Calling All Critiques: Book Blurb Entry #1

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Author: Ichabod Temperance
Book title: The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance

Genre: Steampunk, Paranormal

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Synopsis from ‘A Matter of Temperance’

In a past that never was…
The year is 1869. Earth experiences the close pass of a comet never before seen. In its wake, many of Terra’s inhabitants find themselves changed. Among men, prodigies rise in unprecedented numbers, while many ordinary adults suddenly find themselves possessed of preternatural genius. Likewise, non-hominid animals become self-aware and intelligent.
Fast forward to 1875. A young “comet prodigy” from humble beginnings, Ichabod Temperance, has become the world’s foremost inventor. He travels to England to deliver his latest brilliant invention to a famous explorer, until Fate intervenes. Meanwhile, a lovely young Bluestocking, Miss Persephone Plumtartt, survives an experimental accident only to find herself imbued with a power she can neither understand nor control, while dark forces and malevolent creatures pursue her, leaving a gruesome wake of death.
Yet, worse is to come. The naïve young inventor and the lovely intellectual find themselves fighting not only to save their own lives, but to prevent the destruction of all life on Earth.
*
Excerpt from ‘For the Love of Temperance’

“Twas the hand of fate that brought Miss Plumtartt and me together, for in truth, we have been happenstance stricken and adventure prone ever since.”

I pet the gentle and loving Mr. Bolt on the head.

“Some of you may have noticed an unusual amount of intelligence and empathy with our little dog Mr. Bolt. Miss Plumtartt and I are of the mind that he too, has been affected by the Revelatory Comet. She and I believe that many animals have kept a certain amount of psychic ability that we as humans, over the course of evolution, have lost. Bolt here, would appear to have an incredible amount of astounding psychic control.”

“Bolt? Would you care to give a little demonstration?”

The little dog, as usual, seems to be following the conversation. Though I do not think he really understands my words, he clearly seems to be able to take my meaning, either by intonation, body gestures, or reading my mind.

He looks around the campfire at his companions.

My skin is itchy. It is as if my body hair is grown in very thickly. In fact, it feels as if I am covered in hair. No! It feels as if I am covered in fur!

I look to the WickeThimble players. They all seem to have an uncomfortable expression on their faces. So too, does Miss Plumtartt. I can tell that they are squirming under the sensation of a wiry pelt. They are trying to appear casual, and not like they are wearing terrier pajamas.

Bolt wags his tail and everyone jumps up to look behind themselves for the phantom appendage.

Then I experience getting bit. It is a tiny, but sharp, bite.

“Bolt!” I exclaim. “Do you have a flea, buddy?”

The little dog gives a whimper, poor little guy.

I notice a few of my friends wanting to scratch at the bite of a flea upon their person that I know is not there. In fact, they are even attempting to scratch at the flea bite with their hind legs. I mean rear legs. I mean, their feet.

“Oh! I shall go next, then, shall I?” exclaims Clarabelle Nightingale excitedly. She is practically blazing with her enthusiasm. Great heaps of curly Titian hair almost seem to burst into flame with her inner fire.

“I appreciate your candor and your wonderful tales,” Clarabelle casts a questioning glance over at Bolt. “Though I am still feeling as if I am covered over in itchy fur, and my right leg has an almost uncontrollable urge to scratch behind my right ear utilizing my toes as digging implements.”

Beaming from ear to ear, Clarabelle warms into her story.

“I guess it’s been seven years now since the ‘Revelatory Comet’. I was seventeen at the time. Before that, singing had always been a part of my life. I pretty much grew up in the church choir, often being selected for solo parts. In school, I would eagerly pursue any sort of singing chance that was available. In any school performance or production, I was always there, and usually earned a satisfyingly challenging role.

“However, with the Comet’s passing, I immediately knew that I could do far more with my voice than I had ever realized. I could conjure an image of the structures and harmonies. The wavelengths of the auditory vibrations were visualized in my mind as if by magic. Soon, I could selectively vibrate an object, just by the placement of my pitch. I can shatter glass and crystal. I can even select the particular target in mind, as opposed to endangering all fragile objects, but it was not these parlour tricks that helped me to gain fame. It was my admittedly enhanced singing skills that brought me much fame and attention. I was getting some good bookings, but alas, I allowed my own need to show off get me in trouble. It started with a single crystal from the grand chandelier of the Paris opera house. I thought it would be a nice touch, to burst a single crystal at the peak of my aria. It worked! It was so fantastically dramatic! The whole house caught their breath. Several ladies let out a whelp of surprise and fear. Though several people were gouged by descending shards of crystal, no one complained. In fact, it was such a thrilling moment, that those wounded were honoured to be a part of that incredible experience. They thanked me profusely for selecting the one particular crystal that would strike them. Others were miffed at me for not having been selected to have deadly shards of lead crystal rain down upon them.”

“The kind managers of the opera house were very happy with me. I apologized, insisting that I had gotten carried away by being able to perform in such a magnificent palace as their opera house, and that I was very sorry for any property damage done. The two gentlemen exchanged a queer look. They then informed me that, though for the briefest of moments, the two men were outraged at my callous impropriety. However, the occupant of a particular box seat, a gentleman of the most mysterious connections with the theater, let it be known that he was happy with the performance. It is said that the box is always reserved for him on the opening night of all the proud opera house’s shows. Because this gentleman has so much influence in the theater for some reason, they decided to let the issue drop. My protector even sent me a dozen roses, but mysteriously, his card only read, ‘P’.”

“Well, I thought to meself, Clarabelle, if one little crystal worked well for a bit of notoriety, maybe I’ll just turn it on just a wee bit more next time.”

“Oh, if I could only go back and do it again.”

“You see, our next show was in Lichtenstein, at the famous GuberGraüberz Hall. Some of the grandest crowned heads of Europe were in attendance. Prince Pimpzle Pauper, Duchess Poutsy Illtempertz, and even Queen Glarezalotte were there.”

“Word had spread of my performance in Paris and there was much excitement for another historic moment to be made. As I grew closer to the crescendo, I could feel the anticipation growing in the audience. I could make out parasols and umbrellas being brought to hand in readiness of a glass shower.”

At the fireside, Clarabelle drops her head in a moment of embarrassment. She then looks back up, much of her previous enthusiasm dampened.

“I was really in the moment. I knew that I was not going to disappoint my audience.”

“As I hit my final, ultimate note, I held it in a moment of extended bliss. I may have heard the chandelier shattering, but in truth, I was caught up in the musical ecstasy.”

“Eventually, I remember to end the note. Opening my eyes, I am shocked at the damage done. Not only has any glass or crystal in the house shattered, even opera glasses or monocles, it has mercifully been powderized back into sand. And there are a lot of monocles in Lichtenstein.”

“The entire audience has been blasted up against the back wall. Along with the seating. And it was bolted down.”

“But I think it was how I was able to peel the gold leaf from the balcony and surrounding ornate parapets that really made a lasting impression.”

“A few of the more sporting vocal enthusiasts provided a polite smattering of applause, but these brave aficionados were quickly shot down with a venomous look by Queen Glarezalotte. Her wig had been knocked asunder, her skirts thrown over her head, and several patrons, along with a few members of the orchestra, had landed atop of her royal highness during the furor of the performance.”

“‘Off with her head!’ the angry woman shrieked! I was very nearly executed on the spot. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed long enough to rush me out of the wrecked Hall.”

“In a majestic rage, Queen Glarezalotte banished me from the kingdom and did everything she could to have me black-balled throughout the World.”

Several tongue snicks against the roofs of several mouths around the campfire click in sympathy. A few ‘Mmm. mmm, mmm’s,’ too.

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2 Responses to Calling All Critiques: Book Blurb Entry #1

  1. dawnall says:

    Let’s start with the premise. I don’t read steampunk but it intrigued me. There is plenty there to wonder about and want to learn more about. You called it a “synopsis” but I think you merely meant it in dictionary definition not the publishing industry way. It summarizes your book in a few paragraphs. A query dangles the best your book has to offer readers and as such, doesn’t so much summarize as highlight. I would focus on Ichabod Temperance and Miss Persephone Plumtartt and how and why their worlds collide. I assume they do since you have offset them in the same paragraph. The conflict inherent in that could be quite fun and dynamic. Save your straight summary for your synopsis.

  2. anneuro says:

    Ichabod Temperance sounds cool. As does Miss Plumtartt (although I really wish she were Dr. Plumtarrt). I’d love to put on my wire-rimmed spectacles, light my lamp, and read their story, but I’m worried they’re not going to make it. They need a more conventionally-formatted query. The good news is: you can fix this!

    Consult books and/or the ample free online resources available (including the blogs of our kind hosts for Calling All Critiques, writersdigest.com, queryshark.blogspot.com, etc., etc.). Writerly threads on twitter are also instructive.

    Since this is the query/blurb round I am just going to review your “Synopsis from ‘A Matter of Temperance,’ ” as this could form the hook/pitch portion of a query letter. Normally, I don’t read comments before posting my own, but I was so confused by this entry that I did look at what the previous commentator said. I agree with dawnall that what is called a synopsis here is really more of a query and that the pitch should focus on the fascinating MCs (main characters). My confusion also stemmed from the fact that three different titles were given for the entry form, the synopsis, and the excerpt. the hook/pitch portion of a query letter.

    Your names are deliciously Dickensian. However, the text calls for rigorous editing: “In 1869,” not “The year is 1869.” “A new comet” instead of one “never before seen.” “Many” is reiterated. “Non-hominid” is unnecessary and clunky. Fate and bluestocking should not be capitalized. And, so on.

    “In a past that never was…” may be deleted as it is too vague as a hook and becomes obvious by the 4th sentence. The “[f]ast forward to 1875” should be similarly replaced. Otherwise, the reader is left wondering if time travel is involved.

    The characters and premise are spectacularly intriguing. You had me at “comet prodigy.” This would make for a promising hook. A few details would also further whet the query reader’s appetite: What has Ichabod invented? What was the accident that befell Miss Plumtartt? What is her superpower?

    The stakes are made very clear. Well done! But, again, give specifics on how life on Earth is threatened. I hope to read how Ichabod and Persephone and their creator find a way to save their world—after a little research into how to build a better query.

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