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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Boogaloos


Author: Douglas E. Wright
Genre: Paranormal Suspense
How long it's been on sale: 4 Months
Current price: Free (.99 before it was free)
Total sold so far: 3 sold before it went free
Link to Amazon: Boogaloos

Product Description:

BOOGALOOS is a 30,000 word novella written by Canadian Supernatural Suspense author Douglas E. Wright. A writer who's style has been described as a blend of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. The first book of the 'Crozier Buck Series.'

Dead letters are not always dead . . . sometimes they kill . . . 

This story is a sad, and sometimes poignant look at relationships, age, and mortality with a final horrific twist.

Postal worker Crozier Buck is suffering not only from arthritis and the threat of forced retirement, but he also lives with the memories of his wife's death from twenty-years previous.

His friend, Jerry Atkins, is concerned that Crozier won't live long if he continues to work at the post office. It's time for his friend to retire; do something different. His mind and body are far too fragile at this advanced stage.

Crozier has decided he won't retire; there's no way he's leaving the post office or Rebecca's ghostly remains behind. While he needs her memories to stay sane, he also needs the dead-letter position to prove he's not over-the-hill or out-of-date.

After discussing the dead-letter job with its retiring clerk, Crozier realizes he has an unusual gift. A talent to keep ghostly creatures at bay. And if not used properly, it could get him and others killed, in the bowels of the dead-letter office.

And, if that isn't enough, Jerry discovers that another postal clerk knows of his relationship with Crozier's wife moments before her death.

First 300 Words:

PROLOGUE

Spring 1977

Mauve particles of electrified stardust circled the manila envelope as it hovered between the octopus-like furnace and the beamed two-by-ten ceiling.

George Androski dropped his Sam the Record Man bag onto the newly poured concrete. His third edition LP of Diamond Dogs slid into a discarded hill of dug-up slag.

He suddenly stopped dead when an abrupt noise-like the crinkling of paper-filled his ears. He swung toward his desk; his stringy black hair shifted across his face, curtaining the animated envelope as it zipped over the dingy stonewalls toward the octopus-like furnace. Out of a tunnel of sunlit dust, spiraled a period-attired apparition that wavered in front of the furnace. The translucent figure shadowed high above George's magniloquent frame before spinning toward a container of postmarked mail in a darkened corner. The creature glided to the grimy letters and parcels that lifted and heaved like burrowing mice under barn straw.

George drew a ragged breath. Paper-rot and mold filled his nostrils while a long ago postal tale made him shiver. His skin ran pale and sweat dotted his pointed cheekbones. He backed away and targeted the rickety stairway. His heart rate snapped from leisurely beats to machine-gun fire. George shook the old story out of his head and raced toward the stairs. A trail of letters exploded from the cardboard mail tray. Within seconds, they too were immersed in stardust.

Then, a weird chortle broke the cellar's musty atmosphere. With arms raised, the specter swung them as if conducting a philharmonic. The old fashioned apparition cackled hideously from George's workstation.

George halted at the bottom step while still swatting the flying envelopes. A different ghostly image appeared crumpled and bloodied at his feet. One of an old man. A dead man. A phantasmal man.

George stumbled back to the dank wall opposite the dusty staircase. Terror seized his gut as the flying envelopes escaped their sparkly sheets. George snatched the original flying manila envelope as it dove into the old man's gashes. Then as fast as the sortie had arrived, they retreated into the mist.

George fell into the wall and stared at the thick crimson liquid dripping, hollowly echoing from the crumpled old man to the floor. George nervously wiped clinging sweat beads off his stubbly chin with one hand, and clenched the blood-drenched envelope with the other. He stepped away from the wall and dropped to his knees. He peered around the corner to where the young apparition was still orchestrating his hands in magnificent swirls above his head. George shuddered as fearful tears dribbled down his cheeks. He drew a deep breath and clenched his fists. As he did so, he realized the envelope had vanished. He felt nothing and smelled nothing more than a cemetery-like basement. He suddenly realized that everything he had just experienced was now gone.

He slowly turned his head back and forth to analyze the spacious vacant room. "Yepper, pepper," he whispered. "We're all just going to have to get along."


Vicki's Comments: Okay, I realize that this book is now free on Amazon, and is ranked in the top 300 so it's obviously "selling" well right now. However, since it was for sale for four months and only sold three copies, I'm going to pretend this isn't free and give it a critique as I normally would.

Cover: I think the cover could use some work. I found it hard to figure out what I was looking at, I think the whole thing is too busy and trying to portray too much. I know this book is about a postal worker, but I wouldn't put a bloody envelope on the cover, that doesn't portray the genre to me, and that's what your cover should do. I like the face with red eyes, I might bring that into the foreground and cut some of the other stuff. The cover should say "paranormal" right off the bat.

Description: The description should not start with word count or author description. Put the word count at the end, and I would also include a page count for those who don't understand what word count means. The part about dead letters sometimes kill confuses me. I would start with the people and the conflict they face. The description shifts point of view a few times, which is fine if done right, but the way this is written just confuses me. I would try to stick with one point of view, or make it clear when switching. Also, I think there's too much in the description. I might cut some of it, make it hook the reader in and want to read more.

First 300 Words: I think the premise of the story is interesting, although I think this could be tightened up quite a bit. For me, it was immensely overwritten. When there are too many details, the readers gets bogged down. There were many redundant words and phrases that needed trimming. I think a critique group or website like critiquecircle.com would be very beneficial in helping tighten this up.

What do you guys think?

17 comments:

  1. For me, the blurb reads more like a letter to an agent or publisher than back cover copy. It's a bit like a mini synopsis.

    First 300 words are actually 500 words. Yes, I checked; I'm anal that way! Maybe if you cut some redundancies, excess words and repeated phrases, it would be 300?

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  2. Cover: Worked fine for me. Simply interesting enough to get me looking further.

    PD: cut this sentence - "This story is a sad, and sometimes poignant look at relationships, age, and mortality with a final horrific twist." and I think it runs quite well.

    First 300 word: Way too much description. I've read the first sentence three times and still don't know what you want me to see. Then I get this guy dropping his bag and CDs but it takes forever to happen because of all the detail. You liken your work to King and Koontz. Look closer at their work -- there is a time for detail and a time for "just the facts". If you can learn when is right for each time, you'll kick butt because your vocab and descriptions are excellent -- just too numerous.

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  3. Covers aren't my strong suite, but while this one makes it clear it's gonna be dark, it doesn't grab me or tell me anything else about the story. If the letters are key, if the post office is key, perhaps highlight that? I'm not sure how the title relates.

    The first sentence of the description should probably be cut. I don't think it's a good idea to describe your work as "sad"; it makes me want to run the other way. Tearjerkers aren't usually described this way, are they? Besides that, later on it seems like the story is actually quite active - ghosts, a mystery, betrayal, etc - and the opening description makes it sound passive and depressing.

    I also have no idea what a dead-letter job is, but it seems important?

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  4. Yeah, 90% of those adjectives are unnecessary.

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  5. I like the cover. Basically, it worked for me. But, I do agree with the others that there is a little too much description.

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  6. I like the cover. I don't get the shadowy figure on the right, but I like the bloody envelope and the vacant eyes. Creepy, as it should be.

    If you've been likened to King and Koontz by someone readers would recognize, then you can put it in the editorial review section. If not, you need to leave out that part.

    I agree that whole first paragraph of the blurb doesn't belong there. Put the page and word counts at the end.

    I found the blurb confusing.

    "This story is a sad, and sometimes poignant look at relationships, age, and mortality with a final horrific twist."

    That doesn't sound like the main element of the story is paranormal suspense.

    I won't comment on the first 500 because others have said what I would have said.

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  7. The cover is striking...maybe could use some tweaking...but not much.

    As a reader I don't feel the blurb is drawing me in. It seems really dry even though the story sounds interesting.

    I think you need to lead with your books strong points right at the beginning. Where's the tension? Who wants what? And what are they willing to do get it?

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  8. Definitely cut the "sad" sentence. That is something the reader needs to decide and telling them won't convince them. The same with the Koontz/King comment. From there, I'd start with something that is more of a hook than his having arthritis, which doesn't seem either dangerous or unusual. Nor am I really taken with his living with memories of his dead wife. He has sad memories, but so do a lot of people. That doesn't hook me. Why bring in a friend in a blurb?

    If you cut to the paragraph about "Crozier has decided he won't retire..." it starts getting interesting. There is no need in the blurb to bother with explaining why he's being pressured to retire. That isn't the interesting part and nothing that needs explanation anyway.

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  9. I'm dittoing the comments made by others, especially about tightening the prose.

    Another thing, in this sentence: A writer who's style -- who's should be whose.

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  10. The input from others so far seems pretty solid to me. I think the cover is all right, but the title threw me off completely. Look up "boogaloo" on Wikipedia to see what the title made me think of. The association with music and dance was a confusing contrast with the stated genre.

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  11. I also have the most problem with the title. It's too fun and childish. You might want to consider something older sounding and more commercial.

    If you do decide to use Critique circle, ask for some advice there. I got the title for my WIP from those guys after they read chap 1. Worked out real well (I think - unless I end up here for the next book, then....not so much)

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  12. Thank you everyone. The advice is much appreciated. I've started working on a new description and have also started to rewrite the novella. Getting everyone's comments made me look closer at the work.

    I also picked up some tips from the other stories. Again, thank you Vicki and everyone who took the time to give me some much needed advice.

    Doug

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  13. I echo the sentiment that the blurb needs to be streamlined. I like the premise, but I'd like some indication of what Crozier is trying to accomplish and what stands in his way.

    Some comments on the prose in the sample:

    7 of the 9 paragraphs you show start with either George or "he", which gets monotonous to read. I'd reconfigure some of those to mix it up.

    Mauve particles of electrified stardust circled the manila envelope as it hovered between the octopus-like furnace and the beamed two-by-ten ceiling.

    In the paragraph above, I like the mauve partices circling the envelope, but I get a strage visual from "octopus-like furnace." An octopus is usually in motion, the arms are everywhere, the head is round. My mind has a hard time fitting a furnace to the image. I'm assuming the furnace is octopus-like because there are multiple flues/chimneys coming out of it. If that was the case, then I'd expect to see smoke if the arms were in motion, since furnaces burn things, but we don't have that. So then, the flues are probably stationary. I'd think about clarifying that. I'm not exactly sure what you're seeing, but something like "Hovered over the furnace among chimneys that poked like embalmed octopus tentacles through the wooden joists of the ceiling."

    George Androski dropped his Sam the Record Man bag onto the newly poured concrete. His third edition LP of Diamond Dogs slid into a discarded hill of dug-up slag.

    I see no connection between the first paragraph and the one above. In order for the story to flow, there should be some "this led to that."
    I'd think about giving the reader some hint of the relationships. Is he standing in front of the furnace?

    I'm assuming this is in some sort of basement. "a discarded hill slag" conveys the sense that some slag has been thrown away, bur if it's still in the basement then it doesn't seem like it's "discraded." I'd re-think the word.

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  14. Part 2:

    He suddenly stopped dead when an abrupt noise-like the crinkling of paper-filled his ears. He swung toward his desk; his stringy black hair shifted across his face, curtaining the animated envelope as it zipped over the dingy stonewalls toward the octopus-like furnace. Out of a tunnel of sunlit dust, spiraled a period-attired apparition that wavered in front of the furnace. The translucent figure shadowed high above George's magniloquent frame before spinning toward a container of postmarked mail in a darkened corner. The creature glided to the grimy letters and parcels that lifted and heaved like burrowing mice under barn straw.

    In the paragraph above, "suddenly stopped dead" is redundant, I'd think about dropping the "suddenly" because it's inherent in stopping dead. Also, lines like "filled his ears" keep the reader from dropping into his head. Whatever you describe, the reader will assume is being experienced by the POV character, George in this case. If you say, "Something that sounded like crinkling paper stopped him dead" the reader knows he heard it and that it filled his ears. Besides, "filled his ears" conveys the sense that there was a loud sound (as opposed to a soft sound that didn't quite fill the ears), which seems incompatible with crinkling paper.

    Also, I'm a little confused as to what exactly is "zipping over the dingy stone walls (two words by the way)". Is it his hair? Because the first paragraph positioned the envelope over the furnace, so it doesn't make sense that it would be zipping toward the furnace. If it's his hair, then you should probably describe it was "very long" striny hair to prepare the reader for the hair zipping over the walls (unless the room is really small, in which case I'd let the reader know that)

    Magniloquent, eh? Great word. Had to look it up. But now that I've looked it up, it's fair game, right? ;)

    I get a cool visual on that last part. Wih there was a little color splashed in there, but it's cool.

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  15. Part 3:
    George drew a ragged breath. Paper-rot and mold filled his nostrils while a long ago postal tale made him shiver. His skin ran pale and sweat dotted his pointed cheekbones. He backed away and targeted the rickety stairway. His heart rate snapped from leisurely beats to machine-gun fire. George shook the old story out of his head and raced toward the stairs. A trail of letters exploded from the cardboard mail tray. Within seconds, they too were immersed in stardust.

    IMO, "filled his nostrils" is very over-used. I don't know why you wouldn't modify the drawn breath directly in that first sentence and make it "...drew a ragged breath of paper-rot and mold. Also, the "a long ago postal tale" seems awkward to my ear. The "long ago" is fuzzy. A "long ago tale" is really an old tale or an ancient tale. I'd think about going with "An ancient tale made him shiver", though that doesn't really work because the reader doesn't know where the tale came from. If it's "the creature", which I'm assuming it is, then I'd identify it by saying "The ancient tale made him shiver." The only thing that that could possibly reference would be the creature, so hopefully the reader makes the connection.

    ""Targetted the ricketty stairway"? Targetted it with what? Is he sending the creature toward the stairway? Is he heading toward the stairway? I'd clarify.

    Not sure why his heart rate goes up. I don't see the threat. I'm not sure the reader would see it either. I'd think about putting in a line of what the threat is, rather than telling the reader his heart rate picked up. Telling the reader that, isn't going to make the reader's rate rise. Telling the reader what George fears might.

    Not sure where the cardboard box came from. You're identifying it as "the" cardboard box as though the reader had seen it before. I'd think about going with "a" cardboard box, which "introduces" it.

    Then, a weird chortle broke the cellar's musty atmosphere. With arms raised, the specter swung them as if conducting a philharmonic. The old fashioned apparition cackled hideously from George's workstation.

    George halted at the bottom step while still swatting the flying envelopes. A different ghostly image appeared crumpled and bloodied at his feet. One of an old man. A dead man. A phantasmal man.

    Those previous two paragraphs seem out of sequence. If he's running for the stairs, then how would he see the specter? I think you need to have him stop, then turn around, and then see all that stuff. Also, "ghostly image" and " phantasmal man" seem redundant. It feels like overkill by the time you get to phantasmal man. I'd think about condensing that a bit.

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  16. Part 4:

    George stumbled back to the dank wall opposite the dusty staircase. Terror seized his gut as the flying envelopes escaped their sparkly sheets. George snatched the original flying manila envelope as it dove into the old man's gashes. Then as fast as the sortie had arrived, they retreated into the mist.

    Which old man's gashes? The old man on the floor? If that's the case, then I think you need to add "cut" to crumpled and bloodied.

    George fell into the wall and stared at the thick crimson liquid dripping, hollowly echoing from the crumpled old man to the floor. George nervously wiped clinging sweat beads off his stubbly chin with one hand, and clenched the blood-drenched envelope with the other. He stepped away from the wall and dropped to his knees. He peered around the corner to where the young apparition was still orchestrating his hands in magnificent swirls above his head. George shuddered as fearful tears dribbled down his cheeks. He drew a deep breath and clenched his fists. As he did so, he realized the envelope had vanished. He felt nothing and smelled nothing more than a cemetery-like basement. He suddenly realized that everything he had just experienced was now gone.

    The paragraph above gets very repetetive with each sentence starting with "George" or "he." You really need to change that up or it sounds like this:

    George looked up.
    George wiped his face.
    He wasn't sure what was going on.
    George knew he wasn't going crazy.
    Etc..

    The phasing from the young apparition still conducting to everything being gone feels odd. I'd think about splitting the paragraph up so that the thing is there conducting at the end of one, and then the envelope disappears and everything's back to normal.

    Also, you're putting in a lot of phrases that take the reader out of George's head. "he realized", "he suddenly realized","he'd experienced". Again, when you say "Then the envelope was gove", the reader will know that at that very moment, George realized it was gone. If you're going to get the reader into the fictive dream, you have to write the scene describing what George is feeling, seeing, etc...without the narrator's intrusion, telling the reader "about" George.

    He slowly turned his head back and forth to analyze the spacious vacant room. "Yepper, pepper," he whispered. "We're all just going to have to get along."

    If you tell the reader that "He analyzed the vacant room" the reader's mind will swivel his head back and forth without you having to tell him.

    Good luck with this.

    Take care.

    Fred

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  17. cover: C-
    No fancy fonts, please. They look tacky. I have no idea what the pattern is behind the title, the glowing eye is off-putting, and overall it looks cheap, which should be no critique of the story (don't judge a book by its cover), but let's be honest: we all do.

    description: C-
    Too much telling (1st sentence especially), too much backstory, and I've no idea what a "dead letter" is. Also not a fan of "and if that isn't enough". Reminds me of an infomercial--"order now and we'll throw in an extra set absolutely free!"

    sample: C
    Needs too much tightening, and I really can't tell what's going on. I echo what others have said about running it through some crit groups.

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