Word of the week: bane \ˈbān\ - noun – (hear it!) - a source of harm or ruin : curse – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Blurbs, and a Forbidden Tryst of Fate
Hey. Psst. Hey, come here. Let me whisper one word to you . . .
Kind of a silly word, really. Blurb – monosyllabic, semi-onomatopoeic. Reminds you of fish, or bubbles, or squelching through some wet mud with pink-flowered gum boots – blurb, blurb, blurb, blurb . . . cute, cute, cute!
Yeah, right . . . you know what that word reminds me of?
You heard me. And it reminds me of that in more ways than one.
You see, for many writers, blurbs are like piranhas dressed up in frilly tutus – interesting to look at, hard to create. Blurbs are those condensed summaries on the back covers of novels, written and designed specifically to entice reader curiosity, enough to make him drop a (sometimes hefty) chunk of change in return for a satisfying bit of forthcoming entertainment.
Blurb: a handful of sentences, and nothing more.
A piranha in a tutu.
|"ARRGGHH!" says the nasty fish.|
“What?!” you cry. “How in the name of spangled Gucci string purses does that even equate??”
Hey, you try condensing a one hundred thousand word (or more!), three hundred page (plus), multi-faceted plot line novel into three or four enthralling and thoroughly irresistible sentences and see how you fare! Pfft. Trust me, it’s nothing short of squishing an elephant down the brass bell of a trumpet. And it’s just as noisy, too!
See? Blurbs – hellish to write, hellish to even attempt. So why, oh why, were they ever labeled with such a cute-sounding name? Why?! Probably for the same reason nature created destructive puppies to look oh-so-adorable as they chew to pieces your two hundred dollar high heels: To ignite . . . forgiveness.
Ahh . . . yes. So I forgive the infernal “blurb” for being so damned difficult to write, forgive it for making my old brains hurt, forgive it for putting me through hell and back paring, culling, cutting, snipping, snarling, and nearly forcing me to wail in frustrated tears while creating my “piranha-in-a-tutu.” For there is no wrath mightier nor words more deadly poisonous to a writer than a poorly constructed blurb . . . as cute as its name may sound.
But! To hell with it. I’m going to try something different.
|The Perfect Player cover|
Come along with me on a semi-detailed journey of my blurb for The Perfect Player (henceforth marked in red), glimpsed through four excerpts over a span of four blog posts, written in four different languages whilst wearing a four-pointed hat and standing in the direct center of four octagonal circles . . .
*ahem* Yes. Well, at least that first part will be true – four excerpts, four blog posts. Why? Because I can.
So let’s begin: “A forbidden tryst exposes a threat and sets a secret plan in motion, . . .” as the first female heir to the Northland dominion slips off with her suitor and her friends to finish a furtive, intimate game of “catch me if you dare . . .” :
* * *
First of four excerpts from The Perfect Player, copyright 2013 - Kimberly Grenfell, writing as Devon Winterson. (And yes, I do mean copyrighted, not some faux label to ward off plagiarists.)
Forbidden Tryst of Fate
Liberated from the confines of the city walls, Marisa loped and glided down the meadow slope toward the treeline and forest beyond. Outside, the lands felt more natural, the air fresher as a breeze blew in from the east. It washed her in the potent, sweet scent of wild elixir pitter-plashing in a stream at the hill’s base.
Halfway down, she halted, sense of abandon fully roused. She stretched out her arms, drew her head back, closed her eyes, and pulled in a cleansing breath. The cloak of responsibility fell away.
Ah, freedom. . . .
Rare. Fleeting. Desired as much as Tayib. Out here, books and tasks, lessons and laws dissolved in a rustle and sway of silvery-gold foliage alongside stalks of lavender grass. Oh, to be one with the world, blend into the night, be carefree, independent and utterly common.
Finally, she eased her eyes open to the sky where Maris and the moons frowned down at her reckless actions. She scowled back. She’d never asked for this lot in life, so why should she be strangled by its rules?
Ignoring the sky’s silent rebuke, Marisa hastened to join her friends.
Along a twisting trail of stones, she crossed the stream, headed toward the mouth of two pathways that branched in opposite directions, winding into the hills. A hearty laugh came from the nearby thickets. She rounded them to crouch with the shadowy figures already there. Tayib, having raced ahead of her, gathered her close. As she slid into his arms, a cool confidence enveloped her. Marisa lifted her brow curiously. How quickly he’d shed his worry now that they were hidden by darkness!
“Right. Now, we’re all here,” said Kahlil, “so let’s start. Marisa, Ariana” — he nodded — “Tayib and I have agreed to give you a running lead — ”
“ — because women are so awkward in the woods.” Kahlil shrugged at Ariana’s glower. “Especially at night.”
“And in skirts,” Tayib added.
Ariana’s glower deepened, and Marisa chuckled at her friend’s pique. The twins had a point, though. Regiment garb was sleeker, quieter, far easier to maneuver in.
“Of all the cheek!” Ariana slapped Kahlil, and the two brothers laughed. “No, you won’t be giving us a running lead because we don’t need your pity favors. Marisa and I won last time, as fair and honest as your Soldier’s Oath.”
“Yes, yes, of course you did. If that’s what you want to believe, my dearest one.” Kahlil smirked, elbowing Tayib. Ariana huffed, crossing her arms. Marisa hid her grin.
“You’re just too stubborn to admit we beat you,” Ariana said, “so we’ll just have to prove you wrong. Again.” With that, she plunged into the brush toward the forest, branches quivering in her wake. Kahlil snorted.
Tayib leaned into Marisa. “You’d best run too,” he said, “lest I capture you before the game’s even begun.”
“Right,” she scoffed. “Catch me if you dare, soldier.” She dashed off.
Up through the ever-thickening forest, Marisa trailed the crackling sound of Ariana’s retreat as her friend buried herself farther into the wilds. She fought to keep pace, to distance herself from the brothers, who would soon be in pursuit. Hand over hand, foothold by foothold, she pushed and pulled against branches, trunks, and rocks, climbing higher and higher. But as the forest grew denser, vines and underbrush began to tangle her feet, hindering her efforts to escape. She playfully cursed the warmer months. The upper canopy had once again fully bloomed, obscuring much-needed moonlight. The woods seemed nearly as dark and shadowy as the belly of an underground cavern. Marisa halted with a grunt and searched her mind. What had the commander taught them for efficient nighttime navigation? Weave the thickets, leave the boles . . . or was it the other way around?
“I see you.”
Behind, two flaxen-haired shadow-figures approached, steps muffled against the mossy forest floor. They angled far around dark clumps of brush with nary a sound. Ah. She grinned. That’s right. Leave the thickets.
“That wasn’t much of a lead,” she called, and the shadow-figures halted. One straightened and gave a gallant wave.
“Oh, but my love, nothing outdoes the tracking skills of the Agis!”
The other slapped his hand down. “You’re just slow. Besides, Ariana said you didn’t need a lead, so . . .”
Marisa smirked. Cheaters. A giggle rose up somewhere to her left, and she shuffled backwards, glancing around for an escape route. “This isn’t going to make up for last time,” she said. “Tracking skills, indeed. You’ll need more than that, you know.”
“We’ll see,” came the reply.
The brothers advanced. Ariana shrieked. The brush snapped once more.
Kahlil sprinted left, toward the noise, while Tayib charged full on. Marisa spun around, heart thudding and skirt hitched. She began to clamber up the wooded hill, insides atingle with a renewed thrill.
Crunching, crackling, dodging, and weaving, Marisa scrambled through the forest — under branches, over logs, around the deepest of thickets — unable to shake Tayib’s nimble pursuit borne through years of strict regiment training. Yet he deliberately lagged. His grunting breaths and rustling trailed, near enough to stoke excitement, far enough to allow her unhindered ascent toward the hill’s crest where the thickets thinned and the number of trees diminished.
The canopy broke at last to flood moonlight over a stone-strewn slope, where Marisa slid, scrabbled, and struggled to stay ahead. Tayib’s hand swiped across her back, fingers catching through her hair. She laughed, surging out of his reach.
She flew over the summit, sped down the other side toward the sparsely wooded descent of the eastern border and the edge of the pillarstone-marked Unclaimed Lands, racing toward the trail that hugged the stream and the slab of rock hidden by underbrush that marked the place of their prior forbidden intimacies: the tunnel egress. She puffed and blew, legs pumping, feet pounding. Warm wind dampened her face, and she lengthened her stride. With capture and reward at stake, she refused to be easy prey. For now.
Within moments she was upon the level pathway and, laughing, twisted round to jeer at Tayib . . . then promptly pitched backwards with a startled cry and a rough thud. Bewildered and sprawled, she wheezed and blinked. The Cerulean and stars wobbled, refocused, and wobbled again before a silhouette rose up against the night sky.
“Maker’s bane!” Tayib cried, offering his hand. “You’re terribly clumsy for someone who’s had regiment training. Are you all right?”
Marisa grasped his wrist, hissing out strangled words. She sat and slowly regained her breath.
“I’m not clumsy. Something snagged my foot.” She shifted. Pain pinched her knee, and she gritted her teeth. Tayib’s grip tensed. “Oh, stop. I’m all right,” she said, waving a dismissive hand. Brow furrowed, she felt along the nearby ground. “Somewhere here . . .”
Tayib chuckled. He pulled her close, kissed her nape, her shoulder, her ear. “It’s likely nothing, you know. A root, a rock — nothing to bother with.”
Yet Marisa continued to grabble. “No, these trails are regularly timberworker cleared.”
“And long,” he said. “People are prone to mistakes.” His hands wandered while Marisa’s own patted the soil. Tayib gave a frisky growl. “I do believe I’ve caught you, my love. And now for my reward. . . .”
But upon his words, Marisa’s fingers hooked over, then traced, the edge of a distinct hole near her feet. Quietly, she surveyed: a hand’s breadth deep, two wide, oblong and notched.
She scuttled sideways from Tayib’s grip with a gasp.
“What? What is it?” he said.
Tayib leaned forward to inspect, then stiffened. “By the Maker!” He twisted to her. “Are those . . . ?”
A line of cloven prints wove toward the border of the Unclaimed Lands to a swath of trampled thickets that lay beyond like a dark, gaping maw. Marisa stumbled to her feet, heart pounding. Dear Maker! Stories of old described them perfectly. Seeing them stabbed her with fear.
“Demon tracks,” she whispered.
“But . . . but, Marisa.” Tayib drew her close. “You don’t think — I mean, they can’t be here, in the Northlands. . . . Could they?”
She bit her lip, afraid to answer.
If evil stalked Mynae, what had happened to their protection?
* * *
. . . and so alas, “. . . twenty-year-old Marisa of Mynae discovers her life is all a lie.” . . .
(Stay tuned . . . more “piranha-in-a-tutu” coming on Thursday, September 26th with Strange Discoveries and Mystic Revelations.)