Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Adventures in Title Land

This morning, I came across author Katie Ganshert’s blog post on book titles. I thought it was interesting that I saw this right after I commented on another author’s blog about how important a good title is. But reading this blog post had me thinking about my own adventures in coming up with a good title.
My debut novel, which unfortunately went into limbo after the publisher went bankrupt, was titled November’s Child. This title came to me in a dream. (More details on all of that in October, where you can read more about how that story came to be in an interview I’ll be featured in on another author’s blog.) Dreams are helpful when it comes to titles. Another dream I had told another story that turned into a manuscript I wrote, and the title was in this dream, as well.

I have had other dreams about my WIPs, and sometimes I would see title candidates in those dreams. However, for one other manuscript I wrote, I don’t think “Where is Laura?” would be much of a good title. But if something grabs me in a dream, I’ll use it.

Alas, November’s Child was a title that didn’t stick around for very long. With the demise of this book, I brought it back to life in a new version of the story and the manuscript was picked up by Gypsy Shadow Publishing. During the time I was trying to figure out what to do with my book, everyone I talked to told me the same thing: It will need a new title. I spent months trying to come up with something. Then I started to ask myself, what is this book really about? What’s going on with the main characters? The heart of the book is about the Druid observance of Samhain. Hmm, Samhain. Must use that. Then I looked at the characters and I realized, you know, it’s like they are haunted by the past. Like the past is a huge shadow over them. Wait a minute, shadow? Ding! That’s how I got the book’s title: Shadow of Samhain.

The one and only book I have co-authored (so far!) is the haunted houses book with Martha Jette: Totally Scared: The Complete Book on Haunted Houses. But neither of us can take credit for the title. Actually, my good friend, Peter Bowerman, came up with that title. (Thanks, Peter!) Up until then, I’d spent months brainstorming for a title. Family members even tried to come up with something. But nothing worked. I’m glad I finally asked Peter for help, because it’s definitely a great title!

Family members have also helped me work on other book titles, as well. My daughter and I spent some time brainstorming for a title for my haunted cities book. Because the contract was cancelled by the publisher, I figured that if it was going to be with a new publisher, it’s going to have a new title! Eventually, I came up with “A Ghost on Every Corner.”

For my poetry ebook, Songs of the Dead, that one was also a team effort. My publishers suggested I use one of the poem titles as a title and I threw at them a list of the ones I liked best. They picked “Songs of the Dead” and I was happy with it. (Thank you, Denise and Charlotte!) In a way, it fits the overall collection of poems.

Despite these successes with book titles, however, I still occasionally struggle with titles for my books. There is one manuscript I have, a paranormal mystery, that has a temporary title: “Imprint.” Which I think is better than the working title it used to have: “The Haunted Carpet.” (I still chuckle over that one! LOL) This manuscript is still being spiffied up, so hopefully during the revision process, I will manage to come up with some other title.

If not, I can always ask around. Or hold a “title this book” contest with my readers. It’s an idea.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Embracing the unexpected

It happens either on a Sunday or first thing Monday morning: I create a weekly “to-do” list for the coming week. Because I have so much going on, this has proven to be the best way for me to remember everything I need to do, especially for that particular week, as well as manage everything. (You can read my article about creating a weekly to-do list here.) Seriously, I’d be lost without these lists. They really work in keeping everything front and center. Link
But aside from the occasional SIGNews assignment or deadline, my weekly to-do list can get to be predictable – if not boring. OK, yes, “predictable” does mean “boring.” And where’s the fun of that? Who wants to keep doing the same old, same old week after week after week? Yuck!

That was my feeling when I put together my list (which I also call my “schedule”) for this past week. I took a look at everything I’d written down, which was pretty much similar to the one I had for the previous week, then released a huge sigh. Same stuff again. Yippee.

I sent up a silent plea. Why can’t this week be (gasp!) different? Why can’t I try something else this week? Why can’t I write something different this week? I WANT SOMETHING DIFFERENT! Give me variety or give me death!

Yet, I trudged on. Monday came. Here we go. It was showtime!

Soon, however, I was to see that my little plea for something different would be answered. It seems my muse had other plans for me this week, because I read something in a nonfiction book I am reviewing, and it totally blew me away. But not only did it blow me away – it got me to thinking. What if this could be a story? Of course, I was so shocked by what I read in that book that I could not continue to read it, but at the same time, you know, the wheels were turning. I started asking myself a stream of “what if?” questions – all questions that would lead me to coming up with a story idea based on that very thing.

But my muse did not stop there. Even as I started writing that story, more story ideas poured in. It seemed as though every day of the week meant new ideas for stories to write. As it is, I woke up twice this morning (at 4 a.m. then at 8 a.m.) with two story ideas after each awakening!

So this week turned itself into a “fiction writing week” for me. Instead of another round of reading books for review. I was on a story-writing spree! Ideas for new stories came out of the blue at every turn. Yay!

So it seems that I got to have something different to work on this week, after all. Of course, I kept up with the book reviews – though not as consistently as I normally do because I was busy writing so much. And I kept up with proofreading for a publisher. But I also threw myself into this story-writing spree and loving every minute of it!

Thank you, muse, for answering my plea. It was nice to have something different, if not unexpected, happen this week, for once.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, August 14, 2011

On writing bad reviews

When I started reviewing books on the Internet, I never once thought that it might be a good idea to use a pseudonym. On one level, I no longer use a pseudonym because I feel it is like I am ashamed of what I am writing. On another level, I won’t use one because, in the past, I’ve had to defend that I WAS indeed the author of something written under a pseudonym and I just don’t want to go there anymore. However, as I have written book reviews for quite some time now, I am beginning to think that maybe a pseudonym would have been useful for when I have to write a bad review of a book.

Being an author myself, I know that reviewing books on a public forum places me in a position where an author unhappy with my review of his/her book would lash out at me via a bad review of one of my own books on Amazon.com or something. Yes, this kind of behavior is childish and unprofessional, but it can and probably does happen.

Also, as an author, I know how painful a bad review of my book can be. I work so hard on my books and take them through several edits, revisions and critiques until they are satisfactory. And my editors have worked their magic, as well, God bless ‘em. But a bad review of one of my books is inevitable – it goes with the territory – and I know it would be a little hard to swallow. Still, I respect that reviewer’s opinions. I won’t respond to bad reviews and I will acknowledge that you just can’t please everybody. Really, you can’t.

I hope that a certain author will think the same thing when my review of his book is posted online. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the book. At all. I TRIED to like it and I even actually pointed out the novel’s one strength. But I just didn’t like it, and so my review of this book is not a very positive one. In fact, I’m giving it one star when I turn the review in. But I hope that people won’t see that one star and think they should avoid reading that book. Reading my review will clue them in as to why I didn’t like it. I tried to be restrained with my opinions. I tried to still be nice even though I called his book “filth” and “brain poison.” I still felt terrible writing a bad review. I don’t like writing bad reviews. Believe me, if I had the choice of passing on reviewing the book in order to avoid writing a bad review, I would have done so. But I HAD to read this book because it is a print copy, and I HAD to review it.

If only I had that pseudonym handy….

This reminded me of the scene in that movie Ratatouille, where the food critic struggles to write his review after he learns the chef who prepared his food was a rat. What can we do? What do we say? How can we say it without hurting anyone or anything?

I really struggled with this. How could I write this review without making it seem like this book isn’t worth anybody’s time? And how could I say the things in my review that I wanted to say? This was a Hugo Award winning author, after all! Who was I to say such things about his latest creation?

But, I have to remember that it is my job to review the novel. To only share my opinions about it – and it is just ONE person’s opinion! I am not trying to say the author sucks. I am not trying to put him down or put down his other work. I actually haven’t read his other books and they may be good stuff! What I am trying to do is share my opinions of this particular novel. Not this particular author. Just THIS particular novel.

I don’t like writing a bad review. I’ve done it before and I felt terrible after the review was posted. (And that review was actually the watered-down version of what I REALLY wrote.) But I took on this role as book reviewer and, in some cases, there are times I cannot pass on reviewing a book which I find distasteful or unappealing. These are the times I must swallow that lump in my throat and share what I think about that book. Not that author, just that book.

Perhaps in future I would do well to review ebooks instead of print. At least in that case, should I want to pass on reviewing a book, I will be allowed to do so.

Labels: , ,