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.

Published by Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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7 Comments

  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.

    Miles

  2. 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!

  3. 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?

  4. 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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