Monthly Archives: August 2011

Quick Peer Review Page Update

Just added:

AUTHOR: Michael Moller

TITLE:  “God Complex

GENRE:  Comic Fantasy (novel, first chapter)

SYNOPSIS: After the creator of the universe becomes trapped inside an eccentric winemaker’s body, a shy winery employee must save the world from destruction by incompetence.

ISSUES:  This first chapter is a hook meant to foreshadow the first plot point occurring around the twenty-five percent mark.  I’m hoping to learn if it holds the reader’s attention, if the dark humor tone comes across, and how the overall voice feels. All comments are appreciated.

Please visit the Peer Review page to access Michael’s work and that of the other authors who have posted here.  Feedback is good… and we’re all in this together.  The Karma train will stop at your door if you honor these writers with your feedback.

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Deconstruction of a Novel: “Bait and Switch”

“Bait and Switch” was published in 2004 by Signet (a Penguin-Putnam imprint) in 2004.  This is what it looked like:


It didn’t sell all that well, but that assessment is, of course, relative. 

In today’s self-publishing market, 60,000 copies would be considered a home run.  But it wasn’t self-published (indeed, it was from a “Big-6” outfit), and compared to my first novel (“Darkness Bound,” also published by Penguin, in 2000), a USA Today bestseller which sold over 200,000 copies, it was a lame duck, but one with a bit of a pedigree, as it turned out. 

Which is why and how I got the rights back.

Both numbers pale in comparison to the sales of A-list novelists and the rare seven-figure iconic books (“The Help” has sold over 20 million copies, “The Lovely Bones” over 7 million copies, and “The Davinci Code” clocking in at over 90 million copies and counting).

Which proves nothing if not this: we should never compare our results with those of others.  Having anyone — any one — read our work is an honor and a privilege.  The rest is largely out of our control.

I recently republished “Bait and Switch” as a digital downloadable ebook, available through all the usual channels.  That version looks like this:

Cover for 'Bait and Switch'

But there’s more to the story behind this book… and the “making of” aspects of it.

Which prompts me to address the question you may be asking yourself, relative to this deconstruction… why should I care? 

I have a couple of reasons to offer.

First, the book was a critical home run.  Which justifies our deconstruction of it (which, I should add, is by rather popular demand since the digial republishing and the little promotion that accompanied it… this is my end of the deal).

Upon publication it received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, followed by their selecting it their lead July 2004 Editor’s Choice.  At year-end it was named to two PW lists, one of which I’m proud of, the other of which still puzzles me: “Best Books of 2004 – Mass Market” (lead entry)… and “Best Overlooked Books of 2004” (the only paperback original so-named).

Then came the reviews, two of which I’ve posted below to help convince you that this will be time (and perhaps money, since you really should read the book to get the most out of this exercise) well spent.

The other thing, besides the book itself, is the nature of this deconstruction. 

I’ve yet to see an author — much less someone who claims to be a teacher in this realm — analyze their own work to this level of detail.  I’ll lay it all out there for you, including the moments of desperate guesswork (inevitable, no matter how well you plan or how much you know) and the overtly Machievellian manipulation of the reader.

The first post will illustrate the strategy behind the book’s double-barbed opening hooks, which set the tone for the whole story.

Hoping you’ll join us.  Past deconstructions have — based on feedback — provided a monster load of insight and learning for all, including me.

If you need to find the book, you can get it on Kindle HERE… on Smashwords HERE (be sure to read the review on that page)… on Nook HERE… at the Apple iTunes Bookstore… and as a used paperback from HERE.

I have two other of my earlier novels available as ebooks, as well (see sidebar), in addition to my latest, “Whisper of the Seventh Thunder,” which won a big honkin’ award last year.

Those reviews…

From Publishers Weekly

In a sexy tale laced with plenty of surprise twists, Brooks (Pressure Points, etc.) examines the underbelly of high society and paints an ugly portrait of greed in America. Wolfgang Schmitt, a newly single former model looking for an excuse to leave the advertising industry, finds his opening when billionaire Nelson Scott offers him a million dollars to seduce his wife. Schmitt’s involvement with Kelly Scott would trigger a prenuptial clause, ensuring Kelly can’t get her hands on her husband’s fortune—or so Schmitt is led to believe. After wrestling with his conscience, Schmitt accepts the assignment and immediately gets swept up in a complicated plot involving betrayal and murder. This intoxicating and intelligent tale of corporate corruption feels as authentic as a true crime chronicle, but Schmitt’s first-person narration ensures that it is much more entertaining. Brooks balances Schmitt’s wry, wisecracking nature with a rare moral fortitude, resulting in a likeable protagonist whose cynicism never fails to entertain (Entry #201 in Schmitt’s work in progress, Bullshit in America: “The price of movie popcorn—the time for rebellion is now. Take a big purse and stop at your local convenience store on the way. Then leave the candy wrappers on the floor so they’ll know. It’s what Rosa Parks would have done”). In a savvy move, Brooks concludes this book with a question mark, leaving it wide open for a sequel. Readers will welcome the prospect.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
5.0 out of 5 stars
An addictive novel with surprising and complex plot twists, September 24, 2004
By (New York, New York) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Bait and Switch (Paperback)

Mass market paperbacks — the ones that you find on the revolving display at the drugstore, or on displays by the hundreds at your local big box department store — lend themselves for impulse buying. Got something long and boring on the horizon, like a plane ride, afternoon at the beach, or court-ordered marriage counseling? Grab a paperback on your way to the chip aisle. Who can resist a paperback? The price of admission is relatively low, so if the book turns out to be a dud, you haven’t invested much; they don’t take up a lot of room; and they can be held with one hand and, if you’re practiced and/or dexterous enough, you can turn the page with your thumb. And, once in a while, you take a chance and find a treasure, like BAIT AND SWITCH by Larry Brooks.

The opening gambit of BAIT AND SWITCH would be only mildly interesting in the hands of a writer with lesser ability than Brooks. Wolfgang Schmitt is a former model currently stuck in an advertising job that he has come by degrees to abhor, and he is still reeling from the abrupt end of the relationship with the love of his life. It is ironic that he is also a part-time relationship expert, being the author of a monthly column on the subject for a women’s magazine.

Nelson Scott is a self-made millionaire who can buy anything except his personal freedom. His wife, Kelly, holds the keys to that kingdom and is set to make him pay heavily. Scott’s only hope is a condition of his prenuptial agreement that will enable him to escape the matrimonial bonds with his considerable fortune more or less intact. For that to happen, however, Kelly has to cohabit with another man for 30 days. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Scott’s plan, therefore, is to have Schmitt seduce Kelly. Given that Schmitt is an expert on relationships, this should be a piece of cake, especially with Scott’s ability to manufacture a new identity for Schmitt right down to the last nuance. Schmitt, in return for his time and trouble, gets to play with lots of new luxury toys and receives a significant amount of money. Of course, wooing and seducing a beautiful woman is nothing to sneeze at either. Schmitt sets to work — that term is applied loosely here — and appears to be well on his way to accomplishing his mission.

BAIT AND SWITCH would be a great book if it was only a subtle reworking of INDECENT PROPOSAL. But it’s much more than that. Brooks, a little over a third of the way through, begins dropping hints that there may be much more involved than divorce settlement machinations. And, indeed, what seems to be a fairly straightforward storyline takes some curves and turns that leave you smiling, shaking your head in wonder, and, most importantly, reading. For a while Schmitt thinks that he is the violinist to Kelly’s Stradivarius; he is, in fact, only the bow. Schmitt is getting played, big time. But he’s not the only one.

BAIT AND SWITCH has a complex plot, but Brooks is such a masterful writer that it doesn’t seem so involved. Brooks is in no hurry here; he takes his time guiding the reader through a few labyrinths, but does so with a sure-footed assurance that never permits the plot to drag or droop. Surprises abound, practically to the last page, which contains a surprisingly satisfying ending and a tantalizing promise of more to come. I, for one, will be waiting.

— Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub

Author note: that sequel is finished, by the way, and in the hands of my agent.  Stay tuned.


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