Friday, September 30, 2011

Lodestone Book One: The Sea of Storms

Author: Mark Whiteway
Genre: Science Fiction
How long it's been on sale: July 22, 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: All my books are listed on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords premium catalog. I am featured on Facebook and Twitter, (although I only have a following of three or four people!). I have my own website with regular news updates relating to the series. The website has two videos, one a short book trailer, the other a youtube video made by a reviewer who designated Book One their "Book of the Month". A more sophisticated, movie style trailer is currently being made.

I have done extensive research on Blog sites and made numerous pitches, as a result of which I now have over sixty reviews, all either four or five star. Most of these are posted on Amazon. I have entered a number of awards programs and now have some 16 awards to my name. I have done four blog interviews. I have done one library book signing and sold 16 paperbook copies of the first two volumes there. I have definite plans to do at least two more.

Total sold so far: Paperback 17; ebook 28
Link to book on Amazon: Lodestone Book One: The Sea of Storms

Product Description:

Ail-Kar, a white-hole portal from another universe, rains meteoroids onto the surface of the planet Kelanni. But the so-called "lodestones" behave according to different physical laws, transforming Kelanni's society. With the aid of the fearsome Keltar in their flying cloaks, the Kelanni are being put to forced labor to mine the lodestones.

Shann, an orphan with a fiery disposition, witnesses a battle between a Keltar and a stranger bearing a similar flying cloak. She tracks down the stranger, and learns of the technology behind the Keltars' power, joining him on a mission to free the slaves and cut off their supply of lodestones.

Meanwhile Keris, a Keltar, is sent on a mission to track down the rebels. She is attacked by a flying creature and saved by the enigmatic Chandara. At their Great Tree, she learns that a mysterious "Prophet" is out to destroy the Kelanni people. Their only hope is a powerful instrument hidden in the distant past.

Pursued by Keltar, the party will encounter bizarre creatures, ancient technologies and terrifying dangers. Finally, they must seek to cross a massive storm barrier in order to reach the other side of their world, where a world-shaking revelation awaits.

First 300 Words:

“He comes!”

A knot of a dozen or so Kelanni villagers stood in the market courtyard, eyes raised skyward. Dark clouds roiled overhead, and the rain was persistent, running down their faces and into their eyes, making it difficult to see. At the edges of the courtyard, almost melted into the shadows, were many others, pulled by curiosity and repelled by apprehension. In the centre, four downcast youths stood at either side of two laden wooden carts.

As they watched, a shadow moved across the expanse, growing silently, rapidly. It resolved into the shape of a Kelanni, dark cloak flared outwards like a bird with a single great wing. He dropped from the sky with a terrible grace and landed in the space before the knot of villagers, with the cart to his back, the cloak settling about his shoulders. He stood erect, raindrops trickling down his dark olive cheeks like false tears. Close cropped dark hair bristled on his scalp and down the back of his neck. His right hand grasped a dark wooden staff, diamond blades at each of its ends. His tail flicked from side to side.

He walked forward and cast the fold of his cloak to one side, lifting his left hand. The first three fingers were raised; the other two were bent downwards.

“Fealty and service to the Three,” he announced. His voice was hard, confident.

“Fealty and service,” chorused the group, raggedly.

“Which of you is headman?”

A middle-aged villager dressed in plain tan jerkin and breeches stepped forward. He was balding, with a thin, lean face and a thin, lean voice. “I am called Boran. May I know the name of Prophet’s Keltar?”

Vicki's Comments: When I look at the cover of this book my first impression is that this is a fantasy novel. I'm not sure why, maybe the colors. When I look closer, I see the picture is a ship and the name of the book indicates sailing. It almost looks like a middle grade novel when I examine it. I'm guessing by the cover alone this book is about being out at sea. But then I see it's labeled as Science Fiction. I'm wondering if the cover isn't giving readers the wrong impression. I'd also like to see a different font.

The description is bogged down with the unknown words. I'm wondering if some of these unfamiliar words can't be reworded. I mean, in the book I assume these words are introduced naturally and with space in between, whereas putting them close together in the description confuses me. Maybe leaving out a few of them would be better.

There are some awkward phrasing in the description. For example, "...are being put to forced labor to mine the lodestones." I would just say, "...are being forced to mine the lodestones." I think there are some instances like this that can be trimmed.

Also, after reading the description, I feel like too much information is trying to be portrayed here. I want to know the main conflict. What's the reason I should read this book? Give it to me straight, without all the extra stuff that isn't needed. But I readily admit I'm in the "less is more" camp when it comes to blurbs. Others might like longer descriptions with more of the plot disclosed.

Now, I didn't post the From the Author section here because I don't normally do that, but I would like to bring this up. The large number of obscure awards is a turn-off for me. When I research these awards I've never heard of, I find many of them are tied into vanity publishers or places that offer paid services like reviews for authors. This does not give me confidence in the book. I would take the awards off. I am also put off by the excerpt. I would much rather grab a sample of the book if I'm so inclined. The "wall of text" makes me not want to read any of it, which is definitely NOT what you want a potential customer to feel. 

The beginning of the novel doesn't have a point of view character, which makes me feel distanced from what is going on. I'd much rather start in the perspective of one of the main characters. I'm also not a fan of adverbs in dialogue tags. I'd get rid of the 'raggedly' and maybe show this.

I think with a little tweaking the beginning could grab the reader more. What do you guys think?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In Wilder Lands

Author: Jim Galford
Genre: Epic Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 5 weeks
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Signed up on KindleBoards, Nookboards, GoodReads. Put up advertising campaign with GoodReads and Adwords. Distributed cards at local fantasy con.
Total sold so far: 17
Link to book on Amazon: In Wilder Lands (The Fall of Eldvar)

Product Description:

In the rough mountainous midlands of Eldvar, two city states have been waging a war that has lasted for generations. Desperate to bring an end to the war with themselves coming out on top, one city escalates the conflict through the use of dark magic, setting off the largest war the lands have ever seen as other forces are dragged in to defend their own homes from the ensuing violence.

Throughout this, the animal-like wildling Estin finds himself driven from the city that is the only home he has ever known. He must flee the relative shelter to escape the very forces that seek to continue the war and would willingly drag him into it with them.

Driven into the wilds, Estin has no choice but to put some degree of trust in those he would least expect to travel with: A fox wildling whose goals and motivations he often cannot even guess at, a dwarf who swore to murder him for money, and a mixed group of gypsies and other wildlings who have no stake in Estin’s survival.

Estin must decide what he is willing to do and become, as well as who to trust if he is to survive the war, once it reaches the wilder lands where he now must learn to live. 

First 300 Words:

Whenever I dreamt, time seemed to lose its meaning, but the story remained the same. It would always start with that peaceful warm feeling that just seems to belong in any state of near-sleep. I could feel people close—my parents—while my mind was adrift. My mother would whisper to me as I lay there, telling me that she loved me. These are the things every mother tells her child, I’ve been told.

What made my dreams unique was where things went from there and how vividly I could remember them every time I woke. Dreams based on your own memories can be brutal like that. I could choose to ignore my own history while awake, but my dreams would never fail to remind me of every painful detail.

After a time—how long was debatable, as it felt like hours, but could have been mere minutes of sleep—I would feel my mother leave my side. I was aware of her departure, though I did not fully wake either in the dream or real life. She was gone for a while…too long in my childhood’s mind.

Each time I reached this point in the dream, I could feel a chill creep down my spine, knowing what was coming but unable to change it.

It was then that the screams would begin. Distant at first, but still clear. Voices I should have known, mixed with so many I do not remember anymore. They were probably my neighbors, maybe even the other young I played with, though the dream blurs so much and my own memory could not identify them. They have become nameless and faceless, which only makes their deaths that much more difficult for me to accept.

If I was lucky, this was all I would remember when I woke.

Estin woke, his heart pounding as it did nearly every morning. He shook as his limbs tried to run for a moment, the dream continuing into wakefulness. When he did finally free himself of its hold, he groaned and relaxed as best he could.

Vicki's Comments: I want to like this cover, however I'm not exactly sure what is going on in the picture, and it doesn't really scream High Fantasy to me. Are these pirates? Is that a boat on fire, or a tall mound of dirt? I'm afraid the cover is trying to portray a scene in the book which shouldn't be the main objective of a cover. It should portray the genre.

The text doesn't stand out from the background and the font choice isn't the best. I would revamp the cover and see if you can't get a High Fantasy feeling from it. Maybe look at some of the popular books that are similar to yours and see if you can't get the same type of design. (Obviously don't copy, but you can get ideas from the other book covers and do something similar.)

The description is a bit too wordy and I think it can be tightened up. For instance, "He must flee the relative shelter to escape the very forces that seek to continue the war and would willingly drag him into it with them." This sentence is awkward. You could easily trim it to make it smoother. I'm also not sure that the first paragraph is needed. I usually read a description to get an idea of the main character and their conflict. You don't get into this until the second paragraph. But some people like a little setting information, so get more opinions on that.

Unfortunately the beginning of the book doesn't grab me. I don't like book starting with dreams, and this one isn't really a dream but a character "telling" about a dream, which is worse. I don't get the first person to third person change. That confuses me. I also see some editing issues. I think this book needs some editing and tightening up, and perhaps a different beginning.

I recommend submitting chapters through and getting the prose tightened up, and then getting a good editor who can help with tense and grammar issues.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Word Book of Sex

Author: Knyaz Rikard
Genre: History, Word Book, Non-Fiction
How long it's been on sale: 5 months
Current price: $4.50
Marketing:, put adds on book selling forums
Total sold so far: 10
Link to book on Amazon: Word Book of Sex

Product Description:

This wordbook aims to find the roots of the words we use every day,
- dirty sex words. Where did we get the F-word and the C-word from.? Where do we get the word “beads” from , the former praying tool of wooden, or glass balls clad on a piece of string, now widely used to describe a lustful activity.
This wordbook gives the meaning and the uses of each word. In order to understand the meaning of sex-words we have to dig deeper into the old English world of words. This wordbook is a path to the old, partly forgotten, history of old English language and its origin.
In this research we have found an old Fruitfulness culture about 5.000 years old that was spread along the Atlantic coast and Scandinavia. These rituals and traditions, concepts, and thoughts still influence us today, for example, when we open a, - pornsite.
This wordbook is also a way to find the roots to your name, the place where you live, or grew up, because many of the today´s place names come from this Fruitfulness culture. Our given names and family names come from the place-names. The place-names we have come from rituals and traditions.
Yes, it is dirty, but by reading this book you are helping the old fruitfulness culture to survive. Every time you look at a porno-site you perform a holy act, as long as you breed and keep the memory and the culture alive by giving birth to new generations

First 300 Words:

(A repeat of the description.)

Vicki's Comments: I'll start by saying I think I'm the worst person in the world to critique this book. I know nothing about ancient word origins, I hold sex sacred and probably don't use most of the words discussed in this book, and to be honest I couldn't care less where the f-word came from.

Okay, now that I got that out of the way, here's my opinion. The cover doesn't appeal to me. The lettering is hard to read, the red doesn't stand out against the tan background. The picture doesn't make sense to me. I will say that the cover doesn't necessarily look "homemade" so that's a plus.

The description is a mess. There are sentences with missing punctuation, and others with too much punctuation. It is in desperate need of editing. If the description is this way, and the forward in the book is the same way, I'm guessing the entire book is a complete mess. And if I am thinking that, your potential buyers are thinking that too.

Some of the sentences leave me scratching my head and wondering. You perform a holy act when you look at porn? Come on. Who are you trying to appeal to here?

The subject matter of this book is not going to appeal to a wide audience. Marketing on book selling forums will be a waste of time. You'll want to focus on people interested in ancient civilizations. This book has a very limited audience. It will only appeal to a small group of people. I think if you hire an editor and probably someone to format the kindle book, looking at the sample, you'll be in a better place than you are now. But I'm guessing that the major reason this book isn't selling is because it's for a niche market.

What do you guys think?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Death Has a Name (Book One of the Brodie Wade Series)

Author: Jerry Hanel
Genre: Paranormal Thriller
How long it's been on sale: December 2010
Current price: $1.99
Marketing: Paid advertising, blog spots, a single radio spot, social media, kindle boards, book reviews, etc.
Total sold so far: 200
Link to book on Amazon: Death Has a Name (Book One of the Brodie Wade Series)

Product Description:


Praise for the Brodie Wade Series:
"Do you love characters that grab a hold of your heart and won't let go? How about paranormal mysteries? Want a dash of romance and true friendship on top? Then you really need to read The Brodie Wade series."
-- Keryl Raist, author of Sylvianna

There is a Truth that exists. It is active. Alive. It fights the bounds of reality to make itself known. It's not my truth. It's not anyone's truth. It is The Truth.

There are times when select individuals can see and interact with The Truth, but Brodie Wade has been able to interact with it since he was a child. It has scarred his mind and body, but it also gives him the ability to know things that he shouldn't know. Thus, he has taken employment as a psychic detective.

Working together with Detective Phil Dawson, Brodie must summon all of his will to go head-to-head with The Truth to solve the latest string of murders. It appears that Dominick Fredrickton -- the Midnight Killer -- has returned from the grave, beheading the unfortunate few that get in his way.

When The Truth confronts Brodie and tells him that he must protect the Third Key, Brodie must discover what - or who - The Third Key is.

Can Brodie stop Death from obtaining the Third Key and regaining his physical form? 

First 300 Words:

 A middle-aged woman dashed through the darkness, then down the stairs. A man in a dark shirt was only two steps ahead. She had been attending to her mentor when she'd seen movement down the hallway. In an instant she willed herself into shadow and darted after him. She had to catch him before he escaped with her mentor's prized possession.

She held a glowing orb tightly in her right hand and a .45 in her left. Both hands were covered in blood from the man she'd always known as her mentor.

Was the beast now free from the chains that held him bound in the eternal realms? In the five years since she'd been promoted, her life had been relatively uneventful. But in the past twenty-four hours, everything had come undone. What had she become? A killer? A protector? She wasn't sure any more. Her life was spinning out of control.

She chased after the intruder, running forward at full speed toward the wall that he passed through with ease. Her heart raced and her lungs could not take in any more air. She was pushing herself to her limits trying to catch the servant of Death. If he got away, all of her kind would be in trouble. The world would be only one step away from torment beyond her comprehension.

As she neared the far wall she extended her hand, passing through as if it were a simple illusion. Emerging on the other side, she tried to get her bearings, having traveled several miles from the house she had been in only moments before. She stood directly in the middle of the street on Broadway. Cars honked and squealed as they sped by on both sides.

Frantic, she squinted left and right, searching for him, hoping that...

Vicki's Comments: I really like this cover. If I were designing it, I may not have put the title quite so close to the top, it looks a bit squeezed in to me, I probably would have given it a tiny bit more space on top and on the sides. But I admit that's nit picky. I love the font, and the images are wonderful. It does say "Paranormal Thriller" to me.

I think it's fine to put the genre in the description, in fact sometimes I wish more people would do it. At times I can't tell from looking at the cover and description exactly where the book fits. I would take out the praise, though, there's plenty of good reviews for this book and if people want to read them they can scroll down. The only time I would keep this kind of thing would be if the review was from someone very famous and influential, and even then I would keep it to a short snip.

The first paragraph of the description doesn't pull me in. When I look at a description, I want to know the conflict and plot of the book. The part about the truth being alive should come out in the story.

The rest of the blurb needs to be reworked, IMHO. There's some unnecessary information that could be cut, and I would get right to the conflict. Something more like: When psychic detective Brody Wade is asked to solve a string of murders he must face his sometimes terrifying visions in order to get to the truth. This gives you a lot of information in one sentence. It tells us that Brody is a psychic detective, that there's been a string of murders, and that Brody doesn't love the psychic visions he sees.

I wouldn't end with a question. Most of the time I find this cheesy. Sorry. If the information needs to come across, I would phrase it as a statement: Brody must stop Death from obtaining the Third Key and regaining his physical form. With a little tightening up, the blurb can be much better.

The beginning of the novel is a bit confusing to me. At first I wasn't sure who the point of view character was. Then I realized it's the woman, but I don't know her name. I don't know what she is. I feel very far removed from the character. I fear there are too many unanswered questions in this beginning.

If it were me, I would name the character and try to tighten up the beginning. I'm glad it starts with action, but I think there needs to be more clues as to what is going on. I'm guessing she's a ghost, or part of this Truth, but since she's got blood on her hands that makes me wonder if I'm wrong. I wish there were more explanation. (Which is probably pretty hypocritical because I'm the queen of confusing people.)

I'm guessing the blurb and the beginning are holding this back. What do you guys think?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Burning Sky (Halcyon #1: A Steampunk Thriller)

Author: Joseph Robert Lewis
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Steampunk, Thriller
How long it's been on sale: 7 months
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Blogging, paid ads, giveaways, contests
Total sold so far: 300
Link to book on Amazon: The Burning Sky (Halcyon #1: A Steampunk Thriller)

Product Description:

For fans of steampunk adventure authors Cherie Priest and Scott Westerfield:

When the brilliant young engineer Taziri Ohana survives a devastating attack on the Air Corps, she is the only pilot left to chase the criminals responsible across the skies of Morocco. While helping the police to investigate, Taziri uncovers a vast conspiracy of deposed aristocrats and wealthy industrialists plotting to overthrow the Queen and plunge the country into war.

With assassins stalking the streets and riots on every street corner, Taziri quickly learns to defend herself as only an engineer can - by inventing electrical tools and weapons from whatever is at hand! But the country's only hope for survival may be a visiting Incan princess, a dashing Spanish fencer, and Taziri's airship Halcyon plummeting out of the burning sky.

The Other Earth: Explore this stunning vision of an alternate world where fantastical machines sail the seas and the skies, enormous prehistoric beasts still roam the earth, and the restless dead walk among the living.

Features: Multiple maps | An appendix explaining which parts of the novel are historical and which were figments of the author's imagination

Genre: historical fantasy | steampunk | action/adventure | thriller | Morocco | Spain

Length: 484 pages | 121,000 words

A note about the text

This is a work of historical fantasy. Some of this world may be familiar to you. But in this world, Europe never emerged from the last Ice Age and only the southern regions are habitable. North Africa is cool, wet, and fertile. Ancient nations such as the Persian Empire have persisted, though others, such as the Romans, never rose to power. Some of the countries in this world reflect the cultures and attitudes of the Renaissance while others reflect the Industrial Age. Historical figures appear, though they too may be different from the ones you have known.

And while this world is separate and unique from our own, it generally resembles our world in the sixteenth century in some ways. But only some. Don't expect this world to conform to the history that you know. The people and places are different. The climate and wildlife are different. Even death is different here.

First 300 Words:

Chapter 1. Taziri

“Once more around the world!” Taziri swept her tiny daughter up in her arms and carried her through the air, soaring over chairs, through the kitchen, and back again. “Over the forests of Ifrica! To the pyramids of Aegyptus! Across the Middle Sea to the glaciers of Europa! Past the spooky ghosts of España!” Menna giggled and waved her chubby arms as a shining trail of spittle dangled from her lip. After several minutes of swooping around the house, she gently crashed her baby onto a pile of cushions in the corner of the dining room. “And back home to Marrakesh!” Taziri groaned as she straightened up and rubbed her back. “She’s getting heavier.”

Yuba finished setting the table. “You always say that when you come back.”

“Well, she’s always getting heavier.” She smiled.

“Babies do that.” His face and voice were both dull as old stone. “You know, she’ll be walking soon.”

“Really? Already?” She stroked Menna’s cheek. “Time flies.” Time flies, Menna grows, and you, Yuba, what about you? What’s happening to you? His once glorious mane was gone, shaved during her last trip as yet another surprise to come home to. They were all doing that now. She saw it in the other cities, everywhere she went. The men were changing. Some things were small, like the shaved heads. Other things were more troubling, like the absence of their veils. When she entered a teahouse or café, they glared and grimaced at each other and at the ground, loathe to look her in the eye.

Yuba paused in the doorway. “I went by the university this morning. My work is really backing up. Trees to be moved, new gardens to dig, and the dean wants another pond with a fountain. They were asking when I’ll be back full time. It’s been almost a year since we had Menna. They’re starting to talk about bringing someone else in to replace me.” 

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover. It looks very professional. I don't think I would change a thing with the cover.

The blurb is too long, in my opinion. I would cut the beginning where you compare your book to other authors. I would also cut the Features section and the Note about the Text section. You can put the note about the text in the front matter of the book, if you think it's necessary.

The description itself I think is good. If you cut some of the extra stuff out, I think readers won't be too intimidated by the large amount of text.

The writing was good, although I think that first paragraph should be split up. Maybe have an editor look at that. I'm also not sure the story starts at a particularly good place. I like it because it shows that men and women have very different roles in your fantasy world, and that the world itself is different, but I'm not sure this snip grabs me in a way that makes me have to read more. But the beginning is always the hardest part to figure out.

I would tighten up the description, get rid of the stuff you don't need, and ask others about the beginning of the book. Let's see if we can't get some opinions here. What do you guys think? Does the beginning of this book grab you, or would you start in a different place?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Love Rekindled

Author: Myne Whitman
Genre: Multicultural romance
How long it's been on sale: March 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Facebook and Twitter as well as reviews and Goodreads giveaways
Total sold so far: 55
Link to book on Amazon: A Love Rekindled

Product Description: 

Efe returns to Nigeria after years in the United States, dreaming of a happy, independent life. However, her nights become plagued by nightmares of Kevwe Mukoro, her ex-fiancé. Long hours at work and drinking in nightclubs only provide temporary relief, and when she encounters another Mukoro, she knows it’s a matter of time before Kevwe is back in her life. Sparks fly when they finally meet again, but desire is no match for bitter memories of heartbreak. All these years, Efe believed she was rejected; now Kevwe claims he’d never stopped loving her. Stuck at a crossroads, Kevwe prefers to look to the future, with them together. Efe does not want to lose him, yet she needs the traumatic events of the past resolved before she can give in to rekindled love.

First 300 Words:

She hated walking this road so late, but she couldn’t avoid it after reading at the library. Empty tables lined the roadside, and behind one of them, a stone-bound ring of embers, dying remnants of the suya mallam’s fire. Kerosene lamps and candles flickered in the darkness, filling the air with smoke.

Efe coughed, praying she would not meet secret cult members who were reputed to use this route on their way from their haunts. Someone appeared ahead and she slowed, mouth drawn tight, and fists clutching her chest. A little yelp escaped her when the person turned to face her.

She heaved a sigh of relief at the flashing white teeth and walked towards him with a smile of recognition.


She stopped in a moment, clenched hands wiping her eyes when, instead of moving closer to him, he drifted further and further away. Sounds of revelry disturbed the silence of the night and Efe walked faster, heart pounding and sweat dripping from her nose.

More shadows melted out of the side of the road, coming towards her. The figures chanted gutturally, and when they raised their hands, something metal glinted in the light from the fire. Menace filled the air thicker than smoke and Efe ran forward, screaming Kevwe’s name.

He couldn’t leave her here, he was supposed to love and protect her forever…

“Kevwe no…” Efe groaned, as her head tossed from side to side. “Don’t leave me...”

The alarm on the bedside table buzzed, and she jerked awake. It took another moment to lift eyelids swollen from tears. She was under the blankets, but the cold tremors from the nightmare still racked her. Efe dragged herself out of bed, feeling like her head was stuffed with hot rocks. This was the third time in as many days she’d had a Kevwe nightmare. 

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover, although I have a couple of nit picks. I'm not sure why it fades to blue on the left side. There doesn't seem to be a reason for it, so it attracts my attention and makes me wonder why it's there. I also can't read the small type at the top. I like the title, although it does seem a bit too close to the top of the blue bar. I wish I could read the author's name better, I might suggest a different font for that.

The people on the book look like Americans to me. That's probably a stupid statement, I'm sure people in Nigeria wear jeans and polo shirts sometimes, it's just not what I think of when I picture Nigeria. In fact I did a google search for Nigerian photos and only saw one polo shirt. The trees also look more Midwestern America to me. I don't know if this effects sales at all, I just wanted to throw that out there so you know what I thought of at first glance.

The blurb is good but I think it could be better. I like that it's a typical romance story where two people who broke up find each other again. The 'encountering another Mukoro' sentence is kind of strange. Maybe explain why she's forced together with her ex again. Just encountering a family member doesn't explain it.

This story starts with a dream. If you google, "How not to start a novel," just about every list you will find will tell you not to start with a dream. Now, if you're writing a novel that takes place in a dream or dream walking is the focus of the book, I can see where that might work. But this dream isn't particularly scarey. It doesn't pull me in and make me want to read more. I would start the novel at a different point and if you *have* to show a dream or two in the book move it to a different spot. And if you don't have to show the dream, I would cut them altogether.

I think the beginning of the novel is mainly what is holding this book back. Maybe get some other opinions on it, though. I did find a few places where the prose could be tightened up.

What do you guys think?

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Author: Pamela Kay Noble Brown
Genre: Christian Fiction/Inspirational
How long it's been on sale: Feb 27, 2011
Current price: $1.99
Marketing: I've posted it on my blog, about two weeks ago began tweeting content about every three hours, post about it on FB, Goodreads, Shelfari, and Kindleboards.
Total sold so far: 45
Link to book on Amazon: Revelations

Product Description:

A mother's secret...her daughter's shame.  Melanie has finally met the man of her dreams, but life is never easy for one who has suffered a lifetime of horrific loss. She was compelled to return to her hometown, sure that enough years had passed since the tragedy.  But why does she keep having those same horrible nightmares?   Was domestic abuse a curse that was passed on from one generation to the next with no escape?

And her boyfriend's mother Mrs. Harriet Cornelius seems to be a sweet person, but there's something about her that Melanie just can't put her finger on.  A shameful family secret may just keep Melanie from becoming too deeply involved, yet she longs for the kind of life and love others have. Will she find a way to overcome her fears, or will she simply walk away?  

First 300 Words:


“I hope I can see you again really soon,” Mike said as he helped Melanie into her sweater.

Hmmmmm….a gentleman too, Melanie thought, taking time to formulate her answer.

“Well, I certainly have enjoyed our dates, “Melanie replied.  “But let me give you a call in a few days ok?  I’ve got a lot going on right now and need to get some things situated.”

“No worries,” Mike replied. “Take your time.  I’m really starting to have some strong feelings for you and I want you to be sure of what, if anything, you feel for me.  So give me a call when you’re ready.  I’ll be waiting.”

Melanie watched Mike walk off after he’d helped her into a cab and she couldn’t help but smile as she thought over their short but promising budding relationship.  It had all started about five months ago.  After recently moving back to Hampton, South Carolina, Melanie had immediately become active in community theater.  With all of the turmoil going on in her real life, she’d loved immersing herself into the various characters and losing herself for a few hours.  One day, as she was leaving the theater after a Sunday afternoon matinee, she stopped short upon hearing her name.

“Melanie….Melanie Walker?” called a well-dressed woman who appeared to be in her sixties.

“Yes, that’s me. Have we met?” asked Melanie.

“No...and I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to startle you.  I just saw the play you were in and wondered if I might have a few minutes of your time?”  The woman took a few steps towards Melanie with her hand extended.  “My name is Mrs. Harriet Cornelius.  You might have heard of Colton Cornelius Industries?”

“Why yes…I uh… yes we can talk and yes I have heard of Colton Cornelius Industries,” Melanie 

Vicki's Comments: I'm not a fan of book covers that aren't a standard book size. It screams 'Not a traditionally published book' to me, and I think we should do our best to look like traditionally published books. (Not in an "I'm conforming to The Man," sort of way, but rather a "This book isn't home made," sort of way.)

After I get past the strange size, I see a pair of bare female legs which makes me think this is chick lit or romance. The background makes me think of science fiction as does the font. The title makes me think of the bible, which doesn't go with the picture on the cover at all. However, the genre is Christian Fiction, so I'm guessing the title might be appropriate. I would change the picture and the font.

I don't like the first sentence of the description, I think I would cut that. The rest of the blurb is actually pretty good. I would change the questions to statements, or cut them, and I would cut both of the times you use 'just.'

I'm not sure why the book starts with Now. It made me think there was a prologue that perhaps started Twenty Years Ago or something. In fact, I got curious and downloaded the sample, but no prologue. The book simply starts with an underlined Now. I think this is confusing and should be deleted. Unless otherwise stated, people will assume your book starts in the present.

The writing could be improved. There were some mistakes which makes me think hiring an editor would be a good idea. The dialogue seemed stiff, and there were a lot of instances of 'telling' instead of 'showing.' Maybe joining a critique group would help. I feel like I say that all the time, but if the writing needs tightening up that's the best way to do it, IMHO.

I like the description, and I think the premise of the book is good. My two concerns are the cover and the writing. I also noticed someone said this was a shorter story in their review. I would definitely put the word count and page count in the description so potential customers know what they're getting. If it's shorter than 50,000 words I would make sure everyone knows it's not a full length novel.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Anchored to the Flesh

Author: Lee Laughead
Genre: Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: Beginning of July
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Posted on Amazon Kindle forums, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Livejournal, Something Awful forums. Bought an ad on Facebook.
Total sold so far: 4
Link to book on Amazon: Anchored to the Flesh (Silas Series)

Product Description:

In the style of Glen Cook and Joe Abercrombie comes Iowa resident Lee Laughead's first novel, a bloody, gritty romp through a corrupt world.

Silas is a wizard who travels from world to world searching for an artifact that will enable him to speak to his dead wife. When he and his friends Bottle and Kellikek find a good lead from the diviner Hargold Omenstop in the city of Sareb Forest Market, Silas is mistaken for the killer of the very man he sought.

"Anchored to the Flesh" is the story of Silas, bound to an oath of pacifism yet craving revenge, chasing after answers to the twin mysteries of the real killer and the fate of the only woman he ever loved. A gritty novel filled with frequent action, "Anchored" nonetheless explores Silas's psyche as he struggles to maintain his morality in a rotten world.

The first book in a planned trilogy. 

First 300 Words:

Sustenega set the man on fire.

It was his own fault. He didn’t give Sustenega the information he needed, even though he gave himself away by twitching and sweating when asked where the diviner Hargold Omenstop was. He knew Omenstop lived in this city; it was just a matter of narrowing it down. Maybe, he thought, asking random peasants on the streets about an obviously infamous sorcerer was not the best way to locate him. But what else could he do? Every time he went to a tavern or inn for information, he ended up fighting someone, then fighting everyone, then burning the place down. He could break down some noble’s door and sweat him for information. Rich people usually had a higher opinion of themselves than the poor, and therefore would be more likely to give up Omenstop’s location to save his skin.

Sustenega looked disdainfully at the farmer he just set aflame. He had long since died, crumbled to the cobblestone street, mercifully not setting anything else on fire. He was so used to being feared and reviled that he didn’t even notice the crowds of merchants and shoppers that had panicked and fled the area after he attacked the poor peasant until he lifted up his head and glanced around. He walked to an empty fruit stall and helped himself to some red-and-orange fruit he didn’t recognize. He stuck a few in his pocket. And they were the only things in his pocket, because Sustenega saw no need to carry around mostly useless tools or weapons that could just be used against him anyway.

Sustenega heard the clamping of horse hoofs on the ground, coming toward him speedily. No need, he thought to himself, to stick around, kill a few town guards.

Vicki's Comments: The cover is well designed, however it looks sexual to me, especially coupled with the title. I'm not sure that's the look you're going for. Since this book is fantasy, I would look at some other fantasy books that are similar to yours and try to design a cover that has the same look. Since you mention Glen Cook and Joe Abercrombie in your description, I would start there. See if you can't get a cover to look like the same style, as their covers do seem to be similar.

This leads me into my next point. I find it off-putting when an author compares themselves to other well known authors. It's one thing if your readers make that comparison, but I feel as if an author should not do this. Let the description pull the reader in. I'd cut the first paragraph.

The next paragraph is confusing to me, possibly because of all the words I'm not familiar with. I probably would take out some of the names. For instance, you don't have to name the city.

I don't think it's a good idea to say it's the first book in a 'planned' trilogy. To me, this says the author is not actively writing the next book. I would take out the 'planned' part and just say, "Book 1 of the Such-and-Such Trilogy."

When I read the beginning of the novel I feel like trimming some of the words. I would suggest a critique group to help get rid of some of the superfluous words. There also were some editing issues. After running this through a critique group I would hire an editor. I like how it starts with a bang. Setting fire to someone definitely gets my attention. I think with a bit of tightening up, this book could do quite well.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy Hour

Author: Michele Scott
Genre: Women's Fiction
How long it's been on sale: March 2011
Current price: $2.99
Total sold so far: 500
Link to book on Amazon: Happy Hour

Product Description: 

Every woman has that group of friends in her life ~ her "go to girls" The friends that she can turn to who "get it." The ones who are there for you no matter what. The ones who laugh with you and cry with you. The ones that will always be there. These are the women of Napa Valley.

Jamie is the editor-in-chief of Wine Lover's Magazine, a single mother and caretaker to her senile mother-in-law ~ a woman who thinks her daily caregiver is Dean Martin. Jamie is still recovering, financially and emotionally from the death of her husband several years earlier. And when she finds what could be the key to happiness, can she open the door and let it in? Or will her feelings of guilt and betrayal hold her back?

Danielle is a vintner and the divorced mom of two. She's basking in what she knows is going to be a successful launch of her new wines. Wines she created on her own after her divorce. But what she doesn't expect is for her daughter to come home with news that will shock her to her core. Will an old flame help her accept the changes that are coming and find the love she's been missing in her life for so long? Or will a tragedy that no one sees coming change their lives forever?

Kat is a sommelier, co-owner of a magnificent restaurant with her chef husband, and mother of a blended family. But is being deeply in love with your husband enough to get them through the teenage years, step-children and exes? And what happens when old faces return and she's faced with the knowledge that not everything is what you thought it was. What happens when she finds she was mad at the wrong person and finds out the "right one" was in the wrong? Can she forgive and move on? Can love overcome everything and truly bring a family together?

Alyssa is an artist and gallery owner with a secret of her own. One she was hoping would stay buried deep in her closet. But the time has come for her to put someone else first, to face the past and to deal with her demons. What she never expected to find was love and her "home."

No matter what is going on in their own lives, no matter the heartache or joy they're experiencing these four women are always there to love, support and encourage each other.

First 300 Words:

Chapter One


Kat McClintock was late.  This was not good.  This would not be good.  Damn.  Damn.  Damn.  “Okay, boys, listen.”

Neither one of her pre-pubescent sons looked at her.  They were far too absorbed in whatever new Game Station, Game Cube, Play Station, Wii, (whatever it was these days) game their father had recently purchased for them.  She turned the TV off.

“Hey!” Jeremy yelled.  “What are you doing, Mom?  Not cool.  Turn it back on.”  Jeremy had evidently bypassed pre-pubescence altogether and jumped right into raging adolescence and his day-to-day tone with her ranged from apathetic to surly.

“Mommy, we were about to kill the boss,” Brian, her ten-year-old, said.  “The like, big boss, you know?  The guy to win!”

Thank God.  He was definitely still not even close to adolescence.  He was still sweet.  No one going through puberty would dream of calling their mother Mommy.  “I’m sorry, boys.  I have to go.  Your Aunt Tammy was supposed to be here by now.  Typical.”  She shook her head.  “Anyway, Jeremy, I need you to take out two frozen burritos and put them in the microwave.  They’re some bananas and I have some broccoli already cut up in there.”

“I hate broccoli,” Brian said.

“You like it with ranch dressing.”

“No, I don’t.”

“How come we can’t go out to eat?  Dad always takes us out to eat,” Jeremy said.

Because Dad is an asshole.  No, no, she couldn’t say that.  Dad screwed me over in our settlement and while he’s out wining and dining, I’m trying to get a job to support us.  No, no, not that either.  Let go and let God.  Wasn’t that what Mom was always saying to her?  Breathe!  Now there you go.  This is all one growing experience that will get you to another side of things.  The silver lining, or pot of gold, or whatever the hell it was at the end of the rainbow.  Better be a pot of gold.

Vicki's Comments: The cover for this book is well designed, my only complaint would be it seems like the book is a character driven story, and yet there are no people on the cover. That might be turning a few readers away from trying the story. I will say that I'm being nit picky here, because I do think the cover is nice.

The description is very long. I'm afraid people are clicking to check out the book and then getting too bogged down with the long description. I also noticed a missing period in the first sentence. That's probably not giving readers much confidence in the book.

I usually tell people to get rid of questions in the description. To me this looks amateurish. I would change them to statements or leave them out all together.

Does this book have a protagonist, or do all four women share the spotlight equally? If there is a main character, I would focus my description on them. If they all are equal players, I would keep the separate descriptions, but I would cut them down so there's not so much text to read.

The book starts with a busy mom trying to get her kids off the video game. Unfortunately that wasn't a strong beginning for me. I did see one blatant error which makes me think this book needs an editor. ("They're" instead of "there are.")

I would get some opinions on the opening of the book, maybe get some critiques from other authors to see if you can't make it a stronger start. The beginning is the most important part of the book, and if readers are bored at the start of the book they probably won't stick around for much more.

What do you guys think?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Three for Avadar

Author: Steven R. Drennon
Genre: Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: June 5, 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Gave away 75 copies on LibraryThing to generate reviews, participated on a blog tour for the past six or seven weeks in row
Total sold so far: 11
Link to book on Amazon: Three for Avadar

Product Description:

The cry came from directly ahead, where the road began to curve to the left. It was the unmistakable cry of a woman in distress, and as Bengar spurred his horse forward, he began to detect other sounds as well.

Accompanying the piercing screams of the woman he could now hear the distinct clashing of swords in combat, and that sound alone made his heart pound with excitement. This solitary soldier of fortune had travelled many days through this desolate forest, and his body ached from the weary ride. Now at last he would find a task at hand that was worthy of him, and which just might provide a reward as well.

As he rounded the curve in the road, he pulled up on the reins of his coal black steed, taking a brief moment to survey the scene before him. Directly ahead it appeared as if a number of bandits had set upon a small travelling party that was passing through the woods. At least seven men on foot were attacking two horsed soldiers who were struggling to defend their female companion.

And so begins the adventures of three separate travelers:

A princess trying to find her way back home, while finding herself along the way.
A sorceress trying to retrieve a sacred crystal that was secreted away by her father before he was murdered.
A warrior seeking to avenge the death of his family, who finds himself sidelined by two very different, yet very attractive women.

Drawn together by chance, all destined for one place . . . Avadar!

What previous readers have said about "Three for Avadar":

"Three for Avadar was a great read and fast paced story."

"I loved reading this story. It has a blend of romance, heroism, sorcery and more all in one. I was grabbed by the first of this story to the end."

"Three for Avadar by Steven R. Drennon is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure"

"I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys fantasy stories with tons of action and magic."

"While I’m actually not a huge fan of epic fantasy, this book, in my honest opinion, had me turning pages one chapter after another."

"The first quality the reader notices about this novel-the action starts immediately. This theme recurs throughout the book, the reader is never bored."

First 300 Words:

The cry came from directly ahead, where the road began to curve to the left. It was the unmistakable cry of a woman in distress, and as Bengar spurred his horse forward, he began to detect other sounds as well.

Accompanying the piercing screams of the woman he could now hear the distinct clashing of swords in combat, and that sound alone made his heart pound with excitement. This solitary soldier of fortune had travelled many days through this desolate forest, and his body ached from the weary ride. Now at last he would find a task at hand that was worthy of him, and which just might provide a reward as well.

As he rounded the curve in the road, he pulled up on the reins of his coal black steed, taking a brief moment to survey the scene before him. Directly ahead it appeared as if a number of bandits had set upon a small travelling party that was passing through the woods. At least seven men on foot were attacking two horsed soldiers who were struggling to defend their female companion.

The two soldiers were wearing heavy chain mail with simple, black cloth draped over it. They did not appear to be part of any particular army that Bengar recognized, but it was obvious that they were skilled with the sword, based on the showing they made for themselves against the attacking bandits. As for the lady, she was wearing an emerald green riding gown that seemed to spill over the rear of her horse. The lady’s auburn hair was flying freely as she struggled desperately with the reins, trying to avoid being pulled from her horse by two other thugs.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover. My only complaint would be it's all monochromatic and the sword, crown, and scepter aren't as clear as I might like. Especially the crown, it gets lost. But it does give me a 'fantasy' vibe, so I think it does it's job. And I do like the font.

The description starts with a sample. Sorry, I think that's a bad idea. When I see a book cover that catches my attention, I click to see what the book is about. When I look at your description it's a HUGE wall of text and I get turned off right there. But if I can get past the wall of text to start reading the description, I find that it's not a description, but the beginning of the novel. Or a piece from the middle, I can't tell. If I wanted to read a sample, I would grab a sample. But I don't know a thing about the book other than the genre. I don't want to read a sample, I want to know what the book is about. Cut the sample from the description.

But lets look past the sample for a second. Don't worry, we'll come back to it. The real description starts with: "A princess trying to find her way back home, while finding herself along the way." - I'd like to know what happened to the princess. Did she get sucked up by a tornado, like Dorothy? Or did she fall into another dimension? What took her away from her home? I want to know this before I commit to picking up the book. Just the fact that she's trying to get home doesn't do it for me.

"A sorceress trying to retrieve a sacred crystal that was secreted away by her father before he was murdered." - Again, I don't have enough information for this to be a hook for me. What's at stake? Why is this sacred crystal so important?

"A warrior seeking to avenge the death of his family, who finds himself sidelined by two very different, yet very attractive women." - This makes the warrior sound bitter. Like he holds a grudge and wants to kill those that were responsible for the death of his family. I don't know if the character is bitter or not, but this makes me not like him.

The description ends with quotes. I never trust reviews put in by the author. At best it looks like quotes from friends or family, at worst it's just made up stuff. I would let readers leave reviews through the Amazon system. Some readers want to check out the reviews. Others don't care. Don't force reviews on them through the description feature.

The story itself starts with action, so I'll give you props for that. There's a little bit of of the prose that I would tighten up. For instance, "Accompanying the piercing screams of the woman he could now hear the distinct clashing of swords in combat," - There's no reason to put 'he could now hear.' The scene is written in his point of view. Everything you describe he is hearing and seeing. There's also no need to clarify the clashing of swords was in combat. Would there be a reason to hear clashing of swords other than combat? I also think stopping to describe the flowing gown of the girl during the combat scene is slowing it down. He wants to help. He comes around the corner and starts describing what the girl is wearing? I don't buy it. The last thing on his mind would be the way the gown spilled over the rear of the horse.

After looking at the entire picture here, I'm guessing the description is hurting sales the most. I would tighten up the beginning of the book and maybe try playing with the price a little bit. Sometimes a slightly higher price works better for high fantasy, but a price cut might help jump-start some sales too. I would experiment a bit to see where the best price for your book is.

What do you guys think?

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?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Blood of the Dragon

Author: Samantha Warren
Genre: Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 4 Months
Current price: $3.99
Marketing: Giveaways on blog & Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Passive Promotion (posting on forums, etc), Bookmarks, Blog
Total sold so far: 15
Link to book on Amazon: Blood of the Dragon

Product Description:

Conquered and enslaved, the dragons of Layr live in fear. Their allies are banished, declared outlaws and forced out of human society. Lana, daughter of dragon keepers, is discontented with her mundane existence at the hatchery and the sometimes violent treatment of the dragons in her care. The birth of a rare dragon, descendant of the long-defeated dragon king, will force her to step outside herself and become the hatchling's protector. With the help of her best friend Bolgor, Bellithana the Gypsy, and a Hidden named Prigol, the group seeks to bring an end to the tyranny that has reigned for more than three centuries. Can Lana and her friends bring freedom to the oppressed land? Or will the wicked Princess Slyvania destroy not only Lana's hard won maturity, but the lives of both her and her new friends as well? 

First 300 Words:

The dirt and sand along the riverbank glistened darkly in the fading light. The water held a sickly red tinge as the battle waned. Victims of the slaughter lay strewn across the blood-soaked field. Screams of pain and fear echoed through the darkening sky. An enormous red beast struggled feebly, his left wing crushed beneath his massive weight. Aron, leader of the human army, strode haughtily up to the creature and propped a plated boot on its neck.

"Sigurd, king of the dragons." The words shot from the man's mouth like venom. "How does it feel to know you have failed? All your worthless struggles, your pathetic attempts at retaining your freedom; all for naught. You're pathetic."

At that, Aron spat in the fallen king's face. Sigurd paid no attention to the man. His one remaining eye was focused on a scene across the field. He lowed hauntingly as he watched his beloved Silene being shackled, forever imprisoned by the wretched conquerors. His trusted friend and captain, Roland, lay torn at her side. Sigurd knew the man would not have allowed such an atrocity to happen had he a breath left. As it was, Silene took out half a dozen of Aron's soldiers before she was subdued, spewing their remains across her captors.

The fallen king tore his gaze from his mate and surveyed the carnage. They had fought valiantly, man and beast alike, side by side. Now they lay dying together on the field of defeat. Aron had the greater force; Sigurd knew that more than a year ago. But he would not give up. He would not surrender his people to slavery at the hands of such a tyrant. He built his army, recruiting any dragon or human who would come to his aide. He even appealed to the Hidden. But it wasn't enough.

Vicki's Comments: The cover doesn't grab me. I think it's because the whole thing is pretty much the same color which all blends together. The picture isn't gripping or interesting. I'd rather see an actual dragon or an egg that was a different color than the background. I would look for a different graphic, and I probably would chose a different font.

I think the description can be tweaked a bit. I'm not a big fan of questions at the end of a blurb. If you write the blurb well enough, the reader should be able for form their own questions. I'd cut the questions at the end, and I would also cut the first two sentences and start with "Lana..." so we get right into the character and her problem.

The first 300 words didn't do it for me. My opinion only, but I didn't like the point of view shifting. I would start in the dragon's point of view and stick with it through the whole first section. I also felt that some of the prose could be tightened up. For example, 'strode haughtily' is repetitive. The word strode tells the reader how he's walking, you don't need to weaken it by using the adverb.

I do like the idea of a story being told (at least in part) from a dragon's point of view. A lot of fantasy that I read have dragons, but they're usually just destructive. I like the way these are portrayed here. With a bit of tweaking I think this can be successful. I'm guessing the main reason it's not selling is the cover.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Founder's Face

Author: David Wuensche
Genre: Science Fiction
How long it's been on sale: 9 Months
Current price: $1.99
Marketing: Gradual price reduction, 99 cent sale, ads on Project Wonderful, requests for review, blog, associated forum posts
Total sold so far: 25
Link to book on Amazon: The Founder's Face

Product Description:

Approximately two hundred and fifty years into the future a nation simply known as The Union is the envy of the entire world. This particular utopia stands above every other state in terms of medicine, technology, and the sciences. And although it may seem perfect, it has a single and very flawed blemish that has haunted its populace for fifteen decades. A secretive vigilante religion known as "The Process Cult" has repeatedly killed individuals, both overtly criminal and seemingly benign, with a perfect rate of success. The method of murder, a nearly spontaneous full-body conflagration, still baffles forensic scientists and investigators.

Detectives Sali Ross and Gordon Pratt are assigned the go-nowhere job of hunting down the Process Cult membership. Although they are able to set traps for the cult's enforcer, the killer has slipped through their fingers over and over. When the killer targets the aide of high-ranking politician Ibram Glenn, the two officers are handed the unique opportunity to take the investigation in an entirely new direction. With the assistance of a computer scientist, a professor of law and philosophy, and a naturalist hunter with an outdated (and illegal) lifestyle, the team sets out to test the means and method of the murderous cult.

But is the cult really the source of the killings at all? How are they able to step so far outside the established bounds of known engineering and science? How can they finance such an elaborate operation? How can they maintain it in a surveillance and information-heavy society? 

First 300 Words:

By the standards of the law, the standards by which most people judge how good or how bad a person they are, Ron Weiss was not a good person.  Until the age of twenty, Ron had not committed a single crime in his entire life.  He worked a maintenance job at the Hub City grav-chute that ran to the Beachside terminal and back.  He was sufficiently compensated for his work and lived in a sixth-ring apartment complex in the upper west quadrant.

At the age of twenty, however, Ron decided to surprise his girlfriend by stopping by her pad unannounced.  Their relationship had been strained of late and the young man determined that a little spontaneity might help patch things up.  He found her in a romantic tryst with a total stranger, the girlfriend apparently seeking a completely different kind of spontaneity.  The two had a heated argument that lasted hours and disturbed several of their neighbors. When the constabulary guard arrived at the residence to check on the lovers, they found the girlfriend dead and Ron holding the kitchen knife that he used to kill her.

Ron Weiss’ advocate argued to the citizen panel that this was a one-time act of passion and that they should be lenient with his sentencing.  The panel agreed and Ron was given a fifteen-year term in correction.  After only five years, Ron was moved to a minimum-security prison for good behavior.  Under the less-than-watchful eyes of its guards, Ron developed a familiarity with substance vices.  After an overdose, he killed a fellow inmate and his sentence was compounded to life internment.

But tonight Ron Weiss is free, but only to a limited degree.  Instead of spending his remaining days in a cell, he is now spending one night running.

Vicki's Comments: The book cover does give me a science fiction vibe, so I think that's good, but I'm not sure what's depicted on it, so it doesn't draw me in and make me want to know more. It looks like a guy is being lifted up into the air and a beam of light is bursting through him. I'm guessing this is depicting a scene from the book. I usually tell authors not to try depicting a particular scene, but rather give the reader an overall sense of the book. If it's a dark book, the cover should be a dark cover. If it's comedy, the cover should be light and fun. This particular picture on the cover doesn't make me want to know more. I'm also wondering about the type. Some of it is hard to read.

The description isn't bad. I like the premise of this book. I'd rather cut a little of the back story and get to the characters like the second paragraph. I'd also like to know the antagonist's name, instead of calling him "the killer."

I would trim the questions at the end, they don't do it for me. But I think with a bit of reworking the description can pack a good punch.

Unfortunately the beginning of the novel didn't grab me at all. It's all back story. I would trim off all of the back story and let us get to know these details as we get to know Ron as a character. As the book unfolds we can learn about his past. I think this book could be tightened up a bit. I suggest joining a critique group to tighten up the writing. I think this has a lot of potential.

What do you guys think?