M. K. Yarborough has sent the things I call an enticement package for Shadow Keeper—the book cover, blurb, first page, and first two chapters. A genre wasn’t specified, but it seems YA to me.
Please help this author--take a look and give constructive feedback with comments and the poll below. I have some thoughts on the cover that I’ll share after that.
Brendon Alexander watched his father die, but has no recollection of the horrific event. His mother won't talk, but his dead grandfather will. While staring into the flames of a campfire, Brendon discovers a gateway to the spirit world. His grandfather appears on a puff of smoke and tells him of the gift he inherited from his father: He has the power to force a demon from an inflicted body and send the creature back to Hell.
Lisa Stratton, the new girl at school, shows up with a few secrets of her own—her father is possessed by a demon. She realizes Brendon is the key to his recovery, but can he help? She flirts with Brendon, hoping to discover if he has the ability to cleanse the evil from her father’s body.
The closer Brendon gets to Lisa, the more he discovers buried secrets from the past. Not hers, but his—his father’s death and the creature that killed him, and the legacy handed down to him from beyond the grave. Burning curiosity and frightening nightmares thrust Brendon deeper into his past while Lisa urges him forward into danger—and into his destiny.
The first page:
After the flash of lightning, I waited for the peal of thunder, but instead, a long pitiful shriek echoed from outside the house. A shiver rippled through me, making my flesh prickle. I threw back the covers and crawled from the bed.
Thunder crashed overhead as I searched for the pullcord in the heavy folds of the curtains. I yanked them open, but only a black void stared back at me. Dark storm clouds blocked all illumination from the stars and moon.
I cracked open the window and pressed my ear against the mesh screen. No shrieking howl, no gusting wind, not even a drop of rain on the patio outside disrupted the silence.
A bolt of lightning streaked across the sky and the night turned bright as day. I squinted to shield my vision from the burst of light, but not before glimpsing a shadowy figure lingering at the edge of our yard near the alfalfa field. A mournful howl ripped through the air and mingled with the clap of thunder. The creature twisted lower to the ground and disappeared into a clump of oak trees.
A cold chill snaked up my back. I blinked my eyes. Was that an animal, or a man scurrying into the cover of the trees? Not certain what I’d witnessed, I scratched at the stubble on my neck while backing away from the window.
“Ow,” I yelped when my foot scrapped against a sharp object. I hopped around on one foot while rubbing at the heel of my other.
“Brendon?” my little brother mumbled from the upper bunk.
“Yeah, Stevie. It’s me. I think I just stepped on your dinosaur.”
“Give it back,” he said in a sleepy voice.
And this is a link to a PDF of the first two chapters.
Good luck, M.K. And to other self-publishers out there, this is a free opportunity to see how well your work entices.
My thoughts on these elements:
Cover: there’s a mood there, the color is vivid, and the silhouette image suggests shadows. However, I think the overall design says “not a professionally published book.” Part of the reason is the font selection and treatment. It mostly serves the purpose, though the author name is too small for me. But the selection, the leading of the lines and the kerning of the characters don’t feel like “pro” to me. In short, this cover, while its color might attract attention, could also give a potential buyer doubts about the quality of the story.
The first page: the writing is sound, though I would have done a little editing—but you know me. The tension started to fade at the end. Because the opening did raise story questions and suggested some kind of encounter ahead, I would have turned the page.
The chapters: again, good writing, but the need for a little editorial coaching showed up. The first chapter didn’t increase the tension. Instead, it got into exposition and backstory, and delivered no hint of the story the blurb talks about.
The second chapter got our boy to school, where we got more exposition about a girl who sleeps around. Finally, the mysterious new girl arrives. I suspect the new-kid-comes-to-school scene is a bit of a cliché in YA fiction, and I would look for a more dramatic way to meet her. The only tension aroused in this chapter was the question of whether or not these two would get together, and, since we already pretty much know the answer, that tension fades. The second chapter opened with an allusion to the mysterious events that started the first chapter, but quickly left that and went into the more mundane. There was no more about the story the blurb mentioned. My suspicion is that the story should start later.
It might interest you to see what bestselling author M.J. Rose, who started her career as a self-publisher, has to say about what Indie authors should do about editing.
However, I encourage you to read them and form your own opinion.
Please share your thoughts on the storytelling even if this isn’t your genre. Thanks.
© 2011 Ray Rhamey