Friday, November 25, 2011

Lovers and Beloveds

Author: MeiLin Miranda
Genre: Fantasy with a strong erotic component (à la the Kushiel series)
How long it's been on sale: 9/2010
Current price: $4.95
Marketing: Multiple successful submissions to book reviewers, Blogtalk Radio interviews, guest blogs, ads, serialization on website, etc etc etc
Total sold so far: Didn't start keeping strict track till 3/11, but since then 232 across all outlets
Link to book on Amazon: Name Your Link

Product Description:

Sheltered Prince Temmin arrives at the intrigue-filled court of his father and finds his world turned upside down. Suddenly he's the target of assassins sent by enemies he didn't even know he had. His family's immortal advisor immerses him in a magic book filled with the forgotten stories of the Kingdom's women. And he's falling for the beautiful twins Allis and Issak.

But the twins are the human avatars of the Gods of love and desire. To be with them, Temmin must fulfill a prophecy so old it's moved into folklore--a prophecy that may signal the end of the monarchy--and his father does everything he can to stop him.

Temmin must choose a path: one leads to ultimate glory for Tremont, the other to its end.

The first book in the fantasy saga "An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom.

First 300 Words:

Whithorse Estate, Whithorse Province
Ammaday, the 5th Day of Spring’s Beginning, 990 KY

In the stable yards of Whithorse Estate, two lanterns burned. They shone up at their owners, who sat on a straw bale against a brick wall. The low light transformed the rangy, blue-eyed one’s fair hair into a burnished bronze, and turned the shorter, stockier one’s eyes near-black. Both wore battered old tweed caps, and coats just heavy enough for the early spring night. The shorter one held a flask of wuisc, full at the start of the evening, and as its level dropped, they listed into one another more and more.

“Say, d’you plan on drinking that whole thing yourself?” said the tall one.

The shorter one passed the flask over. “Be careful, Tem, you’re not used to this stuff.”

“And you are?” said Temmin. “If I’m going to the Keep, I have to learn to drink.” He took a choking swallow, and pulled a face. “Where did you get this stuff? Besides, it’s our last night to do this sort of thing. Any sort of thing.” Temmin sighed and bumped his head against the bricks. “Why do I have to go, Alvy? Why can’t I stay here in Whithorse? Breed horses for the family or something?”

“Don’t gulp it, sip it,” said Alvo. “The King needs just so many horses, and you’re his only son.”

“Sedra should be the Heir. She’s smarter, and she’s the oldest.”

Alvo took the flask back, sipped, and snorted. “A woman will rule when Nerr gets the Heir. For that matter,” he added, “this wuisc will be drinkable when Nerr gets the Heir. I told you I couldn’t get the good stuff. Crokker would’ve given you some if you’d just asked.”

“And let Mama find out? I don’t think so.” Temmin sat up straighter. “Here’s a thought. You go to the Keep and be the Heir and I’ll take your job.”

Vicki's Comments: I'll preface this by saying I know nothing about this genre, so please forgive me if I say silly things!

This cover is very "Art Nouveau" to me. It gives it an artsy feeling, but I'm not sure it gives me a genre. When I look up the book covers from Kushiel, I get a much different image. I would highly suggest a re-design of the cover, making them look and feel much more like Kushiel's covers. (Not that you want to blatantly copy them, but if you could design a cover that might be used as a Kushiel cover, you'll be much better off, IMHO.) What you want to do is appeal to the same audience as Kushiel's audience, so making a cover that looks similar would right away tell the fans that they probably will be getting something similar in your book.

The description could use some tweaking. I would at least cut 'suddenly' from it, but maybe that's just because I have an aversion to the word. ;) The rest isn't bad, but I think it could be better. Outside opinions might help.

The beginning of the book doesn't have a tight POV, which does bother me, but might not bother other people. I'm the kind of reader that likes to know whose head we are in right away. The 'let's start with omniscient POV and move in' beginnings get under my skin. But I totally admit this is a personal preference. I'm just wondering how many other people don't like that sort of thing. I'd ask for other opinions on the beginning of the book as well.

Honestly, I think if the cover were changed, it would do much better. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Author: Justin Dillon-Shallard
Genre: Near Future Thriller / Techno Thriller
How long it's been on sale: July 2011
Current price: $3.99
Marketing: Facebook fan page and webpage
Total sold so far: Less than 10, UK only
Link to book on Amazon: Gods

Product Description:


The world has come out of Global Depression a very different place. With startling power shifts on the world stage and game changing technology advances, warfare has matured into the Information Age and the Third Realm is the latest battleground.

The virtual game environment of Third Realm is a rich and deadly fantasy setting, where ultimate power rests with a competitive pantheon of player controlled gods. However, a shadowy cult with a mysterious agenda have begun to resort to real world violence to rip control from even the most powerful of gods.

Stephanie Kane is the newest recruit to the Information Warfare department of Omega Division; Europe's elite armed service. When the Elder God of the Third Realm is brutally murdered in real life, she is given the task of infiltrating the game to investigate.

The Third Realm and reality quickly collide and the edges between them begin to blur.

Who are the mysterious Order of Aurele? How do they exert so much power in the real world and why are they so determined to use their power to rule a virtual game world?

Events cause Stephanie to enlist the help of two young teenagers. Lara, a deadly assassin in the Third Realm, in reality a Dance student with her own secrets. James, an academy student with a bright future and a powerful Mage in the game, is enjoying the adventure of his life time, until his family come under threat.

Together they will face dangers in multiple realities and uncover a secret nations will kill for, a secret that could change the course of humanity itself.

From Special Forces raids, gun battles and airstrikes, to melee battles, magic duels and a struggle between Gods, Angels and humans...

Relevant, engaging and thought provoking, GODS is a must read. 

First 300 Words:

The Holy City of Elesta, Third Realm

The jewelled eyes of the ornate gold statue opened and the Elder God looked out, surveying his richly adorned High Temple.

The God rose amorphously, stretching to fill the Temple like an invisible mist. He briefly admired the twelve-foot high statue created in his image, before focusing his attention on the hundreds of worshippers who were kneeling around his High Altar. He felt each of their prayers as a warm hum in the back of his mind.

As he watched, a slight golden glow emanated from those who were praying to him.

This was the Elder Mass, a weekly ritual to honour the Elder God. Similar scenes were currently being performed at his Temples throughout the Third Realm. He couldn’t imagine any God feeling more powerful than he did now, basking in the concentrated faith of his followers.

Silvana, his High Priestess, stood at the Temple’s High Altar. Dressed in pale blue robes, she smoothed her long silver hair away from her face, before beginning a ritual of blessing. As she spoke the Holy words, a light formed around her hands.

The glow from the worshippers rose into the air above their heads. It formed a rippling wave that filled the God, before it fell and settled back on the worshippers again. The God savoured the resulting momentary sensation of power and bliss.

The worshippers also felt a sense of euphoria and looked up from their prayers in wonder.

The High Priestess smiled and raised her arms theatrically as she spoke:

‘Praise be to El, Lord of the two rivers and Elder of the Gods.’

‘Praise be,’ the congregation murmured in reply.

The God allowed his form to rise through the high vaulted ceiling and out into the world.  The bright sunlight warmed him as he stretched and expanded again, floating above his prosperous domain.

Vicki's Comments: I think the cover needs work. I think it lacks a professional feeling, which might only be the words because I like the picture of the person. That does give me a techno image. I might get some other opinions on the cover. If the genral consensus is that it needs work, I would hire a graphic designer to give it that final polish.

The description should be shorter and get right to the main character and their conflict. The back story can be left out, or summed up in a short sentence. We don't need to know the entire world this book is set in, just enough of the plot to know if we would be interested in buying the book.

I would have liked the story to begin with the protagonist. The God's point of view didn't capture me. I also was wondering about the single quote marks for dialogue. Is that a regional thing? I wasn't aware that any countries used this punctuation. I might hire an editor.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Unleashed (A Sydney Rye Novel)

Author: Emily Kimelman
Genre: Mystery
How long it's been on sale: 6 months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Blog tour, email blast, KND, Twitter and FB
Total sold so far: 160
Link to book on Amazon: Unleashed: A Sydney Rye Novel (Volume 1)

Product Description:

"Emily Kimelman is witty and insightful, and writes with wisdom, care, and diligence."

-Mark Bowden, best selling author of "Black Hawk Down".

"[Unleashed is] for readers who like well written and well constructed novels... including the ending that caught me off-guard (something that rarely happens)."

-And Tyson Adams, author of the blog "Right What You No"

When Joy Humbolt loses her job and breaks up with her boyfriend she impulsively adopts a giant mutt named Blue. Soon a dog walking business on the exclusive Upper East Side of Manhattan is thrown in her lap. On her first day, Joy discovers a dead body and is quickly sucked into a hidden world of political power, wealth, and secrets.

While Joy tries to expose the murderer, she will learn just how far some people will go for money and how far she is willing to go to protect her family. 

First 300 Words:

My dog died today. He once took a bullet that was intended for me. A bullet that ripped through his chest, narrowly missing his heart, and exited through his shoulder blade, effectively shattering it. This left him unconscious on the floor of my home. Amazingly, this bullet did not kill him. It was a bar of chocolate that I accidentally left where he could reach it, which he did. It gave him diabetes, which killed him.

Ten years ago I adopted Blue as a present to myself after I broke up with my boyfriend one hot, early summer night with the windows open and the neighborhood listening. The next morning I went straight to the pound in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Articles on buying your first dog tell you never to buy a dog on impulse. They want you to be prepared for this new member of your family, to understand the responsibilities and challenges of owning a dog. Going to the pound because you need something in your life that's worth holding onto is rarely, if ever, mentioned.

I asked the man at the pound to show me the biggest dogs they had. He showed me some seven-week-old Rottweiler- German shepherd puppies that he said would grow to be quite large. Then he showed me a six-month old shepherd that would get pretty big. Then he showed me Blue, the largest dog they had. The man called him a Collie mix and he was stuffed into the biggest cage they had, but he didnt fit. He was as tall as a Great Dane but much skinner, with the snout of a collie, the markings of a Siberian husky, the ears and tail of a shepherd and the body of a wolf, with one blue eye and one brown. Crouched in a sitting position, unable to lie down, unable to sit all the way up, he looked at me from between the bars, and I fell in love.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover, but my first impression was that the book was a children's book. Maybe a middle grade book about a dog? When I look closer, I see the shadow of a face. That makes me think it's a book about a person who changes into a dog. Reading the description, I realize that my first impression is way off. I would get more opinions on it, but I think a new cover would really help.

The description is pretty good, but I don't like the reviews stuck in there. When I go look at a description I want to know what the book is about. I also feel like the description gets a slow start. To me, the murder is the important part, not the dog walking business. I might work on the description too.

The beginning didn't feel like a murder mystery to me. It didn't grab me and not let go, but I was mildly interested. I did get the feeling from the opening that this woman is alone in the world. It seemed at odds with 'how far she is willing to go to protect her family' that was in the description. I don't get the feeling that she's a family girl.

I would change the cover first, and work on the description next. What do you guys think?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Crowded (Deep River High)

Author: Shaina Cilimberg
Genre: Christian Teen
How long it's been on sale: 2 months
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Twitter, Facebook, Blog
Total sold so far: 2
Link to book on Amazon: Crowded (Deep River High)

Product Description:

Cole Martin is trying to live for God, even though he made a mistake that costs Emily Davis and her parents' trust in him. Now, he is making every attempt he can to win her back. Josh Summers, the new boy with a dark past, also has his sights set on Emily who seems to enjoy the flirtation for a while until things get ugly. 

First 300 Words:

Cole was ignoring the chatter of his classmates before history class started, when the cell phone beeped.  Everything inside said to turn the phone off, but the unwillingness to wait until lunch period took over. A sext from Tanya.  The prettiest cheerleader in the school. That wasn’t really nice, considering one of Cole’s friends was a cheerleader. Still, it was the truth.

When Cole was baptized last month, he became a Christian and truly wanted to to change everything for Christ. The moment Cole typed a message about wanting sex with her and pressed “Send”, he realized it was a mistake. This would ruin his relationship with God and with his new girlfriend. Things had been going so well between him and Emily Davis.

Last night

A candle flickered in the small, dimly lit Italian restaurant. Cole Martin inhaled the final slice of pizza and waited for Emily to finish chewing her last bite. Then, he got a wad of wrinkled money out of his stained jeans, which Emily always had compliments on.

Putting it on the table, he said, “I’ll pay for it.”

Emily asked, “You sure?”

Cole fingered the checkered table cloth. “Yeah. I had a job at the guitar shop this summer. My treat.”

A smile lit up her brown eyes. “Thanks.”

Then, Emily groaned, “I hate that summer’s over.”

Cole chuckled in agreement.. “Yeah. Maybe we should protest the start of school.”

The next day, Cole rested his head into skinny arms on the desk before class started. He made sure the cell phone was turned off, just in case anyone else tried to sext him. That way, there wouldn’t be a temptation to once again fall into and lose another night of sleep over.

Emily walked up to Cole’s desk.   “We should go 

Vicki's Comments: The cover needs work. The photo of the teen at his desk doesn't feel like a book cover image. It doesn't give me the genre at a glance, although I do assume this is a book for teens, so you've got that going for you. I would try to make the cover look more like other book covers. I would also change the font, and the font color.

The description isn't bad, I think it could explain a little more about what's going on. It's a bit vague, and when I'm trying to decide on what to read, vague descriptions aren't that helpful. What mistake did he make? Did he cheat on Emily? Did he get drunk at a party and do drugs? What does 'things get ugly' really mean? I'd like to know a bit more.

There are some good things in the beginning, however I think it needs some work. I would join a critique group and run at least the first few chapters through to tighten up some of the prose. There's a story here, I like the premise of it, but I do think it needs some polishing up.

What do you guys think?

Katheryn's Secret

Author: Linda Hall
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Inspirational
How long it's been on sale: 7/4/2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Facebok, Twitter, Web Page, Kindle Forums
Total sold so far: 49
Link to book on Amazon: Katheryn's Secret (Coast of Maine Series)

Product Description:

This novel interweaves elements of mystery and suspense with a message of hope. The novel brings healing to those wounded by legalism in the church. Mystery writer Sharon Colebrook finds herself the unexpected recipient of her deceased Aunt Katie's papers, and hopes to learn about a murder Katie had hinted at years before. But as Sharon and her husband Jeff begin to investigate, the carefully kept facade of her strict religious family begins to crumble. Secrets, long buried, begin to surface, and only God's grace can put this family back together again. 

First 300 Words:

The flashlight dimmed. I looked down at it in surprise. Didn't I just put new batteries in? I cursed out loud a couple of times and then rammed the thing against the cement wall. Hard. All I succeeded in doing was cracking the plastic casing. The quality and quantity of light did not change, but remained a dull trickle of pale yellow. I muttered to myself and kept picking my way down the basement steps. When I reached the bottom I held onto the wall with my left hand and used the pinpoint of light to look around. This is where she said she'd be, that mysterious middle-of-the-night caller who had awakened me from a sound, albeit short, sleep a little more than half an hour ago. "Underneath the barn," she had said.

"Underneath the barn?" I didn't know barns had an underneath."

"Just take the steps down at the side of the building. I'll be waiting."

I poked through bits of straw and hay and dried manure and wondered if this whole thing were a practical joke concocted for my birthday. Except my birthday was seven months ago. Well, the joke was on me. Here I was up to my sneakers in manure with a weak flashlight, looking for what? I shook my head realizing that I should have had it examined long ago.

The weird middle-of-the-night muffled voice had talked about life and death and how I was the only one on the face of the earth who could help. Yeah, I bet you say that to all the girls.

But there was something about that whispery voice, something familiar when she woke me with,
"Summer? Summer Whitney? I need to see you."

I'm naturally curious. That's what makes me a good private investigator. I knew I'd never sleep anyway, not after a call like that, so I got up.

Vicki's Comments: The cover could use some work. I think the photo of the ocean isn't working. I don't know why, but sunsets, skies and oceans just don't do it for me as book cover images. There's probably a reason. Maybe because it doesn't show a clear genre? I don't know. However, I do think a new cover would greatly improve the sales of this book. I'd also change the font. I would look at other books in the Mystery/Suspense/Inspirational genre and see what fonts they use. (That's not's research.)

I would cut the first two sentences of the book description. The first sentence doesn't say anything about the plot. People read descriptions to get the plot of the novel. The second sentence is subjective. The novel might not bring healing to someone. The third sentence is where the description actually starts. The rest is actually not bad for a description. It's a little vague, what secrets come forth? I'd like to know if the book is dealing with an unwed mother in the family, or an ancestor who robbed a bank. Depending on what the secrets are, it could change the story dramatically. Be more direct with your description.

I liked the beginning of the book. It hooked me. I'd keep reading to find out what happens. I don't think the issues with this book are in the prose. I would change the cover, maybe pay a graphic designer, and get some help polishing up the blurb. This book has potential.

What do you guys think?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Perception of Evil

Author: Budo von Stahl
Genre: Epic Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 14 Months
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Facebook, KB, Goodreads, multiple forums
Total sold so far: unknown
Link to book on Amazon: Perception of Evil (The Eastendland Saga)

Product Description:

Unexpectedly turned out of his home by his aged master, armed with little but an insatiable curiosity, a vast education, and a marvelous sword, Valkane the apprentice sets out in search of many things, among them his ancestry, the meaning of a vision, and knowledge. He stands a good chance of finding all of this and more, if he somehow manages to survive. His journey brings him into contact with Elves, Dwarves, monsters, evil magicians, howling Barbarians, and more. With a penchant for getting lost, he finds himself caught in the middle of innumerable plots, secret locations, and possible war. The greatest danger he will face, however, is the mysterious pursuit by The Hand of Doom. Join him and experience these many things with him, meet his friends, and share his...doom? 

First 300 Words:

Though hours remained before dawn on this cool, rainy spring morning, Valkane could not sleep.  In truth, he had not slept well for nearly a week.  He had tossed fitfully the last few nights, reliving the same dream, searching for any meaning in it, perplexed by the sense of urgency the vision left in its wake.

The dream troubling him appeared to have been triggered during a session with his scrying bowl.  While researching some interesting events of the distant past (his favorite subject), he had come upon an image of a large, black-clad man sitting on a great throne in a dark, dank room.  Valkane had absolutely no knowledge of who this man was or what he was doing, or even why he should appear in the place Valkane was examining.  The dark man’s attendants were as intriguing as the man himself; actually, even more so.

Just as Valkane was beginning to admire these attendants closely, he became aware that the figure on the throne was aware of him.  Horrified, Valkane had wrenched himself away from his bowl to discover he was breathing hard and had an awful headache.  By all of the laws of nature, science, and magic, what had transpired that day was impossible.  Not even a friend on the other side of the same table would be aware of a scrying session, to say nothing of a long-dead stranger.

That very night was when this recurring nightmare had begun.  In this vision, Valkane sees himself in the lab, bent over the scrying bowl again.  Looking over his own shoulder, so to speak, he sees himself in the bowl, walking through a twilight mist, as if strolling along the edge of a marsh at moonrise.  No sound or color comes to him at this point, only white mist, black sky, and pale light.  

Vicki's Comments: The cover doesn't say "High Fantasy" to me. In fact, the background looked like a stained glass window at first glance. The font didn't look professional, which gave the entire cover an unprofessional look. I would suggest a re-design of the cover. Maybe check out some other covers in the high fantasy genre and see which ones catch your eye, then try to put into words what you like about it.

The blurb isn't specific enough for me. It could be any number of novels where the protagonist goes in search of something. I want to know why this book is the one I should be reading, instead of hundreds of other novels that have a main character going on a journey. I would re-work the blurb as well, trying to be more specific to the protagonist and plot of this novel.

The novel starts with narrative summery instead of a scene. I think this is hurting your book. I also found a few awkward sentences, like: he became aware that the figure on the throne was aware of him. And some tense issues. I would join a critique group to polish up the piece, or at least run the first chapter through to get some outside eyes on the prose. The beginning is often the hardest part to get just right.

What do you guys think?