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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Tale of Titles, Part Una

I'm counting in a new language!  I picked Latin today, because my daughter just won her school's award for Latin 2.  Little did I know that you can't just count in Latin.  You have to pick a gender.  I picked the feminine gender, because I'm a girl.  If I sound extra ladylike today, this is why.

I keep choosing topics that require me to blog a book's worth of prose every day.  I think this topic, titles, will be different.  But what do I know?  Let's see if I have any capability whatsoever to write short.  Shorter.

When I wrote Artifacts, I was very naive about the mystery world.  I had a story in mind that involved a murder and the search for justice, so I called it a mystery and eventually sold it to a mystery publisher.  My editor, Barbara Peters, told me at this point, "We're going to take a good book that is nominally a mystery and we're going to make it a very good book that is a mystery."  And we did.  And I learned a lot.  One thing we didn't do, however, is change the title.

I liked the way the single word "artifacts," speaks of my theme, archaeology, loud and clear.  And as a word person, I liked the fact that it means "made by human hands."  I also liked the sense I had that artifacts are clues that real-life archaeologist use to solve the mysteries of the past. People think of artifacts as simply archaeological finds, but even the beautiful house at the center of Artifacts  (and on the cover) is made by human slaves.  In its way, it is an artifact, and an important one. 

Artifacts (Faye Longchamp Mysteries, No. 1)

Since I knew very little about the mystery market when I wrote it, I didn't really plan a series.  I just didn't know that series were so common in the mystery world.  But the one-word title of Artifacts has led me to give all my books similar titles, and I like them.  They're memorable.  They say what they mean, then quit. And that's what I'm going to do right now.

Mary Anna


  1. Anna, I'm a big fan of Poisoned Pen Press and in looking for a new read it was your title that at first sight sucked me in, then I read the blurb and was intrigued, then I read the book and was hooked and still am.

  2. I really like learning what the reading experience is like on the other side of the book, so to speak. So it's interesting to me to hear that the title grabbed you. Many times, people say that the cover attracted their attention first. We writers have a lot more control of our titles than we do over the covers, although if you were reading a few weeks ago when I blogged for two weeks about covers, you know that we *sometimes* have some say about what goes on the front. And we *can* be overruled about our titles, although it hasn't happened to me yet. Nevertheless, the title is the best way for me to tell you, and everybody else, what they can expect when they crack open the book.

    Mary Anna

  3. I got such a kick out of your remark about writing "a book's worth of prose every day." Laughed out loud. Just wanted to tell you that at the UF Storytellers Summit a couple of weeks ago, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist said that he almost always writes like mad and then just cuts the first paragraph. He said, "That first paragraph is just clearing my throat." I LOVED IT!

    And I love your blog. You answer the question, "How does the girl do it???" (My guess HAD been "wine." I was wrong.)

  4. I'm thinking that a Pulitzer Prize-winner's throat clearing might be interesting and important. Maybe he would like to cut that first paragraph out, then send it to me. I'll post it here, and we can all discuss whether *today's* throat clearing was Pulitzer-worthy. I think it could work.

    No, my blog is not wine-fueled. It is Coke- and chocolate-fueled.

    Your comment has given me tomorrow's blog topic. It'll be some unsolicited advice for aspiring novelists. (Let's hope I remember this plan when I sit down to write tomorrow.)