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!


  1. Ah, I see the soldier now, after Gina pointed it out. But I didn't know what was on the cover before that. I agree with Gina, I would work on the cover. I would get some other eyes on the blurb. Blurbs are very hard to write, and drawing the reader in making them want to pick up the book can be difficult. The writing itself I thought was good. The "Lawrence running" part was confusing to me too. I liked that the book is done with journal entries. I think it could be a powerful book. Maybe get some critiques or have an editor look it over?

  2. I had to really stare at the cover to find the soldier, who I thought was a construction worker. I certainly didn't get historical fiction/sci-fi out of it. Using a color block for the title obscures a lot of the cover. It's just too subtle. I think the cover needs to go in a different direction.

    From the blurb:

    And Mathematics is struggling to keep up.

    Why? It's just kind of thrown in there.

    Lawrence running, also threw me since I thought it was Lawrence's journal and I had to go back to check the beginning.

    Gina, the British spell certain things differently than we do, so I don't think he's really made any spelling errors.

    I liked the beginning up until I got thrown out of the story by Lawrence running instead of "I ran" or "the old Lawrence ran" or something like that.

    I think this has a lot of potential with a better cover and a tighter blurb.

  3. I agree with the above comments. There is a lot of good content here, but it needs help.

    Cover - Too vague, with too many subtle details, and just too many elements all at once. Pick one image to grab the reader's attention.

    Description - All over the place. I know this is a tricky exercise. Give the reader a clear understanding of who the book is about, what the main character does, and why this is a unique or compelling story.

    Opening - This should appeal strongly to a certain niche of readers who like classical, literary, epistolary books.

    Best of luck!

  4. I'm jumping on the bandwagon here. The cover has the elements but needs more oomph.

    I assumed (shame on me?) upon seeing Lawrence, British Army and 1914 that we were talking about T.E. Lawrence. Perhaps we are? In a way? The accident was a swap? A cross portal? A twin in his place? I'm not certain, but I'm intrigued. That would also explain the third person reference to Lawrence, but... if I were an "off the street" reader, I would be confused and perhaps not in a good way. I agree that perhaps a few outside eyes to help edit could do wonders. I have the feeling there's a wonderful book lurking in there.

  5. I was curious so read a few Amazon UK reviews and went the authors website. Now, I understand. I think. :) Fwiw, I think the description on the author's site with a few tweaks would be much better than the current one.

    For anyone interested:

    I've always wanted to write about synesthesia, but never had the courage.

  6. Can I thank everyone who has commented on this. I'm certainly getting the message both about the cover and the blurb. I guess I'm probably more susceptible to the tantalising in both cover and description and attracted by the unusual. I had it mentioned to me at a seminar a while back that one shouldn't make covers too different and keep the blurb informative. Perhaps I thought I knew better!
    The last paragraph in the opening is designed to jar. Lawrence is almost literally losing himself. As the story progresses, his tendency to refer to himself in the third person is noted by other observers.
    Again, I thank you for pointing out that I may not have done enough for the reader here.

  7. Russell, I see what you're saying about Lawrence referring to himself in the third person. It just might be too soon in the book to use it. I would wait until after someone else says something about it before using the reference in his journal.

    Now that I understand that, you can make it 24 sales. :)

  8. After reading the description, I feel like I want some more hints about what's going on. I want some assurance it's going to be science-fiction and go somewhere interesting, not turn out to be some self-indulgent philosophising literary-fiction. The opening got me wanting to read more though.


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