[Pitch Slapped] The fewer words, the more each one matters.

“I am wondering if I lost something in the whittling down of this blurb.”

If you’ve gotta ask…

From that sentence alone, I know author David Wozniak totally knew in his heart of hearts what would happened when he cut his 200-word blurb to his 50-word elevator pitch and sent it into our merciless canary claws.  The skies grew dark, women wailed in the streets, old men grew sorrowful and still.

Because, let’s face it, there’s nothing harder than trying to distill the essence of a 50,000+ word story into a few pithy sentences.

But let’s back up and take a look at David’s elevator pitch:

“Each year, Master Voider Democryos sends his brightest student into the war-torn countryside to work magic. But when the young Lady Marine leaves him for another man, he finds his own life ravaged.  Forsaking the comfort of the citadel, he seeks to find her–not to gain her back, but to gain understanding.

Nothing goes as planned.”

First thought: The fewer words, the more each word matters.

In such a short piece, every word carries huge weight. Protip: Avoid using words that have no meaning to the reader. An easy example of this is “Master Voider” – I don’t know what it is, and that’s distracting. Continue reading

Advertisements

[Pitch Slapped] A look at 600 recent review requests

600 Book Review Requests

I’ve been checking the canary review request inbox periodically, browsing around for jewels to catch the eye, but last week, I decided to get serious about it.

The Unread pile had grown to a little over 600 emails since February, and I wanted to do something about it. Over the next hour or so, I cut the pile down to a more manageable 100 review requests that had piqued my interest, then down again to some 50 books to check out and try.

I thought I’d share some general observations about my process and what worked and didn’t work to intrigue me as I powered through the requests. Here are some things that immediately struck emails from consideration:

1. Not the right genre. Poetry anthologies, political thrillers, historical literature. Gone.

2. Couldn’t find the blurb. If I couldn’t immediately see what the book was about, or if it asked me to open an attachment to read the blurb, or if I had to click a link, I moved on. Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] A book blurb is no place for world-building

Happy Monday, canaries. We bring you a pitch-slapping to get this week rolling right. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the place that world-building has in blurb-writing. (Because the title of this post clearly isn’t spoiler enough.)

But before I dive into that, here is  Heena Patwa’s blurb for her novel, Impossible to Love:

There is an age old story – some call it a myth, some believe it to be history. Nevertheless, the fact remains that there exist three different species who look alike. First are the underwater dwellers – the nymphs. The myth says that they are cursed never to find love. They are all females and mate with humans, killing them after the act. Second are the starlites. They can fly, and their hearts are cold as the snow covered peaks they live in. They are cursed never to feel love or get loved by anyone. The third is the human race. Humans can feel love, get love, cherish it and hence are considered worthy to rule everyone. The guardians are a group of starlites whose job is to protect the humans from the nymphs and they have got a new member- Sophia Antofurota.

Sophia gradually finds out that the royalty is hiding many secrets but never suspects that she can have any part to play in their schemes. Will she find out that the crown-prince is in love with her or will the world keep believing that starlites are impossible to love?

So…guys. Here’s the thing. Stop world-building in your book blurb.

The trivia about the race system in this world might be interesting and relevant to the overall plot, but it’s a problem when we don’t actually find out what the story is about until the tenth sentence in a story summary. In fact, of the 192 words in this blurb, only the last 72 talk about what the characters and plot. That’s the equivalent of having the first 189 pages of a 300-page story be about the details of the world’s myths and geography, and the last 100 pages, the actual story.

I don’t care how clever or unique your world system, or your five-class society, or your alternative reality. At most, you get half a sentence to describe your super special world-concept, and that’s only if it’s super vital to the story.

If I cut the world-building, here’s what we get: Continue reading

This Month in the Mine Shaft: October

1

2

3

4

Onward to November! What’s on your to-read list?

Want to buddy read something?

This Month in the Mine Shaft: September

1

  • The World Without Us by Alan Weisman ★★★★★
  • Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs ★★★★☆
  • The Universe in a Single Atom by Dalai Lama XIV ★★★★☆
  • Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger ★★★★☆
  • Shadowed Souls by Kerrie L. Hughes ★★★☆☆
  • White Trash by Nancy Isenberg ★★★☆☆
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi ★★★☆☆
  • Champion of the Rose by Andrea K. Höst ★★☆☆☆
  • The Corner Store Witch by H.D. Lynn – DNF

 

2

 

3

4

Onward to October! What’s on your to-read list?

Redemption in Writing: How we pick who gets saved

I finally watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens last night. And it was really good. From characters to plot, it was both a great nostalgia flick and a neat addition to the canon. But it also reminded me what a huge role class and privilege play within movie universes when it comes to redemption storylines.

(This piece is going to include some mild spoilers, so watch out.)

One of the major subplots in the movie was whether the villainous Ren would reconcile with his parents and reject the dark side. Presumably, upon rejecting the dark side, he would return home, hug his mom, cry in the arms of his parents and then retreat to a Jedi monastery to think upon his misdeeds, or heroically join the battle against the dark side and his evil former mentor.

ren

Mind, this character’s screen time included :

  • ordering the wholesale slaughter of an entire village,
  • running guy through with his light saber,
  • torturing a resistance fighter off-screen,
  • and colluding in the destruction of three to five heavily inhabited planets.

And this is just what happened during the movie. But his parents love him and want him to come home. Continue reading

Writing the impossible: Thoughts on immortal characters in fiction

Deities, vampires, demons, elves, artificial intelligences, cyborgs, genetically enhanced humans, sentient ships, aliens.

I love reading about inhuman aliens, about immortal characters, about the other that is, in some deep way, truly other. And so I am always more than deeply disappointed when the alien is merely a human with purple skin and the 400-year-old vampire prince has all the personality of a petulant teenager with pointy teeth. I am looking at you, urban fantasy. You, space opera. You, paranormal romance.

Immortality, like any story decision, deserves to be more than a cursory afterthought. What happens when immortality is granted to someone who would otherwise be human?

The questions are endless: What is it like to still be healthy and alive after a hundred years? In two hundred, how much has society changed and what is your role in it? In two thousand, how do you see time and the people around you? Does your perception of time continue speeding up, or do the days drag by? How has your religion changed, if it’s even still around? Is the passage of time oppressive or inspiring? Does living forever mean disengagement and bitterness, or compassion and patience? Do people still understand you when you talk? Which languages do you choose to learn and how often? What up with science? Have you upgraded your rotary phone yet?

Ever try talking to an older uncle about things you care about? Image your uncle grew up in ancient Mesopotamia. Or was a nomadic shepherd on the Asian continent. Or a British sailor on a whaling ship. Now he asks you what you’ve been up to. Probably in ancient Chinese.

Damn.

Immortals in romantic subplots

Is that a 475-year age gap I see? Is that a teen dating an octogenarian?

Immortal love interests are ubiquitous in the romance genres. They often come with troubled pasts – history is no cakewalk, after all. They demonstrate the weight of history through outbursts of anger, their iron-clad control, their impassive countenance, their pushy, alpha-male tendencies.

Egypt.JPG

Where are all the ancient alpha males who grew up in more egalitarian societies or encountered the hard, no-nonsense women running households and businesses?

I always feel vaguely cheated. Is that it? Is that all? You’ve lived for hundreds of years, and all I get is a foot-stamping romance-novel trope, muttering “mine” uneasily under its breath? Or else you are my immortal heroine acting with all the self-possession of a teen high on red bull and sugar. Continue reading