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Fantasy novels, their artwork and synopsis

Posted: Mon May 28, 2007 7:48 pm
by MarkJH
Hi everyone,

I’m very happy to say that I’ve just had my debut novel published and would love to swap thoughts and opinions on what makes a compelling read. With this in mind, what do you think attracts a potential reader? Would it be the front cover like mine below or is it more likely to be on the strength of the synopsis? Just how important is the cover art and what really determines our decision to invest the time to actually sit down and read a book? As a new author, I feel these questions are very important, so any insights you can give will be greatly appreciated.


Posted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 12:46 pm
by mamuta
Hi, and congratulations! I'm a fan of fantasy and science - fiction novels. I prefer very simple covers: not so many colours, not so many symbols. Synopsis is important, I like to know something about author. In my opinion, you should decide first who is your TARGET: your potential reader and consequently choose the proper cover and additional information.
Best wishes :)


Posted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 4:17 pm
by MarkJH

Thanks for replying. I agree that the synopsis is the most important thing. The cover can encourage someone to pick up a book for a closer look, but it's really the synopsis that counts. If you get a chance I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts on my synopsis (you can find it on Amazon).

Thanks again!

Posted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 11:32 am
by mamuta
Firstly, as an author forgive me please telling anything without reading your novel. I've only read your book description and I'll try to express my impressions:
- I classyfied your book as a novel directed to young people (are they your planned TARGET?);
- your description is so accurate, that I started to consider is it worth reading: no questions to think, too many answers;
- you should mention something about the main mystic (?) creature - the White Wolf -to make him more mysterious.
I hope I've described all properly - I'm not a native speaker.
Best wishes :)

Thank you

Posted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 5:33 pm
by MarkJH
Thanks for taking the time to read it and give me your impressions. I appreciate it. It's difficult to capture the style and tone of a book in a short synopsis, but hopefully when people actually read it they will feel the story is worthwhile.

Thanks again :)

Posted: Tue Jun 12, 2007 1:40 pm
by MarkJH

I've posted an extract from my book at this link: ... ywork.html

I would be very happy to hear your opinions on it.

Thanks :)

Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 7:41 am
by MarkJH
Just to let anyone know who may be interested that I've added another excerpt from my book The Magic Lands at this link: ... ywork.html

As always, feedback would be very much appreciated.

Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 7:45 am
by Dixie
Hi Mark, I'd love to read your book. Maybe I'll buy at Amazon.

Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 6:19 pm
by illusion
congratulations :)) I so envy people who can write or do anything else which takes talent. I've always wanted to do something creative when I was a little girl I would try to draw, sing, paint and write but I felt the things I created were so amateur that I gave up and focused on admiring other talented people's work...

Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 8:44 pm
by MarkJH
Dixie wrote:Hi Mark, I'd love to read your book. Maybe I'll buy at Amazon.
That would be great Dixie :) Let me know if you get it as I would be very interested to hear your opinions on the story. And please feel free to ask questions if any come to mind.

Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 8:48 pm
by MarkJH
illusion wrote:congratulations :)) I so envy people who can write or do anything else which takes talent. I've always wanted to do something creative when I was a little girl I would try to draw, sing, paint and write but I felt the things I created were so amateur that I gave up and focused on admiring other talented people's work...
Thanks! I'm sure there are plenty of things you do well. You seem like a nice person and that's the most important thing :)

Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 9:08 pm
by Dixie
illusion wrote:congratulations :)) I so envy people who can write or do anything else which takes talent. I've always wanted to do something creative when I was a little girl I would try to draw, sing, paint and write but I felt the things I created were so amateur that I gave up and focused on admiring other talented people's work...
Me too. When I was small I used to write stories. But it never went further than that :roll:

Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 11:35 am
by illusion
MarkJH wrote:
illusion wrote:congratulations :)) I so envy people who can write or do anything else which takes talent. I've always wanted to do something creative when I was a little girl I would try to draw, sing, paint and write but I felt the things I created were so amateur that I gave up and focused on admiring other talented people's work...
Thanks! I'm sure there are plenty of things you do well. You seem like a nice person and that's the most important thing :)
yeah, I can eat pizza every day and never get bored of it :) I've found that out during my college when I was unable to cook myself a tasty meal ;)

Posted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 6:40 am
by MarkJH
Just a quick update on my book for those whom have shown an interest. I've pasted in a review from Amazon US that I think gives a gives a good impression of what the book is really like.

'One might look at The Magic Lands and find the title a little generic, and the summary may be a little cliche, but if you were to pick it up you'll see that it is full of suprises. The story is quite a roller coaster and the plot can become utterly unpredictable. I should also mention, that this isn't little red riding hood. The story is dark, bringing up memories of another dark fantasy, Pan's Labrynth. Like Pan's Labrynth,and any good fable, there is an underlying message behind it all and it is a message definitely worth hearing'.

Posted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 9:40 am
by Dixie
Sounds really interesting, Mark.

And since we have the privilege of having a real writer here at EC, why don't you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your work?

Posted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 9:50 am
by MarkJH
Hi Dixie,

That's an invitation that could lead to me rambling on and on about my influences, my childhood living with pygmies in the Amazon rainforest and my slightly sureal adventures at boarding school in Outer Mongolia. But I think that would probably be very boring! Anyway, thanks for your kind words about the book. Seriously, I would be more than happy to tell you whatever you'd like to know. Although authors can be notoriously shy :)

Posted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 9:58 am
by Tora
A live author in EC! It's a great honour I suppose. I've just read a synopsis on the Net about your book and customers' comments are praising I must say, congratulations!

Posted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 8:10 pm
by Dixie
MarkJH wrote:Hi Dixie,

That's an invitation that could lead to me rambling on and on about my influences, my childhood living with pygmies in the Amazon rainforest and my slightly sureal adventures at boarding school in Outer Mongolia. But I think that would probably be very boring! Anyway, thanks for your kind words about the book. Seriously, I would be more than happy to tell you whatever you'd like to know. Although authors can be notoriously shy :)
How can you mix all those elements with the word boring? :D I would be very pleased to hear about your adventures! ;)

Posted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:27 pm
by jrkp
First at all, Congratulations!!! It's pretty cool to have a writer as a EC member...

To me, every topic you suggested in your first post are very important, specially when you write fantasy novels... Artwork and the title give you the first impression about the plot of the book. For example, when I saw the cover of your book, I mean, the white wolf with its threatening eyes, the two scare children in the middle of the forrest, plus the title of the book, I could suspect what was the plot about. Considering that I found that cover interesting, I read the synopsis, otherwise I hadn't done it.

As you said, the synopsis is maybe the most important thing to decide If you buy a book or not, because it allows you to confirm if your first impression is correct or not....

Posted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 7:29 pm
by MarkJH
Thanks jrkp :) Really pleased you liked the cover. What did you think of the synopsis? Did it keep your interest? And I would be very interested to hear what you think of the excerpts too.

Posted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:34 pm
by jrkp
Well, first at all, I must confess that I'm not a fan to read fanstasy books. Anyway, When I started to read the synopsis of your book, I believed that I was reading a copy of "The Nardia's Chronicles", at least regarding the beginning of the book, you know, when the two friend climb a tree and then they are transported to a fanstastic world when they have to fight against an evil force (I this case it's represented as a white wolf).. But then, I realized that I was wrong, because the story is not just about the eternal fight of good against evil, it's more about the journey of two boys crossing the path from chilhood to adulthood....

That impression was confirmed when I read the book excerpt number 2, especially the part where Jack tries to run away from his reality and Mo encourages him to face it, in other words, he shows Jack that he won't resolve his problems taking shelter on his dreams, but he will do it dealing with them. I think we all (child and adult)can relate with that situation....

Also I can related with that part where Jack is possessed by his own insecurities, to the point at which he begins to doubt of his own existence (Who am I?).....

Well, those points keep me interesting to read your book, because those are problems that everyone can feel identified with. Also It's written in a simple language, which means that I, as a English learner, can read it without using the dictionary.....

Posted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 8:59 pm
by MarkJH
Thanks for replying jrkp,

Do you know that's really interesting to hear your thoughts on the synopsis and the two excerpts from the book. You're absolutely right about what I'm trying to say and the things you talked about are definitely part of the overall theme of the book. It's also about making difficult choices to do what's right and the power of sacrifice. I hope it's quite a spiritual book. If you get a chance to read the whole story, please do let me know your opinions on it.

Thanks again :)

Posted: Wed Sep 05, 2007 12:50 pm
by MarkJH
Just thought I would post a character breakdown from my book for anyone who is interested. As always feedback would be appreciated :)

Tom Lewis.
Jack Barton.
Two boys about to embark on a journey that will take them toward adulthood, a change embracing both enlightenment and loss. Two boys who will discover a place apart from the world we know, a realm where dreams and reality seem to interweave and deception is at the heart of everything.

To the boys he is a badger, an animal. But one capable of speech, capable of far more than they suspect. To Tom and Jack he is a mentor, a guide, but as their journey unfolds, they will discover that he holds the key to many mysteries and keeps hidden from them many secrets.

The White Wolf.
A beast, a cruel adversary. But one with a purpose. One who delights in the darkness. One who enjoys the deadliest of games where life and death are but the smallest of wagers.

A warrior from the past, held in limbo for so long his mind may well have become unhinged. A man who holds duty above all things, but who carries a darkness within his soul that may be not only his own undoing, but also bring down those who he has sworn to protect.

The girl of Tom’s dreams. Or his nightmares. Enigmatic, innocent and yet sensual. A mystery.

An old man who has travelled further than can be possibly imagined. A man who must send his only son on a quest that may very well lead to death, or perhaps things far worse than death.

A man who wears a mask. An enemy or an ally? A dangerous man, if indeed a man he is.

A disparate band brought together to find a solution to a question asked at the dawn of time. To find a reason for both the darkness and the light. To find hope. But also to pay the price.

I have posted two short excerpts from THE MAGIC LANDS at this link: ... ywork.html

Re: Fantasy novels, their artwork and synopsis

Posted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 4:22 pm
by MarkJH
For anyone interested there are a number of mini reviews of The Magic Lands on It would be great to hear from some readers and I'm always happy to answers questions if anyone has one!

Re: Fantasy novels, their artwork and synopsis

Posted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 12:14 pm
by MarkJH
As a small thank you for all of the support I've had here, I thought I would post an excerpt from a work in progress, which hopefully will end up being my next book. This is only a rough version, so jump all over me, but constructive criticism is always a good thing. It's called THE SHADOW OF THE ROSE and it's another fantasy novel in a similar vein to THE MAGIC LANDS. Of course for some this may be a punishment rather than a treat! :)

He had noticed that the temperature had been gradually dropping and it was becoming quite cold, which was quite ironic as most of the children referred to this place as the hothouse, so at least Mr. Pinchbeck had done his job successfully in that regard. Encouraged by this, he resolved to wait a little while longer, speculating that perhaps the task of convincing The Headmaster to come was taking slightly longer than had been anticipated.
From the far end of the greenhouse, there was a rustling sound and Martin ducked down instinctively, his eyes and ears immediately alert.
Now that he might very well be about to come face to face with The Headmaster, the prospect intimidated him to such a degree that he broke out in a cold sweat, but then the idea surfaced in his mind that there was always the possibility that it could be someone even more undesirable creeping about in the undergrowth, and this made him even more uneasy as he waited for whoever was lurking there to show themselves.
"Martin," whispered a voice suddenly from somewhere to his left and he strained his ears, trying to recognise who it could be. "Martin, are you here? It's me, Jo!"
He stood up, scanning the vegetation and saw a figure making toward him. He realised then just how dim the light had become, the girl almost unrecognisable until she was within ten feet or so and the idea of turning on the lights briefly passed through his mind, but the surprise of seeing Jo soon made him forget about everything but why she was there.
"What are you doing here?" he said in a tone that said he was very relieved it was her.
"I didn't mean to sca...creep up on you," she said, not wanting to offend him by suggesting he was afraid. But the truth was she found it hard to believe that anyone would not be frightened waiting here alone, crowded in by masses of plant life, the place so dark she had almost tripped over making her way through the aisles to get to him. Stacks of empty crates littered the vast greenhouse and unused flowerpots were everywhere, the place surprisingly cluttered and untidy.
"It's all right," he replied with an awkward smile, "but why did you come, I mean, I'm glad you did, but what's happened? Has something gone wrong?"
Jo's grave look told him that something was indeed wrong and he moved closer to her, concerned at the distress he saw in her frightened eyes.
"There was nothing in The Headmaster's files, just blank pages," she blurted out quickly. "And Peter's hurt his leg, falling down the stairs when we were chased, or at least we think we were chased. Someone found us in the office anyway, The Headmaster I suppose and we ran, that's when Peter fell. Then we saw the note in Mr. Welles...I mean Mr. Pinchbeck's room and it said you were in danger, so I came to get you." She finished and looked at him with an odd expression that said ‘I hope that made sense’ and Martin nodded instinctively, understanding without having to be told. Jo gave him a grateful smile. "Anyway, I think we had better get out of here," she added, Mr. Welles' warning foremost in her mind.
"All right," Martin agreed, "but hold on a minute, just let me get something." Saying this, he quickly walked a few feet to his left and plucked one of the yellow flowers he had been admiring earlier and then nervously turned back to face Jo. "I thought you might like this," he said very softly, barely able to maintain eye contact.
Jo blushed but smiled with quiet pleasure. "Thank you," she murmured, wishing she could think of more to say, but she suddenly found herself tongue-tied.
As the boy stepped forward to hand her the rose, there was a clattering noise from their right and Martin stopped in his tracks, eyeing Jo with alarm. Whoever it might be, he realised immediately that they mustn't discover her here with him, as that would certainly be seen as a serious violation of the all important rules of this wretched institution. "You have to hide," he hissed urgently and glancing about in desperation his eye fell upon a large crate. "Quickly, get inside," he whispered to her, pointing at the wooden box and without really thinking Jo followed his instructions, clambering clumsily in and squatting down.
Grabbing hold of another crate, Martin stacked it on top leaving Jo in darkness with only the smallest of slits to let in what little light there was and she pushed her eye up against this gap so that she might be able to see what was going on outside.
As she watched from her uncomfortable, cramped position, a terrible scene began to play itself out before her, like some grotesque peepshow.
"So here you are, Martin, my little friend," said a voice, but Jo could only see the boy's reaction and not the speaker, but this was enough to tell her that whoever was there with him, Martin was very much afraid. "Well, aren't you going to say hello?" another voice asked good humouredly, but Jo recognised the note of sarcasm in it and she squirmed to see who was out there. Two hulking figures ambled into view to stand before the boy and Jo had to bite her lip not to let out a cry.
"I think he's nervous," Joshua Snipe said with a slow shake of his head, the grin he wore making him look very much like a Halloween pumpkin.
"Maybe he's got reason to be," returned Joseph, rubbing his hands together unpleasantly.
Martin had remained silent until now, his mind racing, trying to come up with some plausible lie about why he was there that would enable him to escape unscathed, but before he could say anything Joseph pointed at him, a wide, malicious smile commandeering his features.
"What's the flower for, nature boy?" he chuckled, "is it a peace offering!?" The two men chortled with amused laughter for a few moments and Martin decided that the only thing he could do was stick to the story Mr. Pinchbeck had originally intended for The Headmaster.
"There's something wrong with the temperature in here," he mumbled, doing his level best to sound self-assured, "Mr. Pinchbeck told me to wait here while he went to get The Headmaster."
Joseph chuckled, the sound without humour and Martin felt a chill creep up his spine. "The Headmaster!? Is that a fact?"
Martin knew he had to choose his words very carefully and hesitated before speaking again. "Everything in here will die if it isn't fixed," he said with as much confidence as he could muster. "You must have noticed how cold it is?"
Joshua was nodding at him solemnly. "Not everything," he stated, his small eyes like black marbles, and when Martin gazed into them all he could see was an utter void, as if the man had no emotions whatsoever, just an unquenchable compulsion to inflict pain and sorrow.
Martin swallowed hard and shuffled his feet uneasily. "What do you mean?"
Joseph just laughed at this, the sound echoing eerily through the greenhouse and Martin knew that his only chance of survival was to run. But before he could act upon this realisation, the Snipes moved closer to him, effectively fencing him in with no way out, as if sensing what he had in mind.
"Only you," Joshua told him with a wink, "you're the only one who's going to die."
Now Martin did try to run, regardless of the fact that he knew it was useless, his instinct for survival overriding all logical thought, but Joseph caught him roughly by his jumper and hauled him to the floor, Martin's head striking the hard ground with a horrible dull sound, the rose crushed and cast aside to lay beside his cheek.
"Chances are you're going to have a nasty headache," Joshua told him off-handedly.
"Right then, master Martin," Joseph began in a businesslike tone, "let's get down to brass tacks. We need some information and you are going to give it to us. I must warn you that we are already rather upset with you, as you have been uncommonly difficult to locate, and we do have a schedule to keep to. But now that we have you, we expect you to do the right thing and tell us what we need to know." He stared down at the boy who lay curled up at his feet, too afraid to move, Martin only distantly aware of the sensation of something thick and viscous trickling through his hair and onto his neck .
"So," continued Joshua, taking up where his brother had left off, "this is how it is. We need to know where those three newcomers are, I'm sure you know who I mean. A boy and two girls. If you help us, maybe we won't have to hurt you quite so much. If not, well, I know you understand quite well what will happen then."
Martin looked up into the faces of his persecutors, but found that instead of men, all he could see were alien creatures, their eyes wide with desire and he understood that everything was lost.
Although he tried very hard not to, he could not help but glance toward the wooden crate where Jo was hiding, wanting so much just to catch a glimpse of her one last time, but she was too well concealed and a part of him that was able to set aside the desperation and despair that gripped him with such hideous strength, took comfort from that.
"Well, boy," prompted Joseph, giving him a kick in the ribs that sent all thoughts of anything but pain fleeing from his mind. "Where are they?"
Gritting his teeth so hard that it would have hurt if it were not for the all-consuming pain in his side, Martin hissed at them. "I don't know. I haven't seen them."
Joshua stepped forward and placed a heavy boot onto the boy's outstretched hand as he reached for the battered rose, hoping to take courage from this symbol of his affection for Jo, and Martin screamed from the agony that shot up his arm as his fingers were crushed with deliberate, slow care.
The man bent down until his face was very close to the boy's and gave a merciless grin. "We know you were with those two girls. You were seen! So come on now, do yourself a favour and tell us where they are. What are they to you anyway?"
Martin's mind was beset by flashing lights, reds and yellows blinking in and out and he did his best to think of any way he might be able to escape, but however hard he tried, his brain steadfastly refused to function properly, as if it too were injured, his hand now almost numb.
"You don't have many more chances," Joseph told him with an air of impatience.
"Just tell us where they're hiding and you can go," Joshua added, affecting a congenial tone of voice. "After all, it's not you that we want, it's them. It really doesn't have to be like this, you know."
Martin closed his eyes, the anguish that he felt almost unbearable and for a moment, fleeting but nonetheless real, he asked himself why he should stay silent, but then somehow finding its way even through the weight of fear and pain, Jo's face appeared in his mind and he saw her smiling at him as he offered her the rose.
Oh Jo, why did this have to happen? Why?
"Go to hell," he whispered, tasting his own tears upon his lips.
With brutal force, Joseph brought his boot down onto Martin's arm, snapping it like a twig, the shriek it provoked reverberating from the canopy of glass above them. "You had your chance," the man grunted and knelt down, putting his full weight onto the boy's chest, several ribs collapsing almost immediately, one puncturing a lung.
Sobbing and struggling for breath, Martin attempted to wriggle free but it was useless, the man's bulk crushing him like an over-ripe piece of fruit, and as consciousness began to drift away from him, all he could think of was how this must appear to Jo, who he knew was so close and yet seemed so distant from him, as if she were no more than a dream he had once believed was real.

Re: Fantasy novels, their artwork and synopsis

Posted: Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:35 am
by MarkJH
I thought this review that was just posted on Amazon UK might be of interest. I'm really pleased with it because the reader absolutely 'got' what the novel is meant to be about.

'If ever you've strayed in a dodgy part of town you'll have felt what this novel at times conveys; a sense of anxious dread and paranoid suspicion. Evil doesn't play by the rules or rather it does but the rules are hidden. You're left constantly wondering what lurks beyond the next page and 'The Magic Lands' doesn't disappoint with twsts and turns aplenty.

Surreal, beguiling, entrancing, deflating, uplifting and even at times demanding the book reminds you of life itself and I guess that's the point. I'd recommend this for the older teenager and above or a bright younger teenager as the concepts, whilst wrapped in a context akin to a child's story, are altogether adult and belong to a world we know in real life to be decidely grey and occasionally bleak.

However there is hope - but again, as in real life, at a cost - and the reader is ultimately rewarded for the journey they take with the two boys and their companions. I'll leave you to discover what that is for yourself but if you like your novels to reach out, grab your brain and go 10 rounds instead of lying passive like the pulp they often are then I highly recommend this book to you.

'The road is cruel and dark, my friend.' '

Re: Fantasy novels, their artwork and synopsis

Posted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 1:43 pm
by MarkJH
Just thought that I would post this in the spirit of balance, but I’ve just had my first really negative review on Amazon USA! After three five star reviews I got a one (count them!!) star review from someone who thought the book was not good at all. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all :)

Re: Fantasy novels, their artwork and synopsis

Posted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 3:46 pm
by MarkJH
I thought I would let everyone know that my old AOL page with excerpts from The Magic Lands is closing. I have now created a new site that has the first two chapters from my book available to read. You can find it here:
Please do check it out if you get a chance. Comments are always welcome!

Re: Fantasy novels, their artwork and synopsis

Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 12:42 pm
by MarkJH
Hope you don't mind me sharing this new review from Amazon :)

'This book is the story of two fourteen year old boys who find themselves transported into a realm of magic and nightmare.
Reminiscent of the Chronicles of Narnia, the story quickly turns into a dark tale of nightmare, lust and cruelty as the two boys find themselves locked in a contest against the ultimate evil, with the stakes being not only their lives, but their souls as well.
Joining Tom Lewis and Jack Barton as they journey through the contantly changing dreamscape of The Magic Lands is like sitting down with Alice In Wonderland and Rob Zombie to drop some acid.
Loaded with iconic imagery, The Magic Lands is a tour de force into a surreal realm dominated by evil and insidious temptation.'

Re: Fantasy novels, their artwork and synopsis

Posted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:33 pm
by MarkJH
Just to let anyone who may be interested in checking out my work that I’ve changed my website address. The new address is now

Hope you get a chance to take a look!