My new horror novel Apex Predator just landed it’s first formal editorial review and endorsement!
I am happy to say Diabolique Magazine has just published its review, offering the following praise: “More than just Lycanthropes vs. Wolves of Wall Street, the novel is an ambitious examination of corporate corruption—with carnage that feels cathartic…shapeshifters have definite horror appeal…guaranteed to amuse horror aficionados.”
For those of that don’t know, Diabolique Magazine is like the NY Times or Vogue of horror publications. It’s a lavishly illustrated print and digital magazine exploring every aspect of horror film, literature and art. Since its inception in 2011, Diabolique and its writers and artists have been nominated for 17 Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards, including Best Magazine, Best Article, Best Interview, Best Cover, Best Theme Issue, and Best Overall Issue. In 2015, the magazine won the Rondo for Best Overall Issue. Past issues have included contributions from such horror luminaries as Jonathan Rigby, David Del Valle, David Huckvale, Paul Murray, and Elizabeth Miller.
Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled that the magazine has endorsed my work. For more of the review see here –
As everybody who follows me on social media knows I have been on a historical werewolf kick. Perhaps this should be no surprise given that my new book Apex Predator features several chapters set during the Second World War (chapters an actual WWII historian edited). However, Apex Predator also has several other nuggets for the fan of historical or classic werewolf mythology. To that end it offers what I hope to be an interesting take on the werewolf origin story, which this superb artwork by Jakub Rozalski in part encapsulates – at least in terms of showing the era in which my werewolves first took form.
In Apex Predator this is all further fleshed out as several primary characters grapple with the fact they are being hunted and try to figure out how to not only survive but also gather enough evidence to prove werewolves do exist and thus get help. I have long been interested by the idea of being hunted by a monster but having no one to get help from because no one would believe it – so I also incorporated that into my novel. But I digress. I have also long been fascinated by the interplay between man and his surrounding environment; particularly at those catastrophic times when nature strikes back. Perhaps no such time was more deadly than during the Black Plague; a time very much salient to that of my novel.
The plague germ Yersinia pestis had been the cause of horrific epidemics before the Black Plague put its stamp on human history in the 14th Century. For instance during the Athenian Plague of 430 BCE; the Antonine Plague of 165-180 CE; and the Justinian Plague, 541 CE, which was the most deadly outbreak prior to the Black Death. However, none of those outbreaks compared to the Black Death; which for reasons unknown proved particularly adept at producing DNA mutations in humans.
What we know is that what made the Black Death so deadly came from how easily it spread. It ended up killing millions in Asia, and as many as one third of Europe’s population was wiped out in large part because the Black Death spread like wildfire. What is most stunning is that all of this happened for a reason. The Black Death wasn’t an accident, it was the product of a unique set of circumstances fueled by overpopulation, malnutrition, weakened immune systems, climate change, globalized trade, and gross inequality producing a vast human underclass. In addition, this particular strain of plague not only stemmed from a germ carried by simple fleas but which gestated in the body of a small furry animal: the Central Asian marmot. This particular marmot as a host ended up being the perfect vehicle for incubating the plague into something more powerful and dangerous than plague strains found elsewhere in the world.
Trade with Central Asia brought this strain west into the growing slums of Europe’s great cities. Though the marmot incubated strains of plague proved the deadliest – people, not marmots, spread the plague. This plague not only spread, but quickly adapted to and transformed its new human host. This adaptation proved to be an evolutionary process stemming from the action of natural selection, rather than just a series of incidental mutations. Similarly, in Apex Predator these mutations also prove to be anything but random or meaningless. They are part of a process whereby natural selection created another evolutionary response; one every bit as deadly though more circumspect than Yersinia pestis.
This is so cool, but I’ve just made the werewolf news! Not only do they recommend it for holiday reading lists but the write-up is pretty entertaining:
“Here’s some holiday reading direct from the “You Might Like…” category of things I haven’t checked yet but want to: horror author S.M. Douglas‘s new werewolf novel Apex Predator…It combines classic occult story assets like “secrets from WWII-era Europe” and “mythical evil on the verge of remaking the world” with a fictional dystopian present day that seems increasingly non-fictional as 2016 staggers to its miserable conclusion. But I digress! To be frank, this sounds like exactly the kind of thing I want to read right now, so I’m going to order a paperback copy from Amazon as soon as I’m done writing this post. Aspiring metal bands, please contact Douglas directly to negotiate the rights to name your group “Eastern Europe’s Blood Lands.”
Needless to say I am quite pleased with this, and thank A. Quinton at the werewolf news for the great write-up!
My new novel Apex Predator was published one month ago. In the intervening time I’ve had a chance to step away from the book and spend time on other activities. For instance, I enjoy discovering what other horror and werewolf enthusiasts have created. As such, followers of mine on social media will know that over the past couple of weeks I’ve been on a “historical werewolf” kick – something I can’t stop sharing with just about everyone with whom I engage.
I just can’t get enough of well-done images or stories featuring the werewolf in historical settings. This takes me back to the original point of this post – not being afraid to trust your instincts when you hit a point in the writing process where you can go in any number of directions. One of the biggest issues I confronted was where and when, if at all, to include the aspects of my book that are set in the Second World War.
For those of you who haven’t yet read Apex Predator it is mostly set in the present. However, historical matters play an important role in the book. This includes what I hope my readers will find to be an engaging look at the origins of the werewolf and how the werewolf and man interacted as rivals from the time of the Black Death to the present.
Originally, a significant portion of my historical content was located in Apex Predator’s first act. I struggled with what this meant for the book’s flow and pacing as well as the expectations it set up for the reader. Then an almost off-hand comment by my editor broke the bit of writer’s block I was fighting against.
Consequently, I went back to the material in question and reworked it so as to better tease out the historical details that provide depth to the characters and events playing out in the present. When I was finished I had crafted a more engaging work. In particular, ramping up the tension, suspense, and sense of discovery throughout the book in what early feedback is showing to be an entertaining fashion.
However, none of that would have happened if I hadn’t decided that though “killing your babies” is important in writing a tight well crafted thriller, there are other things just as essential. Among those are creatively finding ways to present your readers with the vision that inspired you to sit down at your keyboard and begin the task of writing a novel.
I have previously communicated some of my thoughts on the writing process as I prepared my novel Apex Predator for publication. One of the issues I tackled was how to go about garnering reviews. After some thought I decided on what I believe to be a novel approach, but first let’s review the conventional wisdom.
It seems that every other “how to market your new book website or blog” out there says you should beg or even bribe family and friends to load up Amazon and social media with positive reviews of your work. Of course, this didn’t sit well with me. As an avid reader myself I love the thought that reviews posted about prospective books that I’m considering for purchase are from genuine buyers with an equally passionate interest in the book’s subject matter. Though that’s not true, I try to peruse the reviews for the kernels of truth where they can be found. As such, and when it came to Apex Predator, I decided instead to say nothing to my friends and family.
Instead, and following Apex Predator’s October 31st publication date I spoke of my book here, and on the related werewolf and horror driven social media sites where I’m active. This was done in part because I hoped that genuine horror fans exactly like me would be the one’s commenting on my work’s worth as a source of entertainment. So far, my decision is being rewarded. In the past week I have landed my first two independent (or as I like to say “organic”) reviews. I am thrilled that both readers very much enjoyed my book. My hope is that other horror fans feel the same. Moreover, for other authors out there this modest start hopefully offers an example that sometimes the more honest marketing path is the better one.