What do you guys think of these book descriptions?

These are both pretty rough, and I’m still working on a one-line teaser. The edits are coming along well, though, and the cover art should be done very soon. If all goes well, The Sword Keeper should be up for a September release pre-order by the end of next week!

SHORT DESCRIPTION

Tamuna Leladze never thought that a mysterious traveler at her aunt’s tavern would change her life forever. But the old man carries a sword that vanished from the pages of history more than a thousand years ago. That sword has a mind and a memory, and it has chosen Tamuna for purpose far greater than she realizes.

LONG DESCRIPTION

Tamuna Leladze always wanted to go on an adventure. Raised by her aunt, the village tavern keeper, and befriended by Nika, the shy but loyal stable boy, her only knowledge of the outside world comes from the travelers whose tables she serves.

But when an old wandering knight passes through at the end of the harvest season, all that begins to change. The man carries an ancient relic: a magic sword that vanished from the pages of history more than a thousand years ago. That sword has a mind and a memory, and it has chosen Tamuna for a much greater purpose than she realizes.

For far to the north, a terrible empire is spreading across the land through blood, fire, and steel. Led by an evil Brotherhood more ancient than the sword itself, it hunts the sword and the bearer who wields it. Very soon, their darkness will sweep the world.

According to the ancient prophecy, the last sword bearer will wield it in truth and wisdom to free the world of men. But as events carry Tamuna far from her village home, she cannot help but wonder if the sword has made a mistake.

Plugging along with Gunslinger

Gunslinger to the Stars
Phase:3.0 Draft
100%

So I’ve passed the 50% mark on Gunslinger to the Stars, which is kind of pathetic because I was hoping to finish it by today. Regardless, it WILL be finished soon, and when it is, it’s going straight to the editor.

Right now, I’m shooting for a publication date of May 15th. Things are on track to put it up for pre-order by the end of February, except I probably won’t put it up on Amazon until a month before it comes out (Amazon nerfs pre-orders for indies). Regardless, I am REALLY excited.

I’ve also got a super rough book description. Seriously, it took maybe twenty minutes and definitely needs some work. But if you’ve been following Gunslinger’s progress and are curious to see it, here it is. Feedback is definitely appreciated.

The name’s Sam Kletchka. Perhaps you’ve heard of me: captain of the Star Runner, military contractor for Earthfleet and interstellar privateer. But before all that, I was a hired gun, freelancing across the galaxy one gunslinging job at a time.

Perhaps you’ve also heard about the incident in the Gorinal Star Cluster. There’s a lot of things that the powers that be, especially the Immortals, don’t want you know. I’m here to set that record straight. When the jumpgate went dark, I was there, along with Jane Carter, my better half, Tarak, my telepathic copilot, and the empath shapeshifters of the Silver Diadem.

It was a tough scrape, but fortunately, I brought some friends: LOVE, my 1911 9mm; KINDNESS, my 2011 .45 ACP; MERCY, my Ruger .22 Charger Rimfire; FAITHFULNESS, my .300 AAC Blackout; RIGHTEOUSNESS, my .50 Beowulf; JUDGMENT, my M203 grenade launcher, PRESERVATION, my Mossberg 590A1; and TRUST, my 15″ Chainpure Kukhri. But the greatest of these is CHARITY, my alien-modified AR-15.

If you never want to leave your safe space, then stay down there on Earth. As for the rest of us, we’ll be chasing our destiny among the stars.

Yeah, that’s definitely not going to be the final version.

It’s interesting just how much this book has changed through the last two revisions. The story hasn’t changed at all, but it’s shed more than 20% of the words in the revision process and I’m not even finished with the third draft. When I told my roommate that I wanted to cut out a good 10k words this draft, he thought I’d have to cut out a character or something. Yet that hasn’t been the case.

It’s amazing how much you can improve a story by cutting out all the unnecessary words. It’s the difference between a small shot of deliciously thick hot chocolate, and a large mug that is far too watered down. I thought I had the main character’s voice down, but it didn’t really shine until I started aggressively cutting.

That’s the thing about measuring progress by word count. Sometimes, it’s not about how much you can write, but how much you can cut out.

Between now and May, I’m going to write a short story from Jane Carter’s point of view. It’ll be something of a prequel, and hopefully showcase a bit of her character. I’d also really like to write a short story from Tarak’s POV, but that’s going to take a bit more thinking through.

Lots of interesting story stuff going on behind the scenes. I’ll do my best to keep you guys updated on the blog!

Cover reveal for new fantasy release!

A while back, I wrote a short fantasy novelette about a group of orcs setting out to found a new clan. Well, I’ve decided to self-publish it! If all goes well, it should be up on Amazon by this weekend. Here’s the blurb:

IS THIS THE HILL ON WHICH YOU WANT TO DIE?

That is the question on Garak-Nur’s mind every time he draws his trusted sword Blacknife. A battle-hardened mountain orc and warrior chief of his clan, he knows when to turn from an unwinnable fight—and when to face death head-on, sword in hand.

Garak-Nur is ready to meet his fate, but the rest of his clan is not. A Witch King has risen to power in the north, impressing all the mountain orcs into his massive army. To preserve their freedoms, Garak must lead a band of warriors and she-orcs into the wilderness to start a new clan.

But the challenges they must face are great, and the lands they must cross are teeming with danger. Dwarves, dragons, and rival orcish war parties all stand in their way of finding a new home. Even if they do manage to start a new burrow, their fledgling clan may still not survive the winter.

One day, Garak-Nur will climb his last hill and meet the fate that awaits him. But for the sake of all those who look up to him, that day must not come a moment too soon.

WARNING: Contains mature content including rape and sexual violence.

And here’s the cover!HWD (cover)This book is a fairly wide departure from my science fiction stuff. I have no idea how well it’s going to be received, or whether there will be enough interest for more books and stories in this universe. If there is interest, I do have more stories that I can write. First, though, I want to see how well this one does. If you enjoy it, please leave a review to let me know, so I can decide whether to write more stories in this universe!

For those of you waiting on my ongoing science fiction series, don’t worry—I haven’t given up on those. Friends in Command (Sons of the Starfarers: Book IV) will probably be out sometime in February, and Captives in Obscurity (Sons of the Starfarers: Book V) will be out sometime in the spring. These stories are running a lot longer than I’d planned for them too, so for those of you who want something longer than a typical novella, you’re going to get it.

That just about does it for now. If all goes well, A Hill on Which to Die should be up on Amazon in the next 48-72 hours. Keep an eye out for it!

B is for Book Blurb

Perhaps the most important part of your book’s sales page, on Amazon or any other retailer, is the book description. More than anything else (except perhaps the cover), this is what sells your book. If done right, it will interest the reader enough to download a sample or buy the book outright. If not, they probably won’t even finish reading it before they click to the next page.

So how do you write a knockout book blurb? Honestly, I wish I knew. I don’t think mine are bad, but I’m sure there’s room for improvement, and if they seem really awesome to me now it’s probably because my blurb writing skills haven’t risen to the next level. I tend to tinker with my blurbs until I get sick of them, then I do all I can to avoid looking at them until it’s time for a revamp.

That said, it’s not like you’re writing a novel. Just the opposite, in fact. If you try to cram your whole book in the blurb, chances are that you’re doing it wrong. You’re not trying to summarize the story or convey information, you’re trying to spark enough interest to convince the reader to try out your book. The hardest part is figuring out what to mention and what to keep out. Once you know that, the rest is fairly easy–fun, even.

There’s a video I watch whenever I have a blurb to write, because it helps me to channel the kind of voice I’m looking for. It features the top five voice-over artists in the United States riding a limo together, and it’s both hilarious and awesome. Watch!

For some reason, that video always kicks the blurb-writing part of my brain into high gear. But that makes sense–a good book blurb is a lot like a good movie trailer. Both of them spark a compelling interest in the reader/viewer, and neither of them gets bogged down in too many details (or worse, spoilers) about the book/movie.

At LTUE 2013, Howard Tayler gave a presentation in which he listed four key elements of a book blurb. They are:

  1. Inciting Incident
  2. Character Action
  3. Conflict
  4. Hook

Whenever I write a book blurb, I try to keep those four things in mind. As an example, here’s the blurb to Star Wanderers: Outworlder (Part I):

HE WANDERS THE STARS IN SEARCH OF A HOME. INSTEAD, HE GOT A GIRL WITHOUT ONE.

When Jeremiah arrived at Megiddo Station, all he wanted was to make some trades and resupply his starship.  He never thought he’d come away with a wife.

Before he knows it, he’s back on his ship, alone with his accidental bride. Since neither of them speak the same language, he has no way to tell her that there’s been a terrible mistake. And because of the deadly famine ravaging her home, there’s no going back.  She’s entirely at his mercy, and that terrifies him more than anything.

Jeremiah isn’t ready to take responsibility for anyone. He’s a star wanderer, roaming the Outworld frontier in search of his fortune. Someday he’ll settle down, but for now, he just wants to drop the girl off at the next port and move on.

As he soon finds out though, she has other plans.

The inciting incident is the accidental marriage which unexpectedly brings the girl into Jeremiah’s life. That introduces the conflict–that there’s a girl on Jeremiah’s space ship, and he doesn’t know what to do about her. The character action is the second to last paragraph, which describes him as a star wanderer out to seek his fortune and not to settle down. And the last part–the zinger at the end about the girl having other plans–is the hook.

It’s not a formula though, and you can’t approach it as such. There’s an art to it that doesn’t always break down so easily. The good news, though, is that it’s a skill that can be learned–a writing skill. If you have the chops to write a novel, then with focused practice you can learn how to write a knockout book blurb, just like you can learn how to write a blog post, or a tweet, or any other piece of writing.

In my opinion, writing a book blurb is a critical skill for any indie writer. No one is going to be more excited about your book than you are, and since that’s such a critical part of writing a good blurb (it’s hard to get people excited about something that you yourself aren’t excited about), it isn’t something you can easily contract out. But since you’re already a writer, it’s definitely something that you can do.

Teaser for SONS OF THE STARFARERS: BROTHERS IN EXILE

Hey guys–some news about Sons of the Starfarers, my next big series. While I’m working on Book II: Comrades in Hope, I’m also getting Book I: Brothers in Exile ready for publication. If all goes well, I’ll be publishing it in May, with books 2 and 3 coming shortly thereafter.

Today, I put together a teaser / book description. Here it is:

TO WAKE A FROZEN GIRL FROM THE ICE, TWO BROTHERS MUST UNITE TO FACE AN EMPIRE.

Deep in the Far Outworlds, a derelict space station holds the bones of a long-dead people—and a beautiful young woman locked in cryofreeze. When the star-wandering brothers Isaac and Aaron find the sleeping girl, they soon realize that they are her only hope for rescue. If they don’t take her, then slavers certainly will.

With no way to revive her, they set a course for the New Pleiades in the hopes that someone in the star cluster can help. But a storm is brewing over that region of space. After a series of brutal civil wars, the Gaian Empire has turned its sights outward. A frontier war is on the verge of breaking out, and the brothers are about to be caught in the middle of it.

They both harbor a secret, though. Somewhere else in the Outworlds is another derelict station—one that they used to call home. That secret will either bind them together or draw them apart in

SONS OF THE STARFARERS BOOK I: BROTHERS IN EXILE.

What do you guys think? I’m not so sure about the opening hook–that’s probably going to get tweaked. What about the rest of it?

In other news, LTUE is in two days. I am excited! I’ll be on five panels this year: Being a Foreign Speaker, Planet Building, Writing Romance, Epublishing Short Stories, and Starting the Next Project. If you’re going, be sure to drop in on one of my panels or catch me out on the main floor. I’ll be there all day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (and maybe in the evening for some filk as well)!

That’s all for now. Take care, and I hope to see you at LTUE!