New Book Trailer from Sherrilyn Kenyon

May 28, 2010 at 5:34 am (Feature, New Release) (, , , , , , , , , , )

While I seem to be stuck on vampires I was emailed this trailer about Sherrilyn Kenyon’s new young adult series “Chronicles of Nick” and I’m happy to share this video with you all because it looks kind of amazing (as did Sherrilyn’s last trailer).

And isn’t the cover really something? Sorry – I have this thing about lighting effects on covers and this one is kind of incredible. What do you think?

Oh and before you get dazzled watching the trailer below, if you have a book coming out or already released that you like for me to feature, please just send me the details.  I’ve been reading a few blogs recently where people have been announcing good news with their writing.

Have fun watching.

In addition to the very cool trailer you can click here to read more about the book.

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Vampire Fiction – Again

May 25, 2010 at 6:37 am (Feature, fiction) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve been reading a little bit lately.  actually I’ve read more books this last week than I had the entire month previous so I should probably amend that statement. Most recently I’ve been reading YA lit, mostly because I’ve been trying to evaluate texts for use in  the classroom.  This means I’ve been reading a wide range of genres and styles and there are some really strange books out there (also some brilliant ones).

One book that I originally cringed at the thought of reading was Tamara Summers “Never Bite a Boy on the First Date”.  I immediately assumed it would be a bad retelling of Twilight and I’d spend a week reading a single page at a time before finally deciding I just couldn’t read anymore. Yet the cover kind of intrigued me.

Despite my trepidation, I bought this book.  Why? Because I read the first page. Not the prologue but the first page of chapter one. And I nearly fell over laughing while standing in the book store. Not because it was bad, but because it was really quite amusing and the narrator used understatement so well I just couldn’t help but laugh. Once I recovered from my fit of giggles, I read a few more pages and then I bought the book.

It is a very modern vampire story. The narrator is a sixteen year old, newly made vampire, with an interesting personality that is well expressed in her green hair, multiple-piercings and her general ability to forget about the murdered corpse lying on the steps of the school when distracted by a guy with a cute smile.

There were definitely moments where the narration intruded on the story and they were my least favourite moments. Sometimes you just want her to get on with the story and to stop being so delighted with her own cleverness but other times it works really well.

My favourite line: “But he seemed so… non-murdery He was all ice cream and puppies and sexy-swimmer’s arms.”

I’m still on the fence about whether I love this book or not because I know there were definite moments where I really was annoyed at the story but I’ve finished it with a smile on my face. I guess it goes to show you won’t know what lies inside a book until you try it.

Have you ever had a book that has turned out to be surprisingly good?

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First Impressions

December 26, 2009 at 5:30 am (hooks, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

First of all, I hope everyone had a good Christmas.  Now, to the post.

When you meet someone for the first time you make an instant judgement.  Sometimes that judgement is fair but usually it is usually superficial and misleading, but we still make an initial judgement.

We do that with books as well.  We look at the cover art, the title and the blurb and we make an instant judgement so that by the time we are actually sitting down to read the book we have more or less made up our minds as to whether or not we think it is going to be any good.

That’s why the first chapter of the story is so incredibly important.  It is also why the first line and the first page have to be spot on.

You could make the argument that some stories just start slow and get more interesting as they go on but most readers would agree that if the book hasn’t grabbed them in that first chapter it is unlikely that they are going to invest anymore time in it.

Look at it this way – you meet someone for the first time and you make a judgement about them that isn’t favourable but then you start talking.  They turn out to be really interesting and funny and they have something to say and so you keep talking to them or you organise a time to meet again.  The cover art and the title and the blurb may leave someone hesitant about reading the book but they decide to give it a go anyway (maybe they are bored or they’re waiting for their friend to finish browsing the book shop).  They pick up the book and read the first page.  You want them to be hooked so that when the shop owner glares at them for reading something they haven’t paid for, or their friend comes back, they buy the book and finish reading it.

So how do you write this brilliant opening? I’m still working on that but I have read a lot of advice about it.  More importantly, I think about the books I read and what has made me keep read them.  When I go to book fairs I usually grab a whole stack of books and then I stand and read the first page of each one.  If I find my fingers tweaking to turn the page I know I’m buying the book.  If I am curious about what is going to happen next, I buy the book.  If I read the first page and still haven’t been given a single reason to read on, the book goes back on the shelf.

As a reader what grabs my attention?

- Meeting a character while they are doing something.  I like character driven stories so I want to meet one of the characters as soon as possible but I don’t want them to just be described to me.  I want to see them doing something and draw my own conclusions about the character from what they do and how they do it.

- Peculiarities.  I really like reading something that is just a bit odd and makes me think, what the.  I then have to read the rest of the book to find out the why and how.  Generally I don’t try to write these openings but I love reading them.  For example, George Orwell’s ‘1984’ had the clocks striking thirteen and instantly you wondered what was going on and you were hooked into this world he had constructed.  Or at least I did.

- Really strong visuals.  This is mostly in fantasy/horror where the first page or so is usually written about the ancient evil that is awakening or seeking a way to cause havoc and these are really cliché openings for the most part but when they get it right they can be really powerful.  A good strong visual of the evil that is going to come forward later so that as we flick to the group who are going to end up battling the evil the contrast is clear, sets up a reasonably good, if predictable, story.

What don’t I like?

- Long descriptions of setting.  If I get to the end of the first page and so far all I’ve read is description, I’m going to pass.

- Bad writing.  Not necessarily grammatically bad, particularly if the story is written in first person, but bad as in slow and clunky and awkward.  If it is painful to read and has no flow I am not going to read beyond the first page.

- Dialogue between two characters that painstakingly explains the back story.  Possibly this is better than a prologue, particularly if the dialogue is well written and interesting, and possibly if it also manages to reveal something about the characters who are talking, but for the most part I’m going to pass on this story.

What do you like when you read a book?  What annoys you?  What is the best opening you have ever read?  Looking forward to hearing your ideas.

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Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

November 13, 2009 at 5:30 am (Cover Art, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , )

We’re always told not to judge a book by its cover.  We’re told to look beyond the surface, to save making harsh and immediate judgements, to give things a fair chance and part of us understands that this is good advice.  The other part of us realises that even if we try to keep an open mind, those original judgements and the gut instincts will very much colour how we view and perceive everything that follows.

For instance, I have a book on my desk at the moment by Camille Bacon-Smith called “Eye of the Daemon”.  I found this at a bookfest a couple of years ago and nearly didn’t buy it.  Given the price on this book was less than two dollars and I buy lots of books, even those I’m dubious about, it seems odd that I was so hesitant about this one.

Its a fantasy, found in the fantasy and sci-fi section, which shouldn’t surprise me but it did.  It is a amazing how many books get mis-classified at sales.  It had a DAW trademark  and I’d collected quite a few other titles with this trademark and had enjoyed them thoroughly.  The blurb read well, particularly the opening line which was a quote from the book – “Cases Involving the Occult Handled With Discretion” – though it was written in all caps and orange print.  The cover was a little beaten up, the pages slightly yellowed and it had picked up one or two minor stains, but overall it was in reasonable condition.  No pages missing or ripped, nothing that would interfere with reading.  I shouldn’t have been thinking so hard about whether to buy this book.

You probably already noticed my first problem.  The use of colour.  The cover is grey on the front, black on the back, and shades of orange and yellow to emphasise bits of writing and the scowling, evil looking face on the cover.  I really don’t like orange.  I’m told it is meant to be a bright, optimistic colour, but orange just reminds me of rotting pumpkins and I naturally turn away from things that use it.  The same is true when picking a DVD to watch.  The one with orange writing is glanced at and dismissed more often than not – not because I don’t like the movie but because my mind just skips over the orange.

My second problem was the face itself.  The face is truly evil looking, uncomfortably so.  It is made up of the unfilled space on the front cover.  The rest of the cover is filled with grey and silver demons, gargoyles and other unnatural creatures, leaving only the cheeks, chin and forehead of the face free of clutter.  Now, I will agree this sets an atmosphere but if I have to turn the book upside down just to have it sitting on the desk with me, it probably isn’t going to be a winner.

Despite my misgivings, I bought the book.  I very much enjoyed the story though the face on the front seems really incongruent given the rest of the content.  The book is full of interesting characters and several fascinating observations of humans and are perceptions of life, and it tells a strong, tightly wound story.  I’m glad I read it but I nearly didn’t.

It must be really hard to design a cover for a book that tells the reader something about the story, entices them to read it, sets the mood, has mass appeal, etc, etc.  It really must be a hard thing to do and yet given I like books and I still judge them by what I see, it is hard to imagine someone only mildly fond of reading ever giving a book a second chance.

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