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?


  1. The cover doesn't look like fantasy, much less epic fantasy, to me. I wouldn't glance twice at it.

    I disagree with Vicki on the blurb though. I think it needs to be more than tightened. The blurb is just confusing to me. I don't know what wildlings are or what they have to do with the war. I don't know what this big threat is or what it has to do with wildings. It wouldnt cause me to download the sample.

    The sample starts with describing a dream. Starting with a dream is one of my least favorite cliches. I hate that. And then it suddenly with no explanation switches from first person to third person point-of-view!

    I wouldn't be likely to get that far but if I did, I'd stop right there.

    Sorry to be harsh, but I don't think your opening works. I won't judge the entire work by that but if this is a good sampling then you probably need to have an editor go over it for you.

  2. I agree with you the book cover does not look like fantasy, let alone epic. It is a nice cover but not for the fantasy genre.

  3. The cover's main problems are that I can't really see what's going on (though I do get something of an epic vibe unlike the others), it's a non-standard size, and I can't read the font. In thumbnail I'm betting it's a smear of color, sadly.

    You start with a dream. Don't do that. You can introduce Estin's backstory more elegantly than that. Your writing isn't bad *at all*, though it needs tightening.

    The blurb is far too long and a little confusing. I tried to take a run at it and didn't have much success; I'd have to ask too many questions. One thing I will say: Watch the word "wild" and its various forms. Over-used.

    You've got a story, and probably a good one. Keep working on it.

  4. First off, 5 weeks is a very short period of time, so patience might be wise at this point.

    Cover - I get a vague fantasy sense from it, but it's really hard for my poor eyes to see anything in any detail in the art, and the text is almost unreadable to me.

    Blurb - I found it generally interesting, but a bit long and rambling. I recommend making it shorter and more focused on Estin, his conflict, his character, etc. The 1st and 4th paragraphs are the weakest. Offer a few more specific details.

    Opening - I don't love it. It's a narration about a dream, which is really abstract and leaves me waiting for the story to actually start. I always recommend starting with character or action. Give the reader something concrete to introduce them to your world.

  5. Cover needs work seeing how everyone has mentioned it. My first impression was that it isn't a book cover. The shape is wrong. There have been a few people with square looking covers.

    I don't like the first 300 words because it contradicts itself. I know what your trying to say, but are remembering these dreams a problem or not?

    What made my dreams unique was where things went from there and how vividly I could remember them every time I woke.
    If I was lucky, this was all I would remember when I woke.

    I also found it hard to read, I can't put my finger on it and I tried reading it out loud as well. It's like there are too many stops or something. Almost like trying to read poetry or something.

  6. I thought the cover was beautiful although the title and author get lost.

    I've been looking at the covers without looking at the genre first to try to get a feel for what the story is about. The Good Earth and Shangri-La came to my mind.

    I like short snappy blurbs, and yes, I need to shorten two of mine. Blurb writing is an art which I hope to perfect by the time I publish my 100th book. Watch for repetitive words and things that make sense to you because you know the story but might not make sense to your readers.

    I don't mind starting with a dream, but a POV switch can throw readers right out of the story. This is a fantasy and fantasies are made of dream worlds.

  7. Again, Vicki is really spot on.

    Btw, based on the cover, I thought this was historical fiction. It looks like an Indian raid on settlers in the old west to me.

  8. Book covers are product packaging. This package seems to tell a peaceful story, and one that doesn't seem to tie-in to the title. Think of it as the only chance you'll have to get a potential buyer to pick it up and turn it over...

    Now, the "product" description, which should be on the back cover if it is a print product, uses the word war five times in three paragraphs which diffuse the effectiveness of the word and also doesn't connect the conflict /threat in a meaningful, personal way, to the MC. This is an important place to set the hook -- pose a "question" the reader can only answer by reading the book, etc.

    Once the book begins, it starts with a first person dream sequence, which doesn't start the reader off with immediate movement or conflict. It should come later. The first 300 words should tell the reader who the MC is, what the problem is for them, and what they are going to do about it. Unless those things are laid out, there is little motivation to keep reading, unless the narrative is so evocative of place, time, etc. IMHO, of course! These are all things I agonize over daily. In my own work, one re-write usually leads to another, but those first things are critical. I'd tighten up the cover cropping and typography, re-work the blurb, and re-think the opening of the book to create a sense of foreboding and some movement -- leave the introspection for later, even if you have to change the POV. I prefer knowing the MC a bit before reading his or her inner thoughts, so first person right off isd a little annoying for me.


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