Flashback: The Blurb

Flashback, sequel to Déjà Vu, is on sched­ule for pub­lic­a­tion next month. I’m cur­rently work­ing on the blurb — the catchy descrip­tion you typ­ic­ally find on the back of the phys­ic­al book, or in the Amazon descrip­tion in the case of an ebook. I’m not sure wheth­er it’s good or bad. All I know is I’m ter­rible at writ­ing these things. If you have any com­ments, I’d appre­ci­ate them.

A fifty-year-old mys­tery is about to be solved.

Summer, 1947: Avro-Lancastrian ‘Star Dust’ reports a suc­cess­ful trans-Andean flight from Buenos Aires to Santiago, and sig­nals its inten­tion to land. Four minutes pri­or to touch­down, it sends the let­ter sequence ‘S-T-E-N-D-E-C’, then silence. Star Dust van­ishes along with all pas­sen­gers and crew.

Winter, 2003: German Freedom Flight DFU323 crashes in the Bavarian National Forest. The only clue to its fate is the co-pilot’s final trans­mis­sion, shouted against the roar of fail­ing engines: ‘Stendec! Stendec!’

Jem Shaw, an English stu­dent, is now on the run in Germany. Her one hope is a woman who should have been onboard DFU323: the mys­ter­i­ous Saskia Brandt. Pursuing them both is a man called Cory. He might be a sol­dier. He might be a hit­man. He wants to stop Jem Shadw and find Saskia Brandt — wherever she is.

The enig­mas of DFU323 and Star Dust will lead back to a start­ling con­spir­acy that reaches fifty years into our past — and one hun­dred years into our future.

It’s shit, isn’t it? You can tell me.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

7 thoughts on “Flashback: The Blurb”

  1. Ian

    It sounds good to me ! Looking for­ward to read­ing it.

    I’ve lit­er­ally just fin­ished Deja Vu (half an hour or so ago !) and enjoyed it greatly.

    I’m anoth­er who picked up on your book via Ken MacLeod’s site, and am glad I gave it a try.

    Good luck with Flashback.


  2. Thanks, Miles — I appre­ci­ate both com­ments. Would you mind pop­ping over to Amazon and rat­ing the book, if you have time? Like Tesco says, every little helps.


  3. Sounds pretty good to me. Maybe I would change the open­ing line to be a ques­tion rather than a state­ment, just to leave a little sense of mys­tery, e.g. “Could a fifty year old mys­tery be about to be solved?”

    The descrip­tion of Saski Brandt as mys­ter­i­ous seems super­flu­ous. Most read­ers will come hav­ing read Deja Vu and know who she is, and she is already mys­ter­i­ous by dint of the men­tion as a pos­sible pas­sen­ger on the flight (about which we know little) and that know­ledge that some hit­man is chas­ing her. Already mys­ter­i­ous and intriguing.

    Looking for­ward to it!

  4. Thanks, By_tor — these are inter­est­ing points. I’ll prob­ably cut it down a bit as you sug­gest. Overwriting the thing is usu­ally the prob­lem…

  5. Hi Ian,

    Your Flashback blurb post just popped up on my Google Reader.

    My thoughts about the blurb (for what they are worth, which is cer­tainly less than 21.7p) in approx­im­ately the order in which they came to me, went like this:

    1. Oh, it’s a bit shit, isn’t it? (This demon­strates noth­ing more than a high degree of sug­gest­ib­il­ity on my part, because I read your last sen­tence last.)

    2. I have this strange feel­ing inside me. After read­ing your blurb, I actu­ally have quite a strong desire to read this book. (Which sur­prises me a little, because sci-fi is not nor­mally my auto­mat­ic choice of genre, and, per­haps more import­antly, I don’t often find book blurbs par­tic­u­larly per­suas­ive.)

    3. How does that work, then? I’m sim­ul­tan­eously think­ing “that’s not a very good blurb” and “wow, that blurb actu­ally made me want to read that book, which is unusu­al, for a blurb”?

    4. Not a very good blurb? Maybe it’s more like “not a very blurb-like blurb”. Blurbs are nor­mally so blurb-like that they all read exactly the same. This one is a bit dif­fer­ent. It doesn’t quite read the way every single oth­er blurb reads. Something about it is say­ing to me “This can’t be a good blurb, because you wouldn’t read a blurb like that on the back of the latest, urrr, Dan Brown”.

    5. So what’s non-blurby about this blurb? Now there you’ve got me. It’s just some­thing about the tone. Maybe the length of the sen­tences — a little on the long side? Perhaps it comes down to a few words or phrases which could have been writ­ten dif­fer­ently. Not sure I can put my fin­ger on it really. Nothing really “shit” about it at all — just that it doesn’t read quite like all the oth­er 10 mil­lion book blurbs out there. Which ought to be a good thing, you’d think, except that you won­der why pub­lish­ers don’t try it more often. Perhaps they’re scared.

    6. Come to think of it, I feel more as if I’ve just seen a movie trail­er than read a blurb. Maybe my “a bit shit” reac­tion comes (apart from the sug­gest­ib­il­ity noted in 1 above) from my brain try­ing to cope with a sort of cat­egory error prob­lem: it thinks it’s just seen a movie trail­er, but it’s try­ing to inter­pret it as a book blurb.

    7. OK, back to basics. A blurb’s job is either (a) to let me fig­ure out wheth­er or not I’d enjoy read­ing this book, or (b) to per­suade me that I would enjoy read­ing this book (even if I wouldn’t). Obviously I can’t tell wheth­er this blurb is doing (a) or (b) to me yet, until I’ve read the book. But it does make me think I would enjoy read­ing this book. So it has done its job, on me, any­way. I’m sold = good blurb.

    8. Still got that nag­ging feel­ing though. The “non-tem­plate” feel of it — it doesn’t really bug me, but I can’t pre­tend it isn’t there. I don’t think that a Random House edit­or would have writ­ten it quite like that. So it gives the book a kind of “self-pub­lished” feel. Which is fair enough, because it’s a self-pub­lished book. You know how some self-pub­lished books feel all self-pub­lished because they get the font size and the lead­ing wrong? Maybe I’m get­ting a bit of that feel­ing from this blurb. Although in this regard, the font size and the lead­ing are 1000 times more import­ant than the blurb. In a prin­ted book, any­way — per­haps on a Kindle they are user-con­trolled in any case?

    9. Hmm. So can I say any­thing con­struct­ive? Probably not. But what hap­pens if you remove a bit of detail from the plot sum­mary? Could you re-write it by remov­ing some (not all) of the fol­low­ing words: “Avro-Lancastrian”, “Star-Dust”, “trans-Andean”, “Buenos Aires”, “Santiago”, “German”, “Freedom Flight”, “DFU323”, “Bavarian”, “National Forest”?

    10. “our past” and “our future”. “Our” reads a bit jar­ringly there — my con­ven­tion­al brain expects “the”. I can see that you might be delib­er­ately jar­ring me and using “our” rather than “the” for good time-trav­el­ling reas­ons. So I star­ted this para­graph think­ing that I would sug­gest chan­ging “our” to “the”, but now I’m less cer­tain of that. If you’re try­ing to make a point by say­ing “our”, keep it.

    11. “Jem Shaw… is now on the run”. Again, my first instinct says “remove the word ‘now’”. But then maybe I’ve not got my time-traveller’s hat on. Maybe “now” is delib­er­ately jar­ring, like “our” past and “our” future. But if not, could you cut it out? I’ve not met Jem Shaw before, at least not in this blurb. “Now” seems to be telling me that I ought to know what she was up to before­hand.

    12. Should “onboard” be two words?

    13. “A man called Cory”. Can you find a way of com­bin­ing “sol­dier”, “hit­man” and “Cory” without hav­ing to say “a man called Cory”?

    14. “Prior to”: would “before” be bet­ter?

    15. “Reports”, “sig­nals”, “sends”, “trans­mis­sion”. A thesaur­us­ful that neatly avoids repe­ti­tion. Are there any of these that you’re not 100% happy with, though? I would con­sider using “radi­os” in there some­where, per­haps in place of “reports”.

    16. “Her one hope is a woman…”. Something about this sen­tence doesn’t feel quite right to me. I want to ask: “Her one hope of what?” And I think the phrases “only hope” or “last hope” carry a bit more punch — but per­haps you’ve avoided them because they are a bit more clichéd, too.

    17. “will lead back to”. Could this be simply “lead to” or “lead us to”? (Or, again, per­haps I need a bet­ter time-traveller’s hat to see why the “will” and the “back” are import­ant.)

    18. Something about the first line wasn’t quite doing it for me. I think by_tor’s sug­ges­tion, that you turn it into a ques­tion, might be a good one.

    19. by_tor is also on to some­thing, I think, with the com­ment about “mys­ter­i­ous”. Although, I can see you’re going to want to squeeze in some kind of adject­ive between the colon and “Saskia Brandt”. Could you make it “the one-legged” or “the undead rebel clone” — or would that dis­turb the plot too much?

    20. I really want to read this book. The 63p I’m pretty happy with. The £111 for a Kindle, that’s more of a deal-break­er. Is it out in hard­back?

  6. Ed, that is a tour de force! Thanks! Far, far too many bril­liant points for me to go through right now. I’ll use your notes to help me when I look again at the blurb tomor­row or Monday.

    Thanks, dude!

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