.  2015 saw the release of The Nightmare Girl, which prompted Pod of Horror to call Jonathan "Horror's Next Big Thing."  His newest release is Wolf Land, which Publishers Weekly called "gruesome yet entertaining goriest" with "an impressive and bloody climax."  He has also written four novellas (Exorcist RoadThe Clearing of Travis CobleOld Order, and Witching Hour Theatre) and several short stories.
            His primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author's wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliche happens to be true.  You can learn more about Jonathan at his website.  You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

REVIEW: Sentinels


Sentinels
By: Matt Manochio

Genre: Horror, Occult, Western
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: 11.3.2015
Pages: 274

Recommended by: Hook of a Book, Read 2 Review
Date read: 12.1.2015


I have been looking forward to this book, so when Erin approached me about being part of his blog tour, there was no way I could turn it down.  And it was well worth the wait.  I really enjoyed the story, holding my breath with anticipation from start to finish, and had the hardest time putting it down, reading late into the night.  The story has some great characters and, as always, Matt is on point with the pacing of the story - nothing ever seems rushed and the story plays out perfectly.  And the way he does fear - wow!  I was creeped out by several parts of the story, but the characters and events came back into my mind once the lights were off, creeping me out a second time - nicely done!  Definitely a must read.

There was just one problem, one that to others may not be a big deal, but to me became bothersome.  There were several errors throughout (missing words, not enough research on the way people spoke at the time, etc) and even though it didn't stop me from finishing the story, they did become irritating the further I got into the story.  To be honest, it was rather disappointing.  


About the book:
These are no ordinary killers.
            They don't distinguish between good and evil.  They just kill.  South Carolina's a ruthless place after the Civil War.  And when Sheriff's Deputy Noah Chandler finds seven Ku Klux Klansmen and two Northern soldiers massacred along a road, he cannot imagine who would murder these two diametrically opposed forces.
            When a surviving Klansman babbles about wraiths, and is later murdered inside a heavily guarded jail cell, Noah realizes something sinister stalks his town.  He believes a freed slave who's trying to protect his farm from a merciless land baron can help unmask the killers.  Soon Noah will have to personally confront the things good men must do to protect their loved ones from evil.


About the author:
Matt Manochio was born in 1975 in New Jersey and graduated from The University of Delaware in 1997 with a history/journalism degree.
            He spent the majority of his 13-year newspaper career at the Daily Record in Morris County, New Jersey, where he won multiple New Jersey Press Association Awards for his reporting.  He wrote about one of his passions, rock 'n' roll giants AC/DC, for USA Today and considers that the highest of his journalism career.
             He left newspapers in 2011 for safer employment, and currently lives in New Jersey with his son.