FULL BLEED: THE QUALITY THAT GOES IN BEFORE THE NAME GOES ON
So, remember last week when I pointed out that my current book needed a new title because THE DROWNING CITY was taken (albeit indirectly). And then that got me thinking about the working title for the entire series that I was working on, a series that started with QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS.
Right now, that name is ABYSSAL. The code name for all six plus novels. Really it's a name that's supposed to encompass the setting more than just the characters, though I do have a stable central cast set up. In short, I'm conceiving of it as I'd conceive of a comic book series: a central setting and cast with an umbrella title to cover the whole works. Now, I'm oldschool. I'm conceiving of a series without a definite end. That's a no-no now. Nowaways, you come up with a short arc and cross your fingers that it gets to continue. But that's another talk for another time.
Now, coming up with a name, particularly a short, punchy name, to encompass a whole series is a daunting task. Even worse, is my deliberate aim to mix two disparate genres/modes while doing this. It's hard enough to just pick one genre and stick with it, having the name reflect that. Effectively doubling that? Yeah, that's dumb. Don't be dumb like me.
Granted, I have a lot of practice in this. My first comics series was a horror/western book called STRANGEWAYS. And when I did that, I learned that you piss off not only one but two sets of genre purists and never the twain shall meet sorts of folks. "Hey, you got a werewolf in this western!" "Hey, you got a western in this werewolf story!" Whereas I want to explore the space common between the two, most readers want to keep them disparate. I learned my lesson with that.
Only I didn't. Because I'm either stubborn, cantankerous or stupid.
With QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS, I clearly staked out territory in both crime/noir (though I'm hesitant to use 'noir' as a prose descriptor, since it's more appropriately used to cover a set of aesthetics/mood in film) and horror/fantasy. And I'm *really* hesitant to use horror as a descriptor. I'll write about that some day and I'm sure that my doing so will result in me being asked to leave the horror clubhouse forever. Additionally, twenty-year-old me is as appalled as anyone that I'm writing a thing and willingly calling it fantasy. Contemporary/urban fantasy was not much of a thing (aside from obvious exceptions like say LAST CALL by Tim Powers and a whole range of work by Jim Blaylock, at least in my orbit.)
So here I am breaking all kinds of my own rules. But yet, in doing so, I'm doing my best to stay true to the nature of the work. And if I can't be brave enough to do that, then what the hell am I doing even writing? Oh, I know. I could tick things off the checklist and write suqarely to a set of genre expectations. I could do that, only I'm apparently not capable of doing so.
Yeah. Stubborn. Crime and fantasy. Street-level crime and urban fantasy if you want to drill deeper, but let's not. I'd rather let the work be itself. And if you're wondering who I got to be broken like this, consider that my mom wrote SF that read more like fantasy and ultimately pioneered (among others) the whole school of writing known as romantic suspense, which is, you guessed it, a combination of romance/mystery/suspense which definitely breaks the old rules and makes something else out of them. She wrote something satisfying to her and made it work. I can do no less than follow her example.
Now, you'd think that people would be happy about this, about widening the palette and putting more pieces in the toolbox. Lemme tell ya, that's not the case. There's plenty of quite vocal people who are only insterested in maintaining the existing boundaries and making sure that nobody climbs over the walls and brings invasive ideas along with them. Life's too short and I'm honestly bored to tears about discussion of what is or is not fantasy or horror or science fiction or a goddamned western. Bring me on a panel to talk about this stuff and I'll do everything I can to tear down the walls between them. Then someone will bring up the "promise to the reader" and hell no. Honestly, it's okay to shake things up some. Trying to give the people what the writers think they want has led to shelves after shelves of very samey stuff. Go down to Barnes and Noble and check it out for yourself.
So I can only do what I'm going to do. But I still need a name to call it all. Short, punchy, evocative of both mystery and fantasy and unreality. Easy, right?
I've been circling around this for more than a week. Here's the original name, which is being abandoned mostly because there's a TBN series of the same name that barely showed up in a Google search. But, let's be frank, the last association I want in this world is to be with those grifting preachers and their money-extractive network. Nope.
It's a nice name. Fitting, even. I wish I could hold onto it. But that's not in the cards. And yes, there's a historical connotation to it that's not appropriate for me to use. It's not my story to tell. Though I hope that others actually do it.
Which leaves me with a problem to solve. I've worked harder on this than any other name for any other project that I've ever worked on. Usually titles are easy (or they're very difficult.) We know which this one is. And I have a few candidates, but none of them really do the trick just yet. I suppose I'll be forced into one that emphasizes the weird/fantasy side of things than the crime, but I'll fight for that.
Oh, and I do have a name for the follow on to QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS. It's pretty close to the original, loses a little but maybe gains a lot. The publisher hasn't officially announced it, but I can here, to you, my tens of fans and readers.
It's called THE DROWNING CHORUS.