Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tugger's Down

Author: Tommie Lyn
Genre: Occult/Paranormal
How long it's been on sale: Jan 2010
Current price: $.99
Total sold so far: 52
Link to book on Amazon: Tugger's Down

Product Description:

Salem, Massachusetts: A pregnant teen dabbles in the occult with a Ouija board and unleashes an unspeakable family secret on her unborn son, Tucker.

Pensacola, Florida: Lacey Cochran, a university student, has her future all mapped out. Until Porter O'Brien drives the wrong way in a one-way parking lot to take the only available parking place. He gets to the Admissions Office ahead of her and signs up for the last seat in the class she needs most.

How will the lives of Tucker Farnsworth, Lacey Cochran and Porter O'Brien entwine? Can Lacey and Porter overcome the horrendous threat to little Tucker? 

First 300 Words:

A tiny skid. A jerk. And the planchette skittered across the Ouija board, came to an abrupt stop and pointed to the word “Yes.”

Olivia Farnsworth took her fingers from the small piece of wood that rested on the board and gave Tiffani Adams a skeptical glance from slitted eyes. “You did that. You made it move.”

“No, I didn’t.” Tiffani’s face darkened.

“Yes, you did. Even in this dim light, I can tell you’re blushing. You always blush when you lie.”

Tiffani ducked her head. “All right. So I lied. So I moved it. So sue me.”

“See, I knew this was fake.” Olivia crossed her arms and tilted her head back to look down her nose at Tiffani. “I told you these things don’t work.”

“Yes, they do! I’ve seen them work.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Well, it’s true. Heather and Joannie and I play with Ouija boards a lot. It’s fun.” Tiffani leaned forward and lowered her voice. “And this board was Grandma Tessie’s. I found it at her beach cottage last weekend and sneaked it home in my backpack. Since Grandma Tessie did lots of stuff, read tea leaves, even did tarot cards, this is bound to be a good board.”

“I don’t care,” Olivia said. “It didn’t actually move like you said it would. You made it move.”

“You were getting impatient. Like always. So, I was trying to keep you interested until, you know, until it started working.”

Neither girl said anything for a moment, each eyeing the other to see if she would give in. Usually, it was Tiffani who gave in first and allowed her cousin Olivia to win their frequent contests of wills.

“So, give it a little time. Okay? ’Cause it’s really lots of fun once it gets going. And spooky.”

Vicki's Comments: After looking at the cover, and studying it, I see the Ouiji board at the bottom. But it took a while for me to see that it was a Ouiji board, and since that is a major part of your book I might make it more obvious on the cover. I do like the dark face. I think the typography can be improved. I'm not a huge fan of the child handwriting look.

The product description kind of confused me. I like to be introduced to a character in the blurb. The pregnant teen isn't even named, so I would definitely name her. The idea of a pregnant teen playing with a Ouiji board is a strong one, IMHO. The driving down the wrong way of a street, not so much for me. It seems like a strange detail to put in a description where you're trying to give an overview of the major conflicts of the story.

I think  your first 300 words are good. It plops me in the middle of a scene, with some girls playing with a Ouiji board. They act a little young for one of them to be pregnant, but maybe this is a few years earlier. I think it is a good beginning, the only issue I might pick at would be I couldn't tell whose point of view we were in. I got the feeling we were in Olivia's point of view, but there were some slips that described Olivia from what would be Tiffani's point of view. That was the only thing that stood out to me.

So for me, the description is the weakest link here. I would definitely rework the description to give the reader more of a hook. Let the reader know right away the major conflict of the story.

What do you guys think?


  1. I'm definitely expecting horror with the scary mask on the cover, and I don't generally do horror. But I really like the first 300 words. And I buy based on samples: I ignore reader reviews. Because readers are biased, maybe family, maybe hate the author, maybe just have different tastes than I. So I read the sample, and make my decision based on that.

    Based solely on the sample, I'd buy this book, but the cover puts me off, because (as I said) I don't generally enjoy horror. So if this isn't a horror story with guts and blood and creepy stuff, then I'd change that. If it *is* horror, then I think the mask on the cover is an excellent way to telegraph that to potential readers.

  2. Thanks so much for the feedback!

    I LOVE some help with honing and refining both the cover and description. Here's a little more about the story...

    In the prologue, the girls in the scene unwittingly summon an evil entity who invades the body of Olivia and tries to possess her unborn son, killing her. The story is about the continual attacks the entity makes on the boy after he's born and how the boy is developmentally delayed by his resistance to the entity.

    In one sense, I suppose it is horror, and although a couple of people die, it's not a guts-and-blood story. A reviewer called it a supernatural thriller. But how to bring that out in the cover and description, I have no clue. I did rework the cover a little, but probably didn't make much headway. Here's a link to the adjusted cover:

    (Incidentally, my sister told me the cover is too literal...the cover tells the gist of the story.)

  3. I like the new arrangement of the cover, however, if Vicki hadn't pointed out the ouija board, I wouldn't have seen it. Ouija boards are usually wood and if you can give it some graining, it might be more noticeable.

    Actually, I think that the Ouija board as the background for the whole cover might work even better. That's the jumping off point of the story.

    I liked the opening. It drew me right in. I couldn't wait to see what they would summon with the Ouija board. And if there's no blood and guts, this might be something I would read. You classified it as occult/paranormal and that seems about right. Paranormal thriller would work as well.

    I think the problem with the blurb is jumping from one scene to an entirely unrelated scene without creating even the tiniest thread between them.

  4. I've tried to rework the description...but I don't know if it's an improvement. How's this:

    In Salem, Massachusetts, Olivia, a pregnant teen, and her cousin, Tiffani, play with a ouija board. But they unwittingly unleash an unspeakable family secret on Olivia's unborn son, Tucker...and it costs Olivia her life.

    At the age of three, with his health deteriorating, Tucker is taken to Pensacola, Florida to live with his aunt Regina.

    And in Pensacola, Lacey Cochran, a struggling university student, has her future all mapped out. Until Porter O'Brien, Regina's brother-in-law, gets to the Admissions Office ahead of her and signs up for the last seat in the class she needs most. How will Lacey and Porter become involved in little Tucker's life? And can they overcome the fearful threat to his life?

    Thanks, Margaret, I'll work on the board again. I hadn't realized that with all the resizing, etc., the wood grain had disappeared.

  5. Hi Tommie Lyn,
    For me, the part of your cover that is working is the bottom, right 25%. (Or maybe 40%) The image of a small, vulnerable boy walking across a ouija board towards [what???] is quite compelling. The mask, however, isn't something you'd ever see on a trad-pubbed cover. (At least, not in combination with the photo-realism of the child.) To me, that, in combination with the title font, makes it feel unprofessional, and I might very well pass it by for that reason alone.

    I think the description still needs work as well.

    When Olivia, a pregnant teen, and her cousin Tiffani play with a ouija board, they unwittingly unleash an evil which costs Olivia her life and threatens her unborn son Tucker.

    At the age of three, with his health deteriorating, Tucker is taken to live with his aunt Regina in Pensacola.

    (end of suggested changes)
    At this point, I am not sure where you should go, but I'd definitely re-work the description of Lacey and Porter. Instead of outlining the means by which they meet (not exciting or important-feeling) I'd just say "Lacey and Porter, university students in Pensacola, become [entangled/embroiled/caught up] in the threat to Tucker's [safety/life/existence] and risk their own lives in the hope of saving Tucker.

    I wouldn't word the third paragraph like I did above, but if I understand the plot, that's the info that seems essential in helping me decide if it is a book I'm interested in or not.

    Hope that helps, and best wishes for a smashing new description!

  6. I think your changes to the cover and description are positive moves, and I agree that the original description was probably the weakest link in the marketing chain. The revised version flows, whereas the original one took too much thought and/or was a bit confusing. (OK, so I haven't had my first cup of coffee yet, but still...) It's not a genre I would normally read, but the first 300 words did an effective job of pulling me in to the story.

  7. I really can't tell from the blurb what this is about. The writing seems strong enough. I'd like a touch more setting, nothing overwhelming but a hint more, but that might come right after the exchange, so I don't think that's a big deal. From the cover it looks like there's a monster behind the door, but, again, I can't tell from the blurb. Definitely a blurb problem here IMO. Did I mention the blurb?

  8. Thanks, everyone!

    I'm trying to adjust per all the great suggestions, so, here's another rendition of the cover with a different font for the title and (hopefully) a bit more definition on the wood grain of the ouija board (I'll have to make more extensive changes to bring that out a littler better, and I just wanted something "hurry up" to post for comments), and the demon's face removed, leaving only the eyes. I know it needs a lot of tweaking and adjusting, but I hope it gives an idea of the new directions suggested.

    Incidentally, Cidney, the version I'm working from right now has an enlarged Tugger (on the original cover he was much smaller)...does he need to be smaller than this sample?

    And here's another reworking of the description, without the reference to Salem (I had felt compelled to include it, because it is pivotal in what happens to Tugger):

    When Olivia, a pregnant teen, and her cousin Tiffani play with a ouija board, they unwittingly unleash an evil which costs Olivia her life and threatens her unborn son Tucker.

    At the age of three, with his health deteriorating, Tucker is taken to live with his aunt Regina in Pensacola.

    Lacey and Porter, university students in Pensacola, are caught up in the threat to Tucker and risk their own lives in the hope of saving him. I making progress?

  9. Since the majority of the story is about Tucker, how much of the blurb should be devoted to Olivia and Tiffani? Especially if they aren't in the story afterwards. Sounds like the protagonists are going to be Lacey, whose relationship to Tucker seems pretty random, and Porter. And now I feel like I'm getting everyone's name mixed up!

  10. I can't really figure out how those people have anything to do with each other or even who is the protagonist.

    So IS the protagonist? And what is the inciting incident? I think you need to get those into your blurb. At the moment, your blurb gives no idea who the MC is or really how they're at risk.

    As far as the cover, I like your newest cover better but I'd get rid of the handwriting looking font if it were me. Maybe it's just me but that always seems a bit amateur looking to me.

  11. PS I think 3 font types are too many for a cover. Again that may just be me.

  12. For me, the demon face on the original cover was already too small, and with it being just eyes, that seems worse to me. The demon is clearly a major element in the story and I think it should be on the cover as well -- not the main element, but definitely something immediately obvious. Although the Ouija board is important in the beginning, I don't think it needs to be on the cover unless it has a lot more importance throughout the book.

    I'm guessing from the shining cross in the doorway that this is a story of Christian salvation from evil, and if that's the case, I can understand wanting to emphasize it -- but I'm not sure that is useful on the cover as part of the overall marketing mix. If it is, I might (hate to say this) discard the whole cover design and start from scratch with something that splits the cover in half with one side being "evil" (demon, Ouija board, etc.) and the other being "good" (cross, etc.), and the boy straddling the line, maybe with the demon reaching out to him but not touching him (since apparently he is able to resist).

  13. Ok, here's a new reworking of the cover. I took the cross back off (it wasn't on the original cover, but I put it on because of other feedback), and took the demon totally off.

    And I took off the handwriting font.

    So...verdict? Better?

  14. I'm ambivalent about removing the demon, but there's a lot to be said for simplicity, and the current version is looking stronger (IMHO -- take with a grain of salt, especially after looking at the covers of my own books, which I designed!). What about making the title text even larger and moving it up so it doesn't intersect the door frame, and move your name up (and maybe slightly to the left) to not overlap anything? I do think the font face for the title is better now.

  15. Stuart, I know what you mean about simplicity. So, am I on the right road, now? Is this better?

  16. Yes, I think it is better. It will be good to hear what others think of the changes, too.

  17. Cool, Stuart. Thanks!

  18. I think the cover needs a bit of work, as does the description. I like the opening scene, but I would cut out the excessive dialogue. That just turns me off when I'm only starting to read a new book. It's otherwise really interesting what's going on (in the opening scene) in that something is actually going on.

  19. Personally, I love the original cover, and I wouldn't change a thing about it, except possibly nudging the title out of the doorway. I particularly adore the handwriting font. It's creepy.

    I think the blurb needs help. You really need to focus on the protagonist of the story. What does that person want? What's in the way of him or her getting it? What happens if she or he doesn't get it?

    If it's Tucker, you've answered all these questions already. If it's Lacey or Porter, I don't have any sense of them at all.

    Also, please be upfront in your blurb somewhere if this is, in fact, Christian fiction. You want to get your book to people who will actually like it, and I suspect hiding that fact does you very few favors with either the people who'd be angry with their purchase or the people who might try a dark story if they knew it had a theme of redemption at its core.

  20. I like the cover. I always like my blurbs short and to the point, and I struggle with that on my own. :) But this is kind of what I was thinking. We don't really need to know the entire set up as the story will tell that. I would keep it bare bones..something like this:

    Tucker: An evil freed from a Ouija board killed his mother. Now it wants him.

    Lacy & Porter: Two college students who thought they had their futures all mapped out.

    These three lives are about to collide; and what brings them together, will change them forever.

  21. @Cathy Thanks for your comments.

    @V.J. Thanks. You've given me some things to think about. There is a Christian element, although, Christians don't want to read this book, LOL. Several have told me the cover is too scary, plus, they weren't interested in reading about demons. So I put a cross in the doorway to clear up any confusion...but apparently that didn't work either. At this point, I'm kinda at a loss...

  22. Following Vicki's super suggestion, I've tried to focus on the story from each of the four main characters' view point. I came up with this, which I hope will provide a starting place for developing a blurb:

    A pregnant teen with a ouija board...
    An entity with evil intentions...
    A endangered boy with no help in sight...
    A girl with a good heart...
    A young man with a past...
    And an upheaval of danger with terrifying consequences...
    Tugger’s Down.

  23. At this point, I'm kinda at a loss...

    Well, you do want to avoid "design by committee." ;) It might be best to not make changes for awhile, and take some time to digest the various suggestions. Then, after you've had time to sort through the different comments that have been made, you can apply the changes that you think will be the most effective.

    As for the Christian element, if it's a defining aspect of the story (especially if you're putting forth a specific message -- positive or negative -- message about Christianity), I would mention it. If it's just a minor facet, I wouldn't worry about it too much. I was rather turned off by the first book I downloaded for the Kindle, a traditionally published novel that started off without any strong religious message and by the end was all about the religious message. If I'd known in advance, I might or might not have read it anyway, but at least I would have known what to expect.

  24. @Jeanne - I don't know why I overlooked your comment last night...I think I was getting bleary-eyes. But...I LOVE your suggestion for the blurb. It covers everything, has the elements that the blurb needs and expresses the tension and danger. Thanks!

    @Stuart - I think you have a point...I probably need to let things "cook" a little while before making the final decision on the cover.

    About the Christian element, it's there because of Lacey's character, because of things she does, just like cars and racing would be part of a story if one of the characters was a NASCAR driver...just part of the landscape. I don't think there's a Christian message, though. The message (if there is one) is about the relationship between parents and their children.

    When I read it through after all the rewrites and edits, I saw an underlying theme about parents and children that was repeated in the various subplots. And two Bible verses later came to mind, one that underlined the theme and one that applied to the broader element of the story, and I inserted them in the front matter after the dedication. But they are both used more poetically than message-wise, I think.

  25. @Jeanne - Here's the tweak of your blurb suggestion:

    Tucker: An evil entity summoned through a Ouija board killed his mother. Now it wants him.

    Lacy and Porter: Two college students who each thought their future was all mapped out. Until they met each other.

    These three lives are about to collide. And what happens when they meet will change them forever.

  26. I like it Tommie Lyn. I can hear it like it is a movie trailer voice over. I think it has drama and doesn't give too much away, but pulls you in. :)

  27. I like it, too! Thank you so much for the help, Jeanne...I really appreciate it!

  28. @Tommie Lyn: LOL. When I was a Christian, I read the heck out of a bunch of Frank Peretti books, which were all about demons. Of course, the fact I was so interested in "dark" things may have contributed to my abandoning the faith, so you might be onto something.

    I do think there's an audience for Christian "horror," however. I mean the whole Left Behind series is basically a Christian post-apocalyptic horror story.

  29. V.J., you have me curious...what do you think I'm "onto." Just asking, LOL.


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