Monday, May 4, 2015

Catching my attention

Every acquisition editor has their own style. It is 50% subjective and 100% business decisions.

I recently read that publishers will pass on a great story by an unknown writer for one nearly as good by an author who has a following and a good track record of sales; which makes sense on the business side of things. Name recognition (branding) counts in retail.

Just like any reader, the opening has to hook me. That's one reason that I don't care for prologues. I've said many times to start the story where it starts. If the prologue is important, put it into the book proper. Is that a hard-fast rule with me? Apparently not.

Raise your hand if you've heard a million times not to start a story like this: "It was a dark and stormy night," Paul Clifford, 1830, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. I like that imagery. And I love the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities, 1859, Charles Dickens.

Here is what I loved at first sight about the Cactus Rain Publishing books.

The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister, by Glyn Pope. This story opens at a train station where the main character is introduced though an incident with one of the most colorful locals, Reg. It is a great opening and full of British humor. The difficult thing about writing anything humorous is that once the punch line is known, it isn't as funny. While not intended as a humorous book, it is very funny in the way that I've come to expect from British sit-coms. It shows the naive young doctor's attempts to "do good" in the post WW II village and actually unravel the structure that holds things together. Sorry for the spoiler, but unfortunately, this book is out of print because it was pirated. There are a few remainders. If you want to purchase one, email me at 

The Lacemaker's Daughter, by Diane Keziah Robertson. I love stories about strong women, even though this is about a strong young girl who overcomes difficulties to keep herself and her younger crippled brother alive. It shows the kindness of key people in the village. At times it is one step forward and two back, but as tired as she gets, she carries on and does what is required of her. It tells of sibling love. And it has a fairy tale ending. I do love books that have a feel good sense about them.

PASSENGERS, also by Diane Keziah Robertson. It revisits the setting of The Lacemaker's Daughter, but what is interesting to me is how Diane weaved the six passengers' lives and story throughout the novel. I've read books published by big publishers that tell the story of multiple people and hated them -- did not finish reading any of them. While PASSENGERS was complicated to edit, it is not complicated to read. Diane is a fantastic story teller. The characters are well developed and the pacing is great. As much as I loved the main characters, there are several secondary characters I'm hoping that Diane includes in a next novel -- hint, hint, Diane, if you're reading this.

Damsels of June, by Kira Vorobiyova. This is a mischievous story about a young girl in Kiev, Ukraine. She and two friends from dancing class run about the city chasing a mystery, only to be surrounded by colorful underworld characters. There is adult content, but if you're expecting 50 Shades of Grey, you'll discover that there are only hints at what the spinster piano teacher does in her free time. But the ending reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock's style. Fade black. Drop the curtain. Then sit back and wonder what just happened. It's all there, read it again.

Dunia, by Steve Mwase. See the previous post for a video interview with Steve. Dunia is the Swahili word for "world." What I like about this story is the "grass is greener" thought process of the north and south peoples. The idea of conquest is the first thought, rather than one of collaboration between the two cultures. It is just as distressful to read about the sensless meanness as to watch a bully in action on the playground. It is a timeless story that is playing out now.

GRAVE. by J.C. Dreger. Coming soon and well worth the wait. Right off this reminded me of a Clint Eastwood movie. It isn't a western, but it has the mysterious stranger who comes to town and quietly gets everyone's attention -- one way or another. He is steadfast in his sense of right and wrong. He chooses issues rather than sides. He takes risks to fight for the weak. And there is this quizzical guy with a white parasol who watches from afar. He reminds me of the old man in Milagro Beanfield War, 1988, Universal Pictures; based on the book of the same name by John Nichols. Once again, it is a story of good overcoming not so good. Everything about reading this book plays soundtracks of great movies in my mind.

Obviously, there is a theme to the books that Judith and I select. Check them out at