The Best Title That Never Was

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week concerns the reality of having to change names. We’re asking the crew if they’ve ever had to change the name(s) of a character or place in a book after we’d drafted it? Who is the character who will forever go by their “unpublished” name in our minds?

For me, it wasn’t a character. But I will tell you about the title I wish I hadn’t changed. 

Introducing: Rogue’s Pawn’m thrilled to announce that The Novel Formerly Known as Obsidian has been officially retitled!

Please welcome into the world:


Rogue’s Pawn


This title is really just so perfect that I’ve been giddy with delight.

AND… even better. I have a series title, too!

Rogue’s Pawn will be the first book in


A Covenant of Thorns


I’m over the moon about having a series title and have been twirling and dancing in my head ever since.

So, join me in celebrating!  Champagne all around!!

Picking a Good Book Title

We get the most spectacular sunrises this time of year. I’m not sure why. All that mysterious meteorology stuff.

I’ve been noticing something interesting since Sapphire came out. One word titles suck for tracking.

Not that I don’t love that title – I do. It was my title all along and Carina let me keep it. It matches the cover nicely (or vice-versa) and reflects a crucial aspect of the story itself. Now, it was counter-productive in a way I didn’t expect because I now have to change the title of my novel coming out in July, formerly known as Obsidian.

I know, I know – me and my one-word precious and semi-precious gem titles. I don’t know what my damage is there. At any rate, Carina said I should retitle Obsidian, because it would sound like a sequel to Sapphire. Since the novel is a totally different story, genre and heat-level, there’s no case for that. I saw their point, brainstormed a list of titles and we’ll see what the marketing team decides.

I’m interested to see what they decide on.

And I hope it’s better for tracking.

See, I have Google alerts set up for mentions of my titles. And Twitter columns set up for those searches. Correction – I have Twitter columns set up to watch for “Petals and Thorns” and “Feeding the Vampire,” but I only lasted about a week with the “Sapphire” column. Seriously. Do you know how many mentions there are of Kate Middleton’s sapphire ring? Or of some credit card? There’s also a Gentleman’s Club (which apparently markets ALL THE TIME), a fancy mall in Istanbul, a watch, a “nettop” computer and a surprising number of people celebrating their 65th wedding anniversaries.

In short – finding mentions of my book is like wandering through a supermodel convention hoping someone will tell you you’re pretty.

Just ain’t gonna happen.

Not to mention that there just happens to be a kind of famous author named Sapphire who hogs all the Amazon searches.

So, I’m extracting a lesson from this one. I know we don’t always have control of our titles, but so far, everyone I know at least gets to send a suggested list. I wonder how people with even more common one-word titles like “Fallen” or “Fated” do. I would think it’s even worse. (Though, for the record, “Twilight” totally rocks the Google search at this point.)

So my whole list of really fab one-word titles? Eh. Send those to circular file #13.

Danbling and Overthinging

See? I take photos of clouds in other places, too.

Ski slopes are funny places in the summertime, all denuded and over bright. But the clouds going by – ah, yes.

So, I’m getting myself back into the writing groove. Trying to plan and be all strategic-like. This is SO not my forte. You all know I envy those folks who plan out what they’re writing. I often delude myself into thinking I could be one of them. How hard can it be to plot a series arc?

Um, pretty damn hard, it turns out.

See, I have this plan (which I mentioned before, so sorry if this is too repetitive – go ahead, roll your eyes at me, I deserve it). Once I get the substantive edits on Obsidian from fabulous editor, Deb (she made noises about modifying the Liam scenes – what do you want to bet they want me to make him a more viable love interest? KAK is already Team Liam and she hasn’t even read the whole thing…), they’re predicted for late October, so I have that time blocked out. Then I’ll dive into the sequel, Aquamarine.

I’ve always thought Obsidian would be the first of a series. Like, um, mumble mumble maybe seven books long mumble.

I know.

I KNOW, okay?

Never let it be said that I’m not ambitious. You could add in other words, too, and I couldn’t argue with you.

The problem is, though I have this vague, general idea of how the story will progress and the big ideas of what will happen, they don’t parse out into actual plots. So, naturally, I’ve been bugging my CPs about this. I asked Marcella if she thought all series should be trilogies at most (I could swear I heard her say this once) and she said I’m asking the wrong girl since she’s working on a five-book series. I bugged Laura about it while she was tired and had been drinking margaritas. She said that the danger with series arc plotting is overthinging it. She advised that I simply keep notes on my plot threads, so as not to leave anything danbling.

They both patted me soothingly on the head (They might even have typed ~pat pat pat~ into the IM window.) and told me my process is fine.

But I’m still not sure how I’m going to do this. Any advice?

Otherwise, I’ll just be here, danbling and overthinging.

Gifts Beyond Price

Look! Yes, it’s an obsidian necklace (with a bit of citrine). My lovely friends Marcella and Laura sent me this for my birthday.

My actual birthday isn’t until next Monday, but the timing worked out to open it yesterday, which was perfect.

See, Marcella lives on a sail boat and goes from harbor to harbor around Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands right now. She was trapped by bad weather in a harbor without WiFi for several days. And Laura is under deadline and has gone Walden Pond (staying away from the interwebs for August). So we had to find a window when the three of us could IM conference while I opened my present.

The gift is particularly poignant, because yesterday I also received the contract for my novel, Obsidian, from Carina Press.

Yes, that counts as the official announcement!

I am so blessed in so many ways.

And I plan to wear my necklace non-stop.

Waiting for Godot

Here’s a pic of grandson Tobiah with my mom and Stepdad Dave, who is helping Tobiah open his birthday presents. A little catch-up here, since I posted a pic of granddaughter Aerro last week.

So, I was at a bit of a loss on what to write about this morning. It’s kind of that tip-of-the-tongue feeling, like I had a topic in mind, but can’t quite recall what it was. Tomorrow is all about Feeding the Vampire’s book birthday. But I had *thought* I had a plan for today.

Then I remembered.

Oh yeah, I totally thought I’d talk about my agent and my new book deal today.

But you know what? She promised to get back to me by Monday (yesterday) and she hasn’t. Everyone keeps telling me to give her more time, but it’s been officially one week now. I’m not necessarily in a hurry. Still, I don’t see much reason to sit on my hands any longer. Publishing is absolutely about patience panties and waiting for people to get back to you. When the ball is in my court, however, I don’t see much reason to wait.

It was kind of amazing, really, how people popped out of the woodwork with advice when I announced that I had a contract offer. Everyone was full of the advice to contact every agent I’ve ever kibbitzed with and let them know I have an offer on the table. This is the moment, they urge me, to hook an agent.

I feel vaguely like the girl who’s gotten pregnant and is looking to bag her man with it.

The thing is, like that knocked-up girl, I’m feeling a bit like, if they didn’t want me for myself and my work before, then I’m not sure I want them just because I’ve got a bun in the oven. Frankly, I’m not convinced I want an agent at all. Kristine Rusch, who posts the very insightful Rusch Reports on the publishing business from the writer’s point of view, recently laid out really good reasons why unagented writers not sign with agents. (The post contains a fascinating history of how literary agents came to be in the first place – well worth reading.)

Her post came at just the right time for me, because she echoed what I’ve been thinking, from all the reading I do about the huge changes in publishing.

Now, I’m not so concerned about the agency clause. The gal I’ve been talking to has a boutique agency, so I imagine she doesn’t have anything really bearish like that. But, more and more, I’m wondering what agents can do for writers that we can’t do for ourselves. A bunch of agencies are now announcing that they’re assisting their authors with self-publishing, or even developing epublishing branches. They’re clearly doing this because their traditional revenue streams are drying up. Indeed, several of my friends who have long-standing relationships with agents are not seeing new sales to publishers right now. Except maybe in Young Adult.

It’s a difficult time for agents. I totally get that.

So, right now I’m not convinced having an agent would really make a huge difference for me.

I’m still the awkward girl at the prom. My work is still the kind that the big publishers frown at, with worry on their faces, unable to clearly envision where they’d put me on the bookshelf. I truly believe the key for me lies in building readership. (Thank you, all you lovely readers who read and say nice things to me!) People out there do want to read my books, but no one will know it until I have some numbers.

I’m at peace with that.

What I’m not at peace with is waiting. I don’t want to be like Vladimir and Estragon, eternally distracting myself while I wait for something I might not even recognize when it arrives.

No point in reaching for that brass ring if they’re dismantling the Carousel and converting it into the Zooming Horses Racetrack.

(Wouldn’t that be a cool ride?)

So: no announcement today. See? Here you are, waiting along with me. I may yet sign with this agent or another, on a future project.

But, on this, I’m ready to move forward.

Let’s do this thing!

Obsidian Win

Isn’t this cloud a great metaphor? Sailing along, giving rain to a very select portion of the landscape.

So, yesterday was a pivotal day for me.

I received a contract offer on Obsidian.

This is the novel that started it all. That took me from nonfiction to fiction. My red-headed firstborn. This is the one that everyone told me they didn’t know how to market, because it’s hopelessly cross-genre. One famous author friend who graciously read it said it’s like I wrote an epic male fantasy from a very female perspective. She also said I was forging a new path with it and that it would feel like wading through waist-deep snow.

Boy did she call that one.

So, yesterday, after 3.5 years of wading through waist-deep snow, I finally broke through.

I can’t even tell you how it felt. I sat in stunned silence for quite a while, just exploring the feeling of not STRIVING any more. All those feelings of hope and grief and anger and determined outrage I’d been piling on all that time, just let go. I giggled. I burst into tears when my mom sent flowers. What a ride.

I have to admit – I wouldn’t have felt this so much if it had happened right away.

Now, I’ve let (Possible) Agent who has Obsidian know that I have an offer, as she asked me to do. I’ll wait to see what she says and then move from there. But no matter what, Obsidian will see the light of day and I’m just so, so grateful.

Rain for everyone!

Resurrecting the Dead Elephant

I might have to revamp my writing file organization system.

Yes, gasp if you will. After 15 years of using the same system, I’m now discovering it doesn’t quite fit the writer I am today. I’ve kind of outgrown it, which is both thrilling and daunting.

Okay, you all know I’m a fiend for organization. It’s that little bit of Virgo easing up on my Leo cusp. If you’re just reading so you can make fun of me, well… okay. But if you don’t have a bit of Virgo, you might get bored.

I keep email folders and then organize my files on the computer into folders with the same names. For lo these fifteen years, I’ve been using three major categories for my writing work: In-Progress, Ping-Pong and Published. In-Progress is divided into Incomplete and Draft, and all have further sub-folders for individual works. My Ping-Pong folder is for works under active submission. I read an article in Poets & Writers when I was first starting out that suggested viewing the submission process as a game of ping-pong. You hit the ball out there, they reject it and pop it back, you send it right back out again. When the ball doesn’t return? Score!

This system worked great when I started out because I mainly wrote essays and short stories, submitting them to popular and literary magazines. It was a fairly straightforward process that moved at a lightning pace compared to the geologic time of submitting novels.

This might be spreadsheet TMI, but I keep an Excel workbook, called Progress Count, which has a tab for each manuscript I’m actively working on. I also have a Submission workbook. When I finished drafting and polishing something, I transferred that one spreadsheet to the Submission workbook, where I’d then track the submission process. And I’d move the folder for it, in both email and on the hard drive, from In-Progress to Ping-Pong.

And yes, it made me happy. I’ll even confess to a special thrill when I moved the folders to Published.

Well, now it’s not so clear.

See, for my first novel, Obsidian, it moved nicely from the Incomplete folder to the Draft folder to the Ping-Pong folder. After being kicked around the gutters of NYC, it came limping home, a battered and dented ping-pong ball. It needed rehab, in a big way.

I should have moved it back to the Draft folder. But I didn’t. I never had gone backwards. It stayed in the Ping-Pong folder, but – and this is a big BUT as all your organization fiends will recognize – I had to move the working spreadsheet back to Progress Count, so I could track the revising. You all recognize the problem here, right?

Right. Non-synchronicity of the filing system.

You can pause to steady your breathing – I totally understand.

I revised. The word count changed hugely. I gamely sent Obsidian back into the volley again. I think someone in NYC stepped on the ball because it just stopped coming back. No score.

Sad, I just left it all in the Ping-Pong file, when really I should have moved all the files to some kind of Elephant Graveyard folder. I started a New and Better novel. I put the past behind me.

Well, now someone is interested in Obsidian. (I know – tentative yay!!). I have detailed notes for revision. I hauled the files out of all the various folders I’d left them moldering in, but I feel like I have no place to put them. Resurrection folder, perhaps? Frankenstein’s Lab?

It lives!

I know this is likely all a bit much, but the upshot is that I’m finding there are more gradations to being a published writer than draft, submission, published. And there’s a certain maturity in recognizing that.

I’m off to create a few new folders.

Yeah, no one knows how to have fun like I do!

My Pretty Fantasy

This is our rescue beaked yucca, pre-planting.

We ended up riffing on this concept on Twitter, some of my writing friends and I. They asked how one rescues a yucca. I explained how this one came from Big Bend, Texas and was salvaged from land-clearing. These slow-growing plants are often destroyed by various kinds of development.

They asked about rescue yucca ranches, whether they were kill or no-kill. I assured them that all rescue cacti live happily ever after and receive ice cream every day.

This prompted great relief, especially from Adri, who was envisioning abandoned cacti with big sad eyes.

This is how writers are. Take one little image and spin it into an involved – and sometimes silly – story.

I spun myself this little fantasy the other day in the shower. No, not the kind you’re thinking of. In this one, an editor from the house that has Obsidian called me enthusing about the book. I dreamed up the detailed conversation, which involved phrases like “three-book contract,” “centerpiece of this year’s offerings from us,” and “brilliant new writer.” It was a terrific fantasy.

Now, I know there’s some value to this. All the positive-thinking guri (plural for guru, I feel quite sure) say you have to be able to envision the success. And I know we all have Walter Mitty-ish alternate lives in our heads, no harm done.

My problem is, my imagination is so vivid I begin to believe the fantasy.

All day, I kept wanting to tell people my good news. Hey! This editor called and offered me a fabulous book deal! In my head! Where I hear voices from people who aren’t really calling me…

Oh yeah. There’s that whole reality thing I have to remember to hang on to.

At any rate, I was amused at myself.

(And I still feel kind of excited about my imaginary phone call.)

And here’s the rescue yucca, planted as a centerpiece in the garden facing the road. If all goes well, he’ll grow up big and tall in this spot, a happy and attractive beaked yucca.

If you look closely, you can see a bit of ice cream smudged on his mouth.