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 With the assistance of a computer scientist, a professor of law and philosophy, and a naturalist hunter with an outdated (and illegal) lifestyle, the team sets out to test the means and method of the murderous cult.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?


  1. I felt that the first 300 words had too much telling, not showing. And yes, it's backstory. Not hot on the cover either, looks a bit cartoony.

    Artemis Hunt

  2. Cover needs work. The cartoony aspect of the sketch has my "next" finger twitching even before the boxy box around the title.

    The blurb is too long and needs some punching up. I like Vicki's suggestions on that. Save the back story for the website.

    The first 300 words are a problem. You tell me a lot that happened but I don't see any of it happening. Why do I care and what IS going to happen? Then you switch to present tense and the nails on chalkboard sensation in my brain kicks in and I "remove from device" before I get past the third "is" ...

    If I *notice* that the work is in present tense, I just can't get beyond it. It's a personal thing.

  3. Cover: At the very least, it needs more color to make it brighter and bolder and easier to see what is being depicted.

    Description: I would delete that first paragraph about the future and just start with the detectives. And I would add some specific details to make the crimes or the investigation more visceral or unique.

    First 300: For me personally, it's too much narration. I prefer to start with a character doing something rather than being told things about a person I haven't met yet.

  4. Alright. So I've been thinking about this for a minute now.

    First, I agree that the cover looks a little like an amateur illustration. Second, way too many words in the blurb.

    The first 300 words...I think it's a bit knee jerk to say you can't make what you have work because it doesn't start with outright action. You can easily change that, anyway, by moving the bit about him being on the run to the opening, and then going into the backstory. I don't think it's major surgery. And there are plenty of very good, very famous books that start out like so.

    A bigger problem for me is that the words don't seem to quite...flow. There is a voice, and that's good! So much by the rules writing is utterly drained of voice. But it doesn't flow. That's the best I can do. Have you worked with an editor?

    Finally, present tense is...I wouldn't do it. So many people utterly hate it. Obviously everyone has pet peeves, but this one seems to be peevier than most.

  5. If you lost the background and just had the guy and the beam of light, that cover might be salvageable. It's too busy right now.

    The blurb is far too long, starts with "approximately" (never a good sign) and is too backstory-filled. Something along these lines, perhaps:

    In the eyes of the world of [[give year here--approximately don't cut it]], the Union is a utopia. But every Eden has its snake: Someone--or something--is making people burst into flames for no apparent reason.

    When detectives Sali Ross and Gordon Pratt get the case, it looks unsolvable. How can a killer make people spontaneously combust? And why? A secretive cult appears to be the culprit, but as Ross and Pratt get closer to the truth they are drawn inexorably to a terrible [[act? secret?]] at the heart of Utopia's success, and it's up to them to catch the killer before [[big stakes here]].


    As for the sample, I agree with Anonymous. You could use an editor. Gods know I'm happy to have mine.

    Good luck!

  6. Seem to be having a problem posting. We'll see if anonymous works. Hope this doesn't show up 3 times.

    Agree with everyone else, the cover's kind of ugly, and the first 300 words needs some showing not telling. It says tonight he's running, show us that, and back fill this stuff later.

    One other problem though. It's subtle, but I get a bit of a sense from the description that I'm going to be beat over the head with someone's political agenda. Not what I personally look for in a novel. I'd say the problems in the first few sentence of the description. The middle paragraph actually sounds quite interesting. I love sci-fi / weird detective stories.

  7. When I first saw the cover, I thought it looked like Harry Potter, which made me think it was a young adult book. Not the impression I guess you're after. As for the product description I thought it really needed trimming to get to the essence of the story in as succinct but enticing way as possible, and like everyone else has said, I don't think that all the 'telling' at the beginning of the story works to grab a readers attention. I want to either be there when Ron travels home and discovers his girlfriend, or jump ahead to him in prison and the reason for his being there come out as the story unfolds through dialogue, action etc.

  8. I can't add much to what has already been said. The cartoony nature of the cover puts me off and the first 300 words with nothing but backstory just don't cut it for me.

    I'd be interested in seeing the NEXT 300 words. Just cutting that first part might be a huge improvement.

  9. After reading the blurb, I was disappointed the first 300 words weren't about the two cops stuck in the future dead-end job, a premise I really liked! A crime that's been unsolvable for that long, and there's always someone stuck with solving it. Nice. I don't know if that would be a possible beginning for you if you decide to change it.

  10. I'd like to thank everyone for their comments and suggestions.

    The cover: I've always been a big fan of a book cover that continued on to the back with additional artwork. When I went over the design idea with Brian, we picked a scene from the book that would have strong action on the front, but offer additional clues about the content on the back. Sadly, this works better on a physical book than an electronic one. The original work is pencil on bristol board, and is stunningly detailed. Unfortunately, those details don't come through on an electronic thumbnail. The image also makes the Nook version a staggering 3MB in size. If you wish to see the full image, though, both sides can be seen on the second page in the ebook preview.

    As much as it will break Brian's heart, I'll probably change the cover for the sake of size and clarity.

    Product Description: Again, thank you for all the suggestions. I'll work on a new version shortly. Writing a good description is hard, though, since there are elements of the mystery that are too easy to give away by telling the reader any more about 'the killer'.

    Content: I will admit that I wrote The Founder's Face in a fit of mad passion. I envisioned The Union as a land so safe, sterile, and boring that no one would ever aspire to really do anything worthwhile anymore. Many chapter openings were written in a way to give that impression, but this may have not been the best choice for the chapter that everyone could preview.

    I like to think of The Founder's Face as a finished product. I hate to go back to it since I'm already so far into another work. I may be able to get around to a new cover and opening in December. Buy the original while you can, it'll be a collectible! Or as collectible as any electronic product can be.

  11. Wonderful book idea/concept.

    Product Description: The first and third paragraphs are really great. They're snappy, they create mystery, and they totally piqued my curiousity. The second paragraph, however, was like speed/interest bump. I would cut it out completely and perhaps sum it up at the bottom of the last paragragh - How can they maintain it in a surveillance and information-heavy society? Detectives Sali Ross and Gordon Pratt are determined to find out.

    Cover: I think the cover for the book wants to be a crisp, evocative photograph rather than an illustration or at least an illustration that has deeper colors and clearer delineations. The current cover has too much of a vague and whimsical feel to it. At first glance, I didn't know how to interpret the image on the cover. I needed to read the book description to understand it. Many might not go on to read the book description and that's a shame because it's a really interesting story idea.

  12. Incidentally there was a real-life cult called The Process (The Process Church of the Final Judgement).

  13. To me the cover looks more like a book aimed at teenagers than one aimed at adults.

  14. I really liked the first sentence, "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."; although, I would have deleted 'the standards by which most people judge how good or how bad a person they are, Ron Weiss was not a good person.' to make it snappier.

    The rest of that introduction seemed very passive considering what takes place. I would have preferred to actually 'see' the encounter, rather than been told about it.

    Finally, the change to present tense in the final paragraph was too jarring. I hate to say it, but I probably would not read on at that point.

    I liked the idea of the book, and I didn't mind the cover. I hope you have good luck with it :)



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