Sunday, July 26, 2015

Book Review: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

I wrote a review of The Girl on the Train on Goodreads. Then, out of curiosity, I scrolled through some of the other reviews there. I noticed a pattern--good reviews got a few comments, no big deal. Bad reviews got loads comments. Some over a hundred. Even short bad reviews got dozens. One reviewer went back and edited her review to include a disclaimer at the beginning of it to attempt to ward off all the flaming. So I edited my review, deleting everything and replacing it simply with "Not my cup of tea." I just don't need the headache. I've run into my share of belligerent book-fans when I've done things like talk about how Outlander ceased to be a romance for me after the punishment scene (there are book-fans of Outlander who have accused me of having had too easy a life to understand that book correctly--you know... people who have never met me and don't know anything about my life...). So instead, I'm going to post my original review here. Enjoy (and if you disagree with me, please feel free to comment, but if you are so incensed that you want to flame me, please be aware that I will delete your comment because this is my blog and I don't need that kind of static here).

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I started off thinking this book was very well-written but too disturbing for me. I felt like I *was* Rachel (despite having far less personal experience with drinking and blackouts), and she lived in my head way too much for comfort. That's a sign of strong writing to me, even if I didn't enjoy it. I was hooked by the story, though, and I felt that her alcoholism worked well with the mystery--it's a strong choice, having her witness something important but be unable to remember it due to her alcoholic blackout.

The ending, however...

[MAJOR spoilers]

...was, to me, a total cop out.

What I respect most in a story is when the answers are there, but the author is masterful enough at showing them to you in such a way that you discount them until the end. Then you find out who did it (or whatever is appropriate to the denouement of a particular story), and you think, "HOLY CRAP. It was right in front of me the whole time." Some perfect examples in movie form: The Usual Suspects. The Sixth Sense. In book form, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

In The Girl on the Train, Hawkins uses a red herring, making you think certain scenes take place between the victim and one guy, when in fact it's another guy. Let's call them the doctor and the neighbor. (I'm trying not to use proper names in case someone is skimming but doesn't want to have their eye catch a spoiler.) Anyway, unless I really wasn't paying attention, she never gives you any clue that the victim is hanging out with the neighbor, not the doctor. She really just sets the reader up to understand (not just to *assume*--but to comprehend the narrative) that the person the victim is with is the doctor. There is also only one instance that I can think of where the personality of the neighbor is called into question at all. So when, in the end, it turns out the neighbor is the perpetrator, it's a surprise, but not the good kind. This is no, "Oh my god, Verbal is Kaiser Soze." Because in The Usual Suspects, it's all right there. If you are paying attention in a way that 90% of people never do, you have everything you need to realize that Verbal is weaving a web of lies. In The Sixth Sense, Haley Joel Osment looks Bruce Willis right in the eyes and tells him he sees dead people. When? ALL THE TIME. It's like he's waving a flag in front of the audience's face, but I know I didn't see it. Then, at the end, I was like, "HOLY SHIT, Y'ALL. It was RIGHT THERE."

Instead, in The Girl on the Train, Hawkins buried the reveal too well. As a reader there is no way you could see the clues ahead of time. Some of the other reviewers stated that they guessed early on who the perp was, because he was the only one who made sense--clearly their minds work differently than mine does. But even so, they chose him by process of elimination, not due to well placed plants by the author. Don't get me wrong, it's no good when you can figure out who did it way before the characters do. But in a well-told mystery, the clues would be there, they'd just be shown to you in a way that made you consider them insignificant. Like in Harry Potter--the cards with the chocolate frogs... tell you everything you need to know about Nicholas Flamel. But I paid no attention to that at all, so at the end I was like, "OMG, Rowling, you are a MASTER."

So I'm left feeling like Hawkins went, "AHA! It was the neighbor all along!" And I'm like, "Huh?" Not a satisfying feeling.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Another New Cover Design

I've been working with an author on his cover design, and gave him a couple of options. This cover, to the left, is one he didn't select, so I've added it to the "Need a Book Cover?" page. I would submit it to SPBC, but they don't allow you to customize the title the way it would be here. They have a set list of fonts to choose from and I wouldn't be allowed to do the drips or anything. So it qualifies for the page on this blog, instead.

You may have noticed that the image of the wall has watermarks--I haven't purchased the stock photos yet, and wouldn't be doing that until someone actually buys the cover. That's another advantage of not putting it on SPBC. They require that you purchase the stock photos in advance.

It would, of course, be possible to alter the cover in different ways--changing the shape of the framing shadow, for instance.

What do you think of this design? Do you like it as it is, or would you change something?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Free books & The Gamble and the Grave!

The Gamble and the Grave (Veronica Barry Book 4) is out on Amazon today! I didn't get a lot of sleep last night (the baby is trying to break me) but seeing that this morning (I'd forgotten--see parenthetical above) gave me a nice boost.

As a result, The River and the Roses (Veronica Barry Book 1), The Fire and the Veil (Veronica Barry Book 2), and The Plane and the Parade (Veronica Barry Book 3) will be free today and tomorrow.

If you have a different e-reader and can't take advantage of free promos on Amazon just email me and I'll be happy to send you your preferred format.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Love/Hate Challenge

My fellow dieselpunk CW Hawes tagged me in the Love/Hate Challenge. It's actually quite rare for me to be tagged for one of these challenges, and this one is fairly straightforward, though it's harder than it looks. So with no further ado, ten things I love and ten things I hate--I'm going to write them as they occur to me, so in no particular order. The hate list was actually a lot harder than the love list, I'm happy to say, so you'll note is a very weird combination of things.

LOVE:
1. Nutella.
2. Corsica.
3. Sleeping in or napping on a rainy day.
4. Reading.
5. Swimming in clear water.
6. People who show kindness.
7. Watching humming birds in our cherry tree.
8. When the baby shrieks with joy or laughs.
9. Cats and kittens.
10. Teaching engaged students.

HATE:
1. When people react to shooting tragedies by shouting about their gun rights.
2. Unrepentant bigots.
3. War/violence/oppression.
4. Bad drivers.
5. Kernels of corn in cornbread (and many other dishes).
6. Raisins in couscous (and many other dishes).
7. Cockroaches.
8. Spoilers.
9. The "rolling coal" movement and similar idiocies.
10. Being broke.

Now, I pass this torch on to the following ten people:
Kathryn, Aniko, Noel, Lori, Tiyana, Cat, Mary, Mary, Nathan, and Michael.


Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Gamble and the Grave, Veronica book 4, is available for Pre-Order!

It's coming out on July 19! I will have at least one giveaway of the other three novels in the series before then... stay tuned (as they say) for the announcement(s) here. I'd like to thank Rick and Kathryn for their help, by the way. You two. You're the best.

It has been a challenge, getting any writing done, what with the two pipsqueaks in the mix now. But it's so exciting to have another book coming out. If you want, you can see it here on Amazon, and even go ahead and order it. :)

I have ideas for books 5 and 6 already, and even a vague one for book 7, so with some luck (and the continued support of my husband, family, and friends) the series is going to keep chugging along.

Right now I'm working on the second draft of The City Smolders, the second book in the Raud Grima series. I'm enjoying that. I'd forgotten how much I liked Ginna. I didn't get much done today (though it's next on the list after this blog post), as I've been focused on promoting the Veronica series in anticipation of Gamble coming out.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Book Cover Design FTW!

I've been working on my own covers for a couple of months now. I recently finished the new cover for The City Darkens, pictured to the left. It took a while, but I'm pretty satisfied with it. I need to update the Kindle file associated to it, though, because when you open the file on Amazon for the preview, it still has the old cover in it. No big deal; the old cover wasn't bad, it just didn't quite capture what I wanted. Plus, since the time when the old cover was designed, I've caved as to the content of the blurb that goes with the book. For a long time I wanted to hide the fact that Myadar becomes Raud Grima--I originally intended that to be a very big surprise. But I struggled over that blurb and consulted a lot of people, and they eventually convinced me that I should include that as part of the description. I may revisit it.  

TCD has not been selling much. I haven't tried free promotions for it on Amazon yet. I enrolled it and all the Veronica books save Veronica in Paris in Kindle Select, but I decided to try countdown promotions with TCD and free promos with the Veronica books, to compare results. Well, clearly you shouldn't bother with countdown deals until your books are already selling regularly, because nada with TCD. The free promotions have been very successful with the Veronica books, though. My only complaint there is that I wish that of the 800 or so people who've "bought" the free Veronica books, more than one would post a review (and do it on Amazon, not just Goodreads). I'm not unrealistic. I'd be happy with a 1% return. Eight new reviews. But I'm still waiting.

Anyway, all this to say that I have to wait for the first 90 day period to end in mid July, and then I plan to offer TCD for free five times over the next 90 days, and I hope that'll get it noticed. I also need to go back to editing The City Smoulders and actually publish it.

I'm nervous about designing a cover for TCS, honestly, because while it's the same city, it's very changed. I'm not sure how to go about designing it--ruined by bombs, etc. But the only way to figure it out is to start working on it, so maybe that needs to be my next design project.

Going back to the issue of cover design, I also stumbled across SelfPubBookCovers.com, which sells covers to authors and is fairly easy to submit designs to as an artist. You can see the two I've gotten approved here. I don't know if they'll still be there once they're sold, though. I guess we'll find out.

SelfPubBookCovers rejected this design:



Because of the way the woman sort of blends in to the skyline. I'm going to tweak it a bit and put it on a page here with any other covers I decide not to submit to SPBC, or that they reject but I still think are good. If someone reading is interested in buying one, let me know. I am also more than happy to do a custom design, so if you know someone looking for a cover artist, point them this way.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

New Covers! I'm learning to use GIMP.

Well, after years of being only partly satisfied with most of my book covers, I finally got tired of talking about learning to use a design program like GIMP, and actually started watching youtube videos and teaching myself. In case you don't know, GIMP is a a free downloadable program a bit like Photoshop. The main cover I fret over is for The City Darkens, as I have yet to be really satisfied with any of the covers I've had. But I also had issues with my Veronica Barry covers. This mainly had to do with the titling, which has always been hard to read. Using Paint to make these covers was just short of adequate, in that I got the general look I wanted, but there just wasn't much I could do to really make the fonts stand out the way I wanted them to. So now that I am using GIMP, I've redone them all, and I'm still working on The City Darkens. Here's the original version of The River and the Roses:


And here's the new version:


Here's the old one for The Fire and the Veil:



And the new:


The Plane and the Parade:


And the new:





Veronica in Paris:



And the new:


 

And here's what I've got so far for The City Darkens:

There's still a lot to be done for it--I don't want the dress to actually look white, for one thing (I was going for light gray, and I'll probably add blue to it) and then I have ideas for other elements in a kind of montage.

The main thing with the Veronica covers, other than making the titles more legible, was to standardize them so they really look like a professionally done series. In honor of my new covers for these, all three novels in the series (Veronica in Paris is a novella and a prequel, and I don't have it enrolled in Kindle Select) will be available for free tomorrow. I'm not planning to offer all three like this again until I launch The Gamble and the Grave (book 4).

What do you think of the covers? Have you worked with GIMP? Have you got any cool tips to share?