Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Circling Song

Author: Russell Cruse
Genre: Historical Fiction/Sci-fi
How long it's been on sale: April 1 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Blog; Facebook; Author sites;
Total sold so far: 23
Link to book on Amazon: The Circling Song

Product Description:

Private Lawrence sees the world differently from those around him. Unfortunately, those around him are the British Army.

To Dr. Pennyworth, Private Henry Lawrence appears to be just another wounded soldier but slowly he begins to realise that Lawrence experiences the world in a unique and inexplicable manner.

From the chaos of The Great War, Lawrence begins to create order.

And Mathematics is struggling to keep up.

Pennyworth and a Cambridge mathematician, widowed by the war, work together to unlock the mysterious mind of Henry Lawrence and to determine how he intends to use it.

Then, they must decide whether to assist him or stop him.

The story of Henry Lawrence is told here through the correspondence, private papers and published works of those who knew him.

First 300 Words:

ITEM: 19/12/14 Henry Lawrence’s Journal

Wednesday December 19th 1914

Sir Maxwell has told me that I should keep a journal. He says it may help. I don’t think that it will. Although he is an approachable gentleman and not so stuffy as one might think, he is a doctor and although I’m sure he wants to help me, I believe that his true motive is to try to understand what is wrong with me. Wrong? When I regained consciousness, I could have cried with joy! To be alive and to be whole and to be unafraid! Only later did I realise that I might not be the same man I had been scant hours before; that he was gone forever. And that soon I would not care.

Although it is not visible, I can clearly remember everything from before; home, parents, friends, comrades. The thoughts make pictures in my mind, yet before of course, there was no “seeing” as I see now. There was no “knowing” as I know now. But there is remembering. Remembering how the patrol was caught in the open; how Armitage lay dying and how he wept for his mother. Remembering Streeter giving him water, his own and his friend’s hands entwined, clutching the flask between them. And Armitage, blinded by steel and blood and filth, drinking; talking between grateful gulps, to his best friend who was watching him die. Watching, until shrapnel took his head. Armitage, oblivious, carried on drinking and talking; tended by a headless corpse, until he drank and spoke no more.

There was the grief, the terror and the despair. Lawrence running, he knew not where. Back to our lines; towards the enemy; it didn’t matter. He just needed to be away from that place. Staggering, falling, crawling, weeping.

Gina's Comments:
First off, good job. Writing and cover design is hard work. When I saw your cover, the first thing I did was stare for a very long time trying to figure out what it was. I'm still not entirely sure, but I think I make out a woman's form, I see a note and some mathematic insignia. NO. Wait. That's a man. A soldier...I read the product description and worked it out from there. My first thought is, if I have to work that hard to figure out what the cover is, it should probably be played with. I see what you're going for though. I can also see you worked to incorporate the elements of your book. You may, in fact, be able to keep this picture collage, but the placement of the title interferes with the picture. My suggestion would be to play around with different ways to place your title and name, allowing the picture to be seen better. IF you are not attached to the picture, I'd say try to find a way to make the cover pop. The drab colors (I get it, army drab...but it's not selling and I must admit, I like and write historical fiction, it was my intended route to have a very muted cover) don't scream buy me.

The description could use some love. I think the description is one of the hardest things to write. I just did it myself and it was weeks of struggle. A friend suggested I write a hook line first and go from there. That helped me considerably. I will say, after I read it a few times, I understood. I believe we're looking at "A Beautiful Mind" situation? Or maybe a savant? Very intriguing.

Regarding the 1st 300. Again. Some editing is advised. You are writing good stuff. I liked it, but I did have to read it a couple of times, so some attention to grammar and maybe sentence structure to clear things up might help you. It was powerful. I would cut the first paragraph. That is a slow read. The excitement of the second paragraph is powerful. The 3rd paragraph threw me, as I thought the narrator was talking, but then he said "Lawrence running..." and it seemed as though someone else was describing the scene. I think clearing up who is sitting with Armitage, where Lawrence is physically, in the scheme of that scene, might be nice. Maybe incorporate the information in the first paragraph later.

Good work. I think this is worth working on. Sounds like a good story to me!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Welcome to Scranton

Author: Greg Halpin
Genre: Fiction (Autobiographical fiction)
How long it's been on sale: 13 Months (December 2010)
Current price: $2.99

Marketing: I post links on Facebook and ask friends to share. I post on The Office's FB page because the book is set in the same city as the show. I give away a copy on Goodreads each month. I created trailers that have received almost 2,000 views. I comment on relevant news articles and blog posts and mention my book and post a link. I've sold books at two local book festivals. A friend in NYC occasionally rides the subway with my book visible. The cover grabs people's attention and results in hits on my website from NYC and some sales. I've sent copies to some NPR hosts because the book mentions NPR in a few scenes. I sent copies to local newspapers to review. I gave away about 150 print books. I've tried Google and Facebook Ads but they not work well.
Total sold so far: 335: 200 ebooks, 135 print copies.

Link to book on Amazon: Welcome to Scranton

Product Description:

It's a wild ride through Scranton in this darkly funny and touching story about friends in their twenties trying to figure out life in their hometown. The boundaries of friendship are tested as one of them hits rock bottom.

Welcome to Scranton paints a portrait of a small town that includes political corruption, a disgraced teacher, and the hilarious antics of young men.

First 300 Words:

Someone was banging on my door in the middle of the night while I was sound asleep. The noise worked its way into my dream where it was a phone ringing. I rolled over in bed, picked up my real phone and answered it. No one was there, of course. The noise didn't go away. I reached over to my alarm clock but no combination of pressing the plastic buttons put an end to the sound. Instead, I accidently knocked it off the bedside table. The crash of the clock hitting the hardwood floor woke me enough to realize someone was at the door.

I looked at the clock on the floor. It was almost three in the morning. Who the hell was it? I rarely had visitors at proper hours, let alone at this hour. My apartment was on the fourth floor of a building that didn't have an elevator. Even friends didn't want to climb all those stairs.

I got up from the bed and walked down the hallway to the door. I felt a bit anxious. There was a break-in across the hall the week before. No one was hurt, but everyone in the building was on edge since. I looked through the peephole. My eyes were blurry and I couldn't make out who it was. I cracked open the door, leaving the chain latched.

It was Ed Rossi, an old friend who moved into a first floor apartment a few months before.

"Huh?" I said and unlatched the lock and opened the door.

"Hank, what's up, buddy?" Ed said. He was holding a can of beer.

"It's three in the morning. What are you doing here?"

"Yeah, I know. Sorry, man, I ran out of smokes. Can I bum one from you?"

"You woke me up for that?"

Gina's Comments:
First of all, I like the cover. The lettering style is great. It's colorful and intriguing. I'd pick that book up to figure out what it is about. On the down side, I can't possibly figure out what the book is about from the cover. So...there's the good and bad of that. But artistically, very cool.

$2.99 looks like a good price to me.

Hmmm. Autobiographical fiction. That would not be a genre I would choose to read. I do not know what the readership is for that. Is it limited? For me, I would be interested in autobiographies of famous people. Are you famous?

My first thought is if you've sold 335 copies, that's not too shabby. It IS selling. Sounds like you're doing things right regarding marketing.

I think the product description is lacking. It didn't make me want to read further. It's a bit detached from the story. Don't tell me, show me. You're telling me it's a wild ride...but I don't see it. Show me why.

The first sentence has the word 'was' twice. 11 'was's' in the 1st 300 words. This prompts me to ask if you are involved in any writing groups, critique groups, or if you have taken any writing classes.

The 1st 300 did nothing for me, my friend. I am guessing this is why your book isn't selling. Nothing in that made me want to turn the page or read more. Why is your life so interesting, I want to read about it? You have to communicate that right up front. Did you and your friends uncover political corruption? Did you all do something crazy and end up in jail? What is the story that will make me want to read this? If this is just a bunch of guys being guys...uh...that's just not interesting. If it's a bunch of guys who do something amazing...then yes, count me in. If there is a moral to the story...something you all learn...count me in. But you'd better hook me in that first 300 or I won't even give it another look.

My advice: workshop it. Get some other eyes on the story. There may be a story here, but I can't tell from the cover or the blurb.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How Could She Do It

Author: Nataisha Hill
Genre: Relationships
How long it's been on sale: Almost 2 years
Current price: $4.99
Marketing: Online press release, local newspaper article, online social sites, local book signing, online book reviews.
Total sold so far: 25
Link to book on Amazon: How Could She Do It

Product Description:

A young woman named, Kayla, tries to pursue her dreams as well as have a happy personal life beyond her career. However, she gets side-tracked and allows negative situations to interfere with the important things that she should focus on. There are people in her life who are deceitful, abusive, and shady in every way, but instead of removing them from her life, she only fuels the fire by seeking revenge and doing deceitful things that she feels will justify what others have done to her. 

First 300 Words:

After I graduated from high school, my life had begun to take a dramatic change. I was feeling trapped in my relationship with Jeremy, the jerk, and I knew I had to do something different. I knew Jeremy from high school. He was star of the basketball team, on the student council, and a senior. His father owned a chain of furniture stores that lead him to be partially wealthy. He was about 5’11 with fair brown skin and a medium athletic build. I use to see him play at home games, but I never spoke to him. We didn’t begin our relationship until after he graduated when he approached me at the mall. In the beginning, Jeremy would do everything with me. We’d go out to lunch, dinners, movies, and he showered me with gifts. Watches, rings, outfits, money here and there, and whatever else, you name it. Further into courtship, I detected small control problems such as constant calls and texts from him. Also from time to time, I noticed him making small remarks such as “damn it sure took you a long time to answer your phone” or when we hadn’t seen each other earlier in day and he would see me later on he’d say “you must have had better plans than being with me.” He made sure that I knew that there would be no other man as good for me and to me as he was. I paid it no mind because I just figured it was normal for a man to make such a claim, you know, like an ego thing. Little did I know what this psycho had in store.

After a few months into dating Jeremy, our relationship turned into a dictatorship. He always wanted to know where I was going, what time I was going home, how was I going to get there, and every other detail. 

Vicki's Comments: The cover confused me. I like the faded out face, but it gives it a paranormal look which I don't think you want on this book. I don't like the legs that go up and then...well, where's the poor girl's head? Looks like it fell off. I will say I do like the font. The only problem is that it's hard to read the title and the author's name is too tiny. I would recommend a different cover, or a remake of this one.

"Relationships" isn't really a genre. By reading the description, I'm going to guess that this book would probably fall into a general fiction or women's fiction genre. If you search out other books in that genre that sell well, and maybe design a cover that is similar, you'll have better luck with sales.

The description needs some work. I stink at writing blurbs, so I totally sympathize. I usually get a lot of help from other authors when I'm hashing out my descriptions. I find that they usually can tell what does work and what doesn't much better than I can.

The beginning of the book needs some help too. I would highly suggest joining a critique group and posting some chapters to get some feedback. I would also hire an editor, as I do see some things that need fixing. But don't worry, I think the premise of the book sounds interesting. I think we can all connect with Kayla, wanting to enact revenge on those who have harmed us. I think there is a story in here that can come forth and shine, I just think it needs some work.

What do you guys think?


James Bruno
Genre: Political/Thriller
How long it's been on sale: July 16, 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: ?
Total sold so far: 197 Kindle, 15 Paperback, some B&N
Link to book on Amazon: Tribe

Product Description:

James Bruno is back in full force with Tribe. Author of the bestsellers, Permanent Interests and CHASM, he again pulls us into a world of espionage, political treachery and techno-thrills...

Afghanistan: Battlefield of Power - Graveyard of Reputations

"Meet Harry Brennan, CIA officer and go-to guy on Afghanistan. When his mission in Afghanistan is aborted and he finds himself back in Washington, Harry starts digging until he finds out what everyone doesn't want him to know. And it comes as no surprise to Harry that it's all about money, or oil to be exact. As the Western world's need for oil increases, something must be done to break the stranglehold of the Arab world on oil supplies. A secret deal has been struck to get a U.S.-financed trans-Central Asian oil pipeline to the Arabian Sea built through Afghanistan and Pakistan. This scenario would bring Croesus-like wealth for the oil companies, back-channel cash to politicians and cement American political and economic supremacy in Central Asia at Russia's expense. It would also force the Afghan allies to share power with the Taliban so pipelines could be built and U.S. troops finally withdrawn. Harry finds himself enmeshed in the double and triple cross of the relentless Washington political machine. In a surprise turn of events, Harry finds himself branded a traitor and fleeing for his life from jihadists in Afghanistan and Predator drones in Yemen, a target of his own CIA, while trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter."

"This is a brilliant book that is well-paced and -plotted with many interesting layers." ~ Readers Favorite.

Written by a former insider and censored by the U.S. government, TRIBE resonates with authenticity rarely seen in the political thriller genre.

First 300 Words:


I used to fly into Islamabad in the dead of night, in black C-130s, the U.S. Air Force insignia miniaturized so that only eagles and Clark Kent could make them out. The Paks wanted it that way. The idea was to keep the American government’s role in supporting the Afghan mujahidin as invisible as possible. After all, our cargoes were lethal. Yet, Allah forbid, should one crash or be shot down with by an SA-7 or, worse, one of our own Stingers, we could claim the marked aircraft was not on a spy mission. Another kind of plausible deniability. Covert guile. Cold War.
Now, CIA personnel fly into the Pakistani capital on commercial aircraft in bright daylight, irrespective of whether we’re under cover or not. Islamabad International Airport is like a tiny patch of unblemished skin on the otherwise pocked face of an impoverished country. Modern, spiffy, efficient. Much like Islamabad itself, an artificial new city which belies the hand-to-mouth existence of 172 million people.

I pass quickly through immigration and customs with my black diplomatic passport in hand – in my real name. Two people await me past the customs posts: a white face and a brown one. The former is a junior officer from Islamabad station; the latter a Pak intel agent whose excessive efforts to make himself inconspicuous have the opposite effect. His task is to follow me.

“Larry O’Connor,” the junior officer says as he offers his hand. This blond, clean-cut, horn-rim-spectacled generation-Y-er looks like he just stepped out of the Harvard MBA program – except that Harvard MBAs shun the CIA. He has been here a while, judging by his combination Indiana Jones bush jacket and caftan trousers.

After, “How was your flight?” “The weather is hell here now,” the usual banter, Larry’s face darkens. “It’s hard to operate in this place, do anything here,” he says with a gesture toward the pick-up with two armed Pak guards that leads our vehicle, itself a fully armored Toyota Landcruiser with inch-thick bullet-proof windows.

Sabrina's Comments:
The cover is eye catching but the first thought I had after seeing it was this is a war book. I expected a controversial memoir of a soldier, not a political thriller. I scanned through the thumbnails to see your cover smaller and you can't read "Tribe". The red letters melt into the gun. The message that it's a non-fiction battlefield story, not a thriller is even stronger when shrunk. The thumbnails are typically the first impression readers have of your book. You might be losing people because they think your book covers a different subject.

The blurb starts out with "Meet the main character . . ." This didn't work for me. You didn't overcome my "who cares?" factor. I don't know why I should care about him yet, so introducing him like this feels awkward.

His mission is aborted and he starts digging why? Is the mission aborted under suspicious circumstances? What is he digging into? I assume you mean the mission went side-ways, Harry got the equivalent of a shove out of the way and now he wants to know why. How it's written, I can also read it that he's just a snoop digging where he doesn't belong.

I don't like where you started the sentence with "And". Get rid of it and the sentence is fine. The information about the oil is great. I think it's perfect for the book.

"In a surprise turn of events" This phrase is unnecessary and cliche. If it's not a surprise, it's not a thriller.

You have "finds" in two sentences in a row.
Harry finds himself enmeshed in the double and triple cross of the relentless Washington political machine. In a surprise turn of events, Harry finds himself branded a traitor and fleeing for his life from jihadists in Afghanistan and Predator drones in Yemen, a target of his own CIA, while trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter.

I would word it something like:
Harry finds himself enmeshed in the double and triple crosses of the relentless Washington political machine. (Someone) brands him a traitor and he must flee for his life from jihadists in Afghanistan and Predator drones in Yemen. With the CIA's target on his back, his new mission is to rescue his kidnapped daughter at all costs. <- I want to work in the title at the end of this sentence somehow (instead of "at all costs" which is rather cliche as well) but I'm not sure how Tribe associates with the book and why it is the best title for the storyline.

First 300 words: "I used to fly into Islamabad in the dead of night" -You have my attention.
"in black C-130s" -I'm still with you for the description.
"the U.S. Air Force insignia miniaturized so that only eagles and Clark Kent could make them out" -I don't know why the insignia takes over as the subject of the sentence. You're in first person so the speaker is my focus, not a picture. I like the visual you are trying to make but not the execution.

From the book description, I thought the first paragraph was telling us about the mission that got him kicked back to America and causes him to start digging. At the start of the second paragraph I am guessing that you are talking about a decade or two before.

I love the third paragraph. Wonderful visuals! The rest of the story flows.

Over all, I know there are readers who won't buy a book in first person but I think you have a solid enough start that most people who love political thrillers would enjoy reading the book. I suggest looking at the message a reader with no knowledge of your plot line receives from the cover, study it in thumbnail size and tighten the blurb a little bit.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Little Help From My Friends

Submissions to this blog are growing! Yay! Unfortunately, my spare time isn't growing. Boo!

So I have asked for some help. My two wonderful author friends, Sabrina Sumsion and Gina Barlean are here to save the day! They both have a great eye for books. And I'll try to add my comments as much as I can, so you'll still hear from blabber mouth me.

Now, let me introduce you to my friends!

This is Sabrina Sumsion. I've known Sabrina for years. She's not only smart and an amazing writer, but she's a hoot to be around. Sabrina, would you tell us a little about yourself?

Sabrina: I’m a ninja disguised as a homeschooling mom, former literary publicist, craft-aholic and all around reading diva.  Really, I kick down doorsno, wait, that was my husband when I locked us out of the house . . . Well, I engage in combat on a regular basisonline when I play MMORPGs with my children . . . OK, maybe I’m not a real ninja but my husband says I stole his heart.  Does that count?  No?

Shoot.  Well, I love reading and I love writing.  I think imagination is the biggest advantage a child can get in life and I try to allow my children many opportunities to expand theirs every day.

I love teaching authors how to avoid publishing traps and scams as well as how to market themselves and their works.  There is nothing better in life than giving someone information that helps them become successful.

I also take a few hours each week and create jewelry, make lotions or paint something.  I have little creation stations scattered through the house.  My daughter gets into it a lot and scatters things which drives my husband crazy but remember how I mentioned that he says I stole his heart?  Yeah.  I’m not giving it back.  He’s stuck with me forever.  Bwah ha ha ha!

Vicki: Thanks, Sabrina!

Now let me introduce you to my friend Gina. I met Gina last year at a local author's group. She's the kind of person you instantly feel at home with.

Gina goes by GM in her writing. It stands for Gina Marie. Isn't that pretty?

Here's what she has to say about herself:

Gina: I'm married, I have two grown children, a Schnauzer and a white cat that sheds on everything. I love to cook, bake and read. I am a cynic hiding in a happy go-lucky woman’s body. I am most definitely not a morning person.

Vicki: And now you've met my two wonderful friends! I hope to get more posts up with their help, so this blog can continue to help authors with their books.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Scavenger's Daughter: A Tyler West Mystery

Author: Mike McIntyre
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
How long it's been on sale: 11 Months
Current price: $3.99
Marketing: KB, Goodreads ads, blog reviews and interviews, press releases, giveaways
Total sold so far: 850
Link to book on Amazon: The Scavenger's Daughter: A Tyler West Mystery

Product Description:

Tyler West, suspended Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter from the San Diego Sun, is desperate for a scoop that will save his career. Defying a spiteful publisher and a vindictive homicide detective, he investigates the baffling deaths of several of San Diego's powerful, rich and famous. Police call the murders unrelated, but Ty uncovers a common link: torture devices last used during the Dark Ages, including the Iron Maiden, the Pear of Anguish, and the most sinister of all--the Scavenger's Daughter.

Ty is plunged into a mysterious world of medieval torture scholars, antiquities collectors, museum curators, and sadomasochists. Aided by photojournalist Melina "Mel" Koric, a former Bosnian War refugee, he must break the brilliantly conceived series of slayings that has cast a dark shadow over a city better known for its sun, sand and surf. The elusive killer goes by the name Friar Tom, in tribute to his hero, Tomás de Torquemada, the first Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. As Ty scrambles to unmask the monstrous zealot, he pursues his lost love, Jordan Sinclair, an assistant district attorney and single mom. With the city caught in an escalating nightmare of medieval mayhem, Ty is drawn into a lethal game of cat and mouse that could cost him everything.

Lightning-paced, intricately plotted and wildly suspenseful, The Scavenger's Daughter grabs the reader early and doesn't let go until its heart-pounding climax.

First 300 Words:



Candles flickered inside his self-storage unit. Santa Claus tapers, Easter Bunny pillars, Valentine votives, Halloween jack-o’-lantern tealights, a Rugrats menorah. He’d paid fifty cents for a crate of holiday candles on eBay after he was the only bidder to spot the misspelled listing: candells. He saved where he could. His was an expensive hobby.

Unit 67 was the size of an auto repair shop, the largest for rent at Sea Breeze Mini-Storage. The terraced complex of concrete buildings hugged the hillside above the I-5 freeway. A battered sign—24-HOUR ACCESS, YOU KEEP THE KEY—dangled from the sagging chain-link fence. The neighborhood of taxi garages, shabby apartments and weedy sidewalks was miles from San Diego’s palm-lined beaches. A pimple on the shoulder of America’s Finest City.

His drive-up unit was in the top row, its back wall embedded in the steep hill. Shamu, SeaWorld’s star killer whale, winked at motorists from a billboard towering above.

Most of the storage units held the furniture, dishes and clothing of the newly divorced and sailors at sea. Others contained sports equipment, camping gear, boats and RVs.

His unit housed medieval instruments of torture.

It was noon. He heard a jet pass overhead on final approach to Lindbergh Field. More pasty tourists had come to squeeze through turnstiles at the San Diego Zoo, splash in the surf and soak up the Southern California sun.

They could keep it all. He liked to play indoors.

“Dark theaters are prepared for dark deeds,” he intoned, quoting the motto etched on European torture chamber walls during the Middle Ages.

He popped a CD into the boombox—A Collection of Gregorian Chants. The medieval music filled the room, melting the tension in his neck.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover, although it makes me lean more toward horror than mystery/thriller. But after reading the description of the book, I imagine the cover goes quite well with the book. My only concern would be that the cover is giving the reader the wrong impression when they glance at it, and I'm not sure it's working to draw in the people that love mysteries and thrillers. Before changing it, I would get more opinions on it, though, because I really do like it.

The description is good. I think it does a good job with drawing the reader in, and making them want to read more. We'll see what others say, but for me it was a 'win.'

For me, the beginning of the book was the weakest link. I thought the humor of the cheap misspelled candles from ebay didn't go with the vibe of the psychopath. I also felt like the writing could be tightened up a bit. My biggest suggestion here would be to get a few critiques and tighten up the beginning of the book. If I were reading this sample, I would not buy the book.

What do you guys think?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Through the Portal

Author: Justin Dennis
Genre: YA Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 3 Months
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Active on Kindleboards, sent out hundreds of emails for requests for reviews to book blogs.
Total sold so far: 17
Link to book on Amazon: Through the Portal (Book One in the Through the Portal Trilogy)

Product Description: 

What's the worst part of falling through a portal to another world and not being able to get back? When the first person you meet almost gets you killed by a ferocious, fire-breathing dragon. Luckily, Jem and Oliver, two boys who were about to start their first year in high school, are saved by Sierra, a farm girl who is itching to get out of her small town. Together, the three of them set off on a quest to defeat the evil Veroci Regime that is stealing all the magic from the world, but can they do it before the Dragon catches up with them?

Through the Portal is the first book in a planned trilogy.
Approx. 104,000 words

First 300 Words:

Jem wasn’t the type of kid who went on adventures; Oliver was. And as they sat in their last day of summer school, on a blazing hot mid-August day, Oliver was dreaming up what he thought would be his best adventure yet. It was one o’clock in the afternoon… that meant that in twelve hours he could start his plan, after everyone was sound asleep… yeah!  This was going to work… he just had to—

“Oliver!” called the teacher, a small, chubby man who was sweating profusely in his striped dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. “Would you like to answer the question?”

Oliver snapped out of his daydream. “Uh, not really…” he muttered under his breath.

“What was that?” asked the teacher.

“Yeah, sure,” sputtered Oliver, fumbling randomly with the papers on his desk. “What’s the question?”

Snickering broke out across the crowded classroom—apparently everyone found it funny that he hadn’t even heard the question. That is ... everyone except for the boy who was a row to Oliver’s left, and three rows closer to the front. That was Jem, and he wasn’t about to laugh at Oliver.

“The question, Mr. Pautelle, was: On what date did Benito Mussolini die?”

“Benito Mussolini…” said Oliver, looking everywhere but at the teacher. “That was the Italian Hitler, right?”

This got a couple of laughs throughout the classroom.

“If you must be crude about it,” replied the teacher, obviously running out of patience. “He was the Fascist leader of Italy during World War Two, and his country was allied with Hitler’s Nazi Germany.”

“Right, right…” said Oliver, now looking at Jem for help, but he hadn’t even turned around. “So no funny-lookin’ square moustache?”

More laughter.

“Answer the question, Oliver.”

Then his eye caught the bottom of Jem’s shoe, which was visible since Jem had his right foot slightly out to the side and was on his toes. Sharpie was roughly scribbled over the white rubber bottom of his shoe: 28 APR 45.

“April 28th, 1945,” said Oliver coolly.

Vicki's Comments: My first thought after looking at the cover was, "What? Dragons in space?" An interesting concept but I'm guessing that's not really what the book is about. I think there is some genre confusion on the cover. I see that it's listed as a fantasy novel. Most fantasy novels don't have a space shot on the front. I would definitely rework the cover image. Having a dragon on the cover is great, but I would not put him in space, that gives the reader a Science Fiction feeling. And with both you're probably turning away Sci-fi fans who don't particularly want to read about dragons, and turning away Fantasy fans who don't particularly want to read about outer space.

The description is okay, but kind of generic. I've read a lot of fantasy blurbs about young people going on quests to save the world from some evil person destroying that world. I would like to know what's different about this book. I don't think it would take much to spice it up a bit.

I liked the beginning of the book. My only complaint? There seem to be a lot of…periods of…ellipsis. In the first 300 words there are 7 of them. That's one every 42 words. If they're that rampant in the rest of the book I'd stop reading, it would drive me crazy. That's my only complaint, and I readily admit it's a nit pick.

I think a new cover and blurb would really help this book. What do you guys think?