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?


  1. The cover is so dark, I initially thought horror. Once I stared at it for a while, I noticed the cabin. In a thumbnail, that cabin wouldn't be noticeable at all. I think if the cabin is brought forward with maybe dark clouds swirling around it, it might be more effective. In fact, I think the cover is the main problem.

    It was confusing for the blurb to be about Jason, and then halfway through the first 300, I find the opening is about Brian. That immediately threw me out of the story. Is the place where Brian saw the blood the same place where Jason runs in to Molly? If what happened to Molly was a week ago according to Brian, how did she end up back at the cabin?

    See ... confusing.

  2. Very confusing. Too confusing. I can't figure out who the main character is and I'm not even totally sure of the genre.

    As Vicki said, this doesn't intrigue the potential reader but puts them off. You need to give more. Is Brian the main character? Sometimes mysteries and suspense start with another character, but it can be confusing but since you've already confused me with the blurb, this probably isn't good. I would at least consider cutting this, moving it or doing something to make it less confusing.

    I agree with the points about the cover. It is too dark and I'd like to see a bit more hint here about the genre too. Suspense? Paranormal? Horror?

  3. Agree with everything Victorine says.

    Cover is too dark and shows up on my screen (especially in thumbnail) as a blob of grey with an orange circle on it, that may or may not be the Moon. Or the Sun. Maybe. I can't make out the cabin at all.

    The blurb is trying way too hard not to give anything away about the story and in the process doesn't say anything interesting either. If I look at this, I want to know if this is a supernatural story or some action and/or family drama. Who is Molly? A random runaway? A family member? There is no coherence between the first paragraph and the second.

    Ditto the start of the novel. I'm going: blood? *Interesting* and then the text proceeds to waffle about the cabin ignoring the fact that there is obviously a dead body somewhere. Or something. Confusing. Annoyingly coy. If you're going to have a dead body in the first sentence, you'd better have it in the second sentence as well. And pretty much throughout the first chapter.

    Ah. I see. This is all backstory. Obviously, the character is somewhere else thinking about something that happened in the past, and if this scene is so important, you should cover it in real time.

  4. I have no major comments on the cover. I've never understood what makes a good thriller/suspense cover, but this I can identify as something scary inside. :) I might work on the font a little. It's a big generic.

    I like the product description, for the most part. I do have a bit of trouble with the second paragraph though. The two sentences don't quite go together. I wonder what being lost and alone in the woods has to do with needing a way out? Someone finds you and you're not lost any more. You call the police and everything's good. It's almost as if an important sentence is missing.

    The first 300 words. This is a subjective pet-peeve of mine. I'm guessing others feel differently. I really dislike books which leave the readers in the dark. This book had that kind of tone to it. I have no idea what's happening in the beginning, and it gives me the impression the rest of the book might be like that. I want to know what the main character knows (or whomever point of view I'm in). One thing to keep in mind: You don't have to keep the reader ignorant in order to create suspense. Suspense is something which should come natural… if it's forced, it's not suspenseful, it's just frustrating (in my opinion).

    For the life of me I can't remember what these words are "feel," "smell," "watched," "looked," "stared," "knew," etc, but there are a lot of them in this sample. I think it's called passive writing, but I can't remember. I do know it's a lot more telly than showy. You might consider toning that down a little. But then again, that might just be a nitpick thing writers notice because it's been hammered and readers might overlook.

    Overall, if I were into thrillers, I might pick up this book since the cover looks like a thriller. I might overlook the ambiguity of the product description because parts of it sound interesting. However, I'd likely stop at the first 300 words because not knowing what the MC knows would irritate me.

    Side note: I also agree with others say about the main character. It is a bit offsetting having the blurb about one person but introducing a stray individual.

  5. On one hand, I really like the cover (in this post). It screams old school Penguin classic literature and the moon sort of looks like a Newberry medal. "But" I don't think that's your target market, so it's a little misleading.

    I also took a look at the Amazon link. I'm not as attracted to the current cover. Because of your genre, I'd suggest zooming into the window and having the reflection of woods in it, with maybe a crack or some blood. I guess what I'm trying to say is "more up close and personal".

    I'm a little confused by the blurb since it's not the same on Amazon. The Amazon blurb covers more ground. However--my gut feeling is that it's a disconnect between who your reader really is and who the blurb is targeted to. It's downplayed, but I strongly feel that the hero's faith is an integral part of the storyline. Inspirationals are an evolving field. It used to be that elements of paranormal/occult weren't okay, but there's a growing movement toward cross genre work, like thriller/inspy, hard-boiled/inspy, fantasy/inspy, paranormal/inspy. I would suggest slanting and marketing your work toward the same people who'd attend Wednesday bible study and buy books from Multnomah and Revell. Maybe check out some of their free offerings on cheap daily reads or their websites and look at how they word their blurbs and create their covers. It's not heavy evangelizing anymore. And it's a growing market.

  6. Jodi, to clarify, I took some of the advice above and have already reverted back to my original blurb (with some minor changes). Without taking another picture of another cabin I won't have the ability to do much other than add effects, masks, etc.

    I have already hired another photographer to do just that, but I want to wait until I have released a few more titles. Then, I will change the cover altogether, put it on Select again and use it to push readers to my other titles. But, that is a year or more away. I want to sell more units of this NOW.

    As far as the cover, I used a "less generic" font, made the cover less dark, and lightened the outline of the title and the font of my name. I took the moon away entirely, although it is an important thematic element in the book.

    I kept the black bar at the bottom because as I researched the genre, I saw this repeated (although it is often blended better with the photo or art than what I can manage with my limited graphic capabilities)by some of the best selling novels in my genre. It was one feature I was sure I could duplicate, and it was reflective of the content.

    I agree with much of what is said here about the blurb before I changed it back. Too elusive-sounding. Brian is a tertiary character, but I begin with him to set a tone. Yeah, there is some foreshadowing and since I wanted to sort of be "in his head," there is some repetitive or recurring thoughts. My design there is to be indicative of his condition, sort of a cognitive Benjy Compton, if you will.

    Ultimately, I hesitate telling too much of the story in the blurb because at its core, this story is about a family that worships the occult. More specifically, vampirism. Blood cults. And, Molly, the daughter, worships the moon and wants raise a wolf as a companion.

    I didn't want to scream "VAMPIRES!" because of the both the negative and positive reactions that they provoke. First, my vampires don't shine, practice S&M, or live in a coffin. They are modern vampire cult worshipers. Second, I don't want people to say "Oh, ANOTHER vampire novel." Because, even though central to the plot, the vampirism itself is not something on which I dwell. It is merely setting, motive, and back story.

    With all that said in my defense, I want to express how much I appreciate the input. I enjoy this site and the contributors' helpfulness. I want to thank Victorine for her vision and compassion to help other authors who are struggling.

    I hope the changes I make will make a difference. I think that as is often the case of other books I see here, I am a little fish in a huge sea of choices for readers and it is a matter of time/exposure before this title sees the audience it deserves.

  7. lol, I could tell it was about vampires. It's one of your tags. :) Nothing to defend, Robert. I wish you well. And Victorine seems like a very nice person. She's got a lot of good info.

    Good luck with your title and I hope you have many sales to come.

  8. Oh, and Jodi, good catch on the target audience. I really tried to tap my inner Ted Dekker on this story.

  9. JMVHO, but tip-toeing around the word 'vampires' may actually be working against you. Reading the blurb you currently have up on Amazon (not the one posted here), it reads like it's yet another vampire novel--exactly what you're trying to avoid. I think making it clear these people are "modern vampire cult worshippers" would make it stand out.

    Hope that helps!

  10. I agree with Rachel. Market this as a "vampire cult" novel. That'll distinguish it enough.


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