Saturday, August 27, 2005

What makes a great title?

Books and movies benefit from great titles, but jobs don’t. Really.

The movie title, Traffic, worked because that one word has multiple meanings and provokes differing emotional reactions. Single word titles are often strong and resonate well. Other single word movie titles include Hitch, Jaws, and even Airport. Novelists have used single word titles just as effectively. Carl Sagan used the title Contact for a book, which later became a movie. Susan Grant used it again for a futuristic romance. Even ordinary words become extraordinary when used by a masterful writer. Remember Stephen King’s It?

Meaningful phrases work well as titles, of course, and some have become part of our cultural heritage. Gone With the Wind evokes images in the minds of people who have neither read the novel nor seen the movie. That holds true for many titles, from A Tale of Two Cities to Easy Rider.

On the other hand, increasingly people who have ordinary jobs seem to want extraordinary titles. In federal government the highest ranking member of the President’s cabinet is called the Secretary of State. In most small companies that title was viewed as so lowly that the job title changed to office manager, which then evolved to administrative assistant, and now the same job is administrative professional. Impressed yet? If not, don’t worry about it, because that job title will no doubt grow again, in a quest for more significance. The same thing goes for repairmen who become maintenance technicians and so forth. As for doctors who haven’t graduated from a medical school...they are not even worthy of comment.

Writers, however, still understand that a brief, strong title works best. Need another example? How about the television show Lost? The same show could have been entitled Otherworldly Happenings in an Exotic Locale After an Airliner’s Unexpected Decent, but I doubt it would have generated the same interest in the viewing public.

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

What’cha Readin’?

I’m always reading something. Usually, when I’m in a waiting area— a prime time for reading print— someone will either ask or comment on my book’s cover. My latest reads are quite different, but I’ve always had eclectic tastes. They do share one characteristic— they're all rather short.

I just finished The FairTax Book by Neal Boortz and John Lindner. This hardcover book was a bit of a surprise, because I found their treatment of this complex idea just a bit simplistic. However, the authors wanted to make the idea understandable for a general audience, and in that they have succeeded beyond my expectations. Perhaps more importantly, this book could be what the writings of Thomas Paine were to the American Revolution, a means of clarifying a concept so that the general public can more readily embrace it. Despite its short length, or even because of it, this could be one of the most important books of this decade. If you haven’t heard about the FairTax, do yourself a favor and look it up. For the past two weeks, the book has been the number one bestseller on the New York Times list, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

I read Skyfall by Catherine Asaro in a couple of evenings during the past week. Asaro is a physicist by trade, a retired ballerina, and an award winning writer of what some call science fiction romances. Her books are as unusual as her resume, and just as accomplished. Skyfall is a prequel to her Skolian Empire series and is a bit less complex than most of the other novels. While not the best book in the series, this one would make a great starting point for a reader new to the Skolian Empire or for someone new to Asaro's writing.

Hawken’s Heart, by Suzanne Brockman is a reprint of one of her early titles, a contemporary romantic suspense piece. Brockman writes taut thrillers with modern characters and situations which seem to be drawn from current events. Many of them feature Navy Seals as heroes, making them a loosely connected series. Her more recent titles have become increasing more complex, with several story lines, even jumping through generational timelines, but her early tales are direct and plenty of fun. Light reading, perhaps, but never dull. I’ve not finished this one, but thus far I haven’t been disappointed.

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Sunday, August 14, 2005


I like that word. Re means to do again, which sounds like I didn’t do it right the first time, but that’s not precisely true. Okay, my first lacked something, but version two, which just bit cyberdust was “pretty good”, as we say here in the South. So version three, which just went up, owes quite a lot to that previous version. Design is a magical word. Carpenters drive nails and make a house, but it is an architect who designs it, and there is so much vision in design-- even if it is just a small website like mine.

That said, here’s what I like most about the new site: First, is the color scheme. I’m fond of dark colors and reverse type, even on the web, so I went back to that. Some experts say that black on white is easier on the eyes, but why have a computer screen that can produce all those snazzy colors, and only use it for black on white? Second, I enjoy the energy in the header graphic. You know something big is coming from behind that planetscape. Third, I think that sans serif type looks more modern, so that’s appropriate for beginning the promotion of a futuristic novel. Finally, this site is considerably smaller than my previous one, because with each update, a site gets larger, and mine needed to slim down again.

I hope readers will find the excerpt and back cover blurb for Trinity on Tylos interesting, and I’m sure other writers will find some good links and a bit of advice in the articles. No doubt I’ll find more to put on the events page and be able to add some ordering info for the new book when the release date nears, but I hope everyone enjoys the new look and content.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Finished! (for now, that is)

I’ve spent quite a few hours in the past month working through Trinity on Tylos, which is now moving into the final editing stage. I must say that the editor assigned by Whiskey Creek Press has worked diligently on the manuscript and with me, so that this book is even better than it was when the publisher accepted it in May.

I usually have some people, not editors but ordinary readers, do a “first reading” of any manuscript before I send it out, and one of the three who read this manuscript had some difficulty keeping up with all of the characters in the first four chapters of
Trinity, which begins on a colonization ship. There are some ninety people on board, and the reader doesn’t meet all of them, of course, but I wanted to convey some of the shipboard camaraderie and rivalries which would occur in such an expedition.

The WCP editor had some similar concerns, so we reworked those chapters and are planning to include an appendix with a list of characters. Hopefully, those changes will help those who purchase
Trinity on Tylos to get into the story without frustration.

Trinity on Tylos is a multifaceted story, with complex themes, yet the plot moves along, hopefully keeping the reader entertained. Now that this phase is finished, I’m looking forward to February, when more readers get a chance to meet these characters, who have been running around in my brain for quite a while now.

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