Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dark Mountain

Author: Robert Michael
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
How long it's been on sale: April, 2012
Current price: $3.99
Marketing:  Kindle Select, 3 free days Facebook, Goodreads, Goodreads giveaway, Kindle Daily Deal, Twitter, press releases to local newspapers, author website, author blog
Total sold so far:  24 (plus, 1 borrow and 20 hard copies sold)
Link to book on Amazon: Dark Mountain

Product Description:

Jacob Barclay initially took the long hike through the remote Arkansas mountains as an escape. What began as a test of his survival skills takes a turn as he discovers a cabin with a dark secret.

Molly Corothers, a teenager, is lost and alone in the woods. She finds in Jacob a way out, a guardian angel.

Jacob can tell that Molly is hiding something from him, despite suffering from atrocities that most adults would have found unbearable. Jacob learns to trust Molly and finds that sometimes evil runs in the family.

First 300 Words:

The blood was what bothered Brian the most.  His emotions were torn between desire and repulsion.  He lay in his bed flat on his back staring at the ceiling.  The darkness was a comfort.  It calmed him. He could feel his body pressing into the lumpy mattress beneath him.  He could make out his posters eating up dark holes on the dingy white walls of his bedroom.

He regretted going to see Molly at the cabin.  It didn’t help matters at all.  In fact, he felt more confused now than ever.  If he hadn’t held his sister in his arms this afternoon things would have been different.  If he hadn’t tried to console her and listen as she spun her tale maybe he wouldn’t be here wondering whether he should cry, scream, or kill someone. He was ashamed to even think about it.

He lay there biting his lip and wondered why he was so screwed up.  Why is my family so screwed up?  He knew that many of his friends felt the same way about their families.  They had no idea.

He couldn’t stop thinking about the blood.  He didn’t know what to do with it.  As Molly recounted what she had seen that night almost a week ago, he couldn’t help but think about the blood.  He had seen the room.  He had just stood there, transfixed.  It was the color of red clay mud.  It was smeared everywhere and flies careened drunkenly around the room. The room smelled awful.  But it didn’t matter.  He couldn’t take his eyes off of all the blood.

The ceiling in his room had turned a sickly yellow over the last few years.  His father, Victor, rarely did anything around the house and so painting was a low priority.  But, as Brian stared, the ceiling turned a dark brown.  As he watched, mesmerized by his mind’s own creation, the ceiling developed large cracks.  Out of these cracks blood oozed forth, running in large, corpulent droplets across the ceiling.

Comments: The cover is dark. I realize you probably made it dark on purpose, to show the thriller/suspense aspect of the book, and I do think it helps with that. I'm just afraid that it's too dark. I'd love to see the photo have more contrast. Most photo manipulation software will allow you to increase the contrast. I think that might help. I'd also look at the black on the bottom, not sure if that's working really well. Maybe I'd like it better of the photo faded to black. I like the title font, but I'm not sure the outline is working. With a few tweaks, though, I think this cover could work.

The description suffers from evasivitis. (Yes, I did just make that word up.) You're leaving out the best parts of the hook and being too evasive. The cabin has a dark secret. Is it ghosts? (Which would make the book paranormal, and thus be a key element in selling the book.) Is a homicidal murderer hiding out there? (Which would up the suspense and be a key element in selling the book.) Is the cabin cursed? (Which would again turn us toward a paranormal aspect, and be a key element in selling the book.) Do you see where I'm going with this? Don't hide the key element in selling the book. It doesn't make the book mysterious and desirable. It makes it less desirable because the reader doesn't know what kind of book they are getting. I'm also confused about Molly. I'd like to know a bit more about her involvement in the story. As it reads, she doesn't tie in to the cabin, which confuses the description.

To me, the start of the novel falls a bit flat. I'm not sure what's going on. I'm guessing that Brian's sister, Holly, is being kept in the cabin because she's a murderer, maybe? Not sure that fits with the description, though. I'd also like to see the writing tightened up a bit. There were some areas of repetition that could be eliminated. "He couldn't stop thinking about the blood." And then, "...he couldn't help but think about the blood." And then, "He couldn't take his eyes off all the blood." I would suggest a writer's critique group. They can help figure out what to trim to make this a stronger opening.

For me, the cover is the strongest link in the chain, but could be better. The description and the book can be tightened up to make this book much better. I do think this book can sell. I like many things about it. I am attracted to thrillers, and I do think this book can become a good seller. It just needs a bit more work.

What do you guys think?

Monday, August 20, 2012

CheckOut 27

Author: Andrew M Gallagher
Genre: Humor
How long it's been on sale: Feb 29, 2012
Current price: $3.00
Marketing: Website, Profiles on Shelfari and Librarything, added to Askdavid website, facebook ads, KDP Select free, gave away 557 copies.
Total sold so far: 0
Link to book on Amazon: CheckOut 27

Product Description:

Temptation is stood in everyone's path so they tell us. Most people brush past but some stop for a chat and then some attempt suicide.

Peter Digby is Manager of Taylors supermarket, part of a national chain. When he is handed the chance to make money without actually putting his hand in the till he surprises himself and takes it. It maybe classed as white collar crime but the drawbacks are frustrating and difficult to handle. Having the money becomes a bigger headache running two homes two cars and two lives. His work colleagues friends and even family are unaware of his rich alternate lifestyle so what is the point? It is like winning the lottery but losing your ticket.

Peter's life is full of choices. Strange ones are employing the most incompetent security firm around, Beaver Patrol. Embarrassing ones are ringing prospective dates up based on your friend's advice. Your assistant manager is hard working but so timid he bears the brunt of all jokes. The checkout girls show little mercy and yet he puts up with it.

Clearly his world is a balancing act so why complicate it by getting involved with an auditor sent to check up on you? Horse Racing, Velcro, Women dressed as school girls and the possibility she could earn £1000 for a couple of hours are some of the reasons.

Can he get out and cover his trail completely?

First 300 Words:

I remember reading about cases where people have been hit by a vehicle and literally knocked out of their socks. The sudden impact and tensing of the muscles caused them to lift straight out. I still had socks on when I reached the hospital. In that final moment the self preservation gene we must all have stepped forward.  I turned away in a futile attempt to save myself but heard the crack as my right leg broke. With the impact my body rolled across the car bonnet directing my shoulder to smash the windscreen with my head following behind it. After that I rely on Police reports and medical records with some eye-witness statements thrown in for dramatic effect. The eye witnesses are far more descriptive. ‘I was certain he was dead but I saw some blood coming from a gash in his head and my friend said you don’t bleed once your dead’ but my favourite, ‘I started to clap it looked like they were filming a TV programme then I saw the blood and thought it’s too realistic for the tele, so I stopped clapping’

In the supermarket the whole event had developed slowly, at first nobody took any notice as I walked across the parking area towards the road. A line of 27 checkouts with people queuing at each one all looking around but not through the large glass frontage, no one sees the dead man walking. But then as I stepped off the pavement out in to the road and turned to face the single oncoming car one child’s voice spoke out. “That’s naughty mummy” The queues either side looked over to the voice bored with the conveyer belts ahead of them. Trying to work out what sort of person you are stood behind from the contents of their trolley. What can you work out about the man who buys Tea Bags (the cheap supermarket brands) Always Tampons, Jelly Babies, dried pasta, vanilla flavoured yogurt, a pair of black socks and the Daily Mail?

A henpecked husband or a future serial killer?

The number of heads which first looked to the child and then following his pointed finger to the man in the road increased as the seconds ticked by. From almost no one to the complete shopping queues of 27 checkouts, faces searching across the car park to this single man in the road. Speculation in their eyes, was he some sort of workman stood checking the road, a plain clothes Policeman stopping cars but before anyone got close to the answer the car hit. Looking back towards the supermarket it appeared to be a goldfish bowl, a hundred silent faces behind the glass gasping in horror. The mother grabbed her son covering his eyes from the circus style juggling act of arms and legs tossed upwards to the sky bouncing off the bonnet into the windscreen.

Comments: At first glance I thought this was a non-fiction book about coupons and shopping. The cover does not look like a novel. I'm not quite sure what it is, maybe the way the photos are placed on there, but it says non-fiction to me. Maybe go look at some successful ebook covers of other humor books, and see how they look and try to emulate them. I'd definitely suggest a new cover.

There's a grammatical error in the first sentence of the description. (Temptation has stood...not temptation is stood. Or I suppose it can be: Temptation is standing...the tenses just need to match up.) Having an error in the first sentence of the description will turn off most readers. It makes them think the whole book will have errors. Definitely fix that.

I don't understand the second sentence. I mean, I understand brushing past temptation, and I understand stopping for a chat, but I don't understand the suicide reference. You're starting out with an analogy as if temptation were a person on the sidewalk. Some will walk past, some will stop to chat...then the next step in my mind would be hugging or making out with temptation. The suicide doesn't make sense in the analogy to me. I could just be dense, though. I do have my blonde moments.

The rest of the description confuses me too. Sorry. There are other grammatical errors (maybe should be may be) and other parts that just don't flow well or make a lot of sense. I'd suggest joining a critique group and getting some advice on making the description better.

Starting with the main character getting hit by a car is good. Something is happening. I liked that. The problem is that there are more grammatical errors, and places where I got confused again. I think this story sounds interesting, but I don't think it's quite ready. I would suggest a critique group to get the basic things ironed out, then an editor for the grammar and punctuation errors. This book has potential. Don't try to send it out there too early.

What do you guys think?

Friday, August 17, 2012

How to be a Police: Get a Badge & Gun Today

Author: Steven Starklight
Genre: Non-Fiction
How long it's been on sale: May, 2012
Current price: $9.99
Marketing: Posted references and links to the book on FB, e-mailed links to friends, referenced the book in blog comments on various criminal justice blogs, e-mailed inquiries to various criminal justice degree program chairs asking if they would like a free copy.

Total sold so far: 0

Link to book on Amazon: How to be a Police: Get a Badge & Gun Today

Product Description:

The Ultimate Reference & Learning Guide for Aspiring Cops

Law enforcement is not only one of the most satisfying careers, you can make a good living at it, too. With How to be a Police you will understand what you need to know so your application is current and competitive. Use this guide to prepare for a job interview or to brush up on the newest trends in law enforcement. This guide will explain many common applicant errors, standard operating procedures for hiring into the academy. More than just “stories,” this guide explains law enforcement employment from the perspective of somebody who has taken on every role in the field.

Key topics include:

* What criminal records will disqualify you from service – which won’t.
* Do you need a college education?
* Do I really need to get in shape before applying?
* What job experience makes you more attractive to a department?

Steven Starklight is a twenty year veteran to law enforcement, with extensive experience spanning coast to coast and overseas. He has served as a police officer, deputy sheriff, police legal adviser, assistant district attorney and most recently, as a special agent of the FBI. He is a recognized expert and has provided instruction in the fields of Criminal Law, Evidence, and Police Ethics. He has spoken at numerous venues regarding various law enforcement matters and has earned numerous accolades for his work.

Steven has advanced degrees in Philosophy and Law and has written several books on law enforcement and several fictional titles being prepared for publication. His writings have been published in at least one law review and cited by many others.

Mr. Starklight has settled on the west coast and is married with two children. He enjoys spending time with his family, writing, and putting perpetrators in jail.

First 300 Words:

My goal with this book is to guide you through the process of getting a job as a law enforcement officer. First and foremost, let’s get one definition out of the way. When I say law enforcement officer, or LEO, I mean it to include just about every job that involves a gun and badge: police officer, deputy sheriff, correctional officer, campus police officer, detective, parole agent, probation officer, and anyone else that carries a gun and badge and enforces the law. From this point forward, I will refer to all of these people as LEOs.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself; just enough to demonstrate why I know what I am talking about. My career as a LEO began in January 1993 as a county police officer. Since that time I have also worked as a deputy sheriff, a campus police officer, a district attorney’s investigator, and a special agent with the FBI. I have also prosecuted crimes as an assistant district attorney and worked as the police legal advisor for a major state law enforcement agency. Over the past 20 years I have been through the background process (and been hired) by seven different law enforcement agencies. That’s a lot of applications, polygraphs, reference checks, drug tests; well, you get the picture. During that time I have watched a lot of people wash out of the process for various reasons; some were in poor shape, some had miserable driving records, some lied, some used drugs, some had criminal records. The process is long, difficult and fraught with pitfalls. I will try to identify those pitfalls and help you avoid them.

Those of you that already have the mind of a LEO will probably try to Google my name and try to determine whether I am telling the truth about my career. Every word of it is true except for two: Steven Starklight. Because of the nature of my current work assignment, I cannot use my real name.

Comments: I think the cover is very nicely designed. The biggest problem I see with this cover are the words on it. Not the design, the actual words. How to be a police? Really? You can't be a police. You can call the police. You can be a police officer. You can't be a police. The title makes this book look funny, like it's a joke. But even that's not the worst thing on the cover. "Get a Gun and Badge Today." The sub-title confirms it. This has to be a joke, right? Any real person looking at going into law enforcement isn't going to take this seriously. No one thinks you can read a book and go get a gun and badge the same day. It really cheapens what I think this book is trying to do, which is advise those looking at law enforcement as a career. I really thought this book was a humorous novel until I took a closer look and realized what it was. I would definitely get a new title and cut the sub-title altogether.

The description could be greatly improved. Much of it reads like an author bio. I want to know what the book will teach me, not how many jobs the author has had. (Which, by the way, gives me a little pause. It almost reads like the author couldn't hold a job. Maybe downplay all the different jobs in the author bio, and just say the author has had 20 years of experience in law enforcement.)

My suggestion for the description would be to take out much of the bio, and list more of what the book will teach. Focus on why I should buy the book, not why I should believe the author.

The beginning of the book gives me the same concern as the author bio and description. It really hits hard that the author has had many, many jobs in law enforcement. The author has given a TON of interviews. This makes me wonder why he couldn't hold onto one job. I'd cut the bio stuff, and get to the instructional part. I think the first paragraph is fine. And I wouldn't go into why you can't google the author's name. They're not buying the book because of the author. They are buying the book for tips on the application and interview process for becoming a police officer. It's not rocket science. The author does not need to qualify himself, in my opinion. Sure, tell some stories, but I don't think anyone has to be convinced that the author is telling the truth. That in and of itself makes me think the author is lying. If, at the end, you want to mention something about the pen name, I think that's fine. Don't do it in the beginning. Get right to the book.

Non-fiction books are often priced higher, however, I think $9.99 might be a bit high for this book. It's not long. It gives tips on applying to be a police officer. No one will need to refer to this book over and over like many text books. Think about lowering it a bit.

Now, I don't mean to step on any toes here, but let's look at something. This book has had 0 sales. The book was published on May 21st. There are four reviews on this book, left on May 22, May 23, and two on May 25. Every review left is by someone with a first name only and who have only reviewed either just this book, or books written by Steven Starklight, or someone whose publisher is the same as another Steven Starklight book, and whose language and syntax are very similar. I'm not a police officer, but to me these do not look like real reviews. Please, please, please take down the fake reviews. They do not do you any favors. (And if your friends wrote them, urge them to take them down.)

In summary, I would change the title, get rid of the sub-title, trim the author bio to a minimum. Also, remember the target audience for this book will be small. This is a very specific book, so it won't appeal to a large group of people.

What do you guys think?


Author: Joseph M. Horodyski
Genre: Horror
How long it's been on sale: May 19, 2012
Current price: $9.99
Marketing: Unknown
Total sold so far: 2
Link to book on Amazon: Shadowlawn

Product Description:

There was a secret once kept by the Catholic Church, one long since lost. Before the dawn of modern civilization, mankind worshipped a different set of gods - darker and more primal. It was around these that early man built a whole system of worship and service. It was a time when every dark night brought with it the fear of death and unspeakable danger lurking in every dim recess. With the coming of the world's great religions these gods were pushed aside and forgotten, relegated to the province of myth or of dimly remembered tales told around campfires. While the human race has long forgotten its association with these beings, they have never forgotten us. The doorway is now open - and man is totally unprepared for what is about to come through.

On a lonely windswept isle off the coast of Massachusetts, a group of eight individuals gather one weekend to assess the state of a long disused manor, Shadowlawn, now up for sale. In so doing they accidentally unleash a string of events that paves the way for the return of these beings.  From musty secret passages to dark unholy chapels,  from bone-filled catacombs and lonely windswept sand-duned beaches to a gut-wrenching climax played out in a dank and disused lighthouse, these eight disparate individuals are about to fight mankind's final battle against the ultimate, unspeakable evil. With the help of a benevolent spirit trapped on the island, the secrets of Shadowlawn are laid bare one by one until they finally see the light of day - a day that will ultimately end in either humanity's salvation, or its eternal damnation.

First 300 Words:

If you should happen to find yourself driving up the coast from Boston a short way and come to town of Ipswich on old Rte. 133, and have a little time to spare, take Argyll Rd. that leads east from the town to the Atlantic coast about 6 or 7 miles. Once you hit the water park your car and take a look at the vista before you. To your left, across the bay, you'll see Plum Island State Park, one of the most popular bird sanctuaries and nature reserves on the eastern seaboard, and one made almost entirely of shifting sand dunes and tall saw grass. To your right, the rocky coast that seems to stretch out into the Atlantic like a thumb pointing the way, is Cape Ann, a tourist's and artist's haven, attracting people from all across the globe each summer. That little town off in the distance is Pigeon Cove, at the very end of the Cape. The other side of the Cape shelters such well knew locations as Gloucester and Rockport.

But turn your attention to the peninsula you're on. The very end of it is known as Castle Neck, probably named from an old fort or other defensive structure that used to guard the harbor in colonial days. Look a little closer across the windswept bay to a small spit of land about a mile or two out in the bay. That's known as Seaview Island. If you happened to have a handy set of binoculars on you, you could just about make out a cluster of buildings on the island, but not well enough to see any of the features or architecture that you could appreciate.

Seaview Island was uninhabited through much of its history, until about 1880 when the fledgling Coast guard put up an eighty foot tall lighthouse on one end as a precaution against sailing vessel from coming to close to the rocky coast, especially if a gale or strong nor'easter was blowing in from the Atlantic. About two miles long and only a mile in width, the lighthouse stood on a rocky promontory at the northern end of the island and beamed its welcoming light seaward for over a century. The middle of the island was rocky, hilly, and heavily wooded, not much good for growing things. The southern end of the island was mostly sand and dunes that the winds would play with and form into an ever-changing array of shapes and patterns, the result of eons of ocean waves and currents smashing onto the island, reducing it at that point to fine particles of cream-colored sand.

The lighthouse stood alone until 1905 when it was joined by a 40-room stone structure of arched roofs, turrets, gables, widow's walks known collectively as Shadowlawn Terrace, or just Shadowlawn, as it quickly became known to the locals. Shadowlawn was the brainchild of millionaire inventor Nathaniel Hammond III, who made his fortune in hundreds of patents during that technological boom that took place around the turn of the century when even electricity was a mysterious force to be reckoned with. He had it built to his own specifications with the structure and furnishing imported stone by stone from the best castle ruins scattered across Europe, and included a family mausoleum, an indoor aviary, fountains, arched walkways, and spring fed pool. Hammond meant it to be the future home of his family for generations to come, but his time spent there was neither happy nor brief. Expecting his first child of the latest Hammond generation, he and his pregnant wife went down on the Titanic in 1912 returning from a European vacation and both were lost.

Comments: I like the lighthouse picture. Unfortunately, it doesn't say "Horror" to me at all. The stormy clouds maybe hint at it, but I think the cover needs more to make it look like a horror novel. I want to see some blood on it. Or a dead body. Or a weapon. Something scary. The lighthouse kind of looks peaceful, you know? I'd also suggest a different font. I'm not a big fan of the current one. I'd also get rid of the "A Classic Tale of Modern Horror." This is what the picture on the cover should show. I'd go look at some other horror novels and see what's on the cover, and study how the cover shows the genre. (And don't look at the popular authors, because the name alone will tell the genre. Study some unknown author covers, ones that are selling well.)

The description needs some scissors taken to it. I actually think the first paragraph can be cut altogether. It's all back story. You don't need it in the description. The second paragraph is much better, but can be trimmed up too. I like some of the things in there, I would just edit it to get to the good stuff. If a description is overly wordy, I always assume the book will be as well. Don't give your readers the impression the book needs a pair of scissors. Trim up that description and the book will be much more appealing. I'd also like to know who the main character is.

The beginning of the novel didn't grab me. It was all back story. Things like this are great for the author to know, but I would chop off all the back story from the beginning, and start where the story actually starts. I also see some editing issues, and some wordiness. I might suggest hiring an editor to help with those issues. (Example: Once you hit the water park your car...)

One last thing. $9.99 for the ebook? I wouldn't expect people to pay that much for an unknown author. Lower the price to $3.99 to $2.99 range.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Black Rose

Author: Jennifer Ceballos
Genre: Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: May, 2012
Current price: $3.99
Marketing: Marketing on cards, and word of mouth
Total sold so far: 3 the first month
Link to book on Amazon: Black Rose

Product Description: 

"Anne begins to feel an unusual connection towards David the dashingly handsome doctor that took care of her Mom while she was still alive….her life takes a turn when she begins to have unusual dreams--Anne can’t seem to gather anything from these dreams but when David starts coming around they start to become clearer….Will Anne ever figure out why David has a strange effect on her or will Anne begin to feel like she will go crazy at any moment?

First 300 Words:

Swish! Swish!

“Higher Mommy!” The wind flew through my hair as I swung on my newly made rope swing I could feel my cheeks turn red with excitement. Daddy said it was dangerous for a seven year old to be swinging on a homemade swing, but Mommy came back with, ‘it’s all part of a child’s life to make home made things as parents we shouldn’t interfere with a growing free spirit, and making a homemade swing is all part of little Anne’s spirit.’

“My little Anne any higher and you’ll be touching the heavens!” I giggled in response to that.

“I can’t touch the heavens Mommy, I’m still alive!”

“That’s right sweetie!” Mommy grabbed me before I swung forward.

I could hear Mommy laughing, “You are so smart my little one.”

Before I knew it I was in her arms as her long black hair brushed my cheek, I could smell the sweet fragrance of flowers.

“I’m smart like you Mommy.” as we hugged I planted a kiss on her soft cheek.

“You are smart just like Mommy.” I smiled, I was so happy.

“Are you ready to get back on the swing my little Anne?”

“Yes Mommy!” I was giggling as Mommy put me back on the swing—I waited for her to push me, but there was nothing.

“Mommy?” I turned around and I saw her laying on the ground she wasn’t moving—I quickly got off the swing and knelt down next to her. Her face looked pale a little sweat was gathering on her forehead—I brushed my hand across her cheek it felt warm to the touch I didn’t know if that was normal or not.

“Mommy?” Her eye’s opened a little.

“Go get Daddy sweetie.” Her voice sounded hoarse and I began to feel scared.

Comments: The cover needs some love. The word "Black" is very hard to read. Also, the author's name is difficult to see. I do like some of the things going on with the type, especially the author's name spaced out like that. I think that looks nice, but it's too hard to see, in my opinion. I don't think the black/gray scale concept is working. It also doesn't communicate the genre at all.

I'm not sure why the description has quote marks around it. That's a little distracting to me. I'd cut them. The description itself confuses me and needs editing. The whole thing is one long run-on sentence. Writing a good blurb is difficult. I always have trouble with it. I suggest getting help from other writers. Many times others can really help pin down what the most important things are about your book, and can help write them in a concise and interesting way.

The writing needs some work. I would highly suggest hiring an editor. There are many issues that need fixing. Unfortunately, this book just isn't ready for publication yet. But no worries, with some help, these things can be fixed. I would suggest joining a critique group. is an online critique group, and it really helped me hone my writing skills.

It can be difficult to hear that your book needs work. I understand, it's happened to me. But don't give up. It's not the end of the world. Anything can be fixed. It will take some work, but I'm sure the story here is worth it. It's just a diamond in the rough right now. Take the time to make it shine, and you'll be much more successful.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I Loved You First (Coming of Age Love Story)

Author: Reena Jacobs
Genre: Contemporary New Adult
How long it's been on sale: July 29, 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Marketing has been sporadic, and I haven't marketed much these days. I'm just not sure how to do it effectively. Paid advertising through Adwords and Goodreads. Giveaway through Goodreads. 45-day Blog tour (organized by myself) which included reviews, blog posts, excerpts and giveaways. Review requests. Tweets, Facebook. KDP Select promotion. Playing with the price (anywhere from $0.99 - 6.99). Newsletter. Goodreads events. I've tried two different blurbs. A couple of trailers (though rather dinky). Really I've been all over the place. I'm just not sure where to concentrate my efforts.

Total sold so far: 125

Link to book on Amazon: I Loved You First (Coming of Age Love Story)

Product Description: 

My best friend was more than just a best friend to me. Three words summed it up: I heart him. I'd never tell him though. I wasn't stupid. Besides, what he'd told no one, but me, was a little something I wished I could forget... or ignore. He was gay. I guess gay wouldn't be bad if I wasn't so in love with him. Now it was just cruel.

Stereotypes run amok in this college love story: Parties, alcohol, hookups, and breakups. Alexandria Carmichael may find it a bit much as she deals with the unreturned love from the boy who completes her. When all is revealed, not only does she risk losing her best friend forever, but also herself. Without her childhood companion for support, Alexandria takes a journey of self-discovery but fears what she'll find at the end.


He was all around me, creating a jumble of feelings. I wanted to bolt from the unfamiliar intimacy, while the desire to nestle in the safety of his protective enclosure grew strong. My head became airy like a balloon on the verge of floating away.

I remembered to breathe, but there wasn't enough air between us. Swept in the dizziness of it all, my eyes played tricks on me. He seemed closer than he'd been only a millisecond ago. No illusion. He was leaning toward me.

Closer. Closer. His eyes focused on my mouth, making me self-conscious. I licked my lips, and he paused, his pupils dilating in the bright light.
My heart went into a panicked convulsion. Oh lord. He's going to kiss me.

The soft fleshiness of his mouth brushed against mine, and a tingling started in my stomach. Was this what they meant by butterflies?

First 300 Words:

The music blared throughout the house at full blast-Pretty People by Dexter Freebish. Yep, that pretty much summed it up. They surrounded me. Only thing, I didn't want to be like them. Sometimes I was just so tired of the games the so-called "pretty people" played. Yet here I was, the girl hiding in a corner, decorating a wall.

The party was in full swing. Already people had consumed enough alcohol to loosen inhibitions but not enough to send them puking over the balcony. It'd get there though. I'd been to enough of these parties to know it was only a matter of time.

Through the mass of bodies, I could just make out the guys in the kitchen guzzling beer bongs. A few of the more slutty chicks hung off to the side laughing and cheering them on. Once in a while, one of the braver girls joined in and made a mess of her outfit. The whole thing was stupid, and they'd certainly regret it in the morning.

So why was I here?

The answer pushed through the crowd-my best friend, Seth. BFF since I'd saved him from a beat down in the first grade. Well, actually, I'd bitten the girl's arm who'd bullied him. Nothing like a nip to send a kid crying. I'd gotten in trouble but earned a forever friend in the process. Totally worth it.

Seth chatted to random frat boys as he made his way to me. He was one of the "pretty people." Sandy blond hair, blue eyes, six foot, and a rising star on the baseball team-he was what girls wanted, and he knew it.

I, on the other hand, was just his sidekick. Nearly invisible. I didn't mind so much. It was the same role I'd played in high school. Why should college be any different? He got me into all the good parties I'd preferred to avoid, and I stood by his side as his gossip buddy.

Comments: I like the cover. I think it's well designed, and I like the woman's face. It is lacking a man's face, but since this is labeled "Love Story" instead of "Romance" I'm guessing having a man's face on the cover isn't necessary. It's a bit monochromatic, but I like it, so I don't think I'd suggest a change. The cover works for me. But I would get more opinions on it.

I like that the first paragraph of the description is written in the main character's voice. I'm worried that it reads a bit young, though. "I heart him" seems like something a young teen would say. That could just be me, though. I'd check with some others to see if they feel the same. I like the fact that it sets up the tone for the character, and introduces the conflict.

I'm not sure the second paragraph is working for me. I think I would get some more opinions on it, and try to tweak it. I think it can be better. I think it seems too "telling" after the stronger first paragraph.

I would definitely cut the excerpt from the description. If people want to read a sample, it's super easy to download a sample or click on the book cover to view the inside. It's off-putting to me when an excerpt is in the description. It's almost like the author doesn't think the cover and blurb are strong enough to sell the book so they put an excerpt in because, by golly, if you start reading you won't want to put it down. And if that excerpt is from the middle of the book it makes me think the author doesn't think the beginning is strong enough to hook a reader. I'd cut it and make the description strong enough to sell the book.

I like the voice, but there are some editing issues that tripped me up in the sample. (Example: blast-Pretty and crowd-my.) And a few instances of writing that could be tightened up. (The word "just" is used three times in this small sample.) I'd suggest hiring an editor to smooth out some of those kinks. There's not much going on in the beginning, which could be a problem. It's okay, but the main character is bored at this party, so I feel like I'm bored reading about it. I think it's good to start in a place where there's conflict or action, or something happening. I feel like nothing much is happening, but I'm also the kind of person who would not feel comfortable at a party like this, so I suppose it could just be me.

I suggest reworking the second paragraph of the description, and cutting the excerpt. I would have an editor pass through the book, and maybe get some more opinions on the beginning. I do think the voice is strong, but needs a bit of writing help. Maybe a critique group would be good.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Wind out of Indigo

Author: Callan Primer
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: Dec 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Author blog, one review on a major book blog.
Total sold so far: 31
Link to book on Amazon: A Wind out of Indigo (The Winds of Halflight)

Product Description:

She'd been a king's mistress and a king's spy. Now, with the Summerlands at peace and her royal lover lost to her, all Alice Standish wants is a bit of quiet. But the new queen sees her as the perfect tool to bring down the rebellious warden of Night. Forced to marry him and exiled to the dark side of the planet, she can only come home once she finds evidence that condemns her husband to death.

But Alice is determined to play her own game, and in the haunted, wind-blown marshes of Night, she discovers not only that her new husband is not what she's been told, but there is another, inhuman power on this planet...

... and it has its own plans for her.

First 300 Words:

THE WORM wind was the night wind. Cool and moist and bearing strange scents, it flowed from the east, out of the dark lands, all the way to the steep flanks of Sunbreaker and her children. There it condensed into fog, a heavy, clinging fog that filled the throat and smothered all sound except for the plink of water dripping off eaves.

Alice Standish climbed the mossy steps of Pickaxe Street, not bothering to wipe her face clear of the occasional cold droplet. She was too close to her house and her trusty little stove to bother. Besides, she was used to Finlochen and its fogs, even enjoying the muffled silence they brought.

A doorway flanked with pots of bellflowers took shape in the mist, then faded back into the whiteness as she kept climbing. Her neighbor's house, which meant one more flight of steps to hers. She breathed a sigh of relief.

Something skittered.

Slowly lowering the foot she'd raised to take the next step, she tightened her grip on her shopping basket and peered through the dense whiteness. Finlochen was as safe as any city could be, now that Ned had driven the Usurper out, but a woman alone still needed to be alert, especially in such heavy fog. Murder could be done under your very nose, and all you'd hear would be a distant, muffled cry.

Wondering if she'd only heard the trickle of water in a downspout, she climbed a few more steps, only to hear it again: a skittering noise that stopped when she did. Gently, Alice set her basket down and slid a small dagger out of her sleeve, holding it out of sight in the folds of her skirt.

Tick. Tick. Silence. Tick.

A tiny, hesitant chirp.

With a snort of laughter at her own foolishness, Alice slid the dagger back up her sleeve and waited patiently until the kobbie, no more than a foot tall, its ears laid forward ingratiatingly, inched toward her out of the fog. It had its tail clutched in its hands, and its faceted, golden eyes fixed on her shopping basket with obvious hope.

Comments: The cover almost looks Disney to me. The artwork is good, but it makes the book look younger. And I'm not getting a "steampunk" vibe at all from it. If the book really is steampunk, I would definitely change the cover and put something steampunk on it. If it only has a few steampunk elements, but is mostly a fantasy novel, then don't. Keep the cover looking fantasy, but I might make it look like it is for an adult audience. (Maybe a manipulated photograph instead of artwork?)

The description was a bit confusing to me. First, I would start with the main character's name. Then, what does her being the king's mistress and spy have to do with the story? I'm not sure I get that part. I'm also not sure how she's forced to marry the warden of Night. I feel like there are missing pieces in the description, or maybe that it's trying to cover too much so there are holes.

The first sentence confuses me. What is a worm wind? Is it supposed to be a warm wind? I'm not sure if that's a typo or not. I'm also not sure why she's climbing steps if she's walking in the street. I'm having trouble visualizing this. I would suggest joining a critique group or hiring an editor who can give more than line edits. I think the story needs some work.

What do you guys think?