Tag Archives: writers


by Jaleta Clegg

Titles are very important to writers. They are what grab attention and coax readers into opening the cover. My favorite title comes from a science fiction novel by Julie Czerneda – A Thousand Words for Stranger (https://www.czerneda.com/sf/thousand.html). My imagination went wild. I had to read that book. I’m glad I did. It’s a great story.

I hate finding a title. Sometimes it takes almost as much time and effort as writing the book. Titles need to capture the essence of the story, and still be pithy, short, and memorable. It’s an art form I struggle to implement.

I usually leave the title to last. I’ll come up with a working title, something I hate, and use that until I have time to figure out something better. Which may or may not happen.

My first novel was originally titled “Dace”, short and sweet and captures the book. Except it didn’t capture audiences. A good friend of mine, who’s also an author, pointed out that my title said everything to me, but nothing to anyone who hadn’t read the book. So I tossed the title and dug deeper, coming up with Nexus Point. A nexus is a point of origin or a zero point. It’s the place where something starts. I thought it was a great title for the first book in a series. The events of that book set in motion the rest of the series. It worked, mostly, because I landed a publisher. One reader commented that she didn’t understand the title. And there are three science fiction books with the same title that came out in the same decade. It’s not unique enough.

Book two was a little easier. Priestess of the Eggstone. Simple, easy, sums up the book. Except most people think it’s Princess of the Eggstone. Close enough. Googling eggstone still finds the book. No one else has used the title.

Book three, the one releasing mid-April, had a working title I despised. I couldn’t find anything better, though. I knew the release was coming so I turned to my internet friends. They came up with some great suggestions, but since most of them had never read the book, the titles didn’t fit. I spent several days digging through ideas, looking for that perfect title. And then it hit me, why not use a chess strategy? The book references the situation as a game with very high stakes. Queen’s Gambit has been overused as a title, though. It didn’t quite fit the story. I dug deeper. And then I found the perfect strategy.

Poisoned Pawn.

It’s obscure and unless you’re a chess buff, you probably have never heard of it. But the title still works for those who have no clue it’s a chess move. Dace, the main character, is a pawn, set out as bait and seemingly unprotected. The bad guys should find her irresistable. But she’s poison, taking her will cause them all sorts of grief. The name suggests a story with intrigue and danger and someone being used. It only took me six years to find the perfect title for the book.

Do you struggle coming up with titles for your work? What titles have grabbed you and never let go?

For those who’ve been nice enough to read this whole post, I’m offering a free ebook of Nexus Point. Just go here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/10672 and enter the code: AA47G (expires 5/31/13)

Links to all three books, in print and ebook, can be found at www.altairanempire.com



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What are some things you learned from writing fantasy?

by Gail Z. Martin

Q:  What are some things you learned from writing fantasy?

A:  One thing I’ve learned is a definite respect for the hardships which our ancestors endured—plague, famine, lack of clean water, lack of indoor plumbing and central heat, high mortality rates from curable conditions, etc.  At the same time, I’m intrigued by how much joy they were still able to take from life through family and friends, small comforts and conveniences, celebrations and holidays, and good food when there was food to be had.

I’m in awe of what they were able to do with the technology that they had to work with, whether it’s the invention of war machines such as those DaVinci designed, or the creation of complex water and sewer systems, or the sheer temerity to sail across an ocean without modern communication and navigation tools.  And then there’s the cooking.  I’m amazed at the complicated recipes they created to be cooked over open flames or in “ovens” without any reliable temperature control!

I’ve learned a lot about medieval weapons and society, not in a bookish sort of way, but by needing to apply what I learned from history and then live with it in the skin of my characters.  It’s one thing to read about something.  It’s another to put yourself into the moment and have to live with it.

I’ve also learned how much contemporary stories rely on instantaneous communication and modern travel speeds, neither of which were available in the medieval world of epic fantasy.  This has major plot ramifications.  If something happens on one battlefield, there is no way to get word to someone hundreds of miles away faster than a horse and rider can travel, unless you use magic (but magic must be unreliable to avoid being a cheat).  We don’t think about those kinds of delays today, but they were very real throughout most of history.  If a character needs to go to a distant place, they’re constrained by how fast a man can walk or how fast a horse can sustain a gallop.  Especially in battle scenes, these two issues are crucial, because there is no good way to communicate among far-flung  battlefields, no way to know real-time information, no fast way to move an army from here to there.  These kinds of things make a big impact on how you can tell the story, what can be known by your characters, and what options are open to them.

I’ve also learned fun things, like word origins.  For example, people have been retching since 1540,  puking and heaving since the 1600s, but only barfing since the 1960s.  They’ve been pissing since the 1300s and leaking since the 1500s, but they didn’t start to pee until 1788.  If your character needs to do one or the other, you’ve got to get the historically correct term. These things are important for a writer to know!


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Filed under Books, Fandom, Gail Z. Martin