Revising Light’s Blurb

A goddess of ancient times, under a volcanic sunAs many of you probably know, I consider myself blurb-challenged. Marketing copy simply does not come naturally to me – or unnaturally either. 😀

I believe I continue to improve – thank goodness! – but improvement comes slowly, and requires lots of help.

Last week I received wonderful help from someone who writes excellent blurbs. He read my blurb for Devouring Light and remarked that it was full of plot, more plot, and nothing but plot. This is bad! To quote Dean Wesley Smith, “Remember, readers want to read your nifty plot, not be told about it.” Exactly.

The really odd thing? Until the feedback on my blurb for Light, I honestly didn’t perceive that it was congested with plot. The instant I read the feedback, it was clear as day. I don’t know why I have such trouble staying out of the plot in my blurbs, or perceiving it when I stray into plot, but I do.

Anyway… once I saw the problem with Light’s blurb, I set to work fixing it.

And now I’m going to share what I did!

Light quote 1

This was the problem child:

Can one small good deed offset ultimate destruction?

Mercurio stands watch over the first planet, guiding it through the perils of the void. Part messenger, part prankster, he cocks an eye for danger, but not from afar. Close to home lurks the real risk that his festival for Sol’s 25th anniversary will be a bust.

Failed negotiations with constellations and his fellow guardians send him to the brink of complete frustration…when a beautiful celestial wanderer fetches up at his domicile, seeking refuge.

Her form beguiles. Her mystery intrigues. And Mercurio’s fascination with his visitor poses yet another threat to Sol’s celebration.

Will Mercurio recognize his role as cat’s paw soon enough? Or will a looming menace – more lethal than any of the guardians imagine – threaten the solar system’s very existence?

This is, indeed, much too much plot.

And while the way in which constellations and planetary guardians appear as characters is clear in the book, it won’t be to someone browsing a bookshelf or a web page. When a browsing reader is confused, he clicks away to another page or sets the book down to pick up another. Not what I want!

Light quote 2

So I tossed the whole thing and started afresh, writing out my thoughts in my journal.

Focus the Devouring Light blurb on the moment when Mercurio arrives home:

• all of his records indicate that something is wrong
• but Vigilem, his clockwork cat, won’t say what (even though he knows)

It’s been a bad day – Mercurio’s planning a circus show for Sol’s birthday, and none of his fellow planetary guardians (or anyone else) wants to help. It looks like he’s going to have to ask Haden, and Haden is no safe power to approach.

But now he’s got problems on the home front as well.

• bad day
• no one will help with the circus
• and now this: problems at home
• little does he know that both sets of problems will meet
  in a much larger one!

Light quote 3

Writing out my thoughts always moves me forward much more effectively than merely thinking them. Once I’d jotted down all of the above, I had an idea for the start of the blurb.

Mercurio guards the planet Mercury, his sacred charge. He loves his the oddball chunk of rock – with its retrograde out-of-sync spin orbit and spin, its apparent illusion of retrograde motion – almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia charges him to organize a gala celebration circus act for Sol’s birthday, the joke’s on him. Nobody wants to

After a day of “no, no, and no!” from Saturn’s clowns, flying lions winged bulls, and acrobats, he returns home to learn that something a speck of cosmic debris menaces his planet

• orbit transcript
• rotation transcript
• planetary magnetosphere
• coronal disturbances & solar flares
• Vigilem coy

…to see an anomaly on all the transcripts recording Mercury’s the events in Mercury’s sphere. Something is wrong with his planet. But what?

No obvious answer…

To quote those clowns of Saturn: “No, no, and no!”

I’m down in the plot again. The first paragraph was on the right track, but after that it all went south. Grrr! Try again!

Light quote 4

Mercurio – the guardian of Mercury – loves the oddball chunk of rock, his sacred charge, with its out-of-sync orbit and spin, its illusion of retrograde motion. Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia charges him Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday, the joke’s on him!

After a journey filled with no, no, and no! Mercurio returns home to learn that his beloved planet…

something out of order with his beloved planet

• a meteor
• a comet
• a wanderer, a hobo, a vagabond

which means a one-of-a-kind celestial body, something Vigilem is not familiar with

Aagh! There I am down in the plot again. Okay. Start on a fresh page. One. More. Time.

Light quote 5

Mercurio guards the planet Mercury, his sacred charge. He loves the oddball chunk of rock, with its illusion of retrograde motion and its out-of-sync orbit and spin.

Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia charges him Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday, the joke’s on him.

A joke with lethal consequences in this clockwork universe where the simple “no, no, and no!” of Mercurio’s friends and neighbors prospective circus performers

What kind of story is this? It starts with Mercurio designing a circus performance and ends with [spoiler removed]. It’s a story in which the stakes keep getting raised. It’s a save-the-world story. A save-the-solar-system story.

A joke with lethal consequences as the stakes rise ever higher.

Hmmm. The first three paragraphs of my blurb are good, but I need a good closer, like the closer for Caught in Amber.

Amber quote

A tale of multiple rising stakes

A tale of rising stakes told with all the subtlety and deception word play J.M. Ney-Grimm brings to science fantasy.

J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a tale of steeply rising stakes with the delightful subtlety, misdirection, and playful teasing wordplay inherent in displayed by typical of Mercurio himself.

As you can see, I started to descend into the plot again when I touched on those “lethal consequences.” This time I pulled myself up, realizing that I needed to go directly to the closer. I tinkered with various possibilities for that closer, but I could feel my brain getting soggy. I’d lost my sharpness. I was nibbling close to what I wanted, but I was just going to get farther away from it, if I continued without a break.

I set the blurb aside and got a good night’s sleep.

Light morning

(Yes, the photo above is the view from my back deck.)

The next morning, it felt like the whole thing needed to sit another day. In fact, I gave it two days, and awoke on the third knowing the right final paragraph was waiting in my back brain. All I needed to do was sit down and start writing. It would come.

Courier for the gods Divine and mMischievous Mercurio guards the planet Mercury – his sacred charge – with quirky devotion. He loves the oddball chunk of rock, with its illusion of retrograde motion and its out-of-sync orbit and spin.

Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia bids Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday celebration, the joke’s on him.

The next paragraph or line needs to be something other than what happens next.

While Mercurio plots to wangle his way around the “No, no, and no!” from his would-be stilt-walkers and clowns, the guardian of Pluto plots a much darker spectacle a spectacle much darker than a circus.

In a clockwork solar system of the mythical celestial spheres, Devouring Light

Light quote 7a

Gah! I need some way of including “clockwork solar system” in this blurb. But it’s now really time to hit the closing paragraph!

While Mercurio wangles his way around the “No, no, and no!” delivered by his would-be stilt-walkers and clowns, the somber guardian of Pluto plots a much darker scheme.

A tale of steeply rising stakes in a clockwork solar system governed propelled ruled by the gods of ancient Greece and Rome told with the subtle delight, clever misdirection, and teasing wordplay that Mercurio himself enjoys.

stubborn, ornery, testy, exasperated, impatient, irritable, captious, irascible

With the subtle delight, clever misdirection, and teasing wordplay enjoyed by Mercurio himself, J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a tale of steeply rising stakes in a clockwork solar system ruled by the gods of ancient Rome.

Yeah! Nailed it! Time to get the computer out!

(Yes, I was writing longhand. It works better than typing for me when I’m really struggling.)

At this point, I knew I had the basic structure of the new blurb. It would need small adjustments, but the heart was there. And while longhand is better for when I’m laboring, the computer is much easier when I’m making adjustments.

Light quote 8

Here’s the blurb in its (current) final form:

Mischievous Mercurio guards the planet Mercury – his sacred charge – with quirky devotion. He loves the oddball chunk of rock, with its illusion of retrograde motion and its out-of-sync orbit and spin.

Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia bids Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday celebration, the joke’s on him.

While Mercurio wangles his way around the captious refusals of his would-be stilt-walkers and clowns – “No, no, and no!” – the somber guardian of Pluto plots a darker scheme.

With the subtle delight, clever misdirection, and teasing wordplay that Mercurio himself enjoys, J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a tale of steeply rising stakes in a clockwork solar system ruled by the gods of ancient Rome.

For more about writing sales copy for fiction:
How I Wrote and RE-WROTE Cover Copy for Troll-magic
Cover Copy Primer
What Happens After the Manuscript is Complete?
Eyes Glaze Over? Never!

 

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Cover Copy for Troll-magic . . . One. More. Time!

There’s a promotional opportunity for my novel Troll-magic coming soon, so I reviewed its marketing copy to be sure everything was ready. Most promo newsletters require a considerably shorter story description than the one present on the web page of retailers such as Amazon, Kobo, Apple, etc.

cover image for Troll-magicSince Troll-magic released way back in 2011, when promotional opportunities were much scarcer on the ground than today, I suspected the marketing copy was not ready to go, and I was right.

Oh, I’d created a version for the “short blurb” that Smashwords requires. But – upon review – I didn’t like it much. Worse, I found that as I studied the full-length version, I had some problems with it as well.

None of this surprised me. Or even dismayed me. (Even though I’d revised that blurb extensively not too many months ago.) I’d expected that I had some work to do. That’s why I was reviewing the material.

Here’s the marketing copy I was reading:

Prince Kellor, cursed by the troll-witch Mandine to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of his beast form. Pain wracks his body. Unpredictable rages blur his mind. And his thoughts spin out of all sense, confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.

His curse turns on the choices of his childhood friend Elle. She once shared Kellor’s idyllic rambles through the wilderlands. She now loves all things musical. Might Kellor persuade her to neglect her own life and save his? Should he?

But no troll-witch permits her prey to escape with ease. The illusory loopholes in Mandine’s curse all twist back to its entombing heart.

Troll-magic tells a lyrical Beauty and the Beast tale, rife with moments of shining glory and dark magnificence, tumbling toward a lethal battle of wills and the impossible choices forced by clashing loyalties.

There was a lot to like there. I still felt it was a huge improvement over what it replaced. But several phrases bugged me. I’m going to show which ones and why.

north-bear banner

First Paragraph

Most of the first paragraph works well. The mention of a curse and a troll-witch lets the browsing reader know right away that the book is fantasy. The protagonist and his interesting problem are introduced. His goal – finding loopholes in the curse – is also presented. All good.

But “And his thoughts spin out of all sense” didn’t sit right with me. It was a little too vague and, even though I like archaic phrasing, this was a little too archaic. I thought about eliminating the entire sentence, but I needed “confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.”

So I worked to develop a better phrase. And got one after a little wrestling.

And straight thinking proves elusive, confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.

Second Paragraph

I liked most of what I had here also. Elle and her critically important role are introduced, along with Kellor’s moral dilemma: should he yank his old friend out of her own vital concerns to minister to him, thus exposing her to considerable danger?

But I didn’t like the phrasing I used to state Kellor’s dilemma.

Might Kellor persuade her to neglect her own life and save his?

It’s true that it’s a life-or-death situation for him. And it’s true that he would be asking Elle to neglect her own concerns. But this phrasing makes it all seem rather black and white, maybe even straight forward. And it is not straight forward at all. Nor is it clear what his best move is. Kellor has to do a lot of heroic inner work before he develops a cogent plan.

Also, I really regretted that my latest revision of the cover copy had removed the front cover tag line from the blurb: “Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.” I wondered if I could bring back some of those concepts. And – with a bit more wrestling – I did!

Might Kellor persuade her to neglect her own dreams to confront his lethal nightmare?”

Third Paragraph

I had qualms about the simple “But” that I used to introduce a further complication: the loopholes in Mandine’s curse are not really loopholes. It’s a little bald. On the other hand, cover copy needs to be relatively spare. And the alternatives I came up with to replace it were overly ornate. I decided to keep it. For now. 😀

star banner

Last Paragraph

Okay, this was the paragraph with the most serious problems. Yes, Troll-magic is a Beauty and the Beast tale. But it is also so much more than that. How on earth was I going to convey its “more-ness” without diminishing its “Beauty-and-the-Beast-ness”?

I felt like I was Sisyphus pushing the proverbial boulder up the hill. Everything I tried was totally not what I was looking for. Finally I resorted to my most effective hack for when I’m stuck. I write about my stuckness in my journal, as though I were telling a dear friend all about it.

This is what I wrote:

Beauty and the Beast at heart, but the story of how the fate of one young man, one couple, affects the fate of everyone in the world.

But it’s not just one person. Three people develop solutions: Kellor, Helaina, Gabris. The point isn’t that one person does it. The point is that an individual triumph can affect the larger world. The outcome of a private struggle or battle can guide the turn of events in the larger world.

The outcome of Kellor’s struggle will shape the history of the North-lands. The turn of events in the North-lands will echo the outcome of Kellor’s struggle.

Kellor’s curse reflects the curse of the world. I’m having a hard time getting this into words that work in a blurb.

The fate of a world and a people…

I need to let the reader know that the book is Kellor’s story, but it’s also the story of an empire, a people, and a world.

J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a lyrical Beauty and the Beast tale…

…that opens out from its Beauty and Beast heart into an epic steering the fate of an empire, a people, and a world.

lyrical telling
Beauty and the Beast tale
rife with glory and dark magnificence
fate of an empire, a people, and a world
epic

The lyrical telling of an epic with Beauty and the Beast at its heart.

Troll-magic is an epic of…

After all that, my journaling yielded the result I was looking for: something clicked, and I wrote the paragraph I wanted.

J.M. Ney Grimm tells a lyrical Beauty and the Beast tale, rife with moments of shining glory, dark magnificence, and unexpected significance. The fate of an empire, a people, and a world unfurls from Kellor’s deeds and Elle’s choices.

snow and stars

The New Marketing Copy

Putting all the revisions together gives us:

Prince Kellor, cursed by the troll-witch Mandine to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of his beast form. Pain wracks his body. Unpredictable rages blur his mind. And straight thinking proves elusive, confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.

His curse turns on the choices of his childhood friend Elle. She once shared Kellor’s idyllic rambles through the wilderlands. She now loves all things musical. Might Kellor persuade her to neglect her own dreams to confront his lethal nightmare? Should he?

But no troll-witch permits her prey to escape with ease. The illusory loopholes in Mandine’s curse all twist back to its entombing heart.

J.M. Ney Grimm tells a lyrical Beauty and the Beast tale, rife with moments of shining glory, dark magnificence, and unexpected significance. The fate of an empire, a people, and a world unfurls from Kellor’s deeds and Elle’s choices.

Of course, I still need to create the short version. But at least I’ll be working from a solid foundation! 😀

Troll-magic Amazon I B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords

 

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How I Wrote and RE-WROTE Cover Copy for My Novel

How to Write Fiction Sales Copy by Dean Wesley SmithI recently read How to Write Fiction Sales Copy by Dean Wesley Smith, and it is excellent. Excellent! I can’t say enough good things about it.

In the course of writing “blurbs” or cover copy for my own stories, I’ve perused a lot of how-to advice for same. Some advice proved helpful. (And I needed a lot of help! Marketing does not come naturally to me.) Some of it sounded reasonable, but when I followed the instructions, I generated some of the worst copy of my life. And most of the advice available was geared toward non-fiction.

But Dean has succeeded in bottling lightning – or come very close to it, indeed.

In How to Write Fiction Sales Copy, he lays out two general guiding principles and then proceeds to describe seven patterns or “formulas” – the structural bones – for writing sales copy. He includes numerous examples (for real stories destined for the marketplace) illustrating each approach.

I learn best by example, so this was pure gold for me.

But the bottled lightning? After reading the 32 example blurbs, I wanted to go buy and read every single story they presented. Every single one! Now that’s successful sales copy!

lightning

TWO FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLES

So what are Dean’s two guiding principles? Because I’ve taken workshops taught by him, I’d heard them before, and blogged about them, too. But in the interests making this post about cover copy complete, I’ll restate them.

1 • Stay out of the story’s plot.

Readers read a book to experience the plot in all its magnificence, told with all the skill that the storyteller can manifest. Regurgitating the plot in the sales copy will do nothing but wipe the wonder from it. It certainly won’t sell the story. There are better ways.

How do you know you are down in the plot? Your copy will have a lot of what boils down to “and then this happened.”

If you see a lot of “and then this happened,” you’ve done it wrong. Delete and start over.

If you’ve got a little dash of “and then this happened,” figure out how to get rid of it. The rest of your copy might be good.

Writing blurbs that sink into the plot of my story is my great weakness. I cannot tell you how many times I solicited feedback in Dean’s first workshop, “Pitches and Blurbs,” only to be told: “Nope. You’re down in the plot again.”

I must always check my blurbs for this problem.

2 • Use active verbs; avoid the passive voice like the plague.

That means avoiding verb constructions that require “is,” was,” “had,” “have,” and the like.

I’m lucky enough to possess a knack for avoiding passive verbs when I write sales copy. Occasionally an “is” sneaks by me, but that’s rare. However, most fiction writers, when they start writing sales copy, fall into either the trap of focusing on the plot of their stories, or the trap of using passive verbs, or both.

And no matter how agile I am at avoiding passive verbs, my tendency to dive into the plot still kills my blurbs just as dead.

Those are Dean’s two principles, and they are critically important, but it was his “formulas” and examples that really brought my understanding to a new level.

DEAN WESLEY SMITH’S BASIC BLURB PATTERN

In this blog post, I thought I’d talk about the first formula presented in How to Write Fiction Sales Copy and show…

Kay Nielsen art depicting a lassie aback a north-bear…not only how I used it to improve the sales copy for my novel Troll-magic, but the entire journey that particular blurb has traveled: from its first incarnation (when I knew exactly nothing about writing sales copy), through my poor first stabs at using copywriting principles, and on to my latest version, created after reading How to Write Fiction Sales Copy.

At the very least, you’ll get a good laugh at the absurdity of my student efforts. But I hope you’ll also learn a little something.

So what is the basic blurb pattern?

Paragraph 1: Introduce the protagonist and/or the world. Nail the genre, if at all possible.
Paragraph 2: Introduce the story problem. Limit yourself to the content of the first page of a short story, the first scene of a novella, or the first chapter of a novel.
Paragraph 3: Raise the stakes.
Paragraph 4: State why the reader wants to read the story, using largely genre tags or keywords.

Now, that is too abstract for me. I’m sure there are those of you who could go on swimmingly from there, but I am not among that lucky company, alas.

But no troll-witch permits...

AN EXAMPLE

So, to use an example, let’s look at each paragraph of the most recent, updated blurb for Troll-magic.

North-land spellcasters who summon excessive power transform into trolls – potent, grotesque, and hungry for control.

This first paragraph introduces the world – a fantasy world featuring spellcasters and trolls and malevolent magic – and identifies the genre.

Prince Kellor, cursed by the troll-witch Mandine to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of his beast form. Pain wracks his body. Unpredictable rages blur his mind. And his thoughts spin out of all sense, confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.

This second paragraph introduces the protagonist and his problem. Prince Kellor suffers from a nasty curse. Some way of escaping from it exists, but Kellor doesn’t know what that might be.

His curse turns on the choices of his childhood friend Elle. She once shared Kellor’s idyllic rambles through the wilderlands. She now loves all things musical. Might Kellor persuade her to neglect her own life and save his? Should he?

Troll-magic is not only a novel, but a l-o-n-g novel, told with five point-of-view characters, although largely from the vantages of Kellor and Elle. So this paragraph is really just an extension of the blurb pattern’s “paragraph 2.” It introduces Elle as key to solving Kellor’s predicament.

But no troll-witch permits her prey to escape with ease. The illusory loopholes in Mandine’s curse all twist back to its entombing heart.

Paragraph 3 raises the stakes. In other words: Not so fast, Kellor! Most curses have loopholes, but not this one. Not really.

J.M. Ney Grimm tells a lyrical Beauty and the Beast tale, rife with moments of shining glory and dark magnificence, tumbling toward a lethal battle of wills and the impossible choices forced by clashing loyalties.

Paragraph 4 tells the reader that Troll-magic is a beauty-and-the-beast type story, that its events produce feelings of exaltation in the reader, that its theme deals with catch-22 choices and stubborn frenemies, and that its prose is well-crafted.

(Many of my readers comment on my “lyrical prose” and remark that certain events in my stories evoke such strong feelings of sheer joy that they’re transported and amazed. So I include phrases that touch on those elements. They are reasons to read my work.)

No doubt this is far from a perfect blurb. I’m still learning. But you can see Dean’s formula for his Basic Blurb Pattern at work. And, as you’ll discover when you read on, this is far better than any blurb for Troll-magic that I’d produced before.

"Why had he never noticed...

MY ATTEMPT TO CHEAT FATE

Now let’s visit my first ghastly stab at a blurb for Troll-magic, which surely deserved better than I was able to give it at the time.

“In short, she was the friend from his childhood . . . and yet not his old friend: taller, hints of curves. Why had he never noticed she was beautiful before? All his planned introductions slipped away.”

Kellor’s a prince in trouble. Lorelin’s a musician trapped by bucolic traditions. Both must defy a troll-witch’s curse while navigating a maze of hidden secrets.

So what the heck was that?

It’s not really a blurb at all, but merely an excerpt from Chapter 6 of the novel!

I was so utterly clueless – and I knew I was clueless – that I didn’t even try to write sales copy. I picked a delightful moment on the story, quoted from the manuscript, and then added a brief gloss following the quote.

Which meant I spoiled that moment for the reader, because it won’t be fresh for him or her when those three sentences arrive. And I shirked the job that belongs squarely in the publisher’s court.

Many books that go through traditional publishing never receive the attention of the sales force, and thus the sales copy is written by a book’s acquiring editor or even the intern who read the manuscript. And sometimes that person does just what I did: quotes from the story and avoids writing any copy at all.

But that’s not the way to interest readers in a book. And I chose the indie publishing route because I wanted to do better than the mediocre job often done by traditional publishing for novels written by midlist authors.

Just because I’m bad at the marketing angle doesn’t excuse me from learning how to do it properly and giving my books the marketing support that all books need.

Fighting against a nightmare...

MY STUDENT VERSION OF THE BLURB

So let’s look at what I developed after my first class on writing sales copy for fiction.

Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.

An accursed prince and her own longing for music challenge Lorelin to do both.

But tradition and a hidden foe stand squarely in her way. How do you make dreams real when vision fails, allies undermine you, and all roads toward hope twist awry?

Can courage, honor, and loyalty prevail against a troll-witch’s potent curse?

Set within her enchanted North-lands, J.M. Ney-Grimm’s new take on an old Norse folk tale pits distorted malice against inner wisdom and grit.

Courage, honor, and loyalty...

WHY IT FAILED

First off, it is an actual blurb, not a mere pretense at one. Score one for Ney-Grimm!

The first line is an excellent hook. Dreams and nightmares are emotion-laden words. Nearly everyone has awakened from a nightmare with pounding heart and sweat-drenched brow, because the monster had caught them, the villain had pulled the trigger, or the zombie’s teeth had sunk into their flesh.

And most of us have cherished heartfelt dreams that meant everything to us.

Pairing the two concepts – fighting against a nightmare, fighting for a dream – let’s just say that it pleases me, lest I toot my own horn too loudly. 😉

The last paragraph also heads in the right direction. It lets the potential reader know that I’ve written many stories set in my North-lands, which is a fanatsy milieu. It indicates that the story is a retelling of an old Norse folk tale. Although, a caveat: many more readers will be familiar with Beauty and the Beast than know of Norse folk tales. And the last phrases tell the reader that the theme treats of inner strengths pitted against fear-inducing malevolence.

The paragraph works, but it could be much stronger.

The rest of the blurb is hopelessly vague. Clearly I was reacting to my known tendency of drowning in plot by flying so far above it that no one can figure out anything at all about my story.

That was certainly the reaction of my writers group when I asked their feedback.

Beyond the fact that Troll-magic featured a cursed prince and a musical country girl, the only certainty was that the story possessed a villain. But most stories have a villain – or at least an antagonist – so what is special about this one?

This was a blurb that failed to deliver the goods.

Elle quote

HELP FROM MY WRITERS GROUP

In the winter of 2013, I helped form a writers group with other indies who were interested in focusing on the publishing side of indie pubbing one’s books. We looked at one another’s book covers and gave feedback. We assessed our story openings for reader appeal and gave feedback. We brainstormed ways to let readers know that our stories existed.

And – writer by writer – we worked on cover copy.

When it was my turn, my fellow writers were incredibly generous. Every single one of them was better at cover copy than I was, and they each not only read Troll-magic (you do remember I said it was l-o-n-g, right?), but they wrote their own version of cover copy for it. Some of them wrote two or three versions! Super wonderful folk!

I studied each version, learned from them all, and then tried to produce my own improved version.

The idea was not to lean on one another permanently, but to learn and get better at the various skills necessary to publish a book well.

...from cool pine forests...

AFTER THE HELP

North-land spellcasters who wield excessive power transform into trolls – potent, twisted, and hungry for dominance.

Prince Kellor, cursed by a troll-witch to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of a beast’s form. He sees his childhood friend Elle as the key to his escape.

But charming Elle will be no easy task. Traversing that delicate passage between adolescence and adulthood, she struggles to balance family loyalty against her passion for music.

In this epic adventure across a stunning landscape, from cool pine forests to an icy pinnacle of basalt so real it leaves you shivering, Elle and Kellor must summon essential wisdom and grit to prevail against a troll-witch’s malice in a lethal battle of wills.

Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD

If you compare the first two sentences od this version to my latest version, you’ll see that they are the same. They introduce the world, Prince Kellor, and his dire problem well.

But Elle appears as a means to an end, rather than an important POV character in her own right. And we still don’t know – from content of this blurb – what sort of a story this is and what exactly Kellor and Elle are trying to do, other than defeat the villain. Or prevent the villain from winning.

There is no clear statement of the stakes, let alone a raising of them.

I kept that blurb for a long time, however, because it was better than what I’d managed before. My skills at blurb writing were improving, but I still had more to learn.

The illusory loopholes...

DRAFTING SALES COPY

Finally, this August of 2015, Dean Wesley Smith wrote a series of detailed blog posts on the topic of writing sales copy for fiction, and it was as though the proverbial curtain were drawn back before my eyes. I read and re-read those blog posts. I took copious notes. When Dean turned those blog posts into a book, I bought it and reviewed the material.

And when I wrote the copy for my five new books – released November 12 – I followed the guidelines outlined in that book. I could see that they were much, much better than cover copy I’d developed before.

Then and there, I vowed to return to my backlist, once the new books were well launched.

Because the blurb for Troll-magic struck me as the worst of all the blurbs written B.C. (before How to Write Fiction Sales Copy), I tackled it first.

One thing I’ve learned through all my years of struggling with copy is that I have to wrestle a draft into shape first, using all my know-how (such as it is at the time), and then let that draft sit overnight. If I’ve done my work properly, a lot of that draft will be right on target.

And the next day, I’ll be able to see which parts are good, which parts need tweaking, and which parts should be ditched completely.

I cannot see any of this without a night’s sleep between draft and revision.

She once shared...

THE ALMOST-RIGHT VERSION

The following was my first draft for Troll-magic’s updated blurb.

Just to be clear, it’s not what first came from my pen. My working pages include copious “notes to self” about what I was aiming for, numerous sentences that I jot down to capture an idea and then cross out, even more paragraphs with lines drawn through phrases, other phrases inserted, and so on.

My blurb writing process is messy. It almost has to be.

So when I say, “first draft,” I mean what I hammered out over 6 hours of work!

Anyway, here it is!

North-land spellcasters who summon excessive power transform into trolls – potent, grotesque, and hungry for dominance.

Prince Kellor, cursed by the troll-witch Mandine to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of a beast’s form. Maddened by pain, his thoughts spin out of all sense. Rage shakes him unpredictably. And confusion dogs his search for one of the loopholes that every curse possesses.

His curse turns on the choices of his childhood friend Elle. She once shared Kellor’s wilderland rambles. She now loves all things musical and struggles against the lack of opportunity in her bucolic surroundings.

But no troll-witch permits her prey to escape with ease. The illusory loopholes in Mandine’s curse twist back into its dark heart. Unless Kellor unravels a paradox. Unless Elle performs the impossible.

A lyrically told Beauty and the Beast story in which distorted malice tests inner wisdom and essential grit.

That felt almost right to me. Almost, but not quite.

North-land spellcasters who...

WHAT NEEDED TO CHANGE

After I’d slept, I knew what needed to change.

First issue: “hungry for dominance.” The phrase inched too close to what one might find in steamy romance. It strikes the wrong note for epic fantasy with a thread of sweet romance running through it. I’d wanted to avoid the word “control,” because it seemed too modern for my Steam Age setting, and I still wouldn’t use the term in just this way within the story.

But sales copy can stand to be a little less scrupulous about anachronisms than can the story itself. And the issue with many trolls in my North-lands is one of control, although they would not say it that way.

So “hungry for dominance” became “hungry for control.”

Second issue: the string of sentences starting with “Maddened by pain,” isn’t punchy enough.

I have to strike a careful balance with this. Marketing copy needs to have impact. It is usually punchy and short. I like to follow that recommendation, but I also need to present a hint of the lyricism that surfaces here and there within my stories and is a reason why readers read my books.

But the “Maddened by pain” sequence is not lyrical. It’s merely dragged out and inefficient. I changed it to: “Pain wracks his body. Unpredictable rages blur his mind. And his thoughts spin out of all sense, confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.”

Third issue: “…and struggles against the lack of opportunity in her bucolic surroundings.”

No. Just, no. We need to focus on what lies between Elle and Kellor, rather than haring off on Elle’s issues. Yes, she has them. But the blurb is not the place to explore them. Blurbs need to stay tightly focused.

Fourth issue: “Unless Kellor unravels a paradox. Unless Elle performs the impossible.”

I strayed into plot with those remarks. Or else I was gilding the lily in my raising of the stakes. Cut!

Fifth issue: “A lyrically told Beauty and the Beast story in which distorted malice tests inner wisdom and essential grit.”

The first phrase is right on target, but everything after “in which” is vague and doesn’t tell the prospective reader why he or she will enjoy the book. It needs to go further than it does.

Rife with moments...

THE UPDATED BLURB

We saw the fully updated blurb at the beginning of this post, with my commentary between each paragraph.

Let’s look at it without those interruptions.

North-land spellcasters who summon excessive power transform into trolls – potent, grotesque, and hungry for control.

Prince Kellor, cursed by the troll-witch Mandine to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of his beast form. Pain wracks his body. Unpredictable rages blur his mind. And his thoughts spin out of all sense, confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.

His curse turns on the choices of his childhood friend Elle. She once shared Kellor’s idyllic rambles through the wilderlands. She now loves all things musical. Might Kellor persuade her to neglect her own life and save his? Should he?

But no troll-witch permits her prey to escape with ease. The illusory loopholes in Mandine’s curse all twist back to its entombing heart.

J.M. Ney Grimm tells a lyrical Beauty and the Beast tale, rife with moments of shining glory and dark magnificence, tumbling toward a lethal battle of wills and the impossible choices forced by clashing loyalties.

Better, don’t you think?

What has your experience with cover copy been like? As a reader, have you ever bought a book because of its sales copy? As a writer, do you struggle with writing it? Or does it come naturally to you? (It does for some, just not me!)

I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

For more about cover copy, see:
Cover Copy Primer
Eyes Glaze Over? Never!

Be aware that these earlier posts will carry you back in time with me on my journey through writing sales copy. The principles I put forward are sound, but my ability to execute them grows ever less, the farther back in time you go. 😀

A few places to find How to Write Fiction Sales Copy:
Amazon I B&N I Kobo

And few places to find Troll-magic:
Amazon I B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords

 

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Cover Copy Primer

cover copy for Troll-magicI’m a writer, but I’m also a reader. I’m going to don my reader cap for a moment.

How do I choose my reading material?

When I’m lucky, a friend recommends something that’s right, but my voracity has exhausted most of my friends’ reading lists. (Grin!) More often, I must browse the shelf of new books at the library, check what my favorite authors are reading (because I’ve read all their stories), or fish among Amazon’s recommendations (which are still very hit-or-miss for me).

All these methods, however, eventually confront me face-to-face with a book cover (I’ve blogged about cover design here) and cover copy. Sometimes cover copy might more properly be called web copy, but it’s the same stuff. That cover copy – even on the tail of a friend’s recommendation – must get me to either buy the book outright or flip to the first page of the story. (Which must then make the sale, but story openings are another blog post!)

How does the cover copy do its job? It has an underlying structure. Let’s examine it.

To do so, I’ll doff my reader beret and put my writer fedora back on. How do I write cover copy that lets my readers know this is the story for them?

It isn’t easy. Marketing folk spend years in school learning this skill. But, as an indie publisher, I must manage somehow. The better I communicate the essence of my story, the more of my fans and potential fans will realize they want to read it.

Several months ago I blogged about the two most essential elements of cover copy: theme (not plot) and active verbs. If you missed that post, you’ll find it here. But what about the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts of writing such copy? Theme and active verbs are necessary, but not sufficient for the job. What about the rest?

At the same workshop where I learned to aim for the story’s heart and to avoid all forms of the verb to be, I also learned six questions to ask myself before I sat down to create cover copy. Read on!

What is the theme of the story, and what are the repercussions of this central idea?
This is the big reason a reader wants to read! Is the story about star-crossed lovers, mistaken identity, catching a dream, or what? Spell it out, but don’t descend into your plot. Stay with the big ideas; avoid the finicky details.

Who is the story about?
Readers are people, and people relate to people. Even if your setting is as spectacular as Niven’s Ringworld or your plot as dazzling as Willis’ time travel stories, it is your protagonist who will lead your reader into and through the magic of your creation. If your story has multiple points of view, pick the character who will best snag your reader’s interest.

What is the initial conflict?
Again, do not list plot details. What is the heart or essence of this conflict? Focusing on theme helps you avoid spoilers. You want to give a sense of the story without revealing elements best encountered within it.

Where is the story set?
Ground the reader somewhere. In Chicago’s loop, Virginia’s Blue Ridge, or the troll-infested North-lands. (Grin!) Imagine your reader as a helium balloon: tie his or her string to something. One word might be enough. Other stories will require a phrase or an entire sentence.

What is your tag line?
Developing tag lines probably deserves its own blog post! You’ll need a tag line for your cover copy, and it should possess zip or else drench your reader in evocative images. It usually appears at the end of the cover copy, but sometimes works better at the beginning. Either is fine. When I’m developing a tag line, I try to express the essence of the story as concisely as possible and then pair it with its opposite. I’ll give examples below.

What is the hook?
A hook provokes tension in the reader; it’s often a question. Such as: how can he convince her, when she won’t even talk to him? Will her gift for improv poetry be enough to catch the god’s eye? Can he run fast enough, leap high enough, drink deep enough to surmount the walls of Olympus?

I follow this outline each time I must write copy for an upcoming release. Occasionally I become fired with inspiration after tackling just a few questions and dive in. More often I need four or five answers complete before I start wrestling. Cover copy remains a challenging arena for me! It doesn’t come naturally. I trust continued practice will help!

With that caveat (you’ll want to better my performance), I’ll lead you through my exact progression of thought as I wrote cover copy for four of my stories. I need concrete examples myself, so I’m providing them for you.

 

cover image for Troll-magicWhat are the themes in Troll-magic?
Dreaming big dreams. Looking beyond your origins. Stretching for more, even when you don’t know quite what more is.

Who is the story about?
Lorelin, a seventeen-year-old growing up in rural Silmaren.

What is the initial conflict?
Lorelin’s family wants her to settle down and commit to life on the family farm. Lorelin wants more, but she’s not sure how to do something different from what her parents have done.

Where does the story take place?
The primary location is Silmaren, the cool northern country where Lorelin lives and where Kellor is imprisoned. The story visits other locations in the North-lands, but only for short periods of time.

Tag line?
Lorelin has dreams – dreams of playing her flute every day, dreams of a larger life. Mandine, the antagonist, is a nightmare come true.

nightmare versus dream
Fighting against a nightmare
Fighting for a dream

Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.

Hook?
Lorelin doesn’t know what to do, because she can’t see clearly. Her friends and family cannot help her, because they don’t know how either. Her father actively undermines her. And once she’s in the palace, everything goes wrong. It seems there’s no hope left.

Cover Copy

Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.

An accursed prince and her own longing for music challenge Lorelin to do both.

But tradition and a hidden foe stand squarely in her way.

How do you make dreams come true when vision fails, allies undermine you, and all roads toward hope twist awry?

Can courage, honor, and loyalty prevail against a troll-witch’s potent curse?

Set within her enchanted North-lands, J.M. Ney-Grimm’s new take on an old Norse folk tale pits distorted malice against inner wisdom and grit.

 
 

The Troll's BeltTheme for The Troll’s Belt?
Avoiding full responsibility for yourself by avoiding self-honesty.

Who?
Young Brys Arnson, a 12-year-old, who lives with his father. (His aunt and uncle, right next door, help out.)

Conflict?
Brys means well, but he’s taking short cuts. The result of his dishonesty and skimming out of chores: he gets grounded. When grounded, he cheats again and becomes inadvertent bait for a troll.

 
 
 

Setting?
A lumber-focused hamlet in the frontier lands west of settled Silmaren, where the pine forests and chains of lakes go on forever.

Tag line?
cheat – cheater
trick – trickster – trickery
devour
honesty

Inspiring example from Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones: A new witch learns old magic. Tension of opposites: new/old

Ryndal pretends to be friendly. Brys pretends to be trustworthy and responsible. Brys pretends to be strong after he finds the belt.

One pretense too many
When strength is one pretense too many [problem: is]
When stolen strength is one pretense too many [there it is again: is!]

borrowed belt, stolen strength

When wriggling out wriggles you into a heap of trouble.
When a greater cheater traps a lesser, there is no wiggle room.
Wriggling out wriggles Brys into a whole heap of trouble.
Wriggling out – from chores, from losing, from consequences
Wriggling out means wriggling in – to consequences.

Some mistakes are water under the bridge. Other mistakes
A short cut becomes the long way home. [There’s that pesky verb to be.]
A troll and his hunger turn a short cut long.
Short cuts + mistake + one troll = trouble
Short cuts, pretense, and wriggling out yields . . . trouble.

Childish deceit sprouts grownup trouble.
Minor deceit sprouts major trouble.

Young deceit sprouts timeless trouble.

Cover Copy

Motherless Brys Arnson digs himself into trouble. Bad trouble.

Grounded for sneaking and sassing, he makes bad worse.

Now he must dig for courage and honesty to deliver himself and his best friend from his mortal mistake.

Tricked by a troll in J.M. Ney-Grimm’s richly imagined North-lands, Brys must dig himself and his best friend back out of danger. But that requires courage . . . and self-honesty. Traits Brys lacks at depth.

A twist on a classic, The Troll’s Belt builds from humor-threaded conflict to white-knuckle suspense.

 

Cover image for Livli's GiftTheme for Livli’s Gift?
How to manage cultural change.

Who?
Livli, a young healer in the Hammarleeding spa.

Conflict?
Thoivra wants less contact with the Hammarleeding men and fewer visits between the sister-lodges and brother-lodges. Livli wants exactly the opposite.

Setting?
The Hammarleeding culture in the Fiordhammar mountains of Silmaren. Specifically, Kaunis-lodge, a sister-lodge that is special due to its healing hot spring.

Tag line?
Sometimes letting go spells defeat – sometimes it harnesses power.
Can letting go harness power? Or does it spell defeat?
Does letting go spell defeat? Or does might it harness power?
Does surrender spell defeat? Or might could letting go harness elemental real power?

Must surrender spell defeat? Or could letting go harness real power?

Hook?
Working toward what she wants, could Livli lose everything instead? While Livli pushes forward, one influential sister pushes back.

Livli, being a pioneer in the healing arts, wants change elsewhere as well, in all of living. But her desired change is too big, too much, too fast for her sisters.

Cover Copy

Livli heals the difficult chronic challenging injuries among patients of pilgrims to Kaunis-spa. Its magical spring gives her an edge, but Livli wields a possesses a special gift achieves results that others cannot achieves spectacular cures mainly because she refuses to fail.

A pioneer, she hopes to match new ways of living to her new ways of banishing illness her new ways of banishing hurt with new ways of living.

But her the sisters of Kaunis-lodge fear rapid change. While Livli pushes the new, one influential sister pushes the old. What precious things might they lose while tossing old inconveniences?

Livli pushes forward the new, and one influential foe pushes back. Kaunis-home will keep its revered traditions, even if Livli loses almost everything.

Everything . . . and the one thing she absolutely cannot lose.

Livli seeks an answer in the oldest lore of her people, something so old, it’s new. But mere resolve against failure meets an immovable counterforce this time. Victory requires more.

Must surrender spell defeat? Or could letting go harness real power?

 

Cover image for Star-drakeTheme for Star-drake?
Rebirth and redemption.

Who?
Gefnen, a troll-herald for a greater troll-lord, Koschey the Deathless.
Emrys, brother to the king of a small island realm.

Conflict?
Gefnen is hunting the life force of a youngster to feed his master, who requires it to hold death at bay. The boy at risk is defended by his friends.

Setting?
The wild moors west of Silmaren (in the North-lands).

 

Tag line?
redemption – victory – loss

What will victory look like? And to whom will it come?
When does victory mirror loss?
Gefnen hunts victory, but a different victory – redemption? – hunts him.

Gefnen seems to be winning until the star-drake seizes him. Then he seems to be losing. Ultimately he is reborn, and his deep descent into evil will permit him to offer redemption to others. He will know, because he has been there.

possess – hold – mirror – own

Victory mirrors loss until
Boy versus troll versus redemption’s champion.
The stars foretell victory – the night behind them brings something else.
Hunting victory, accepting something else.

Gefnen hunts victory, but victory hunts him.
When victory arrives
Gefnen hunts victory, but a different victory hunts him.

Gefnen hunts victory, but a darker victory hunts him.

First Draft

Gefnen is hunting [pesky to be] hunts life.

Not deer, not pheasant, not game [reserve for later] meat for the table. His master eats choicer fruits.

When the piercing scent of youthful life exuberance tingles in his troll deformed twisted senses, Gefnen tracks focuses the his chase. The boy His prey lacks guardians strong enough to best a troll.

But Gefnen But other seekers than Gefnen tilt the chances in this game. The spirit of the storm, the poignant memories of a seolh-prince, and the vast powers of an ancient star-drake define the shaping looming conflict.

What will victory look like? And to whom will it come?

[You’ll note I have a decided and unfortunate tendency to gild the lily. Luckily I wield a red pen with enthusiasm.]

Cover Copy

Gefnen – troll-herald and hound for Koschey the Deathless – hunts life across the moors of the far north.

Not deer, not pheasant, not meat for the table. His master eats choicer fruits.

When the piercing scent of youthful exuberance youth tingles his senses, Gefnen focuses his chase. This The prey – a boy – lacks guardians strong enough to best a troll. Gefnen readies for Swift victory [reserve for later] triumph awaits.

But other seekers tilt the chances of this game. Spirit of storm, poignant memories of a sea-prince, and something more ancient than memory or the wind shape the looming tumult.

Gefnen hunts victory, but a darker victory hunts him.

* * *

Are you a reader? Have you ever chosen a read purely because of its cover copy? What book was it? I’d love to read it myself and learn.

Are you an indie author? What methods do you use to generate effective cover copy? I’d love to learn anything you’d care to share!

For more discussion of cover copy, see my earlier post – Eyes Glaze Over? Never! – on the subject.

 

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Eyes Glaze Over? Never!

I love it when one of my favorite authors releases a new book. The instant a title by Robin McKinley or Lois McMaster Bujold hits the shelves, I′m there with my wallet open!

But how do I choose a book when McKinley and Bujold are between releases? Usually the process goes like this. I′m browsing – at the library or online – and I′m looking at book covers. My reactions vary. Sometimes I say eeuw! Other times: huh. And often: oh! nice!

Cover designers know what they′re doing these days. I see a lot of attractive covers. Covers which prompt me to go to the next step: reading the cover copy. There the results are more mixed. Lots of ick! More of huh? Or huh. Very few oh, interesting! Only my interesting! responses send me inside the front cover to the first page. By then, depending on how the whole progression felt, I′m thinking either m-a-y-b-e or this is good!

The opening paragraphs then grab me. Or they don′t! If I abruptly find myself seven pages in, it′s a keeper!

That′s my experience as a reader. As a writer and publisher, my own reading experience catches my attention from a different angle.

How do I create covers and cover copy that will accurately and attractively signal the contents of my stories? That will connect the right readers – the ones with a taste for my work – to what′s inside the books?

Hoping to answer those questions more skillfully, I took two workshops this summer. I′d like to show you the results from the first one.

I knew going in that I didn′t understand how to write cover copy, but I didn′t realize just how clueless I truly was. (Utterly clueless!)

Writing superb cover copy is a skill that takes years to master, but there are two fundamental rules underlying the niceties:

use active verbs
(avoid all forms of to be)

convey the essence of the story
(do not describe the plot: what happens next and what happens after that)

The first of these two basics felt natural. As long as I paid attention, choosing verbs that added energy was fun.

The second basic . . . oh my! I continually descend into plot – the series of linked events – in my attempts to describe its essence.

″Pull up! Pull up!″ exhorted my teacher. Eventually I did get it. In fact, my teacher pronounced my class exceptional, because everyone got it! (Usually a few straggling students struggle.) But I discovered that the more useful instruction for me is: dive down! Go deeper! Go below the plot to theme.

So, is my cover copy better? I think so. But I′ll let you be the judge. Here′s a batch of BEFORE′s and AFTER′s. What do you think?

 

Rainbow′s Lodestone

BEFORE

She leapt across the sky in the wake of a thunderstorm, glorying in the energy of wind and lightning, exulting in the rush of the earth beneath. Her rainbow splashed amidst mountains, and she slid down the curve of light.″

The rainbow’s child was eager to enjoy the delights of earth, but this visit to the realm below the sky might be her last. Gefnen, a cruel troll-herald, would see to it.

portrait of the rainbow (web size)AND AFTER

A lost birthright and unending agony.

On a whim, the rainbow’s child falls to earth, where a cruel adversary takes advantage of her innocence.

Can she reclaim her thunder-swept heavens? Must she dwindle and die?

This transcendent short story of J.M. Ney-Grimm’s troll-ridden North-lands explores how inner freedom creates outer opportunities.

Earth trumps heaven until ancient music plays.

 

The Troll′s Belt

BEFORE

The stranger was short, but he wasn’t a boy . . . hair grizzled gray in a wild mane around his face, beard equally wild, but thin. His voice sounded genial, almost friendly, but his pale, watery eyes held a mad glitter. Was he a troll?″

Grounded for sneaking and sassing, Brys finds a magical belt in the woods. But his good luck is about to turn bad. Trolls never mean well: this one pursues a grudge.

web imageAND AFTER

Young Brys Arnsson digs himself into trouble.

Bad trouble.

Tricked by a troll in J.M. Ney-Grimm’s richly imagined North-lands, Brys must dig himself and his best friend back out of danger. But that requires courage . . . and self-honesty. Traits Brys lacks at depth.

A twist on a classic, The Troll’s Belt builds from humor-threaded conflict to white-knuckle suspense.

 

Sarvet′s Wanderyar

BEFORE

Sarvet is lame, and her culture keeps girls close to home. Worse, her mother emphasizes all the things that Sarvet can’t do. But Sarvet dreams of traveling outside her small, mountain enclave to explore the big world with all its strangeness and wonder. How can she transcend her injured leg, her confining lodge-home, and her over-protective mother?

Kay Nielsen art depicting a lassie wandering the mountainsAND AFTER

Running away leads straight back home – or does it?

Sarvet walks with a grinding limp, and her mountain culture keeps girls close to home. Worse, her mother emphasizes all the things Sarvet can’t do. How do you escape, when you hold none of the resources you need?

Sometimes big dreams and inner certainty transform impossible barricades into a way out. J.M. Ney-Grimm’s inspiring fantasy novella explores this cusp of miracle.

 

Troll-magic

BEFORE

In short, she was the friend from his childhood . . . and yet not his old friend: taller, hints of curves. Why had he never noticed she was beautiful before? All his planned introductions slipped away.”

Kellor’s a prince in trouble. Lorelin’s a musician trapped by bucolic traditions. Both must defy a troll-witch’s curse while navigating a maze of hidden secrets.

Kay Nielsen art depicting a lassie aback a north-bearAND AFTER

Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.

An accursed prince and her own longing for music challenge Lorelin to do both.

But tradition and a hidden foe stand squarely in her way. How do you make dreams real when vision fails, allies undermine you, and all roads toward hope twist awry?

Can courage, honor, and loyalty prevail against a troll-witch’s potent curse?

Set within her enchanted North-lands, J.M. Ney-Grimm’s new take on an old Norse folk tale pits distorted malice against inner wisdom and grit.

 

Better? What′s your vote?

 

For further discussion of cover copy, see my later post – Cover Copy Primer – on the subject.

 

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