Jacket Copy Criticisms

A few weeks ago I had a little fun deconstructing a 1-Star Review. This week’s deconstruction has been less fun. In order to finalize the print version of RINGS, I’ve been writing and rewriting back cover copy.  For those of you interested in the nuts and bolts, here are a few iterations and my associated criticisms:

(Or you can just skip to the end to see the final draft. . .)

Mr. Steep’s bad night has been put to bed: the dart game is finished, the assassins have gone home, and most of the fires are out. But the morning after is no cup of tea either. For one thing, Magnus still can’t see straight. Add to that a dress shop burnt to the ground, two hyperactive teens,  and Lucinda’s awkward attempts to nurse Magnus back to health, and Teacup begins to wonder if he shouldn’t just stay in bed . . .

Humorous, but doesn’t tell what the story is about. There’s no discussion of the action or intrigue, no real question begged, and the stakes are low. It’s also inaccurate.  Not all the assassins are gone. . .

Mr. Steep’s bad night has been put to bed: the dart game is finished, the assassins have gone home, and most of the fires are out. But Pale Tom’s ghost  isn’t about to let Teacup off easy.  He’s left a breadcrumb trail to follow, and plenty of “pointy” reminders to keep Teacup on track.

Can Teacup survive long enough to unravel the mystery?

This teaser isn’t great, but the “ghost message”  has promise. It also raises the stakes from “hyperactive teens” to “death is on the line.”  🙂 But the “pointy reminders” bit is confusing and easily misread. Ooops!

Teacup didn’t go to bed dreaming of ways to antagonize the assassins’ guild. In fact, he barely got any sleep at all, thanks to the town drunk humming lullabies on his back porch all night.

But when he gets up in the morning, the dark guild is after him, and his only hope of survival is following a breadcrumb trail left by the one of the Nightshade’s own best and brightest. . .

Establishes that Teacup has (1) antagonized the assassins’ guild  and (2) gotten very little sleep. It also hits on the novella’s core theme: stay alive while learning about Pale Tom’s legacy. Not much in the way of context though. . .

Teacup didn’t go to bed dreaming up ways to irritate the deadliest guild in Teuron. But he never planned to be a thief either, and now the Nightshades have it in for him.

There’s a breadcumb trail to follow, but no evidence suggesting the best way to make amends: agreeing to use his own considerable skills to the guild’s advantage, or convincing his teenage kids to stop trying to resurrect his dead wife’s cobble shop, or surrendering a still blind paladin to the dark guild’s twisted brand of justice.

And the Nightshade’s aren’t the only ones trying to kill Teacup. . .

Establishes that Teacup is a reluctant thief, that he has a job to do, and that the assassins’ guild isn’t the only enemy to worry about, but makes false promises. Teacup won’t be making “nice” with the Nightshades.  Overall, a bit too complicated.

Teacup thought one good deed was safe enough.

He was wrong.

With a house filling up with uninvited guests and a death-mark  on his head, he’s beginning to wonder if Pale Tom might have put a little more in that death-curse than just the traditional ever-burning flame.

Short. Ironic.  Mildly funny. Nods to a bit of magic, but doesn’t give a new reader much to go on.

Join the fun. Was there something in the analysis above that you disagree with? Ed, Alisha, Cami, Ralph, and Victor shared their thoughts earlier this week.




Several years ago I went on a business trip with NASA to the Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. After work, two of my co-workers invited me to join them at a local pub for dinner and darts.  I’d planned on writing my sci-fi novel, but the invitation caught my interest.

I went, played, and got crushed by Dennis Davidson, then the manager of Program Planning and Control for the Space Shuttle Program. Dennis took a few minutes afterward to answer my questions and teach me the games called Cricket and Loops.

When I got back to my hotel, my brain kept replaying my losses, recreating the warm dark tones of the second story pub, and watching with fascination as Dennis’s darts thunked home in the soft sisal  fibers of the Bull’s Eye.

When I woke up, I had the beginnings of a story: what better way to force a bunch of fantasy characters into the same room together?  It took me a few tries to get the story right, but I’ve never had more fun writing fantasy.

As always, thank you for reading and reviewing. I’m about 70% finished with the first draft of RINGS, which is an immediate sequel for DARTS.  Here’s an excerpt:

Magnus is breathing heavy like a big horse on a quiet night, with Timnus and Valery crammed in on either side of him, dead asleep. They aren’t picky. I’m not sure how the three of them fit in the master bed, since Valery is all legs and Timnus has melon-sized elbows, but they do. And no one is fighting for the blanket since Magnus is throwing off heat like a furnace on a cool autumn night.

Ahh. I love the quiet solitude. I’m thinking of my soft straw pallet in the attic as I wash the blood, soot, poison, and excess antidote from my hands and forearms. Washing. Falling asleep at the water basin. I head for the attic.

Knock. Knock.

Who, in Pan’s name, is prowling about the neighborhood at this ungodly hour, bestowing their blessing on us?

Knock. Knock.

I hear a soft voice outside—a pleading, familiar voice.


I nearly cry when I see her, upset with myself for forgetting it was her shop that burned to the ground tonight. She’s got soot on her face and looks like she’s about to collapse from exhaustion. “Teamus. I know you’re busy with that dart guy and all, but do you mind if I grab a bit of rug here tonight? The shop’s a total loss, and I don’t know what else to do.”

She’s got a stiff upper lip, but I can tell she’s hurting, and that makes me hurt even more. That shop meant everything to her.

“I’m so sorry, Carmen.” I say, making room in the narrow stairwell. For a moment she’s buried her face on my shoulder, sobbing.  I put my arms around her and wait, wishing things had turned out just a little bit differently for her tonight. Then she’s wiping her eyes.

“Thank you, Teamus.”

“You’re welcome.”

Then she’s climbing the stairs determinedly up to the apartment and I follow behind, listening to the swishing of her soot-caked dress.

“Not much to eat, though,” I mutter, but she’s too tired to hear or care.

I get her settled at the small wooden table and bring her the refilled wash basin, but she’s asleep at the table before she’s finished washing half her face.

I sigh. At least that means she feels safe here.

Knock. Knock.

“Pan’s beard.”

Knock. Knock. KNOCK!

It’s not a joke.  It’s Lucinda. She’s got an armful of fresh bandages. She doesn’t wait for an invitation but pushes her way in and rushes up the stairs.

Quatro Rings (Layers Gray)

Next week I hope to have a post about my trip to New York. Cheers!