Sunday, September 11, 2011

Under The Moon’s Shadow

Author: T. L. Haddix
Genre: Romantic Suspense
How long it's been on sale: Since 8-19-2010
Current price: $3.99
Marketing: Ads on Red Adept, Frugal E-Reader, The Romance Reviews.  Also, this title was one of the finalists for Best Romantic Suspense 2010 at The Romance Reviews.  Had several 99 cent sales but didn’t see any significant increase in sales with the exception of February.  Used Twitter and Facebook to promote.
Total sold so far: 110
Link to book on Amazon: Under The Moon's Shadow (Leroy's Sins)

Product Description:

Journalist Beth Hudson knows her hometown. When disappearances are coupled with strange nighttime events on local farms, she puts two and two together to make a terrifying picture. Turning to her friends, family and a mysterious, handsome stranger for assistance in rooting out the truth, Beth is determined to solve the mysteries before another person disappears. At the same time, her contentious relationship with Detective Ethan Moore takes an unexpectedly tragic turn. Will Beth be able to figure out what is going on in time to stop a dangerous killer, or will she be the next victim? 

First 300 Words:


Beth opened her eyes just in time to see a tiny, still-green leaf float past her face. It was moving slowly, that leaf, as though it had all the time in the world, and it seemed unconcerned to find itself detached from the tree that had given it life. She followed its movements with her eyes as far as she could, and turned her head to watch when it caught on a tall, spiky stalk of grass.

Suddenly there was pressure on her abdomen. It was accompanied by a pain like nothing Beth had ever felt before, and it left her gasping. Movement caught her eye and she turned to see Cullen Jarvis leaning over her, his face tense with worry. He was speaking but she couldn’t make sense of the words. She moved an arm toward him but a second sharp pain spiked its way through her shoulder and she let her arm fall. Cullen moved her legs, bending them at the knees, and some of the pain in her abdomen dissipated. She tried to thank him but everything faded around her, and just that quickly, the world went black.

Sometime later, Beth opened her eyes to see Jason hovering above her where Cullen had been before. She was dismayed to see that her beloved, amiable, happy-go-lucky brother had tears on his face. She realized Jason was talking to her, but she couldn’t understand what he was saying.

Without warning, two men in dark jackets and caps appeared. Beth recognized them as local EMTs, and watched as they surrounded her, working efficiently. As one shined a light in her eyes, Beth realized finally that she had been injured. It was clear from Jason’s reaction the injury was serious. She tried to remember what she had been doing earlier, what could have caused her injury, but her mind was sluggish. Beth closed her eyes, startled as she had a quick flash of the floor of a dirty van, remembered the sound of a man and a woman laughing, and saw the terrifying image of the wrong end of a rifle barrel. As she remembered, the truth settled in with painful clarity. The serious injury wasn’t the result of a car wreck or an accident on the farm. The pains in her shoulder and her abdomen had not been caused by a fall or some other benign mishap. She had been shot.

Vicki's Comments: I like this cover, although it says 'creepy' more than romantic to me. But I do think it has a bit of a suspenseful feeling, so I wouldn't necessarily pitch it. I am having a difficult time reading the small print, though, and the title seems crowded on there. Does the small print say "Book Two of the Leroy's Sins Series?" If it does, then I'm surprised the book isn't categorized as a series. I'm also surprised the description doesn't say anything about this being the second book in a series. I would make it very clear if this is a second book. If that's not at all what it says, forgive me. At any rate, I like the picture, but it doesn't portray romantic suspense to me. There might be a better way to get that across to the reader, but I would get more opinions on it before starting a new cover.

I'm going to pick apart the blurb, because it's not doing it for me, and I want to explain why.

Journalist Beth Hudson knows her hometown. - Okay, this really doesn't make me want to read the book. Who doesn't know their hometown? Why does knowing your hometown make you a person that I would want to read about? Why is that even in the blurb?

When disappearances are coupled with strange nighttime events on local farms, she puts two and two together to make a terrifying picture. - Disappearances are good. Strange nighttime events on local farms? Um, that makes me think that farmers wake up to find their cows on the roof or chickens hanging from trees. This description is comical to me, and takes away from the disappearances that should give me suspense. I'd be more clear about what is happening on the farm, or if it's a spoiler, leave that part out. The two and two together to make a terrifying picture is too vague. I'm trying to decide if I should buy this book. I need to know more specifics about the terrifying picture. Is it torture? Blackmail? Serial killer? Hanging chickens?

Turning to her friends, family and a mysterious, handsome stranger for assistance in rooting out the truth, Beth is determined to solve the mysteries before another person disappears. - Turning to your friends and family during a crisis is normal, not suspenseful, I'd cut that part. Mysterious handsome stranger? That's a little bit cliche, but not horrible. I'm interested in handsome characters especially if they are a love interest. However, I'd rather know his name if he's a major character. I think the hook here is that Beth is determined to solve the mysteries, and if the stranger is the love interest there needs to be more about him.

At the same time, her contentious relationship with Detective Ethan Moore takes an unexpectedly tragic turn. - I like the contentious relationship, that introduces conflict. Is Detective Moore another love interest? I'm kind of confused now because I thought the stranger was the love interest, but usually if there's a female/male contentious relationship that's where the sparks fly. If there's no love here, I wouldn't call it a relationship. The part about 'unexpectedly tragic turn' is a bit 'purple prose' to me and too vague. What's tragic about it?

Will Beth be able to figure out what is going on in time to stop a dangerous killer, or will she be the next victim? - I usually frown at blurbs that put questions at the end. It doesn't make me want to read the book. I'd much rather have it end with: Beth must stop the killer before she becomes the next victim. (I took out dangerous because, really, is there a killer that isn't dangerous? It's redundant.)

Now that I totally picked apart the description, I will say that I think the premise of people going missing and a journalist trying to find the truth is good. I do want to know more about the romantic part of the book. Is the romance with the mysterious stranger or the detective? Or are both love interests and she must choose? If that's the case, make it more clear in the description. I also feel like there's more to this story besides the missing/dead people but we don't know what it is because the description was too vague.

The book starts with a leaf falling from a tree. I'm not sure that's the best place to start the book. It seems a bit too slow and symbolic for a romantic suspense novel. I'd also get rid of wording like "just in time," "suddenly" and "without warning." (And as an aside, the first two sentences didn't make sense to me, if she opened her eyes just in time to see the leaf, and yet it was taking all the time in the world, those seem like contrasting thoughts.)

I'm not sure the prologue is necessary, is this something that happens a long time ago? Or is this a jump into the future, before we start the real story back at the beginning? If it's back story, you can let the details come out as the story progresses. If it's a jump into the future, it's not working for me. This isn't a beginning that grabs me. Some character I don't know is confused and then realizes she was shot. Since I don't know the character, I don't have an emotional reaction to her getting shot. It's not pulling me into the story like I think you want it to.

Honestly, I would run a couple of chapters through There is some redundant phrasing and things that I would suggest tightening up if I were critiquing this. If you make the beginning tight, it will pull readers in and make them want to read more.

I'm guessing the description is what is hurting this book the most, but I still would rework the first few chapters and get lots of opinions on those to make sure they hook readers.

What do you guys think?


  1. I think you nailed it, Vicki!

    I'd add that the opening scene has quite a bit of telling instead of showing.

    And it's a minor thing (one I don't necessarily agree with, but it's good to be aware): just seeing the word "Prologue" can be enough to turn away some readers.

  2. I love the cover - the gorgeous blue color, the mysterious atmosphere - but I would make the figure a lot bigger. I had to take off my glasses and put my face an inch from the screen to see her.

    The covers of most romance novel feature one or two attractive people - it's like a signal saying "romance." They're close up, too, not in the distance.

  3. At a glance, the cover says "horror" or maybe "thriller" to me more than romance. And the first 300 words make the main character a victim, totally out of control, and since it's a prologue there's a fair chance the MC is going to die. Hard to get invested in a character like that.

  4. I'm so excited to see UTMS featured here. Vicki, thanks for having me. There's definitely some food for thought here, and I deeply appreciate the input.

    A note about the book - it's romantic suspense, but I don't know that I'd qualify it as a traditional romance. Yes, there is a happy ever after, but it's not a 'rose-colored glasses' look at love. These characters have flaws, and they're going to be working at this relationship. Definitely not a Harlequin kind of take on romance, which tends to be less complicated. The suspense is just as important as the romance.

    Does that change the way you feel about the cover? (or the blurb, for that matter - which I know needs help)

  5. I like the cover, FWIW, and I actually liked the leaf opening. Having been through some traumatic events--not getting shot, but other stuff just as life-changing--it's weird little things like that, that strike you. And while I agree that the writing could use tightening, I don't think it was telling. I thought it was very much showing.

  6. Also agree the cover says more thriller or horror than romantic suspense, but it's haunting and I like it. I don't like the blurb and I don't get the relevance of the falling leaf in the opening. It doesn't belong (at least, not there). I would like it to start with something like: 'Beth opened her eyes and felt a pain like never before.' I'd be hooked right away. The rest of the opening is good and I 'm curious. One question: if someone had been shot, would you move them? Cullen moving her knees puzzles me, but maybe that's a good thing. Readers should be asking questions, right?

  7. I like the cover, though I agree it says suspense more than romance. Also agree the subtitle is too jaggy to read. The fonts in general look jaggy, though comparing to the alternate pic on amazon I wonder if that happened when they added the "look inside" stuff to the image.

    The description is meh, I don't particularly disagree with anything Vicki said about that.

    I do like the prologue though. It has a dazed feel which I assume you were going for, but I would axe the "that leaf" from the second sentence as well as the "Suddenly", "Sometime later", and "Without warning". The "Beth realized finally" bugs me a little bit too, I want a comma, or "Beth finally realized" instead, or something. But those are really minor quibbles I think. Nothing in this opening puts me off though, I'd keep reading before making up my mind. "Romantic suspense" isn't really a genre I consider something I read, so if it's marketed that way I might not pay it any attention.

    Probably because it's not one of "my genres" I am not really sure how the concepts of "romantic" and "series" can work, romance and series seem mutually exclusive to me, at least for any meaningful definition of series, so I'm at a loss to know whether I would be missing something not having read the first.

    Now a mystery series that has the characters' romantic lives as a subplot or intruding on the investigation sounds like something I might read if the characters appeal to me.

  8. As I'm married to the cover artist, I can get him to work on the visibility of the text pretty easily. :)

    The book is second in the series, but the lead characters are different in each book. They're all friends and family from the same town, hence the series part of the title. Would it make more sense to just do a subtitle of "Leroy's Sins" or leave that part out altogether?

    Classifying the books was hard - romantic suspense is what we came up with after comparing them to authors like Tami Hoag, Nora Roberts, etc. They're not just romance, not just mystery, not just suspense, not just thrillers - but have elements of all those genres. I'm entirely open to something new, but I think RS is the most appropriate genre. I know 'Romance' does tend to have a stereotype that turns people off. My biggest concern with just calling them 'Suspense' is that I'll have readers who weren't expecting any romance and they'll be irate. Advice?

  9. I'm one of those readers who expect romance in every book. It's only natural to have an attraction to people you come in contact with constantly. That is why no matter what genre I read,(and I read many different genres)I like to see some sort of romance. So if you were to call it suspense and there was some romance in it, I would welcome it. Heck, I even put age appropriate romance in my middle grade books.

    I like the cover. I like the first 300 words, I probably wouldn't have gotten to those 300 words because I wouldn't have bought it based on the blurb. Sorry.

  10. T.L., I have the exact same problem. My main book is somewhere between erotica and fantasy with a good wallop of family saga. Keryl Raist threw up her hands at it and called it "fiction" (and gave it four stars). Best advice: Find a well-known book a lot like yours and follow the leader. I'm doing that using the Kushiel series as my guide; I haven't even read it but everyone says it's in a similar vein, so "erotic fantasy" etc it is...

  11. The way you describe it, I think classifying it as romantic suspense is fine. And if you left the cover, it would give the reader a clue that it's not your normal "Harlequin" type romance.

    When you go into Amazon, you can mark that the book is in a series, and that it's book 2. That will add that to the title so people looking for the second book will know. I think it's fine to have a series like you've described.

  12. I think it's a good idea to shorten the series title. Maybe:

    Leroy's Sins 2:
    Under the Moon's Shadow


    Under the Moon's Shadow:
    Leroy's Sins 2

    However, I'd suggest highlighting the series nature of the book in the description and on the title page, but keep it all off the cover.

    For eBooks, I'm always an advocate of simplifying the design and puffing the text a bit.

    So on this cover, I'd want to see:


    T.L. Haddix

    and no other text.

    All the rest can be handled in the blurb and on the title/copyright page.

    Finally, as someone who has read all three of your books to one extent or another, I'd suggest they are closer to mysteries than they are to romantic suspense, in terms of genre.

    What I'd suggest is this: since you're about to release Book 4, work with your Hubby on a whole set of new covers, a rebranding of the series with more of a mystery-genre focus in mind.

    This happens with mainstream trad-pubbed authors all the time. How many rebrandings has the Spenser/Robert B. Parker books undergone? Several. Stephen King's books get rebranded every 3-4 releases....

    That could be a great way to draw fresh attention to the series; a whole new set of covers for books 1-3, coupled with a new look for the series, to celebrate the release of Book 4! :)

  13. (This is DDW again, the comment form is giving me trouble again, so I'll try anonymous and see if this works.)

    Okay, now that I understand what sort of series it is, would reading them out of sequence "spoil" the earlier books in any way? (Personally, spoilers don't bother me in the slightest, but I know some people are rabid about it.)

    If order doesn't matter I'd suggest playing down the numbering and going with something like "A Leroy's Sins Novel" if anything. To me that suggests a standalone story, but still implies there are more like it if I want them. A series in the only-part-of-the-story sense can be off putting especially with an author one hasn't tried before, so I definitely suggest making clear whether or not a reader can start here (and be satisfied without buying more).

    I don't feel like I've been much help, since the sample and cover appeal to me I'd have to say the description is the weak link. (I've downloaded samples for both this and the first book. No promises I'll get to them very quickly though as I accumulate things to read at at least 3 to 4 times the rate I actually can read.)

  14. This has been incredibly helpful, truly. I think probably the first two things I need to look at are the description, and the titling/branding of the books as a series. I'm sure I can come up with better phrasing on that last part when it isn't nearly three a.m., but I get what you all are saying.

    There would be spoilers if someone read the books out of sequence, but not to the point where the entire plots would be given away for the first two books if you read the third one first. If, however, you're like me and hate reading books out of sequence, it could be annoying.

    New covers, huh? Oh, man. Craig, I'll let you break that to Glendon. I'm his worst client. When I told him we were at the point for getting book four's cover ready, he just got all wide eyed, and gulped. Okay, not that bad, but he's dreading it. Not saying we will do new covers, but I'll broach the subject tomorrow after he gets home from work.

    I do think the genre classification is pretty accurate. When I looked back at books I based that on, it's a good fit.

    Thanks again, folks.

  15. The cover: I love the colors and the image, but I also think it doesn't convey the "romantic" part of the genre. Then again, I'm not a romance reader. It does say suspense/mystery to me, which appeals to my reading tastes.

    The blurb: I think Vicki nailed it. Aside from the farm incident, the blurb felt rather generic. It did get in the "romantic" part quite clearly.

    First 300: I quite liked the opening. I'm okay with the leaf--some very nice images and writing--but I see the point others have made that this is a slow intro. Still, the leaf piqued my interest, and fit with what followed. That sense of unreality, what's happening, and she focuses on this leaf. I found the development of her coming to consciousness and understanding quite well done.

  16. The writing doesn't grab me as much as it should. Here's some reasons why, which is only my humble opinion for what it's worth:
    "Beth opened her eyes just in time to see a tiny, still-green leaf float past her face." - I feel that 'just in time' is redundant and just slows the pace.

    "It was moving slowly, that leaf, as though it had all the time in the world, and it seemed unconcerned to find itself detached from the tree that had given it life." - now the leaf is given a form of life and probably more importance than is warranted. Also, passive words such as 'was' slow the pace. You need to write a more active sentence, i.e., 'It drifted down and she watched as it caught on a tall spiky stalk of grass.'

    "She followed its movements with her eyes as far as she could, and turned her head to watch when it caught on a tall, spiky stalk of grass." - what else but here eyes is she going to watch it with? Again, redundant words. Also, the way it's written she turned her head to watch after it's already caught, which I'm sure is not what you meant. Again, only my humble opinion so take with a pinch of salt.

  17. If you told me she'd been shot in the first line, I'd have been hooked, but I wouldn't have got past the leaf otherwise - to me it says "writer trying to be clever". I love the cover, though I couldn't see a person there until someone mentioned it and it looks like horror to me, or maybe dark fantasy. But not romance. Maybe try a romance font to get that element across if you don't want two people on the cover?


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