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My interests are varied and I'm likely to write anything from funny to poignant to informational, so my blogs are organized by topic. Just choose your favorite topic on the left. I'd love to hear from you in the comments section or go to Contact and email me privately if you like. Thanks for coming by!page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
6/4/2011 4:12:31 PM
A Title By Any Other Name
Since many of us are not only authors now, but are acting as our own publishers, we sometimes need to change hats when necessary to achieve our goals.
This is where I'm lucky to have worked in marketing-oriented jobs for so long. I saved the hat, and it's fairly easy for me to dust it off and put it back on whenever necessary.
As writers, our goals are to write good, satisfying stories and top them off with titles that sound pretty to our ears. As publishers, our goal is to sell books. Sometimes these two goals can be at odds. Sadly, your favorite title may not be the one that gets the point across best to potential readers.
So far, I think most of the novels on my hard drive have had about 3 titles each. I tend to remember the original name and the final one, but sometimes I forget the middle one.
Not Dreaming of You started out as Finding Kiki's Caveman, but at some point I realized the title focused on only one or two lines of the story. (I'm a sucker for rhyme and alliteration, so I think I just loved the "K" sound, followed by the "C" sound.) I can't remember what the middle title was, but I finally settled on one that focuses on the central plot, which involves a dream, and still sounds like a romantic comedy.
Don't Make Me Make You Brownies began life as Acting Like Abbie. (Note the alliteration again.) I realized that title sounded pretty old-fashioned, so I tried Escaping the Chupacabra on for size. The Chupa is a thread that runs throughout the story--Abbie uses it as a metaphor for having her soul sucked out by the TV biz, then possibly having the rest of her life sucked away as a suburban housewife if she chooses Rick. However, I soon learned that a lot of people didn't know what the chupacabra was, so I moved on.
After Don't Make Me Make You Brownies started finaling in contests, I was contacted by people I didn't even know telling me how much they loved the title, and it really encompasses the theme. Abbie is struggling with what many women do--the desire to be with and take care of the people she loves, without allowing her whole life to be swallowed up by their needs.
I can't remember the original name for Always Dreaming of You, but the first title for Mia Like Crazy was On Impulse. I later decided that sounded like a suspense novel, instead of the women's fiction/romance hybrid it is.
The bottom line is, when I put my publisher's hat on, I need to use titles that are representative of the content, mood, and genre of my stories while keeping in mind what might spark someone's interest and speak to those who are most likely to become my core readership.
My advice to other authors is to take a step back from your book and think what type of book a person would imagine that title to represent. If your story is action packed, but your title sounds like it's a book of romantic poetry, you might want to rethink.
And what if you decide your title isn't spot on? How can you come up with another after all this time?
One way to do this is to make a list of all the words you can come up with that relate to your story and then try to put them together in the most compelling way.
Example: Pirate, captain, ship, sails, sword, fighting, blood, medallion, treasure, noose, love...
If you've written a gritty, action-packed pirate romance like Jennifer Bray-Weber, you might call it Blood and Treasure and use the image to convey the romance part. (See next blog about covers.)
The trick is not to get so attached to a title as an author that you can't do what's best for sales as a publisher. Because in the end, after I write the story that makes me happy, I want to sell books.
A Booger, Two Yule Cakes and a Mexiglo
Home from college for the summer, I pulled up to my Aunt Carmen's house alone. I got out and walked up the driveway to the backyard where my cousin's wedding shower was being held. When I rounded the corner of the house, I encountered a row of Mexican women in folding chairs, who stopped talking and stared at me wide-eyed. I glanced down to see if I'd dropped something on my dress.
Just then, I heard one woman say, "Ahhh! La hija de Gloria!" And the other women proceeded to play "telephone," each murmuring the information to the person next to them. "La hija de Gloria...la hija de Gloria." Yes, they'd figured it out--I was the daughter of Gloria, which, of course, explained my light skin and too-light hair, made beachy-blonde by my time spent on Padre Island those college summers.
Gloria was the only one in the family who'd married an Anglo, so all was explained by those 4 words. It wasn't the first time something like that had happened to me and wouldn't be the last, since my aunts were always inviting friends, friends of friends, and distant cousins from Laredo to come to family events. It often took me be suprise, though, because I felt so "at home" with my relatives, I didn't think about the difference until it was pointed out in some way.
After spending my early life in California, far away from my relatives in Texas and Louisiana, my family moved to my mother's home town of Corpus Christi, Texas. That's when I began to experience what it was to be a "Mexiglo" as my parents called it.
Years later, I had a conversation with a Mexiduran (Mexican Honduran) friend of mine in which I described the difference between visiting my dad's Louisiana family--nearly all of our ancestors have British names and pioneered their way to the south over a century or two--and my mom's family, which came to this country from Monterrey and Saltillo Mexico during my grandparents' generation.
I remember telling my Mexiduran friend that on the Anglo side of my family, there was what I called "organized love." When you visit for Thanksgiving, everyone expects a hug when you come in and possibly when you leave, if they don't expect to see you for a while. Typically, you get up to one compliment from a given relative per visit, but no gushing. I tend to think this came from the understated British culture, and the fact that my dad's mother always believed that one of the most dangerous things for a person to have was a "big head," so it was important to support family members within limits that would keep their hat size in the normal range.
Then I told my friend about visiting my Mexican-American relatives. My aunts would hug me, then hold onto me for long periods of time while we talked. They tended to touch anything they were complimenting--my necklace, my clothes, my hair... I had an aunt and a cousin who would see me and cry, "You get more beautiful every time I see you!" Compliments were passionate, repeated--to make sure you heard them over all the talking--and plentiful.
When I finished telling this part, my Hispanic friend said, "Oh, I thought that's how all families were."
This is one reason I had trouble giving my English as a Second Language students definitive answers to some of their cultural questions. Latin Americans, Asians, and Middle Easterners all wanted to know what was appropriate when they were invited to events by Americans. A person who came from only one culture might have given them a more definite answer, but I found myself explaining time and time again that, while there are some general guidelines, Americans are from all different cultures and people have different ideas of how to do everything. My best advice was to ask specific questions about what to wear and what to bring when they were invited to an event, so they wouldn't feel uncomfortable once they got there.
There have also been some really hilarious moments that stemmed from my being a Mexiglo. My favorite is the Christmas season that I was throwing a party at a cable company when I worked for Showtime Networks. I had these beautiful yule log cakes sitting in the conference room and customer service reps were lined up out the door to get their pieces. A Mexican American rep named Oscar asked what flavors the two cakes were. I said, "Vanilla and Mocha." When he wrinkled his nose, I added, "'Mocha,' Oscar, not 'moco' ('booger' in Spanish)."
He laughed, then asked, "Are you Mexican?"
"Half," I answered.
I felt for my "beauty mark" as my parent's called it, found it on the left side of my face and said, "This half," as I pretended to cut myself in half longways.
Oscar laughed so hard he doubled over, then laughed some more. When he finally caught his breath, he said, "I meant, 'Your mother or your father?'"
You see, my entire life, my dad had told me the beauty mark on my face signified which half of me was Mexican. Although I always knew it was a joke, when Oscar asked, I was distracted by hostessing and automatically gave him my dad's answer.
Needless to say, the line was held up for several minutes as he retold the story to everyone within earshot. Was I embarrassed? Oh no, I've done much sillier things than that, but that's another blog.
So, that explains a lot about Not Dreaming of You. Just as I got a huge kick out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I love both the family and cultural differences between witty, sarcastic Mark and open, passionate Kiki.
And living with a Chinese-American husband who came from immigrant parents and a step-son who is Chottish--Chinese-Scottish--in ancestry, certainly has brought a little--actually a lot of--something extra into my life.
I guess I just think life's more interesting when you mix it up a little.
4/12/2011 12:45:35 PM
Does it Take a Weird Kid to Make an Author?
A nice woman contacted me through this site recently. She felt we had a lot in common and asked me a few questions, such as, "Did you write all your life?"
This started me thinking about what I was like as a child. I told my husband about memories I'd never thought to share with him before, and he thought I was a hilariously weird kid. (Not that he can talk.)
Unlike most of my writer friends, I didn't start spinning fictional tales at an early age, but I was always writing. I wrote songs, poems and humorous articles into notebooks. This wouldn't be so bad, except that I fell in love with a set of bongo drums and started using them to accompany myself while singing my songs. My enabler mother insisted I play the bongo drums and sing for any friends and relatives who visited--I can only imagine what was going through their minds. Later I switched to guitar, which may not have been so weird.
I also got it into my head in early elementary school that I wanted a ventriloquist doll. My parents got me one. I named him Tiny and he and I put on shows together, often just for ourselves. Creepy. If I saw a kid like that in a movie, I'd expect her to start serial-killing in the next scene.
I remember that from preschool age (until now), I related more to people in TV shows and books than most real people I met. I'll bet I wasn't particularly liked by my Kindergarted class. Whenever some of us played house, I distinctly remember nixing all of their requests--"I want to be the mommy," "I want to be the baby." Instead, I would make them all tell me what month they were born, since we were all about five, and the youngest would have to play the baby, the oldest the grandma, etc. Yes, I was casting "playing house" as if I were making a movie.
I had a special dance when Gilligan's Island came on--acting out the theme song as I sang along. Since I loved Dragnet, I went around spouting off the Miranda rights any time I could work it into a conversation, which was more often than you might think. And I was always trying to educate my fellow elementary school students about the difference between the defense and the prosecution and make them swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (Perry Mason). Why they didn't care about any of this stuff, I'll never understand.
I was so enamored of my many TV friends, in fact, that it sometimes interfered with real life. We couldn't record shows back then. I remember being invited to a birthday party at Baskin Robbins, but as soon as I realized it conflicted with an episode of The Waltons, I was in a quandry. That night I had a dream I was one of the Waltons and we had a war with the giant robots from the Baskin Robbin's across the street. (Hey, it made sense in the dream.)
And my daydreams about the future when I was a child? In them, I was always a famous writer or actress, living in L.A. I lived in a huge mansion alone, except for a housekeeper that took care of all of my practical needs. In those dreams, I never saw the kitchen of that house and that's the part of my childhood fantasies I wish had come true the most!
Well, I could go on and on, but I'm sure you realize now that if you read characters in my stories like Not Dreaming of You or Don't Make Me Make You Brownies who seem a little kookie, they're still more normal than I am.
What about you? If you're a writer, do you have childhood weirdness to report? And if you're not a writer, are you starting to think you should be? Come on, confess.
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