Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Covert War

Author: Michael Parker
Genre: Thriller
How long it's been on sale: Three Months
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Social Networking (Twitter; Facebook; Digg; Linkedin; Goodreads; Kindle and local publicity here in Spain where I live).
Total sold so far: 24
Link to book on Amazon: A Covert War

Product Description:

Marcus Blake's ramshackle security agency has no clients to speak of until Susan Ellis walks into his office and asks him to help find her brother who has gone missing in Afghanistan. In that moment, Marcus' world is turned upside down and he is plunged into a covert war where arms and drugs are traded by renegades within the CIA. Now, in his quest to find Susan's brother, Marcus faces terror and betrayal in a murky world where one cannot easily tell a friend from a foe.

First 300 Words:




I think that was the moment I realised that I was in love with Shakira. I had known her barely three weeks. It probably happened within days of our first meeting at the Mission. Shakira was such a lively, extroverted character; so full of humour and yet with warm simplicity. I felt a connection with her that is difficult to describe, but one I believe was reciprocated. I knew without doubt that Shakira had warmed to me as soon as we met. There was something in her manner; the way she spoke and reacted to me. I can remember how her face would light up as soon as she saw me and how the atmosphere in a room seemed to change when she walked in; such was the effect she had. I felt the change in me and could see it in others. I loved the way she would throw her head back and laugh out loud at my terrible jokes, showing her beautiful, white teeth. And then she would stop laughing and look directly at me, her lovely eyes softening. And as her laughter died away, so her mouth would change into that wonderful, disarming smile of hers.

I had been working at the Mission for a number of weeks, each day writing up my report for The Chapter on the work that the centre was undertaking. Shakira was the senior administrator there. Because of my project I often found myself in Shakira’s company. In the evenings we would walk up to the high point above the Mission and talk over the highs and lows of the day. We would sit on a fallen tree trunk that had been there for many years. It was divested now of its foliage. It had no branches; they had been lopped off so that it could be used to sit and look over the lovely countryside. 

Vicki's Comments: The cover is a little dark so it's hard for me to see what is pictured. I do think having a gun on the front is a good idea, but I probably wouldn't suggest a flower or a note pad. Those things don't make me think of a thriller.

The blurb could use some work. I don't want to know that the security agency didn't have any clients. That's not a gripping story. And then there's vague things like 'turned his world upside down' and 'faces terror and betrayal.' What turns his world upside down? What is the terror he faces? The answers are what will make me want to read the story.

I would also tighten up the writing. I think the story starts at the wrong point. The book is listed as a thriller, and yet this starts off reading like a love story. And it is all telling. I want to be pulled into the story, but I'm not. I would suggest joining a critique group and getting some outside opinions on the text. Maybe they will have some suggestions on how to hook the reader early on.

What do you guys think?


  1. I think you're spot on. I hate to say this to a fellow writer, but this isn't ready yet. :(

  2. I like the cover, although I think the author's name could be a little clearer or maybe just larger. I can see the flower and the notepad being used as tools in a covert operation. I'm carrying red flowers so you know who I am. I use the notepad to decode messages.

    I agree with Vicki about the opening. Before I read her post I thought, this isn't a thriller, it's a love story.

    There's no tension in the opening. A thriller should grip me from the beginning and keep me holding my breath.

  3. Agree with the others on the opening. It doesn't fit the genre.

    Also the MC is so 'in his own head' from the beginning that I'm afraid the author has already lost control of the story. "Stream of consciousness" is a literary device not meant for action oriented genre fiction.

    HOWEVER - not only can this be fixed with an editing pass to turn thought into dialog, doing so will bring your story to life. Instead of 'thinking' the MC will be living these scenes. I think it will be worth the effort!

    Best Wishes.

  4. Definitely what everyone has said. This doesn't start like a thriller at all and starts with a flashback. Why not start where the story starts?

    The cover is all right although I don't get the point of the notepad. Still, I do think it says thriller. It just needs a few tweaks but the opening, beyond that I can't tell, definitely needs work.

  5. I like the cover, but I agree the author name should be larger and/or bold, as it sort of gets lost right now.

    I usually don't mind too much when a book starts with some scene-setting background, but in this case the blurb and the first 300 words don't seem connected, like they're from different works. I understand it's a prologue, but the cover and blurb would not have me expecting this for a beginning, and I honestly don't think I'd read beyond the first paragraph as a result.

    Is information in the prologue necessary for understanding the story? (For example, if I bought a defective copy of the book that was missing the prologue, would I really be lost?) Can the necessary info from the prologue be worked into the main text of the story at relevant times, to allow removing the prologue? I'm not anti-prologue, but I think looking at this from a perspective of removing the prologue might help.

    Best of luck with it!

  6. Well, thank you all for your very constructive comments about the cover, blurb and prologue of my book. I've never looked at it in that light. When the book was first published, I asked for a field of poppies and and AK47 on the cover. My publisher agreed to do this, but the book (the hardback) looked like a Mills & Boon which disappointed me. The dark cover of the paperback version was a mistake, but all part of the learning curve. My son, who produces the covers for my paperbacks realised that the true colour of the jacket was lost in the printing process. He has now addressed that problem with my latest POD (Roselli's Gold). I can understand now why the content of the jacket confused people, because the whole concept was mine and I was obviously aware of what happens in the story. The notepad is actually the prologue, and it is this that Susan Ellis is reading when the story opens in Chapter One. Apart from people I know who have read the book, I haven't seen a review from anyone else. Perhaps someone who has purchased it as a Kindle will be kind enough to post their opinion. But thanks again for all your comments, and thank you Victorine for allowing me space on your blog.

  7. The best prologues are ones where something happens. Look at GRR Martin's prologues in SoIaF, for example. They shouldn't be used to explain in advance of the story. Why do we need to know this stuff in advance? I am not anti-prologue but I have exactly the same expectation of a prologue as I do of chapter 1. It has to have something happen. It has to catch my attention. It has to introduce a character. Otherwise, I put it down and go on to something else. Sorry if that sounds harsh, because I only mean to help. It is hard to hear that something you've written doesn't work, but I suspect you are being really hurt by that beginning.


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