Monday, December 19, 2011

New before/after: "The Fallen"

I like to keep this blog transparent, and so I present the failures as well as the wins. Sometimes clients and I don't agree on what's going to work. That's entirely the client's prerogative. It's the author's book, and it's the author's right to represent it the way s/he thinks it should be represented.

With that, here's today's before/after, E.S. Lark's "The Fallen," a prequel in her Wynrith series. I'm giving you the original version, my reworked version, and the version Ms Lark eventually wrote and used. Her version isn't wrong; it's just not mine. (Note: My version has missing info in brackets; we never got to that point in our back-and-forth.)

Acanit knows he’s different; the elders made sure of it shortly after his birth. From his ebony coat and misshaped form to the spikes running down the middle of his back, Acanit’s every bit a hardian—a demon as they claim. And while he still has the love of his parents, the clan cannot possibly feed a creature that’s unable to fit within one of their homes.

Tasked with an impossible hunt if he wishes to stay, Acanit considers what life would be like beyond the borders of his village. But when creatures much like himself steal him away from the only family he’s ever known, Acanit learns his blood is more valuable than all of their lives combined. Bred as part of an experiment, Acanit’s the only one of his kind—shaped by two clans, neither of which he belongs to. If the other clans were to get wind of the power that lies within his bloodstream, they could easily use him to start a war. And there are others who are after him for this very reason. Tracked by the Endarkened, Acanit must decide between running to save his own life or sacrificing himself for those he loves.

No matter what path he takes, his decision will change the face of Wynrith forever.

My After:
Acanit wishes he looked like the rest of his village. Their feathers and fur are brown, and they stand on two legs. Acanit's pelt is black, he stands on all fours, and wicked spikes march down his back--he looks like a demon. The villagers have shunned him all his short life.

When creatures more like him steal him from his village, Acanit discovers why they're different: they're genetic experiments sought after by the Endarkened, a race of beings out to conquer the world of Wynrith. Acanit is the "experiment" the Endarkened want most. Every part of him seems made for war--except his peaceful soul. Acanit runs from them, only to run straight into love when he meets [[name of mate]].

The Endarkened make him an impossible offer: if he joins them, he'll be forced to become the greatest weapon on Wynrith, and spawn more of his kind. But if he refuses, [[name of mate]] will die. Acanit must choose: betray his planet, or betray his love.

E.S. Lark's After:
Acanit wants nothing more than to belong with those of his clan, but their bipedal, birdlike forms are in stark contrast to his own. From his ebony coat to the spines on his back as he walks on all fours, everything about Acanit screams hardian—demon. Shunned by his kin shortly after birth, Acanit’s only ever known the life of an outsider.

But when a clan of look-alikes steal him away from his home, he learns that fitting in has its price. As part of an ongoing experiment between his kin and his scale covered clones, Acanit is sought after by the Endarkened, who if given the chance, will use his blood as a weapon of war.

Should they ever find him, they’ll make him an impossible offer—join them and watch his kind die by his own hand or die in their place.

Acanit must choose: sacrifice himself and remain loyal to his kin or betray all of Wynrith.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

New before/after: "Thieves at Heart"

Full disclosure: The author is a personal friend.

Today's before/after is Tristan J. Tarwater's "Thieves at Heart," the first book in her "Valley of Ten Crescents" series. I've actually read this one. That made working with Tris different; I didn't have to ask her any questions! And I know how good the book is (very). About working with me, Tris says, "*sound of you nailing it.*" :)

Here's what we did:

Tavera has grown up an outsider. A half-elf in a land of humans, she finds herself dragged through various jobs for other people’s benefit and used for their gain. When a thief named Derk plucks her from her latest job she expects more of the same from the cunning rogue, but instead finds direction, guidance and protection for the first time in her life. Her pa belongs to a group called The Cup of Cream, a group of elite thieves, scoundrels and other sorts who seek not only personal gain but to keep balance in the Valley. To join their ranks would please her father and give Tavera the acceptance she’s been seeking all her life. When the unthinkable happens, she is forced to wonder if the Cup sees her as just another tool their sleeve, or if they under-stand she is an individual with her own desires, whose heart beats faster with every take. When she needs them most, with they be there for her? She’s about to find out.

Tavera is a half-elf child in a land of humans, an outsider dragged from bad to worse--until Derk whisks her away and adopts her as his own. Tavera soon finds out her new Pa is a master thief, a member of a secret, elite group of professional scoundrels called the Cup of Cream. Outlaws, yes, but they have their pride; thievery is as necessary as any other profession in the Valley of Ten Crescents.

To Derk's--and her own--delight, Tavera grows into a natural thief and works her way toward membership in the Cup. An invitation would finally give her a place to belong, and it would please the father she loves so much.

But being a thief means being only one step ahead of the law. When the law finally catches up, Tavera must choose: go against her Pa's wishes for the sake of loyalty and love; or obey him, break her heart and survive.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Friday, December 16, 2011

New before/after: "Double-Take Tales"

Today's before/after is short and sweet, like the three stories in the collection "Double-Take Tales" by Donna Brown. Come to think on it, they're not all that sweet! Donna is a repeat client; I doctored her husband David's book Fezariu's Ephiphany.

This time around, Donna says, "Love it!  I'm sure I've told you before but you're a blurb genius!" Thanks, Donna. I don't know about "genius," but I'm always happy when clients like what I've done enough to hire me again--and again; I've got another David Brown book in my queue right this minute. :) Here's what we did:

Three short stories to make you think...

Round Trip: 24 hours in the lives of ordinary people - some facing extraordinary events - and all linked by one £5 note

Poison: A wife discovers that revenge is a dish best served slowly

C'est la vie: What will you learn when you eavesdrop on a murder investigation? 

Three dark, sardonic short stories that will have you expecting the unexpected:

In "Poison," a psychologically abused wife discovers that her husband's nut allergy may be the solution to all her problems.

In "Round Trip," a five pound note passes through desperate hands, greedy hands and tired hands before coming full circle…accompanied by a big surprise.

In "Ç'est La Vie," the police bungle a murder investigation under the watchful eye of someone uncomfortably close to the killing.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New before/after "A Fleet in Being"

Today's before/after is Russell Phillips's "A Fleet in Being," a short history of perhaps the oddest navy in World War I. Russ is one of my few non-fiction clients, and one of a growing number of repeat customers. Here's what Russ has to say about this go-round:

"This one seemed more difficult than A Damn Close-Run Thing, but that's probably at least partly because I didn't really have a blurb to start with - I just came up blank whenever I tried to write a blurb for it. I was impressed and pleased that you used Wikipedia to get an idea of the subject matter.

"One thing that struck me with both was that you wait for me to say that I'm happy with it. It seemed to take a lot of work this time, but I always had the impression that you were going to keep working until I was happy with the result. It's always good to work with someone that wants the customer to be happy."

Thanks, Russ! It's always good to work with clients who actually enjoy doing the work. This was harder than "A Damn Close-Run Thing." I knew less about the subject matter, hence resorting to Wikipedia. :)

Here's what we came up with.

During WWI, the Austro-Hungarian navy (Kaiserliche und Königliche Kriegsmarine: Imperial and Royal War Fleet) epitomised the concept of a "fleet in being". The large ships rarely left port, and were never involved in a major battle. The Allies, unable to ignore the presence of a small but powerful fleet in the Adriatic, were forced to maintain a significant presence in the area.

Illustrated with over twenty photographs and drawings, this book provides a comprehensive and detailed listing of the ships that made up the KuK Kriegsmarine. It also includes a short description of the navy and its operations, as well as the unique problems that were faced by this small and unusual fleet.

The Kaiserliche und Königliche Kriegsmarine--The Austro-Hungarian Navy--was in at the beginning of World War I when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie lay in state abord its flagship, and at the end when it dissolved along with the empire that commanded it. During the war, this small but powerful "fleet-in-being" forced the Allies to maintain a significant blockade presence, allowing German and Austro-Hungarian u-boats to run riot elsewhere in the Mediterranean even though its capital ships almost never left port.

Illustrated with thirty photographs and drawings, this book provides a comprehensive and detailed listing of the ships that made up the KuK Kriegsmarine, its operations, and the unique problems this unusual fleet faced, from contentious duelling parliaments to ships built by landlocked Hungary.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Monday, December 12, 2011

New before/after: "The Master's Chair"

Today's before/after is "The Master's Chair," a fantasy adventure from Mackenzie Morgan and the first book in the series "The Chronicles of Terah."

The biggest problem here was...bigness. :) When you're writing your blurb, watch out that you don't get too involved in back story. Keep it short, but not too short. Stick to what the reader absolutely needs to know to understand your story. Everything else is extraneous.

Here's what Mackenzie and I did. (My biggest problem writing this one is that I consistently misspell "sorcerer" as "sorceror.")

Since the beginning of time, two sister worlds, Earth and Terah, have coexisted in different planes, surrounded by an immense field of energy. Long ago, magical and non-magical creatures lived together in harmony on both worlds, but as life on Earth evolved in the direction of science and technology, the use of magic deteriorated and soon magical creatures and sorcerers became the subject of myths and legends. Meanwhile magic flourished on Terah, and as sorcerers became more powerful, they became more influential, and soon they were the heads of government. The Council of Sorcerers became the ruling body, with the chairman, the Master Sorcerer, the highest human-held position on Terah.

When Master Sorcerer Badec realizes that his unborn son, Myron, will be his one and only heir, he protects the child from his enemies by arranging for him to grow up on Earth. Myron is scheduled to be returned to Terah on his twenty-fifth birthday, at which time he’ll learn who he is and begin to study magic as well as everything else he’ll need to know in order to assume his role as Terah's next Master Sorcerer

For twenty-three years, things go as planned, and Myron goes about his life as Kevin, a typical nerd, who is more comfortable with computers than with people. Then Badec becomes quite ill and the decision is made to bring his son home early.

One morning Kevin is an accountant living and working in Omaha, and the next he is in the middle of a field with six complete strangers, surrounded by huge stones and a forest. Before the day is out, Kevin learns that he is actually a sorcerer named Myron and that he’s next in line for the Master’s Chair. While he’s still reeling from that bit of information, he finds out that due to his father’s illness, he has a little less than one year to learn enough about sorcery to be able to defend his life and chair against sorcerers who have been practicing their craft longer than he’s been alive.

Welcome to Terah.

To read more about The Chronicles of Terah, go to

Badec is the most powerful sorcerer on the parallel world of Terah. But the position of Master Sorcerer comes with many enemies, so many that when his only son and heir is born he sends the baby to be raised on Earth.

His son Kevin grows up to be a nerdy accountant, more comfortable with computers than people. So when he suddenly finds himself transported to Terah, where magic is the norm and technology is unknown, it's a bit of a shock. A bigger shock: Kevin discovers Badec is his father, and that he's a sorcerer himself.

But Badec is dying. Kevin has less than a year to learn everything he needs to know to take the Master Sorcerer's place. If he doesn't, he may lose both the Master's Chair and his life.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

New before/after: "Ashlyn's Radio"

Today's before/after is Norah Wilson and Heather Doherty's "Ashlyn's Radio," a bang-up YA supernatural. Heather and Norah are putting the book out in paperback and took the opportunity to spruce up the blurb.

Here's what Wilson/Doherty and I did.

When her mother is hospitalized after a mental breakdown, Ashlyn is crushed to have to leave Toronto to go live with her grandmother in Prescott Junction, Maine, where nothing happens. Nothing except for the ghost train that rolls through on the rusted lines on dark nights – the one the townsfolk pretend not to hear as it comes to claim troubled, lost souls. Ashlyn scoffs at the idea ... until she witnesses it herself, with its evil, seductive conductor and the wailing of souls trapped on board. The string of unexplained deaths by the tracks throughout the village's history (Ashlyn's father included, before she was even born) lends credence to the tale. As frightened as she is at the conductor’s pull, more terror awaits when the antique radio in her grandmother’s basement comes to life. Ashlyn’s grandmother tells her the radio is a Caverhill curse, and can’t be destroyed or discarded. It keeps coming back, and it keeps broadcasting "reports" of events yet to happen. Her grandmother begs her to stay away from the radio, but Ashlyn cannot help but listen. And to her horror, it tells her she is bound to board the ghost train. Ashlyn will need the help of her newfound friends – the troubled Rachel and the very sexy Caden – if she is going to get through the coming horrors with her sanity intact and her soul unclaimed. 

Ashlyn Caverhill has left behind her senior year of high school to live with her grandmother, and she's not happy about it. Small-town Maine has nothing on Toronto. But her mother is ill, and there's nowhere else to go. Even though it contains one Caden Williams--the hottest guy she's ever seen--Ashlyn thinks Prescott Junction is the deadest place ever.

She may be right. A lot of people seem to die mysteriously down by the long-abandoned train tracks. Her own father died there before she was born. The townspeople whisper about a ghost train that comes for the souls of Prescott Junction's most troubled and vulnerable. Ashlyn scoffs until one night she sees the train and its ghoulish conductor, who nearly coaxes her on board.

Ashlyn's fear grows when she finds an old radio that haunts the Caverhill family. They've thrown it out. It comes back. They've buried it. It comes back. They've sunk it in the lake, and still it comes back. Even though it's never plugged in, the radio broadcasts stories of future events that always come to pass. Imagine Ashlyn's horror when the radio's top story is "Ashlyn Caverhill boards the ghost train." Now she must rely on the help of Caden and her new friend Rachel to escape the radio's curse and stop the ghost train before she's forced to ride it forever.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

New before/after: "One Insular Tahiti"

Today's book is Thea Atkinson's "One Insular Tahiti." This is a non-linear novel, and that made it a little harder to get  a handle on it. Here's what Thea and I did.

Luke's death has come the way he always feared it would: in the claustrophobic, underground heat of a Cape Breton coal mine. He had suspected it would end this way, had embraced it even, so while his body is buried, his soul settles into a watery existence of endless waiting.

Soon, something changes in his personal purgatory; all is not quiet the way it was when he first realized he was dead. Now a wind howls and storm seas bring waves of half remembered events from his past life that are so terrible he will do anything to avoid reliving them: images of war and abuse and of a favored brother spoiled by disease.

He needs to find a way out.

This is when he notices Astrid, a newborn fighting for her life. She isn't supposed to survive her birth, but if he can just will her to be his mother, he can save her and escape the anguish of this terrible supposed insular Tahiti.

Too late, Luke realizes that the connection that binds him to Astrid is the same inevitable battle of memories he left his purgatory to forget. Now he must endure the replay of horrific images that will ultimately change his soul and Astrid's forever.

One Insular Tahiti is a nonlinear tale of one soul's search for redemption and the lengths the human spirit will go to find peace.

Luke MacIsaac is dead, and not restfully dead. He'd always expected he'd die in the claustrophobic, underground heat of a Cape Breton coal mine. He'd even embraced it as his soul settled into a watery existence of endless waiting.

But in short order the placid waters of his afterlife turn to rolling seas of time and memory as his violent past plays out again for him. Images of war, childhood abuse, and the tortured life of a brother he loved and failed inundate him. More than anything, he wants to escape.

In his confusion and pain, he senses a kindred spirit in Astrid, a newborn struggling to stay alive. Luke helps her in hopes she may one day be the one who brings him out of his purgatory and into a new incarnation. He discovers too late that Astrid's soul is linked to his hellish past life. Now he must experience all the anguish they went through together, and watch helplessly as Astrid goes through sorrows of her own, before the two of them can finally meet in this world and find peace together.

By the way, I didn't know what "insular Tahiti" meant. It's a reference to Moby Dick:

"For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!"

The more you know. :)

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New before/after: "Thin Hope"

Today's before/after is Naomi and Holly Hook's "Thin Hope."

Princess Kiki Endicott has enough of her own problems without war looming over the horizon.  Her uncle, the Royal General, won't stop stalking her, despite the fact that she's already engaged to her hot fiancé, Damon.  But it turns out that her uncle's obsession with her goes farther: he wants her to join him in becoming the most powerful beings in the world, using the blood of several races, and he'll stop at nothing to meet his goal.

Soon her uncle manipulates two races to invade her city, Frelladon: the Delainians, genetically engineered by their leader to control the weather, and the Latienians, magic users ruled by a power-hungry Emperor.  Neither are as dangerous as the Royal General, who is turning into a creature that will take far more than Kiki and Damon's military skills to defeat.

Princess Kiki Endicott faces two threats from one man. Royal General Patrick Maxwell says he's only pursuing peace, but his plan depends entirely on making himself the genetically enhanced, superhuman ruler of the known world. He wants Kiki to join him in near-immortality and become his wife--even though he's her uncle. In his desire for her, Maxwell tries to kill her lover Damon Stanza. Maxwell ends up in prison instead, and Damon takes his place as Royal General.

Now Maxwell has escaped and is marching on Kiki's city with a horde of genetically altered soldiers and magic users. It's going to take everything Kiki and Damon have to defeat Maxwell before he takes the kingdom--and Kiki herself.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New before/after: "The Poppet and the Lune"

Today's before/after is Madeline Ciricillo's "The Poppet and the Lune." Madeline won a contest to have her blurb reworked and says "I love it!!" about the new blurb.

The witch who made the patchwork girl died before she could give her creation a name. Stitched together from the remains of the villagers’ dead children—whose memories still live in her flesh—and held together by a ring made of moonbeams, the patchwork girl is a spell as yet unfinished. She can never be what her parents wanted her to be: a replacement for the children they’ve lost. So when the poppet grows up, and grows tired of being a disappointment, she decides to embark upon a journey through the Everwood Forest in search of her real name.

In the forest she meets Faolin, a newly made wereman (a man trapped as a wolf except during the full moon) running from the beasts who killed his father, and stole his throne as Wolf King. He joins the patchwork girl on her journey, and she promises to help him become human again and return to his fiancée. Together, they face the dangers of the forest as their paths wind together: Faolin running from his destiny, the patchwork girl in search of her own, and both of them bound by moonlight.

But Faolin, afraid of the beast he has become, has known all along what he must do in order to lift the curse and return to his fiancée. In fact, it is the very reason he sought out the patchwork girl to begin with—and now the only reason he is willing to leave her side: to save her from himself.

The patchwork girl is incomplete, and a disappointment. The witch who made her died before giving her a name. The families who commissioned her reject her; the girl is no replacement for the dead children whose bodies make up her patches. Worse, the children's memories haunt her.

Faolin is a newly made wereman. He lives as a wolf but for the three days the moon is full, when he becomes a man again. Faolin is on the run from the beasts who killed his father the Wolf King and stole his throne.

More than anything the patchwork girl wants to find her real name, and a place in the world where she can be accepted for what she is--whatever that might be. More than anything Faolin wants to become fully human again and return to his fiancée.

When the two meet in the Everwood Forest, they decide to work together before time runs out for both of them. If the patchwork girl doesn't find her real name, the memories haunting her flesh may take over completely--but what she doesn't know is that breaking the wereman's curse may also end her life.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Monday, December 5, 2011

New Before/After: "Hereafter"

Here's something different: a pitch. Writer and fellow Broad Universe member Terri Bruce hired me to help with the agent pitch for her book "Hereafter." In other words, this book isn't out yet, which is why there's no Amazon link. And you'll note that it's longer than the average blurb.

Initially I was nervous about working on it because I've never written a pitch, but it turned out to be a really fun project. What made it so fun is that Terri was the one who wrote most of the final pitch! What you need to know about what I do is that we do this together. It's not just me re-writing and you accepting or rejecting; it's a collaboration, and sometimes I'm more of a midwife than a doctor.

Here's what Terri has to say about the process:

"I do a lot of facilitation work in my 'day job' and I know that while the facilitatees are the subject matter experts, a good facilitator - who just helps pull what the facilitatees know out into the open - is invaluable. And that is the service you provide; you are so right; your service is not necessarily the 'word smithing' but that facilitation piece. It can be very hard to get outside of your own head and someone who can help you see something you are so close to from another perspective is invaluable!"

Thanks, Terri! Here's what we came up with:

Irene Dunphy doesn't want to let a little thing like being dead get in the way of having a good time, but the afterlife has other ideas.

Irene was living the high life before the decision to get behind the wheel after a night of bar-hopping brought it all to an end. Things wouldn't be so bad if the afterlife had lived up to the hype, but unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a white light, tunnel to the other side, or pearly gate in sight. In fact, she’s stranded as a ghost unless she can find a way to cross over—which might be just fine with her. After all, the bars are all here on Earth—but then, so are ghost repellents, exorcism, and spirit-eating demons. Moving on, however, involves facing final judgment and the possibility she might end up in purgatory—or worse. Because it turns out, when it comes to the afterlife, every culture and religion has part of it right. Assisted by a flaky psychic and a fourteen year old boy who can see dead people (thanks to a book he found in the school library), Irene sets out to discover a third option between staying on Earth as a ghost and confronting three-headed hell hounds, lakes of fire, and fat, singing women on horseback on the other side. If she wants to end up with a happily ever hereafter, she’ll have to not only learn to live with either the living or the dead, but also face up to some hard truths about the way she lived her life and accept the fact that the party eventually ends.

Irene Dunphy is a mid-career professional having the time of her life. She’s smart, beautiful, and successful. But there are a few things missing from an otherwise perfect life: her boyfriends have all been self-absorbed jerks. Her closest friends are the kind of people who let her get behind the wheel after a night of bar-hopping. She’s running out of excuses for missing work due to hang-overs. And, oh yeah, she’s just died.

Jonah Johnson is a fourteen year old boy genius who’s skipped two grades. He’s also sweet, generous, and kind—which means he’s a high school pariah. At home, his self-absorbed drama queen of a sister gets all the attention. Ignored on the one hand and mercilessly bullied and teased on the other, he escapes into an obsessive study of afterlife mythology. And when he finds a book in his high school library that teaches him how to see dead people, it seems like the answer to his prayers.

Separate, they’re both in trouble. Irene can’t find the tunnel to the afterlife and is stranded on Earth as a ghost. Jonah spends more time with the dead than the living and is becoming a little too fascinated by death. But when their paths cross it might just be the best thing that’s happened to either of them. If Irene can teach Jonah how to live and he can show her how to cross over, then they both might be saved. But what should be a fairly straightforward task becomes complicated when they discover all the stories of the afterlife are true and every culture and religion has part of it right. Irene is tempted to stay here and spend eternity drowning her sorrows at a bar for the dead, rather than face things like purgatory, three-headed hell hounds, and lakes of fire on the other side, while Jonah would do anything to experience firsthand all the cool dead stuff he’s read about—even if it means risking death in the process.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Before/After: My own book!

There's a saying: The shoemaker's children go barefoot. Such has been the case with my poor novel. Writing your own blurb is one of the worst parts of being indie, and I am not exempted from that.

Recently I submitted my book to Why Is My Book Not Selling (though it's not selling too terribly badly) and got some good feedback--mostly questions--that I could use to hone my blurb. (Questions, friends, are the real secret to blurb refinement. Listen to the questions you get in feedback.) I'm still not 100% satisfied, but I thought I'd share the results with you.

Sheltered Prince Temmin arrives at the intrigue-filled court of his father and finds his world turned upside down. Suddenly he's the target of assassins sent by enemies he didn't even know he had. His family's immortal advisor immerses him in a magic book filled with the forgotten stories of the Kingdom's women. And he's falling for the beautiful twins Allis and Issak.

But the twins are the human avatars of the Gods of love and desire. To be with them, Temmin must fulfill a prophecy so old it's moved into folklore--a prophecy that may signal the end of the monarchy--and his father does everything he can to stop him.

Temmin must choose a path: one leads to ultimate glory for Tremont, the other to its end.
The first book in the fantasy saga "An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom." 

Fantasy Book Critic 2010 Top 6 Indie Fantasy Book: "A+...I would definitely urge you to try this one."

Eighteen-year-old Prince Temmin has led a childhood as close to normal as possible, far from the capital. When he comes of age and joins his father King Harsin, he's completely unprepared for the politics, assassins and sexual intrigues at court.

Temmin is even more unprepared when he discovers there is magic in the world, all in the hands of his father's immortal advisor Teacher. Teacher becomes his tutor, and Temmin discovers his lessons are contained in a magic book. When Teacher reads to him, Temmin experiences everything the story's characters do, and he's forced to confront serious mistakes in the kingdom's--and his own--past.

His present is just as complicated. He's falling for beautiful twins--brother and sister--who are the human hosts of the Gods of love and desire called the Lovers. Being with them is more than sex; it's a religious calling, and the Lovers have spoken clearly to him. But an ancient prophecy says that if Temmin heeds Their call it may spell the end of the monarchy, and his father King Harsin fights him every step of the way.

Temmin must choose: Serve the Lovers and lose his father--and possibly the kingdom--or serve King Harsin and risk the wrath of the Gods.

Set in a Victorianesque world of magic, sexuality, political intrigue and military conquest, "Lovers and Beloveds" is the first book in the series "An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom."

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that. Even if I have trouble with my own! :D

Slots now open!

I've finished work with some clients, and so slots have opened up! :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

If you want me, best get in line now

Hi folks--

Business is picking up, which is awesome. :) I am now putting people on a waiting list, first come, first served, so if you are going to need me please contact me soon! The list moves quickly; I just wanted people to know.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Before/After: "Broods of Fenrir"

Today's Before/After is Coral Moore's "Broods of Fenrir." This is what Coral has to say about working with me:

"Mei Lin took an otherwise cumbersome exercise and made it easy for us to work together in crafting my new blurb. I adore the results, and the process itself helped me understand some things about my book and the designing of a good summary that I can use in other areas. I enthusiastically recommend her service."

Thanks, Coral! Let's look at what we did together--and this was very much a back-and-forth collaboration:

 Brand, haunted by memories of his father's vicious rule, refuses his birthright.

The murder of a woman by one who should have been under his reign entangles him in a series of dangerous clashes bringing his vow to remain isolated from werewolf society into question. Along the way, the influence of two women drags him to the precipice of a life-changing decision.

Will the Broods of Fenrir spiral further into brutality without him, or, by leading them, can he save his people?

Shapeshifter Brand Geirson was raised to rule the Broods of Fenrir, but he refused his birthright. Instead, he killed their brutal leader--his own father--and walked away.

For hundreds of years he's avoided Brood society, until a werewolf kills an innocent human woman and Brand finds himself dragged back into the violent politics of the shapeshifters. When the two Brood women who mean the most to him come under threat, he must take up the throne and risk becoming the kind of vicious bastard his father was, or let the Broods descend further into chaos--taking the friend he swore to protect and his lover with them.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

We Have a Winner!

The chosen-at-random winner of the Adopt an Indie/Blurb Doctor contest is Madeline Claire Franklin's "The Poppet and the Lune." Her current blurb is good enough that I want to read the book already, but I'll see what I can do. :) Congrats, Madeline, and I'm looking forward to working with you!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blurb Doctor Giveaway at Adopt an Indie

Adopt an Indie is hosting a chance to win a Blurb Doctor makeover. Go there to enter! Cool thing: David Brown, author of "Fezariu's Epiphany," says there that his sales are up since I doctored his blurb!

Right now I'm booked through the beginning of next week, by the way, but I'm booking slots beyond Wednesday. First come first served.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Before/After: "Death Before Swine"

Today's before/after is V.K. Scott's "Death Before Swine," a mystery. Here's what V.K. says about the Blurb Doctor process:

"MeiLin was super easy to work with and had a lightning-fast turn-around time. The process was very simple, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking to get a sluggish blurb moving."

Thanks, V.K., it was fun working with you! Here's the results.

Greed. Betrayal. Murder. Just another week in Diamond Alley, Arizona... 

Ben Hart is a high school chemistry teacher who thought his biggest problems were test scores and lunchroom politics. That was before he lost his job, discovered his colleague murdered, and found himself with a new assignment—catch the killer. Now, as he navigates Diamond Alley’s backstreets, his questions are no longer multiple choice: Who can he trust? Will he ever get back to a simple life of worksheets and lab reports? And will he uncover the truth before the killer slips away?

Death Before Swine is 65,000 words long, or about 260 printed pages.  

Small town high school chemistry teacher Ben Hart is just doing his job when he shows his students what happens when you mix together certain common substances: BOOM! But then someone uses that same chemical reaction to take down the statue of beloved football coach Simon Griffin. Ben's demonstration is blamed, and he loses his job.

Feeling guilty, Ben goes to apologize to his colleague Simon and discovers him murdered. The police think it's a home invasion robbery gone wrong, but Ben quickly figures out that Simon was murdered at the statue and moved. Simon's daughter wants the killer found and doesn't have faith in the police. Ben needs a job, so he takes the case. Now he's got to sort out lies from truth before the killer gets away--but the closer he gets the more danger he's in.

"Death Before Swine" is a full-length novel: 65,000 words in length or about 260 pages.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Before/After: "A Damn Close-Run Thing"

Today's Before/After is the first non-fiction one I've been hired to help with, "A Damn Close-Run Thing" by Russell Phillips. It's a short military history of the Falkland Islands War. Russell says, " I didn't really have any idea what to expect, and because of that it was a bit of a gamble. As it happens, I think the gamble paid off--I'm happy with the result, and I think it was well worth the money."

In April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a British dependency in the South Atlantic. The small British and Falkland force on the islands was soon overcome, and the Argentinians occupied the islands. The British response was to form a task force to sail to the South Atlantic and re-take the islands. This was a major undertaking, and Major-General Sir John Jeremy Moore later described the ensuing conflict as "a damn close-run thing".

This short history includes a summary of the events preceding the war, without which the war itself cannot be properly understood. It shows why the ruling military junta in Argentina believed that an invasion would not be opposed. As well as describing the major military actions of the war, it also includes details of an Argentinian plan to sink a Royal Navy ship in Gibraltar harbour (foiled at the last minute by Spanish police) and an audacious British plan to land SAS soldiers in Argentina to destroy exocet-carrying aircraft while they were still on the ground.

In 1982, the average Briton didn't know the Falkland Islands existed, let alone their status as a disputed British territory just off the coast of Argentina. That changed when the Argentinians invaded the islands and overwhelmed the small defending force. Both nations claimed the islands were theirs, but now Argentina thought the British would give them up without a fight.

They were wrong.

Britain sent a task force into the South Atlantic to re-take the islands, and the short, intense war that followed was--in the words of Major-General Sir John Jeremy Moore--"a damn close-run thing."

This short history sums up the events leading up to the war and its major military actions including details of an Argentinian plan to sink a Royal Navy ship in Gibraltar harbour (foiled at the last minute by Spanish police) and an audacious British plan to land SAS soldiers in Argentina to destroy Exocet-carrying aircraft while they were still on the ground.

It was a pleasure working with Russell.

PS: Russell has written a blog post about his experience working with me. Thanks, Russell!

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Before/After: "Spanking the Teacher"

Today's before-and-after is the first erotica blurb I've doctored (cue the "let's play doctor" jokes now, let's just get it over with). It's for Spanking the Teacher (NSFW) by Lane Masters. Lane won a contest at, and here's what we came up with. Because this is NSFW, I'm putting a break in. (No naughty words, but definitely some naughty concepts.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Before/After: "My Name Is Joe"

Today's blurb before-and-after is for Stefan Bourque's contemporary fiction novel "My Name Is Joe," and this time it didn't work out quite the way the author and his marketer/wife Holly wanted it. Sometimes that happens.

I'm sharing it (with permission) even though it looks like they're not going to use what I gave them. And that's okay--it's your book, folks. My way may not be the right way for you, or may be a way that you think still needs serious tweaking. Holly says, "You helped us see our title in a different light. ... You did bring a perspective that we hadn't been looking at before, and sometimes that is just what is needed."

I try to make the client 100% happy with what we come up with, but sometimes it doesn't work out. I'm not offended, nor are they wrong; it's their book, and they know it best. Here's what I came up with.


In what has been called a masterpiece of emotion, Stefan Bourque's "My Name Is Joe" has been celebrated by readers around the world as an inspiring tale and a reminder of the great capacity for human kindness.

Joe, a quiet and introspective loner has discovered he will soon cease to exist due to an aggressive, incurable cancer. Lonesome in his final days and after long contemplation he decides to do something that he has never thought to do before--Joe decides to reach out to his fellow man in an effort to teach others the valuable lesson he is learning before it is too late.

With a single act of kindness Joe inadvertently pulls toward him a young, single mother who carries her own deep-seated guilt for the death of her mother.

Can these two wayward souls find the redemption that they each so desperately need before time and death separate them? This is a tale of compassion, redemption and the deliverance that can only be achieved through the courage and love that human beings possess but too infrequently share.


Joe is dying. An aggressive cancer is killing him, and he's avoided personal entanglements so successfully that he's dying alone. He now realizes the life he built was all online, right down to the virtual pink slip for his work-at-home job. And all around him he sees his neighbors doing exactly the same. Even the children have stopped playing in the streets, ignoring the world around them for the anonymous safety of online games and virtual contact.

Rebecca is living, but barely. Guilt over the death of her mother is hollowing her out inside, and she struggles to mother her own young son alone.

Joe decides to start connecting with his neighbors and to help them connect with one another. When he and Rebecca meet, they both come to see that his dying may mean salvation for both of them--if they can muster the courage to trust one another.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Before and After: "Fezariu's Epiphany"

David Brown came to me looking for help with the blurb for the first novel in his interconnected-but-standalone series, "The Elencheran Chronicles." This is what he has to say about working with me:

"People seemed to like 'Fezariu's Epiphany' when they read it but getting them to read it was proving difficult to say the least.  I knew my blurb was weak but I didn't realise how much stronger it could be until I contacted Mei.

"Mei impressed me so much: she was thorough, asked lots of questions and it was clear she wanted to get to grips with the story before finalising a blurb.  The outcome was a much more enticing blurb that sells the book in a way the previous one couldn't.

"I wouldn't hesitate to contact Mei again if I was having blurb problems. This isn't blurb medicine - it's blurb magic!"

Gosh, thanks, David! I dunno if it's magic, but I'm glad I could help.

Here are the before(s)-and-after--David sent me two different blurb attempts.

Before #1:
The White Oak, Clarendon's oldest brothel, lured and destroyed men by the thousands. Fezariu was different. He had never been drawn by the White Oak's vices but the brothel had still ruined him when he was just a boy.

Salvation came in the form of the Merelax Mercenaries - Elenchera's most prestigious hired hands. They gave Fezariu the chance to escape from his past. Immersed in the world of dangerous assignments in the colonies Fezariu longed to forget everything about his childhood but only in facing the past would he ever be free of it.

Before #2:
Suffering a betrayal as a young boy, Fezariu turns his back on his family. Convinced their way of life will help him leave his past behind, he joins the Merelax Mercenaries. In a quest to prove himself and survive his dangerous assignments in the Colonies, he's forced to forge new alliances but works hard to distance himself emotionally. Despite his determined focus to move on his thoughts are drawn back to Clarendon where the White Oak, an infamous brothel, holds the secret to his past and the childhood friend he abandoned still remains.

13-year-old Fezariu thought his mother died when he was little, but when his beloved stepfather dies the boy discovers she is alive and well--and working at the most famous brothel in all of Elenchera. When she cruelly rejects him it's more than he can bear, and he runs away to join a band of ruthless soldiers for hire. The Merelax Mercenaries will fight for anyone who can pay them, no matter the justice of the cause.

Fezariu grows up among the soldiers and becomes one of them. He thinks his time with the mercenaries has hardened him. But a campaign in his old home town pushes him too far, and he discovers what really happened to his mother. Maybe there are some things money shouldn't buy...and maybe it's time Fezariu took his revenge.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Before and After: "Five Dances with Death"

This is one of the free reworkings I did at Kindleboards, this time for Austin Briggs and his book "Five Dances with Death." I'm really glad I got to work on this blurb because Austin's book is quite good (I bought it and am reading it now). Here's what he has to say about working with me:

"MeiLin's re-writing of my blurb has been fantastic. While others criticized my original version, she simply offered me a revised text. This is a dramatic improvement, and the new blurb has been praised by quite a few people. It's elegant and to the point. Looking forward to seeing the increased sales!"

Thanks Austin! I hope you get 'em, because you deserve 'em.

Here's Austin's original blurb:

Death is never far for Angry Wasp.

His daughter lost to slavers, his wife immersed in powerful sorcery and his nation embroiled in Montezuma’s bitter war and under threat of encroaching Spanish invasion, Angry Wasp faces the battle of a lifetime.

To regain his family, save his nation from extinction and protect his very soul from dangers far more perilous than he dares admit, there is only one possible solution: a dance with Death, to the haunting melody of hope and loss.

Power, tragedy, and betrayal weave a desperate song of reckless gambles to gain salvation, with every battle drawing Wasp deeper into life-threatening events and crucial choices. One wrong decision... and he loses it all.

When the music ceases and the dead are counted, will Angry Wasp hold the key to his daughter's freedom? Or will he have led his proud nation to its ultimate collapse...

This is my reworking, which Austin decided to use pretty much verbatim:

In the days before the Conquistadors, Angry Wasp is fighting to keep his family and his small Aztec nation alive. Slavers have kidnapped his daughter. His wife has turned to powerful sorcery. His people have challenged Montezuma’s dominance and now face extinction. The Spaniards have begun their march inland. Now Wasp must rely on his military prowess, wit and even dark magic to regain his family and protect the independence of his nation, as he begins a desperate journey that will forever change the fate of the Aztec people.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Before and After: "The Far Kingdom (Volumes of the Silver Leaf I)"

Say hello to E.W. Saloka, my first client and author of The Far Kingdom (Volumes of the Silver Leaf I). Here's what she had to say about the experience:

"I really like the way you crafted our blurb by asking those basic questions. It made us get to the nuts and bolts of our book and not over think it so much. (I think most writers probably do this and without realizing and  confuse their prospective reader.) You put a different spin on the description and made it sound quite epic. Showing us the 'before' errors was like a light bulb moment,  all I can say is I see it now. Thanks ever so much, Mei."

Thank you, E.W. :) So here are the before-and-afters.


It's quite a shock to 15 year old Zachary Wellington when he learns that his father, who had been missing for several years was in a far off land when he was murdered.. Soon he and his grandfather find themselves whisked away one winter night to unlock the secrets to his mysterious disappearance. Their journey truly begins when the meet the kind and generous wizard Faazen at Castle Dragmar.. Dangers then unfold for the pair as they become the unwitting targets of the Ice Wizard Rianor, who appears to have an evil agenda of his own. However exciting adventure beckons as Zach finds himself swept up, riding the wind in the Dragon Masters Championship. Meet intelligent dragons, endearing creatures and unlikely champions who challenge themselves,unleashing their inner warrior and finding the hero that lies within. Find courage, honor, and something worth fighting for. Come live the magic that is Brandiss-Dor.


Fifteen-year-old Zach Wellington has lived with his grandfather Thomas since his archaeologist father disappeared years before. Now his dad has turned up dead. A letter in his pocket says he was trapped all these years in a parallel world where magic is real--hard for Zach to believe, until a winged horse appears out of nowhere and whisks both Wellingtons away to Brandiss-Dor, the land where Zach's father died.

Zach wants to discover who murdered his father. Instead, he's pulled into a tug of war between wizards over a powerful medallion that will decide the fate of two worlds: Brandiss-Dor, and our own.

"The Far Kingdom" is the first volume of the new epic fantasy series "Volumes of the Silver Leaf."

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Top Blurb No-Nos

Struggling with your blurb? Who isn't! Sometimes all you need is to go through and prune out the "blurb no-no's." Here are some of mine, in no particular order.

Fintoozler Syndrome*
Fantasy writers especially have trouble with Fintoozler Syndrome; it's when you have so many weird words in your blurb that no one has any idea what you're talking about. Made-up example:

When the Wizards of Z'mesdhal find the Slati'shfiker of Gromaldi, young Fergalush Hornshub is thrust into a desperate race to save the land of Dhariq'ween.

(Oh yeah, extra points for lots of apostrophes.) Here's a cleaned-up version of the above that tells the reader all s/he needs to know--and no more:

When a group of evil wizards finds a powerful stone, young Fergalush Hornshub must race against time to save his people.

Yeah, I know, it's not a great story, but I'm not writing a book here, I'm writing a blurb. ;)

Non-fantasy writers can also fall into this trap by throwing too many names and/or places at the reader all at once. Keep it simple. If we need to know a character's American, for example, we don't need to know what city s/he's from unless that's absolutely critical for understanding what the story's about.

*"Fintoozler" is a word the guys at Mystery Science Theater 3000 used to use whenever they were throwing in a Dr Seuss reference. The More You Know.

Show Stoppers
These are words that will stop your blurb stone dead in its tracks. "However" and "unfortunately" are the big offenders. Never use them. "But" usually suffices. Read your blurb out loud; the Show Stoppers will pop out at you like whoa. No, I mean literally. Whoa.

Dependent Clauses
These almost fall under Show Stoppers. They stop your blurb dead in its tracks, all right, but they're a special kind of evil all their own. Don't get me wrong. I like a dependent clause as much as the next writer--sparingly and in its place. Blurbs are rarely that place. Made-up example:

Fergalush Hornshub, who works as a carpenter in the land of Dhariq'ween, which is under attack, is scared.

Nope. Try:

Carpenter Fergalush Hornshub is scared. His homeland is under attack.

Big Man Movie Voice
Any phrase the Big Man Movie Voice would say does not belong in your blurb. Examples:

In a world where wizards are evil...

Little did did Fergalush know...!

Fergalush's whole world is about to change!

Don't do that.

...which is my cute way of saying, don't use exclamation points in your blurb. Ever.

Speling Airs
Misspelled words in your blurb strangle your book sale in its cradle, and spell check is not enough. If the word is supposed to be "plane" and you write "plain," spell check will not pick it up. At the least have a good-spelling friend take a look for typos and misspellings.

Shorter is better, but don't go too short. Tell the reader what s/he needs to know, but don't get into back story or too much detail.

Tour Guide Voice
Don't list out your book's attributes like you're holding a mic in your hand, pointing to celebrity homes from an open air bus. The reader wants to make up his own mind about your book. Examples:

You'll meet plucky Fergalush Hornshub, the mysterious archer Alberor But'tquetok and the beautiful but angry thief Krathanoalogya Smith.

Come be enchanted by the fantastical land of Dhariq'ween!

It's a non-stop laugh riot!

Put down the mic, get off the bus.

In a world where these are some of the worst offenders... 
I reserve the right to add to this list later! :)

What are the big no-no's you've noticed?

Bad Blurb? I Can Help

You've written your opus. It's fabulous! Your editor says it's great, your beta readers rave, everyone loves it.

And you can't write a blurb for it to save your life.

Don't feel bad! Blurb-writing is one of the suckiest parts of being an independent. It's really hard to write blurbs for yourself. (Ask me how I know.)

That's why I'm here. I can help.

What I can do for you:
  • Make your blurb better.
  • Give you feedback to help make your next blurb better even without me.
What I can't do for you:
  • Edit your book. Contact my buddy Annetta "Netta the Eddita" Ribken. She'll do a bang-up job for you.
  • Read your book and come up with a blurb from scratch. You have to give me your best run at a blurb. There are blurb writers who will do that for you, but I guarantee they cost way more than I do.
  • Guarantee better book sales. If I could guarantee that, I'd be a rich woman right now.
I would like to feature the before-and-after blurbs for your book on this site if you'll let me, along with a link to your book on Amazon, of course!

I charge $25 per blurb.  Click the "buy now" button to get started.

By hiring me, you agree that you do not expect any additional traffic or sales as a result of my work. In return, I agree that you own the words we work on together.