Book Review: Werewolf Cop

I’ve been following Andrew Klavan’s video commentary since around “Talking Crap with the President” aired. Klavan’s a gifted writer when it comes to making the viewer laugh while teaching some facts. Though I loved watching his videos, I had never read any of his books. Then I saw a tweet about Nightmare City being on sale. I thought I would give it a go. I didn’t realize that it was a YA book, but that didn’t matter. It was no less gripping and intense than what I would expect from a more mature book. I was impressed. So when Andrew started tweeting about his latest upcoming release, Werewolf Cop, I was intrigued.

I made a mistake when I first started reading this new supernatural crime thriller of his. A mistake because I started reading it right as I was launching my own novel, and those efforts demanded I spend much of my time focused on that, and less time reading. I was annoyed with this because after just two chapters of Werewolf Cop, I was hooked, and I didn’t want to stop reading.

Here we are, a month or so later, and I have finished Werewolf Cop. Do I feel the same about it as I did after the first two chapters? Nope. I like it even more.

One of the first things that drew me in with this book was Klavan’s elegant, yet simple writing. I must admit a tinge of jealousy coursed through my veins as I read Werewolf Cop—I only hope to be able to write that well someday. When you’re reading this book it’s very obvious that you are not just reading a police report or blog post recapping some events. However, a casual reader also won’t be reaching for a thesaurus every ten minutes either. Klavan does a great job of using words that aren’t always common, but common enough that the reader will know what he’s saying. And when he uses more obscure words, he does a wonderful job of surrounding it with context that will let you know the definition. Casual and hardcore readers alike will enjoy this book. And while we’re on this topic, Klavan’s ability to create unique, interesting ways to describe everyday things is fantastic! I know on more than one occasion I stopped and read a description and went “I know I have never heard that kind of description before, but it works so perfectly I can’t figure out why no one else had come up with it before.” So all in all, the writing quality is superb in Werewolf Cop.

Now to the story. I will admit, I am not really into supernatural stories, especially something along the lines of a werewolf. Not that I have anything against it, just not my usual cup of tea. Nor do I often read police suspense/thriller/mystery novels. Again, just not my normal genre, but I have nothing against it. After reading this book, though, I think I will be checking out some more police stories. If they are half as good as this one, I know I’ll enjoy them.

I’m not going to get into the specifics about the story. One, I am always afraid I’ll discuss a spoiler that the author didn’t want revealed. And secondly, I can just let the blurb on Amazon tell you what it’s about. I will say, however, that this story is very unique, and will have you on the edge of your seat more than once. Zach Adams certainly finds himself in some tough situations, but never did it feel like “yeah right, that’s unlikely,” when he did. Nor did it feel contrived when he—at times—found ways out of those situations. All in all, a great story that will have you turning each page in anticipation.

Characters are a huge part for me when it comes to a successful book. I believe boring, one dimensional characters can destroy a great story, while well written, deep characters can propel a mediocre story into greatness. Well, Werewolf Cop has a great story and great characters, so it’s win-win. When I am reading a book, I typically find myself watching the characters from an outside perspective. Sure, I get tense for them in stressful scenarios, or I am sad for them when the scene is pulling at the heart strings, but I am always able to stay pretty detached. With Zach Adams, however, I felt as if I was seeing the world through his eyes. I felt his anxiety, I felt his rage…I felt his regret. I felt the intense desire to control the beast that was consuming him. I felt as if I was Zach Adams. I am not sure that any other book I’ve read has had me so invested in the main character. Well done, Mr. Klavan!

No book is perfect, however, and while there is little I would critique about Werewolf Cop, I will warn readers who are looking for something more in line with Klavan’s YA lineup: It ain’t this book. Language in books and movies doesn’t really bother me, though I am not a fan of God’s name being taken in vain—something this book has a fair bit of. There are some relatively mild sexual scenes (mild in comparison with other books and prime time television), it may not be for everyone in that regard. The book is definitely a mature rating, but I suspect that most people would suspect that based on the title.

At the end of the day, this book is certainly among one of my favorites. I was very excited that Klavan’s website says this is book one in a trilogy, and I am eagerly awaiting the next book in the lineup. In the meantime, however, I will be checking out some of Klavan’s older books, and hope that they aren’t too big of a distraction as I dive into writing my next manuscript.

You can buy Werewolf Cop over at Amazon.

Interview: Author J.T. O’Connell

As I try to expand what all happens on my website, one of the things I am going to start doing is interview various authors from around the world. I would like to welcome my first guest, J.T. O’Connell who recently released a book called The Remaking. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

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AJ: 
Tell us a little about yourself, J.T.

J.T.O: I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, the fourth of six children in our family. Having so many siblings, it was rare  the TV was ever tuned to anything that interested me, so my interests were fulfilled in books. Reading has been a priceless hobby. I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world! I now live in a little township northeast of Cincinnati with two dogs and a cat, all three spoiled.

AJ: You released The Remaking back in March. Why don’t you give us the elevator pitch for the book?

J.T.O: The Remaking is a story about life in a dystopian society. Sela is nineteen, but already out on her own, avoiding notice of the government. Her greatest fear is that she may be caught and then used as a hostage to control her father who sent her into hiding. She buries her old identity and clothes herself in a new one, hoping one day to be able to see her parents once again. When she stumbles upon a group seeking to undermine the authority of the Remaking, Sela decides to help change society for the better. But she must walk a fine line, helping this secretive organization, while keeping her true identity concealed.

AJ: What inspired you to write The Remaking?

J.T.O: Young Adult literature is remarkably consistent in some of its themes these days. That is, of course, due to publishers following down paths that are tried and true. One tone that nearly shouts from many novels is the young rebel who fights against the whole construction of society, not just parental control. This is a theme most teenagers will appreciate handily. Hunger Games, Divergent, and others make a central premise out of fighting back against state tyranny. Interestingly, this has been an issue in American life since the mid-18th century (perhaps earlier even), and remains so in contemporary discourse.

I must confess a great burden of inspiration from George Orwell in my writing of The Remaking, though I do not want to pretend any qualitative similarity to that literary legend. That is for the reader to decide. However, my approach to society in general is more direct than mainstream publishers would generally allow. It is important for Katniss or Trix or Sela to fight against tyranny, but it is just as important that they fight on behalf of a better way. I think that is partly why Mockingjay splits the Hunger Games fan base. The end of the book proffers no valid alternative to dictatorship. Combine that with the personal strife Katniss faced, and the final image is one void of any shred of hope. That is why the epilogue strikes many people as strange, myself included. From utter hopelessness and irreparable despair to a happy and pleasant family, but without any thorough explanation of how one can find joy.

The Remaking comes at this differently. The book is upfront about many of these ideas, instead of skirting around them, pretending that Sela’s personal life dictates everything she does. If that were true, then how could there really be any problem with the government? Some people see Katniss from The Hunger Games as self-centered in the extreme, because all of her actions on the world stage come purely from an emotional cage she built for herself. There is a fair criticism in that, though I think it lacks nuance. In The Remaking, Sela’s personal life is deeply involved and drives the story, but she also sees the value in altruistic efforts to change the system. It may be rhetorically safer to avoid having a character wrestle with differing ideological concepts, but I believe that struggle what made 1984 a classic of literature, giving it endurance that transcends the Atlantic Ocean and nearly seven decades.

AJ: Your previous books have followed around male protagonists, but in The Remaking your protagonist is a 19 year old girl. Was this a difficult transition to your writing?

J.T.O: Writing Sela grew easier over time, actually. Initially, it was a daunting prospect, putting together this person who needs to become intimately acquainted to the reader. Yet, she somehow came into her own as the writing progressed, and I’m still not completely sure how that happened. Male main characters can be challenging as well, even though I am more familiar with the perspective. A good main character is vulnerable but not weak, sensible but not genius, reserved but relatable, kind in the right place and fierce on occasion. In some ways, Sela fits into that mold more naturally than Denver from the Sunlost books. I enjoyed writing Sela’s character, and was happy and relieved after a few female friends expressed approval of her femininity.

AJ: Can readers expect a sequel to The Remaking?

J.T.O: There are at least two more books to come after The Remaking. It’s interesting, actually. I didn’t want to write The Remaking. I wanted to write the third book, and I still do. That story is going to be a whopper, but it requires so much back story, there were at least two full books that simply must come before. And the particulars of the dystopian world are good enough that I didn’t want to shortchange it by trying to sum up all these events in a handful of early chapters. The Remaking is a great book, and could even be a standalone, but there will be two more books coming. Maybe more!

AJ: What’s your perfect writing scenario? Outside on a nice sunny day with a laptop? Or inside in a dark room, listening to music?

J.T.O: I’m far too sensitive a writer. Which is not to say that my writing is melodramatic; it certainly is not. I mean that my environment and mindset can drastically affect how well I write. And annoyingly, it is not all that consistent. What’s the perfect situation to be writing? The one that works! I sometimes write outside on a laptop, sometimes on paper, sometimes on a couch, sometimes at my desk, sometimes with music, sometimes without. I once hand wrote a few chapters while on an evening visit to the campus of MIT. I once wrote on a laptop while taking a break hiking way up in the Rocky Mountains with my dog, Moose. I’m finicky, I suppose. It can be frustrating, but so long as I manage to produce, I’ll just go with it.

AJ: Hobbies outside of writing?

J.T.O: I really enjoy hiking these days. I’m a romantic for the western wilderness. The Rocky Mountains as earlier mentioned, Painted Desert, Natural Bridge, Meteor Crater, White Sands, Grand Canyon, Black Hills and Thunder Basin, Petrified Forest, Wilson Lake. I don’t cross the Mississippi nearly as often as I’d like. Besides that, I play guitar and read. I’m always trying to blaze my way though my “to read” list. There’s not really a light at the end of that tunnel, though, and I make no secret that I like it this way.

AJ: Right now, what’s your favorite book?

J.T.O: Oh wow. Favorite book. Just one? That makes it tough, so I think I’ll cheat. For my non-fiction pick, I’ll say Modern Times by British historian and journalist Paul Johnson. It’s a history of the world from 1900 to 1990. You would think it would unoriginal and blasé. Quite the opposite, Johnson draws many conclusions and relationships out, inspiring a great deal of reconsideration.

I simply cannot pick a favorite work of fiction, so I will destroy brevity and select the whole Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson for the last three books). I’m not through the whole story yet (fourteen books, 11,000 pages, one story!), but what I’ve read so far has blown me away. They are fantastic books! So well constructed!

AJ: What are you currently working on? Will it be out soon?

J.T.O: I just finished editing a novella called Littledon! It is an allegory of sorts, and I hope to launch that very soon so that I can focus all my energies on following up The Remaking.

 

Thanks for the interview, J.T.

You can find more information about J.T. below.

Purchase The Remaking on Amazon Kindle

http://www.jtoconnell.com/

https://www.facebook.com/jtoconnellauthor

https://twitter.com/JosephTOConnell

 

Release Day + 7

So, today marks the 1 week mark since I released As the Ash fell, and I have to say I am very pleased with how it has been received.

I am not talking about just my friends and family who want to be supportive (though I believe many of their comments to be genuine). I have started to get reviews and feedback from people who don’t have a horse in the race. Just using general marketing and spreading the word on various forums and social media I have gotten some tremendously positive feedback, and most of them asking for a sequel.

I want to post one of the 5 stars reviews I received on Amazon from someone I do not know except through the forums I posted my book in:

This is put together better than the 299 days series (which I enjoyed but were too instructional). Tastefully done and no hints of mall cops or zombies. A good balance of drama and action. I was pulled in by the characters and couldn’t stop reading. The kindle apps make it too easy to read at work.

I only hope the author follows up with a sequel!”

I have not read the 299 Days series he’s referring to; I’ve only heard of it just here and there. However, when I looked it up on Amazon, the books, as a series, had hundreds of reviews at 5 stars, and was selling on the Kindle for $8-$9 a pop. This was a huge compliment for me. I know many folks really like their post apocalyptic books, so for someone to tell me that my book read better than another (successful) series they enjoyed, was an incredible and humbling comment.

There are three things I am receiving consistent feedback about: The story flows well, the characters are deep and believable, and it’s hard to put down. These are the kinds of comments I like to hear. While there may be issues with finer details, getting these broad issues taken care of will keep readers engaged and want to see more from the story after each page turn. It means I have done my job as a story teller, not just an author.

So how were sales for my first week? Well, I won’t discuss numbers in public—that’s partly my rule and I’ve also heard Amazon doesn’t care for those things either. However, I will say that I set a modest goal for my first month’s sales, and I got 75% of the way there in my first week. That’s not including borrows via Kindle Unlimited or paperback sales. Strictly sales on Kindle e-reader. To say I am encouraged is an understatement. My book ranked between 15,000 and 25,000 all week long, which was with almost no marketing (just me telling people about it on Twitter/Forums/Facebook). I am excited to see what happens when I start doing some marketing—and I have some pretty cool plans coming up soon about that.

I want to again thank all my friends and family who have helped spread the word of As the Ash Fell, and made this a successful launch. Thank you!

As the Ash Fell is currently available on Amazon Kindle (Kindle Unlimited as well) for $3.99 and Paperback for $14.99.

Until next time,

AJ

As the Ash Fell RELEASED!

Hello everyone,

I am very pleased to announce that, after more than a year of hard work, As the Ash Fell has released on Amazon Kindle! I can’t even begin to describe the feeling at the moment, so I’ll just give you the link. I will write a bit more detailed post later.

Download the Kindle version HERE!

Order the print version HERE!

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