Back Cover Description: Invictus

Okay, yes, I realize that NO FOREIGN SKY has only just dropped this past Monday, while the INVICTUS duology won’t be released till this fall, BUT I put a teaser for INVICTUS in the back of NO FOREIGN SKY. I know some of you have noticed that already.

Since I knew I was going to include that teaser, obviously it made sense to go ahead and put in a link to the first INVICTUS book.

THAT meant I needed to go ahead and put both INVICTUS books up for preorder. And THAT meant — given the title of this post, I’m sure you can see this coming — that I suddenly had to come up with back over description.

Initially I cheated: I just put: Add Description Here for both books and completed the preorder process. I did this several weeks ago, maybe a month ago. What could go wrong? I said. No one will notice they’re up yet, I said. It’s not like I’ve mentioned that I’m putting them up. I don’t have to mention that till I’m ready for readers to actually see these books on Amazon.

Well, I underestimated my readers! A few days later, I was startled to see that a few brave, trusting readers had preordered one or both books without ANY book description at all. Wow. I’m flattered, and honestly, how did you even know that duology was up? Maybe Amazon dropped INVICTUS into some inboxes or on some Kindles as a suggestion for various readers. Anyway, I did not expect that.

I immediately wrote back cover description and updated both books. The first book has, I hope, pretty decent description. The second book right now has a very brief description, which of course I will need to expand, but at least it’s got something. I would, as always, appreciate your help fine-tuning both. Therefore:



Every soldier knows there are endless ways to die.
Every Ubezhishche soldier knows there are far worse fates than death.

Sevastien one zero two four, S line third modification, has survived the destruction of his own ship and an enemy station. But he was rescued by the wrong side — by Nalyn Ila, captain of the Elysian destroyer Invictus. Now he’s facing a difficult problem: How to persuade Captain Ila and her people that he is not an enemy combatant. That if there was an act of war, it was committed by her people, not his own.

Sevastien is almost certain he was an innocent bystander of disaster … unless his own people set him up, aiming to get him aboard Invictus for reasons he can’t yet understand. Maybe they did. It’s just the kind of thing Ubezhishche Command might do.

Nalyn Ila is almost certain Sevastien is an enemy agent, placed aboard her ship by Ubezhishche Command. But no one, not her own people nor the enemy nor Sevastien himself, can possibly guess what plans she might have for an Ubezhishche soldier. Even if he actually is an innocent bystander, she may be able to use him to accomplish her private goals. And if he’s actually an enemy agent … that might be even better.



No plan ever survives contact with the enemy.
Especially when you aren’t sure which side is your enemy.

Now that everyone’s secret plans have been revealed, Sevastien suddenly finds that he has to reassess everything he knows about his enemies … and his friends.


Now that you’ve read both descriptions, let me say some stuff.

Sevastien actually goes by Syova. That’s the name his teammates and friends call him, and that’s the name most people (not all) call him when he’s on Invictus as well. That’s not a problem, is it? Everyone will be fine when the first lines of the story refer to Syova and not Sevastien. I mean, here’s the beginning of the story:


Every soldier knew there were endless ways to die. Every Ubez of every line and any description, soldier or not, knew there were far worse fates than death.

Syova stood in a relaxed pose, his hands at his sides, idly calculating odds as he gazed through the transparent hull of his emergency pod toward the Elysian destroyer currently sifting through the distant wreckage of their station and his ship. At the moment, he was inclined to set the odds of death much higher than those of any worse fate. Elysian scanning technology was quite good, so the probability of dying from a pulse burst to the head was probably marginally higher than the probability of dying of radiation poisoning. As emergency pods enjoyed a fair supply of air, both of those possibilities seemed substantially more likely than death from asphyxiation. One never knew exactly how long a pod’s air would last, of course, which made the calculation somewhat unreliable. Still, he’d call it roughly point two, point one eight, and point zero six.

A fate worse than death … he thought he’d pegged the probability of that about right, at something close to point zero two. The senior command staff of that Elysian ship out there wouldn’t subject an Ubez prisoner to anything worse than an ordinary interrogation followed by a brisk execution, no matter how suspicious his presence in this vicinity. He knew every dossier of every senior officer on that ship forward and backward, and he was thoroughly confident in that judgment.

Unfortunately, the probability that they would turn him over to Elysian Admiralty was more difficult to calculate. If that happened, the odds of a fate worse than death would go sharply upward.


The teaser is substantially longer than that, of course, but you can see that the main protagonist goes by “Syova.” The name “Sevastien,” with or without the “one zero two four,” is formal and used by superiors and distant acquaintances and so on. So is that a potential problem or point of confusion? He does give his name as Sevastien one zero two four very soon after this opening.

Also, just some comments:

Although this story is quite different from TUYO, I am deliberately using some of the same tropes and some of the same elements of structure, which I expect you will recognize when you see them. For example, I set up a similar dynamic between the isolated, captive protagonist and the older, powerful captor. This time, the latter character is a woman, and also a pov protagonist, but still, there is this essential similarity.

There are other similarities, which would perhaps constitute spoilers, so I’m shutting up now. I always want to tell you way too much (WAY TOO MUCH) and have to strenuously resist that urge. I guess, having said this much, I should probably at least add up front that no one is a telepath, so don’t think that might be one of the similarities. I’m thinking of other things.

But I will say, INVICTUS is not a space opera. I’m honestly not sure what it is. I do hope readers will generally like both, but compared to NO FOREIGN SKY, this one is much slower paced, particularly in the beginning; and much more about, well, never mind, I can’t think of any way to say anything about certain things without spoiling you.

Once it’s out, I should do a post about SF subgenres and you can tell me where you think it fits, if anywhere.

Regardless of subgenre, this is a story I’ve enjoyed a lot — I’m going to enjoy picking it up again to finish revisions to the back half. I should get to that in a few days, maybe next week.

I hope you enjoy it too!

Now officially available for preorder.

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14 thoughts on “Back Cover Description: Invictus”

  1. When I opened the Amazon page for NO FOREIGN SKY it included the INVICTUS books as a suggested link in some category or other, so that may be what happened. Or if you sort your Author Page by publication date, they show up at the top as the most distant future releases — not sure how long that’s been true, but that may have been the trigger for the first people to notice them.

    I kind of like the weirdly short blurb for INVICTUS: CRISIS but I suspect that will be an extreme minority taste. And Ila does deserve a mention, certainly.

  2. Oh, she does, doesn’t she? What with, um, everything. But maybe that description will stay short.

  3. I rather like the short blurb for #2 as well! (It definitely tells you “don’t start here” but also without spoiling anything for book 1, which is a serious annoyance of mine–if I accidentally click first on a sequel/second half, I want to be directed to the first book, not told critical things about its outcome that I’d like to discover myself!)

  4. You’re right, Maigen, I flinch away from back cover description and reviews of second books for that exact reason. I hadn’t quite realized that until you put this into words. Maybe you’re both right and really ultra short is the way to go for the second book after all.

  5. Preordered both. I also like the short blurb on the second book … as others have said, it was enough to tease me into the next without spoilering the first.

    I noticed the trope similar to Tuyo, or at least something about the feel seemed similar. That’s a good thing. :-)

    It doesn’t seem a major confusion to have the character be Sevastien on the back cover copy and Syova in the text, but it feels a little like a missed opportunity to connect the reader with the character. As someone who has a formal name that’s on all the official documents, but is not what anyone normally calls me, the formal name is distancing. Anyone who calls me by it doesn’t know me. Sevastien is what the opposing captain would know him as (at least initially) and what his chain of command would call him, but the reader is going to think of him as Syova. Maybe the copy could start “Syova, more officially Sevastien one zero etc.”

  6. Thank you, OtterB, that’s a good suggestion. That’s the exact problem I’m trying to solve. I’ll come up with something.

    I’m startled everybody so far likes a super-short blurb on the second book! Maybe my subconscious knew what it was doing when I wrote that!

  7. FYI, the two-book combo has a separate space for a blurb that is still “Enter description here”

  8. Rachel Neumeier

    Really, Allan? Goodness, good thing someone told me, or who knows when I would have noticed. Got to figure out how to change that now …

  9. Agree with everyone that the first blurb is great and a short second one works. I would say the one you have is a little flippant, which is fine for your fans, but might give newer readers the impression you are calling it in. (Digression: where does that idiom come from?) Secret plans, yada yada, you know the drill, whatever. Is there any hint you can give us as to what sort of crisis they’re facing, maybe?

    Sounds very fun!

  10. Flippant, really? Not sure what part looks flippant.

    A hint about the crisis ought to be possible without any dire spoilers. I’ll take a stab at this today or tomorrow and see what I come up with, but you’ve all persuaded me that there’s no need to try to make the second book’s description much longer than it is.

  11. I agree with OtterB, I was going to suggest amending the sentence with his name to include his nickname.
    Since his nickname is the one most used, I’d start with that, then go on to the formal one.
    Like this:
    Syova, more formally known as Sevastien one zero two four, S line third modification, has survived the destruction of his own ship and an enemy station. But he was rescued by the wrong side — by Nalyn Ila, captain of the Elysian destroyer Invictus.

    Another option would be to add the nickname after the formal one
    “Sevastien …. (or Syova, as he was known to his friends and acquaintances) … ”
    but I find it a bit offputting for the PoV character I’m going to spend a lot of time with, to be immediately introduced with that very long designation that is hard to keep in mind.

    Naming him as Syova in the back cover copy of book 1 as well as book 2 also links both books, and reassures readers that you’re not going to kill off the PoV character and switch to someone else halfway through (so it’s safe to let yourself get attached, no need to keep a distance from the book while reading).
    Those who know you know you wouldn’t do that, but new readers might not.

  12. Or “known to military command as …” or something like that, you know best what you’ld want to say, but I find it so much easier to give an example tgan to explain.
    Sorry, I know I shouldn’t suggest solutions, just flag up problems, but that is not how my brain works.

  13. Not at all, Hanneke, that’s helpful.

    I’m thinking of

    Syova — Sevastien one zero two four, S line third modification — has survived …

    With no explanation, and just let readers assume or guess that the latter is his formal designation. What do you think?

    Possibly it might help remember the numerical designations used occasionally if you know that they’re all powers of 2. That was to help ME remember them. It’s definitely 1024, not 1025, if it’s a power of 2.

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