Tenai: Back cover description

Many of you pointed to “Last Year’s Leaves are Smoke” as a great line. Yes, that’s my favorite of the lines of poetry I thought of perhaps using as book titles. It’s not out of copyright, however. In a relatively small number of years, yes, but in 2021, no. Too bad! I am not certain whether I should approach the estate to ask permission. It would be simpler to just look only at poems published before 1923. Or just look at Shakespeare. I have a Bartlett’s Quotations sitting around. Maybe it’s time to get that out.

Meanwhile, back cover copy! Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Book 1

A gifted psychiatrist, Daniel Dodson is perfectly aware that he’s in a tough place personally following the death of his wife. Then a mysterious new patient offers a welcome professional distraction.

The world of swords and magic that Tenai so vividly remembers obviously can’t be real. The deadly enmity and long war that left such deep emotional scars obviously symbolize something else. But perhaps Daniel can use the signposts of those confabulated memories to help Tenai understand how to move forward into a new life in the real world.

Book 2

Down the rabbit hole, but not to Wonderland.

It never occurred to Daniel that the fantastic life Tenai remembers might be absolutely true. But when he and his daughter are swept up in the plots of Tenai’s enemies and dropped abruptly into a world of dark magic and darker history, Daniel is faced with the need to find a way to help Tenai deal with the all-too-real echoes of her past.

Book 3

Sometimes the past does not let go.

Daniel has come to know far more about Tenai’s enemies than he ever wanted to know — and far more than she does herself. Forced into unwilling cooperation with those enemies, can Daniel find a way to free himself, protect his daughter, and help Tenai overcome the shadows of her past — before it’s too late?

The conclusion of the story begun in [TITLE].

What do you all think? I strongly prefer short back cover descriptions, and I prefer not to give away too much just on the back cover. But I have to say SOMETHING about the third book. Is that too much, too little, the wrong thing to reveal?

I’m concerned that these back cover descriptions may make the story sound too dark. On the other hand, it IS a darker story than, for example, THE FLOATING ISLANDS.

Also, I realize that referring to a male pov character and an important female character on the back cover suggests romance. I can’t quite think of any way to prevent the impression that this story might or probably does include an important romance, so I see no choice but to let some readers avoid the story because they don’t want to read a romance and then disappoint other readers because the story turns out to contain SOME romance, but not the one they may expect from the back cover. Any ideas about that? I don’t suppose there some standard code phrase for “not a romance” that I haven’t ever noticed? I could mention that Daniel is middle-aged; I could even mention that Tenai is over four hundred years old; but neither of those factors says “Also, they do not have a romance.”

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13 thoughts on “Tenai: Back cover description”

  1. Allan Lawrence Shampine

    Huh. It did not occur to me that they might have a romance based on those descriptions. I think the doctor/patient relationship, and the clear delineation between personal and professional life, described in the first blurb set a tone such that romance didn’t cross my mind.

  2. Allan, that’s great! That’s why I put “professional” in that description. I hope that does the job for everyone else as well.

  3. Maybe working the word “patient” into the later blurbs would help reinforce the idea of this being not a romance

  4. “Tenai was not, in fact, delusional after all, but she still needs the help of a skilled psychiatrist so she can…”

    ? I dunno, just a first stab attempt.

  5. Oh, portal fantasy! Very interested. My impression from the cover copy so far, though, is that Daniel may be an active protagonist while Tenai doesn’t do much except need help. I wonder if we could learn a little more about Tenai that shows her as an active agent in the story as well?

  6. Oh, hmm. I’ll have to give that some thought.

    What’s actually going on is that Tenai is driving the story, while Daniel is able to give things a push from time to time. She’s the actual protagonist — he’s the point-of-view character. How to express that in the back cover copy … hmmm.

  7. How about using ‘ancient’ or ‘wizened’ or ‘in her long life’ somewhere in the description of Tenai. Readers tend not to wait for romance when they picture the female character as a grandma, sort of thingy? ^^

  8. As someone also writing a not-the-characters-you-were-expecting romance, I feel your pain. How to explain that no, the viewpoint characters will not have a romance with each other in a blurb, in order to curb disappointment before it manifests?

    I personally felt, along with the first commenter, that the first blurb delineated their patient/professional relationship pretty well. I think it helps that you mention a daughter and that Daniel is a widower, though I’m not sure why I would think that precludes a romance.
    I agree with Mary Beth, though, that it does sound like Daniel’s the main character, rather than Tenai.
    Regardless, from the description it definitely sounds like something I would read.

  9. I wonder if “aid” or “assist” might do better than “help” in showing that Daniel’s really a support man while Tenai is driving the plot?

    I might also add a line to each summary about Tenai herself—so far all we know is that she’s tortured by memories and has enemies. Who is she otherwise and what does she want?

  10. Thank you all for your feedback!

    Estara, Tenai is not physically old. I do personally feel that the doctor/patient relationship ought to exclude the possibility of romance, and if there are various other cues that many or most readers would take that way — daughter, widower — that’s all to the good. Mary Beth, that’s a good suggestion, although Tenai basically wants to be left alone … or that’s what she thinks she wants, at least. I’ll give that some thought!

  11. Maybe for books 2 and 3 use “guide his former patient Tenai to ” instead of “help Tenai”. This emphasizes the (former) patient – doctor /guidance counselor relationship, for those who might not yet have picked up the first book, or read that back cover copy.
    That lessens the impression that this must of course be a romance because there are a man and a woman in it. The book 1 description doesn’t give me that, because of the clear doctor – patient dynamic, but book 2 and 3 are too ambiguous as the first draft stands.

    The covers can play a part in discouraging that idea too – maybe don’t put Tenai and Daniel both on the same cover?
    I think it would work if you put Daniel on the first, Tenai on the second and on the third either Tenai again, or the daughter Jenna, or father and daughter together, or a mass scene if it ends in something like a coronation or a trial or the installation of a democratic government (as you see, if haven’t read that far yet!). Just don’t put the three of them, or Daniel and Tenai together in the focus of the third cover.

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