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Discussion Starter #1
Here I am, cap in hand, asking for help workshopping this blurb:

Grieving Professor Oladel Adewole has been forced to accept a teaching job in the cold, northern, engineering-obsessed city of Eisenstadt. His consolation is Inselmond, the mysterious island floating a mile over the city; Adewole has spent his life studying world mythology about it. Is it home to a race of peaceful, near-godlike beings? Or is it devoid of life?

An audacious inventor makes it to Inselmond in her autogyro and says signs of civilization exist. When Adewole accompanies the first official survey team to the island, he discovers not just civilization but a powerful, forbidden fusion of metal and magic called the Machine God.

The government wants it as a weapon; so does a sociopath bent on ruling Eisenstadt. But Adewole's the only one it trusts. He must protect the Machine God from the world...and the world from the Machine God.
 

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It sounds interesting, but I do t hink maybe the blurb needs a bit more -- zip? Something. Let me ponder it while I force myself to do some writing. (I am sooo tired.)
 

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Okay, here goes my attempt to mangle your blurb... it looks like an interesting story, but the name soup tripped me up. Lots of strange names in a small space: Professor Oladel Adewole, Eisenstadt, Inselmond, and an autogyro. I had to read it twice before the sense of the story sank in.

The professor is grieving, but why? (opening sentence)  Forced to accept a teaching job in a cold, northern, engineering obsessed city (like that desc.) because why? I would care more about what happens to him if I had a couple of personal details, maybe what he looks like and his age.

I would make shorter sentences and drop the ;

I would also try to do more showing and less telling - paint more of one scene and drop me in it.

I do like the intriguing idea of an island floating over a city. Very cool image.
 

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Quick stab:

Professor Oladel Adewole has been sent to teach in the cold, northern city of Eisenstadt. But it's a fortunate posting: Inselmond, a mysterious island floats a mile above the city, and Adewole has spent his life studying its mythology. Is it home to a race of peaceful, godlike beings? Or is it a lifeless rock?

When Adewole accompanies the first official survey team to the island, he discovers not just civilization but a powerful fusion of metal and magic called the Machine God.

The government wants it as a weapon. A madman wants to take control of it. But Adewole's the only one the Machine God trusts. He must protect it from the world, and he must protect the world from the Machine God.

(edited from earlier: "near-godlike" is redundant)
 

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I like Steve's version as well, except I'd work the autogyro in there if the inventor is going along on the expedition, because that sounds cool and would help nab me as a reader (I read sci-fi, and this sounds very intriguing). Maybe something like "Borne in the autogyro along with its pretty inventor, Adelwole accompanies the first survey team to the island. There he discovers..."
 

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Looks like an intriguing read and you're gotten some great advice.  You're nearly there.  Just a thought: You might begin your paragraph with 'Following' or 'After'.   In other words, did something happen that he was sent to the island.   Or if nothing happened in particular and he was just seen as the right candidate, then you can just begin with something like, "Out of the blue..." or "Without warning.."   As one famous author put it, 'Put a worry on the reader'.

I hope I haven't muddied the waters more.  Good luck!  

Joan
Joan Hall Hovey
 

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I feel I had a hard time working my way through this blurb because of all the names. I find it's useful to try to keep names do a minimum -- no more than three if you can, and that includes place names when possible. In addition to your quantity of names, they're somewhat difficult for English-speaking readers to pronounce and you've got some other tricksters that trip up the tongue like "autogyro." All of these words are no doubt important within the context of your book, but let's see if we can shape this up into something that draws the reader in instead of tripping her up.

MeiLinMiranda said:
Grieving Professor Oladel Adewole has been forced to accept a teaching job in the cold, northern, engineering-obsessed city of Eisenstadt. His consolation is Inselmond, the mysterious island floating a mile over the city; Adewole has spent his life studying world mythology about it. Is it home to a race of peaceful, near-godlike beings? Or is it devoid of life?

An audacious inventor makes it to Inselmond in her autogyro and says signs of civilization exist. When Adewole accompanies the first official survey team to the island, he discovers not just civilization but a powerful, forbidden fusion of metal and magic called the Machine God.

The government wants it as a weapon; so does a sociopath bent on ruling Eisenstadt. But Adewole's the only one it trusts. He must protect the Machine God from the world...and the world from the Machine God.
first off, I don't understand why/what/whom he's grieving, and why it's important to the story. Is it so crucial to the story that we must know it in the blurb?

Here's what I gather is important from your blurb: 1) Professor Adewole has been forced to accept a teaching job in a city that doesn't appeal to him. 2) He is obsessed with the mysterious floating island a mile above him called Inselmond. He doesn't know who or what is on the island, but he knows a lot of stories about it, and he wants to find out. 3) Adewolde gets a chance to visit Inselmond and discovers the Machine God, a sentient object/being. 4) Several opposing forces want to take over and use the Machine God for their own (possibly dangerous) ends. 5) Adewolde is the only one who can control/protect the Machine God.

Let's pare this down further to the barest bones of your story. Who is your main character? Adewolde. What does he want? To protect the Machine God. What stands in his way of achieving that goal? A corrupt government and at least one sociopath. What will happen if he fails in his goal? Now this is where we could use some more enticing information to really pull the reader into the story.

I know next to nothing about your story, but based on my wee analysis above, here's how I'd rewrite it to add more punch and make it a bit friendlier to a browsing reader:

Humble Professor Adewolde has spent his entire career studying the mythology of the floating island of Inselmond, speculating on what forms of life may inhabit its unseen surface. When a daring autogyro pilot finally makes exploration possible, his wildest imaginings are exceeded. Inselmond is home to the Machine God, a powerful, forbidden fusion of Metal and Magic that can [what is the extent of the Machine God's power? Give us a taste so we understand the stakes.]

Adewolde is not the only one with an interest in the Machine God. The Mayor of the engineering city Eisenstadt [or whoever; get specific without using too many names] wants to capture its power to [do what?]. And a brutal killer wants it, too: a man who will stop at nothing to rule Eisenstadt. If the Machine God falls into the wrong hands, the people of Eisenstadt [what is the ultimate peril in your story? They could all get blown up, turned into mindless zombies...etc.] Only Professor Adewolde can protect the Machine God from the world...and the world from the Machine God.


Hope that helps!
 

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vrabinec said:
I'd work the autogyro in there if the inventor is going along on the expedition, because that sounds cool
Oh, absolutely!! (But it didn't sound like that's what happened; I wasn't sure if she went back with them or not, or if they used the autogyro to get back there. If so, yeah.)
 

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I like Steve's version a lot, too.
 

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My quibbles are with the story itself.  Are autogyros brand new?  If not, why hasn't the floating island been explored before?  In a story with rich, eccentric sounding names, Machine God sounds plain vanilla.  I would prefer a simpler plotline in which the mysterious island has only recently hovered over cold Eisenstadt.  The island contains Shakespearean characters such as we find in The Tempest, which both complicate and smooth out life in Eisenstadt.  Sorry, I couldn't resist.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks, folks. :) Good points re: name overload.

Spoilers ahoy, though I think if you're interested it won't make the book less appealing--oh, and a note. I didn't include this in the blurb but was going to in the final: this is a four-author collaboration. We created the world together and each wrote separate novels in it. They're each standalone, but myself I think they're more fun read in sequence. This is the final book chronologically.

Adewole is a professor of cultural anthropology and a brilliant linguist with deep knowledge of several languages old and new (think Daniel from Stargate). He is grieving the recent death of his much younger sister, who he was raising alone and who was more a daughter than a sister. He loses his tenure at his home university, the most prestigious in the world--as any academic can tell you a cause for grief of its own.

At Eisenstadt, Adewole is low on the totem pole; it's the center of the world's engineering knowledge, and its Dean doesn't like the humanities in general and Adewole in particular. When the inventor, an older woman, reaches the island in her autogyro (the subject of the first book), the government prudently decides that if anyone's going to control an island floating over their heads it's going to be them.

Adewole is sure he'll be left out of the survey mission and consoles himself that his best friend, an engineering professor, is going. The friend convinces the government Adewole is the only one who can translate, and he is brought along.

Up top, they find a backward, impoverished people who are nonetheless cheerful and resourceful. Adewole discovers a library of ancient books the inhabitants can no longer read--but he can. Among them he finds a handwritten notebook describing the making of a Machine God, a fusion of magic and metal. The islanders take an oath at 13 never to use magic and metal together, a belief so powerful it takes a lot of persuading to get them to talk about it at all; when he finally gets someone to tell him about it, Adewole learns it's for fear of the god who threw the island into the air and tried to kill them, a god the islanders' ancestors then killed but who they fear would be resurrected were they to use magic and metal together.

Adewole realizes he's on to something, tracks down where the Machine God's "heart" is buried, and finds it contains a hideously murdered little girl's spirit, a child who's been asleep or alone in the dark for a thousand years of pain. Her name is Alleine. She is the Machine God, and she accidentally threw the island into the air in hopes of getting away from the machine's energy source. Her body was disassembled ("killed") and its indestructible parts scattered over the island. The God's power is finite only in that it cannot create life or make something into something else--no lead into gold, for example--but otherwise, anything is possible. Alleine not only threw a city of 100,000 people into the air, for example, she accidentally created the "plague" of talking birds both on the island and in Eisenstadt, a phenomenon spreading across the globe as birds migrate.

Adewole's best friend has been tracking his discovery for his own gain and betrays him, stealing Alleine, the manuscript and Adewole's translations, and leaving him for dead. He intends to "resurrect" and control the God to rule Eisenstadt and beyond. Adewole realizes the government wants the God as well; it's a powerful weapon, and there's nothing corrupt about a government wanting a weapon like that in its own hands rather than an enemy's.

So it's up to Adewole to rescue Alleine before his former friend can reconstruct the God's body--and before the terrified Alleine does something dangerous with the power the God's body will return to her.
 

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Intricate though coherent plot.  I wonder if just in unwinding the plot, if there is any emotional space for the reader to care much about any of the characters.  I see this is familiar territory for you.
 

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This long one sounds more like a book review than a book description.  Long descriptions usually lose potentialreaders.  They want to be intriqued, not given so much information right off the bat. A description is like an advertisement. You don't give them all the details, you get them to pick up the phone or come in the store (or, in your case, look at the sample). Too much information is a common mistake in both advertising and book descriptions. They aren't sure they want to spend time with you yet.  Don't waste too much of their time, just give them a win

Or were you just giving us a recap, not redoing the blurb?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Oh, giving a recap, that's WAY too long for a blurb! :)

Hudson, there are several emotional points. The hero is coming off the worst year of his life. The bad guy is the hero's best friend. Alleine becomes the emotional surrogate for the hero's sister. The third act is quite, quite emotional. I'm not quite sure what you mean by familiar territory.

Anyway, I'll give the blurb another shot. Thanks for everyone's help.
 

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Whew! Wondered what you were smokin'!  :)
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Second run:

###

Once upon a time, I built myself a God...

Professor Oladel Adewole has lost tenure, and his much-younger sister has died. Grieving and in need of work, he leaves his home for the University of Eisenstadt.

One thing makes life there bearable: the island floating a mile above the city. No one's ever been there, nor knows how it got there. Every culture in the world tells stories about it, and Adewole specializes in them.

When an inventor makes it there in her new autogyro, the government sends Adewole up with its first survey team. The expedition finds people, but Adewole finds a powerful, forbidden fusion of magic and metal: the Machine God.

The government wants it. So does a sociopath bent on ruling Eisenstadt. But when Adewole discovers just who and what it is, he must risk his life to protect the Machine God from the world--and the world from the Machine God.

The Machine God is part of The Drifting Isle Chronicles, stories set in a universe created by fantasy writers Joseph Robert Lewis, Charlotte E. English, Katherine Tomlinson and MeiLin Miranda.

###
 

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"Professor Oladel Adewole has lost tenure, and his much-younger sister has died. Grieving and in need of work, he leaves his home for the University of Eisenstadt."

I feel like the above bolded section is a bit redundant, as we now know that his sister has died, and that he needs a job. I don't know if I would cut out 'grieving and in need of work, or the part about losing tenure and his much younger sister, but I do know that I am more interested in the island, and I would get to that asap. I don't know that I'm intrigued by the back story.

I feel like one thing that's missing is an emotional pull for me, and I can see you are trying to get there by mentioning the death of his sister. Since that emotional conflict is over, I wonder if you could bring something in about the machine God being a little girl? I think that really pulls me in from the synopsis, that this professor who has studied an island his whole life, gets to go there while grieving for his little sister, and there finds a young girl that needs his protection, which probably stirs up issues for him. I don't know if that's spoiling too much, but I don't think so. The concept of a little girl that's a machine god is one that I would read for. And I think the rule you listed (or was that another blurb site?) was that if it happens in the first half of the book, it's fair game.
Otherwise I'm kind of like, machine god? Who wants to protect a machine god? A little too vague for me.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Good points. He finds out about Alleine midway through the second act.

###

Once upon a time, I built myself a God...

Professor Oladel Adewole has lost tenure, and his much-younger sister has died. With nothing to hold him, he leaves his homeland for the University of Eisenstadt.

One thing makes life there bearable: the island floating a mile above the city. No one's ever been there, nor knows how it got there. Every culture in the world tells stories about it, and Adewole specializes in them.

When an inventor makes it there in her new autogyro, the government sends Adewole up with its first survey team. The expedition finds people, but Adewole finds a powerful, forbidden fusion of magic and metal: the Machine God.

The government wants it. So does a sociopath bent on ruling Eisenstadt. But when Adewole discovers it's the spirit of a murdered little girl, he must risk his life to protect the Machine God from the world--and the world from the Machine God.

The Machine God is part of The Drifting Isle Chronicles, stories set in a universe created by fantasy writers Joseph Robert Lewis, Charlotte E. English, Katherine Tomlinson and MeiLin Miranda.

###
 
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