Saturday, October 22, 2011


Author: V. J. Chambers
Genre: YA/New Adult Contemporary Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 18 Months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Sent messages to my email list, put a blurb for it in the back of my better selling books, facebooked, twittered, blogged.
Total sold so far: 62
Link to book on Amazon: Invoke

Product Description:

I invoke Morgana of the nine circuits of time.

A routine exercise in the spirit realm goes wrong, leaving the students of the Academy, a haven for Sensitives who can communicate with spirits, assailed by dreams of wind-tossed fields, dully glinting armor, and galloping horses.

May the wheel spin again! May the clock wind backwards! May the old world live again!

Taken over by spirits of the legend of King Arthur, they struggle with loathsome romantic pairings, as their teacher beds one of her students, and a strong romance is ripped apart by magic.

Three deaths and then the charm is wound up.

When students begin to die, and their bodies disappear, the remaining Sensitives know they must fight against whatever evil has been unleashed in the Academy. But how can they fight when they are tangled up in swords, mists, and castles, and when their very essences are being ripped away from them by ancient spirits? 

First 300 Words:

Wyn squished her forehead against the window pane in her bedroom. It was raining outside and the droplets of water were running in rivulets down the glass. Outside, it was gray and wet. She was watching Madame Braith lead a guy up the driveway and into the old mansion Wyn called home. Madame Braith and the guy splashed across the muddy pathway to the porch. Madame Braith held a magazine over her head. The guy just trudged forward with his head down.

Wyn couldn't really see what he looked like, but he had dark hair. It was long, at least to his shoulders. In the rain, it was pasted against his forehead. He looked pissed off, but that might have been because he was walking in a downpour.

The door to Wyn's bedroom flew open. Her best friend Meaghan burst inside. "He's here," Meaghan said.

Meaghan was excited. That was because Meaghan was beyond sexually frustrated, or so she said. She had been waiting for some new blood to come into the academy, and here it was. Reese Laird. Meaghan had been pretty obsessed with the idea of him ever since she heard his name.

"Did you get a good look at him?" Meaghan asked, wedging herself next to Wyn so that she could also look out the window.

"No," said Wyn. Reese and Madame Braith were already inside the house, so there was nothing else to see. Wyn moved away from the window and settled on her bed.

"How old do you think he is?" Meaghan asked, still peering through the glass as if she hoped he'd walk back outside.

Wyn shrugged. "No idea."

Vicki's Comments: I like the people on the cover because it shows the romance, but they look to old for a YA book. (I'm not sure what New Adult means.) They also don't look contemporary, so it gives me a 'historical romance' feeling. The lightning and the eyes do give me a paranormal feeling, but since this is fantasy I'm thinking the cover isn't working. I'm also not a fan of the font. I would suggest a re-design of the cover.

I confess the description totally confused me. I think I get what you're trying to do, but for me it didn't work. In descriptions I like to find out who the main character is, and what is at stake for them. I think a major reworking of the description would help this book tremendously.

The beginning of the book isn't bad, but I do see some places where the writing could be tightened up. I counted 11 times you used the word 'was.' Some of them really stood out. There were also instances of telling instead of showing, for example: Meaghan was excited. I'd much rather come to that conclusion on my own, after observing her actions and words. Overall, I think the writing can be tightened up, but I think the book begins at a good place, and there were some things about the writing that I liked. I would put this through a critique group.

I'm guessing the main issue is the cover, but the description and writing both need a little love too. What do you guys think?


  1. I find the cover really conflicting - there are aspects I like but aspects I really don't like. The font is too distracting and overwhelms the cover. I like the lightening and the couple but agree they should be younger and have a less historical feel about them.

    I did find the blurb a little clunky and I think it could be reworked to be more appealing.

    In terms of the writing, it starts with an intriguing scenario but they are things that feel like inconsistencies and this stops it flowing. He was 'walking with his head down' and yet she was able to see that his hair was plastered to his forehead? Also she can't really see his face but he looks pissed off? These things are small but they can easily catch in a reader's mind and affect the pace.

    There's definite potential but I think a getting some more feedback and tightening it up with a new cover, blurb and some edits will make for a much better seller.

  2. Pretty much agree with your summary, Victorine. The cover desperately needs a makeover, as does the description. This line alone made my choice for me not to purchase the book, "they struggle with loathsome romantic pairings, as their teacher beds one of her students".

    The difference between the description and the first 300 words also left me confused. The description was very dark, but the tone of the first 300 words was light. That mismatch could be another reason sales are slow, if people are sampling the work.

    Hope my feedback helps! Good luck on your journey!

  3. I agree with Vicki. Overuse of the word "was" shows a lot of weakness in the writing (eg, "It was raining outside", "Meaghan was excited"--not good). If the author could rewrite the whole thing, assiduously avoiding the word "was" at every opportunity, he/she would become a much better writer just by doing that alone.

  4. I got romantic suspense from the cover. The font says romance along with the couple. The peering eyes says suspense.

    The blurb sounds like fantasy leaning toward horror.

    With the reference to a teacher bedding a student in the blurb and Meaghan being beyond sexually frustrated in the opening, I think it leans more toward adult than young adult.

    "Madame Braith and the guy splashed across the muddy pathway to the porch. Madame Braith held a magazine over her head. The guy just trudged forward with his head down."

    Try something like this. It's not as repetitive.

    Madame Braith held a magazine over her head as she splashed across the muddy pathway to the porch. The guy with her trudged forward, his head down, not seeming to care about the rain.

    Sounds like a great story and I wish you luck with it.

  5. From what I can pull out of the blurb (it is confused), this sounds like it could be a fun story. Although, the teacher sleeping with student has me worried.

    I agree with all that Vicki has said. The cover needs a do-over. I am not a fan of the disembodied eyes in the background. To me that screams amateur.

    The writing is where this really needs the most love though. A good critique group would be a big help. The prose is a little repetitive and clunky. In addition the aforementioned "was" problem, there are unnecessary dialog tags and overuse of names. Also, "the guy" really bugged me for some reason.

    I think the makings of a very cool book are here, but a revamp is needed.

    Best of luck with it!

  6. My, but I dislike that title font. The couple don't look at all contemporary, so it doesn't really seem right for a paranormal novel, either. It needs a complete re-do imo.

    It is hard to know what to say about the product description. I don't think it works at all. I can kind of see what the author is getting at, I think, but she isn't getting there.

    The writing in the sample needs a serious edit.

    "Wyn squished her forehead against the window pane in her bedroom. It was raining outside and the droplets of water were running in rivulets down the glass. Outside, it was gray and wet. She was watching Madame Braith lead a guy up the driveway and into the old mansion Wyn called home. Madame Braith and the guy splashed across the muddy pathway to the porch. Madame Braith held a magazine over her head. The guy just trudged forward with his head down."

    Some examples of problems.

    It is hardly necessary to say it is raining if droplets of rain are running down the window. Usually when it is raining it is wet and gray. When she describes Madame Braith and "the guy", the reader is going to assume she is watching them. I think reading it aloud will help see help see points at which the narrative could be smoothed.

    It isn't bad, but imo could use a little more work before publication.

  7. That title font must be banished to the archive files of computers everywhere to be dragged out only in instances of '70s pop revival album covers. ;)

    I am not a "to be" hater myself (I find it rather a useful verb), but the opening could use some tightening, especially the repetitions of Madame Braith. "Guy" jarred me too, as well as "squish" for some reason. I think you're going for a young contemporary tone, and I get that, but I'm not entirely sure it's working.

    And I understand what you're attempting with the blurb, but it's not working either. If nothing else, remove or consolidate the lines of the incantation.

    All in all, the main problem with this book is consistency of tone. Your blurb is very dark but your opening is very light, and your cover can't decide if it's light or dark. It's possible to open a dark book with a light tone, easier than starting a light book with a dark tone, but here the contrasts are too great throughout the entire marketing presentation.

  8. Cover - It's okay, but not unique or striking or memorable. I'd recommend something more dynamic or colorful.

    Blurb - It sounds like a modern high school is possessed by the King Arthur characters, and shenanigans ensue. But you say they are "assailed by dreams of wind-tossed fields", so they are attacked by boring imagery? I think your blurb needs to explain who the hero is and what her story/challenge/goal is.

    Text - Fine, but could use some editing to be more dynamic and flavorful, as others have commented.

    Other - You need more reviews.

  9. I like the image on the cover, but the title font detracts. It's trying to fight the far more interesting background for the reader's eye. If the background image is interesting, which in this case it is, then the fonts on the cover should be simple -- provide the information without competing for attention. This cover would look much more professional with more understated typography (including better placement on the image).

    The description confused me. It might read better without the italicized text. One thing set off alarm bells -- if this is YA, then would a teacher having sex with a student be over the line? Or at least encroaching on that line of what's acceptable in YA fiction? I don't read or write in the genre, but presumably these are teenagers. I cringed a little.

    To me, the writing in the opening was too simplistic, even for YA. The sentences were too short and choppy, as if written for a much younger audience (say, 8-10 year olds). There were some inconsistencies, too. For example, Wyn couldn't see what he looked like, yet she could see that
    a) his hair was long, dark and wet enough to be plastered to his forehead
    b) he looked pissed off. How can she know whether he's pissed off if his head is down and she can't see his face?

    I'm not sure if the paragraph starting with Meaghan was excited was a POV slip or not. Wyn could probably tell by Meaghan's behavior that she was excited, but her behavior isn't described to the reader. Instead, it's presented as though Wyn *knows* what Meaghan is feeling, which is why I thought it was a POV slip. At the very least, it's "telling" when "showing" would be more engaging.

    I think the writing could be improved with another draft, perhaps after getting some feedback in a critique group. JMO, of course.

  10. No point re-hashing comments on the cover, I think you know what needs to happen there. The blurb was interesting, but I also agree with previous comments on that. I found the combination of the cover, blurb, and first 300 words to be a bit confusing about setting and time. If you can make them all work together, I think you'll see better results.

    I'm also unclear on your target audience; as others pointed out, a teacher and student having sex and the "sexually frustrated" parts sound more adult than young adult, given that "young adult" is often taken to mean "12 and older." Those parts are potentially more jarring without knowing the ages of the characters involved; since they're students, a reader might assume they're under 18. (It isn't until a bit later that we find out they're over 18.)

    I think the writing could be a lot stronger; in addition to "was" you might try going through the entire work to see how many instances of "had" you can remove. Sometimes it's needed, but I personally found that diligently removing it from a 150,000 word novel was instructive and brought about much stronger writing in many places. (I think I ended up with two instances of it.) The reason I bring this up is that I decided to read a bit more of the sample, and the paragraph that begins "Before coming here" has 5 instances of "had" (including the two in "hadn't had") in 5 sentences.

    Sounds like an interesting story, good luck with it!

  11. Let me say that I disagree with suggestions to just arbitrarily take out "was" and "had". However, it is often worthwhile to look at paragraphs where they are heavily used to see if they could be strengthened. All too often, they are an indicator of what I tend to refer to as static writing.

    For example, the problem in this sentence isn't nearly so much the "was" and "were" but it really needs to be re-written.

    "It was raining outside and the droplets of water were running in rivulets down the glass."

    Now if I said, "Rivulets of rain ran down the window." do you suppose the reader would know that it raining and did they really need to be told that there is glass in the window? Would they see the picture you're trying to draw?

    Perhaps that's belabouring the point, but it's important to understand what the problem is. Massive use of "was" and "had" is a symptom and not the illness itself. :-)

  12. Only wanted to clarify that new adult is a classification for books about people in their late teens to early twenties--essentially college age.

    And thanks everyone for your comments and advice. Cheers!

  13. All the curling things on the font of the cover are very distracting, they take all the focus! (I do know what New Adult is, so do I get a point? lol). There is a lot of "info dumping" in the beginning--telling us about the weather (don't start a book describing the weather). Also, "telling" us she is sexually frustrated is something that should be "shown" through actions, thoughts, emotions.


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