How to Choose an Unforgettable Title for Your Fantasy Novel

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Raewyn Hewitt:

You may have noticed the tumbleweeds blowing through this blog for a while now. It’s unlikely I’ll be posting regularly for the foreseeable future, but I thought I’d share this little gem; one of my most popular from my time over at There & Draft Again. Enjoy!

Originally posted on There And Draft Again:

The perfect name is hard to find. It’s the principle of first impressions. Get it right and your title will be the first step in enticing a reader (or agent) to pick up your book. Get it wrong and your work of fantastical brilliance will be overlooked as readers skim through the wide variety of competing titles. However with a bit of focus (and a flash of brilliance from the creative muse), you can give your title a fighting chance to stand out from the masses.

Don’t get attached to your working title:

Very rarely is your first idea your best idea. I often think of the working title as a childhood nickname. It’s fine when you’re nurturing it through the development phase, but is it really the best way to present it to the world? And bear in mind, if you’re heading down the traditional publishing route you…

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Taking a Dip – WIPpet Wednesday

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What do you call a writer who hasn’t been writing? I wish this was a joke with a great punchline, but sadly it’s been a miserable reality of late. My highly anticipated writing weekend fell through, and a new volunteer job has been more of a time-suck than I anticipated. So I’m doing a big push this week to clear the decks so I have a whole day (read school day) to write. I think it’s a worthy goal, as I figure I need a decent stretch of time to find my way back into the story. Wish me luck!

Anyway the past few WIPpets have been a bit heavy, so I’ve been looking for something lighter this week. In this WIPpet Megan and Roan are talking about Matthew – one of my all time favourite characters. Matthew is a travelling preacher, who has been a father figure to Megan. Roan has recently arrived in the Hamlet and has already had some interesting encounters with Matthew.  He likes him, but can’t reconcile him with any of the religious folk he’s come across before. Megan is doing her best to shed some light on him. So for your reading pleasure I give you 20 sentences (12+3+1+4) from The Legend of the Kings (Book 3):

Megan laughed.  “Oh you must get him to tell you about his time at the Sanctuary. He has such a love for God – you’ve seen it, and a gift for interpreting the scrolls, so they couldn’t fault him there. But I think he was a trial to them. One day he went swimming in the lake in the Sanctuary garden, “as God intended”. That’s how he described it – can you imagine? He said it was hot, and he’d been working hard, and when he spotted the lake he figured God would totally approve of a fellow cooling off.  So in he went.”

“But while he was splashing about, his clothes lying on the bank, the Overseer arrived with a group of old ladies, and they decided to stop and picnic right next to where Matthew had left his clothes. So he gets low in the water, and tries to hide in the rushes, when Tobias trips on one of his boots. Tobias looks around and spots the clothes, and clearly not wanting to alert the old dears, strolls over to the water’s edge.

“Matthew is in the water trying to get his attention, and not wanting to be too obvious, when Tobias looks directly at him and holds his gaze. There was no mistaking he’d seen Matthew, but his face doesn’t register anything. He turns back to the ladies and they proceed to enjoy a long drawn out picnic in the sun.

“In the end Matthew started turning blue and his skin wrinkled up so badly he thought he was going to turn into an old duck himself. So he strolls straight out of the lake, casual as you like, picks up his clothing, doffs his hat at the ladies and makes off into the garden as though it was the most ordinary thing in the world.”

Roan was trying not to laugh.  It was just the kind of thing he could picture Matthew doing.

“What happened?”

“Oh – that evening Tobias called Matthew into his office for a chat.  He didn’t mention the incident at all, but asked Matthew if he’d consider being a travelling preacher and teaching those in the remoter parts of Gaelladorn. And that’s what he did.”

Many thanks again to the lovely host of WIPpet Wednesdays, the very talented K.L. Schwengel. I’ll be sharing a sneak peek at the cover of Kathi’s new book Emergence later on this week on the blog! If you’d like to join us, or see what the other WIPpeteers are working on head over to this linky. Have a great week.

Because None of Us Get it Right All of the Time – WIPpet Wednesday

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It’s a glorious thing to be human. But the thing about being human is that none of us get it right all of the time. And that applies especially to me in so many areas of my life. Especially when it comes to writing. At least I’m not the only one – today one of my characters, is also missing the mark.

Last week I posted an exerpt from The Legend of the Kings, and with my head on big things going on my own life – totally forgot to give you any background on the passage. Fortunately this week’s WIPpet follows straight on from where we left off, so I will redeem myself and offer up the following introduction:

When the Boundary was erected to keep the dragons out of Gaelladorn, it created an area of no-man’s land between the surrounding mountains where the dragons now live and prey on pretty much anything they can catch. Unfortunately a strategic pass between Gaelladorn and Rohanna (a hostile neighbour) fell within this area and is no longer defendable (against those willing to risk the dragons). Aiden’s home (near the pass), was destroyed and most of his family killed in one of an increasing number of Rohe attacks. His father, the only other survivor, has to Aiden’s frustration retreated into an unresponsive / vegetative state. Aiden has come to the Sanctuary as a refugee and is convinced the Boundary was never meant to be a permanent solution to the dragon problem.

With nothing left except a burning desire to unravel the mystery of the Boundary, his unrelenting search has led him not only to annoy half of the Sanctuary, but finally to a scroll containing a nugget of information that might help. Feeling certain he is on the right track, and that he has been called to a divine quest he tries to get the Overseer on board. However the Overseer is struggling. This scene took place in Tobias’ office (formerly Josiah’s office for those of you following the WIPpets). Tobias had a throbbing headache before Aiden arrived, and has been fielding complaints about Aiden’s dogmatic manner.

As luck would have it there just happened to be five paragraphs (for the 5th of March) of the chapter left:

Aiden looked like the wind had been knocked out of him. Grabbing his bag he got up and bolted out of Tobias’ office without a backward glance.

Tobias closed his door and dropped into his chair. He felt old, and exhausted, and when he looked down he was surprised to see his hands trembling.  Clasping them together firmly, he closed his eyes and bowed his head low, until his forehead rested on the smooth mahogany desk-top.

Lord, that didn’t go well.  Did I do the right thing?

But there was no answer. No peace. Just the pounding of his head, and a heaviness that seemed to settle over him. For a moment he fought an urge to run after Aiden and let him follow his quest. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt? But then people would think he was going soft.

No. There was nothing to find. He was the Overseer, and it was his call.

Poor old Tobias. He’ll redeem himself – eventually.

Many thanks to the lovely K.L Schwengel who came up with the wonderful world of WIPpet Wednesday; an opportunity for writers to share from a work in progress (WIP), with some reference to the date. If you’d like to participate post your own WIPpet and head over to this linky and join in the fun!

Feeling Let Down: WIPpet Wednesday

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It’s been a rough week. We lost a beloved friend to cancer, and it hurt. And in a cruel double-whammy we also saw the legal system fail spectacularly. As a lawyer I’ve seen it before, but rarely in such a cruel fashion. Going through a week like this makes you realise you need to cherish the ones you love, and that the truth will always be the truth no matter how many people choose to ignore it.

I chose today’s WIPpet because Aiden is about to be let down too. (For those of you who’ve been following the WIPpets , this is a much older Tobias). This passage is taken from The Legend of the Kings (Book III of the Heartstone Trilogy):

“It’s a nice theory.”  Tobias stood up, his head was really throbbing now and he was keen for the interview to be over. “But I’m not sure it changes anything. Even if Josiah sent a message, it was clearly lost with that Fells person.”

The triumphant grin faltered.

“But it changes everything. No one’s even found a trace of Josiah. But if he sent a messenger – he must’ve found something. Something to get rid of the dragons. And now we know where to look.”

As Tobias looked down into Aiden’s face, he suddenly saw where this was going, and his heart sank.

“The dragons need to be defeated once and for all, and the Boundary has to come down.”

“Aiden…”

“I need to find him Tobias. We can’t go on like this – trapped behind the Boundary.”

“No.” That one word, flat and absolute, seemed to pull Aiden up, and for a moment he stared at Tobias, his expression registering surprise then disbelief.

“But I’ve been called to Quest.”

“I don’t think…”

“How else would I have found the record? And the dreams…” He was pleading now, an edge of desperation in his voice.“I’ve had the same dream over and over. The Guardian Stones are lying on the ground and the dragons are gone.  It’s hard to describe, but in the dream I feel free – the whole Kingdom feels free. And when I wake up I’m drawn back to the Boundary, the Legend and what happened to Josiah. It must be the call, I feel compelled to follow it through.”

He was clearly sincere. Tobias could see the sheen of tears, the dark shadows beneath his eyes, the grief etched into his face. For a moment he looked so young and vulnerable, Tobias felt his heart ache. He moved around the desk and laid a fatherly hand on Aiden’s shoulder, and when he spoke his voice was calm and measured.

“I know you want there to be more. I know what happened to your father… your family has been difficult. But this isn’t going to bring them back. The fact is we need the protection of the Boundary. It’s not perfect, but it keeps the dragons at bay. You’re reading too much into this.”

“Please. Please Tobias. I really think the One God is calling me. Won’t you even think about it – pray about it?”

Aiden’s words touched a nerve. The Overseer was the only person who could validate a Holy Quest, and the responsibility was serious. If someone thought they had been called, an Overseer was bound to check the scrolls to see if it was consistent with the holy teaching, and then spend time in prayer to confirm his finding. But as soon as the thought crossed his mind Tobias pushed it away. This wasn’t the same thing at all. This was a young man whose grief was driving him to look for answers in an ancient legend. He didn’t need to seek the will of God, that much was pretty clear. But for Aiden’s sake he needed to put a stop to this now.

“Aiden there hasn’t been a true Quest in over 400 years.”

“But -”

“I’m sorry.  But I can’t confirm it.  It’s terrible what happened.  To Josiah, the man in the scroll, your family… to all of us stuck between the dragons and the Rohe.  But you need to let it go.”

But of course he won’t, because he has hold of the truth. I know how he feels.

WIPpet Wednesday is the brainchild of the talented K.L. Schwengel. The idea is that you share a portion of a work in progress that has some link to the date (and that link may be very tenuous… we are dealing with creative types). Then head over to this linky and join in the fun. The WIPpeteers are a friendly, fun and encouraging band of writers from a diverse genre base. *waves*

By the way if you want to check out my interview with Kathi and her band of flying monkeys click on this link (Dad this was for you)!

Suffering in Silence – WIPpet Wednesday

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Today I felt like licking my wounds and curling up in the fetal position; an hour or so in the dentist’s chair will do that to a girl. But when you’re a Mum, even if you’re feeling fragile, you just have to suck it up and get on with it. At least I was feeling sympathetic towards some of my more vulnerable characters.

In this kindly spirit I’ve chosen two of my long-suffering characters to star in today’s WIPpet, once again from The Legend of the Kings.

Aiden and Callum have had a very abrupt sort of meeting in Cannondale which resulted in Callum taking Aiden back to Aradawn, the family sheep station. Callum is a man of few words (this passage is quite chatty for Callum) and Aiden isn’t really sure why Callum appears to be helping him. Despite the somewhat touchy subject matter, this conversation marks a positive turn of events for both characters.

In fine WIPpet tradition, I give you 7 paragraphs (5 for the date + 2 for the second month):

They travelled in silence until they lost sight of Cannondale.

“You’re not just another religious freak – you meant what you said about Daniel Fells.” Callum spoke matter of factly, his gaze fixed firmly on the road ahead.

“I don’t think he killed Josiah, if that’s what you mean.”

Callum didn’t respond, but his shoulders relaxed slightly. Taking this as a good sign Aiden plowed on. “There was a note in the archive saying Daniel Fells disappeared two days before the storm. If that’s true he would’ve had to ride hard to reach the Fulton River Ford by the night the storm struck. The Upland Road’s bad enough now, I don’t imagine it was any easier going back then. Apparently the family insisted Daniel was innocent and argued for an investigation.”

“But they didn’t believe them.” There was a hard vein of bitterness in Callum’s voice.

“No. But they should have. It was weeks before the family found his body. It seems to me his behaviour was so out of character the family didn’t think he’d be anywhere near the Fulton River.” He looked over at Callum who was holding the reins in a death grip.

“Your family name wasn’t always Fraser was it?”

Hmm, what do you think?

Many thanks to Kathi Schwengel for hosting WIPpet Wednesday. It’s a great way to share those early drafts, and meet some really great (and encouraging) writers. If you want to join us, just post your own WIPpet and head over to this linky.

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, Kathi also interviewed me over on her blog last week. Check it out here – it was a lot of fun! I think I may have been the worst person ever at the lightning round… It’s a bad habit from my lawyering days – always trying to clarify… *sighs*

Happy writing!

The Right Thing: WIPpet Wednesday

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It’s early-squirly Thursday morning here in NZ, but I’m operating on the assumption that the day isn’t really over if you haven’t gone to sleep… and it’s Wednesday where the other WIPpeteers are, so that must count for something?

In honour of the fading vestiges of the 29th of Jan, I offer you 11 sentences (2+9 = 11) from The Legend of the Kings. Aiden is still with the Frasers, and is once again trying to explain himself (I know how he feels):

“Why is it so important to you?” There was no warmth in Ian Fraser’s eyes, and the challenge hung heavy in the air.

Why indeed? Why was this so important?

Reasons swarmed up to justify his quest. Because he couldn’t live one more day trapped behind an ineffective Boundary. Because almost everyone he loved was dead. Because what was left of his life was so unbearable he needed something to fill his time. Even if it was impossible. 

But even as the painful thoughts arose, something quieter pushed at his memory.

“Because what happened wasn’t right.”

Poor Aiden.

Many thanks to K.L. Schwengel for hosting WIPpet Wednesday. Head on over to this linky to check out what the other WIPpeteers are working on.

Happy writing – and sweet dreams!

Excuses – Wednesday WIPpet

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For once I’m not the one making excuses today on the blog. I’ve been very productive. The school holidays are still in full swing, so I’ve been using the snatches of time I’ve had to myself to transfer Legend into Scrivener. It’s a long process because apart from the initial NaNo draft that started part-way through the story, the rest of the book is in many, many, small pieces. For some reason, lost in the passage of time, every chapter was saved in its own word file. With a name that fails to accurately describe the contents. And then saved randomly all over my hard disk. I have no idea what I was thinking. None.

However after a lot of hunting, I’ve uncovered all sorts of gems. Many of these no longer fit into the story, but are useful for character development or backstory. Fortunately they’re all going into Scrivener where at least I’ll be able to find them for future reference.

Today’s WIPpet is one of these. It’s a little sketch of Megan and Peter’s relationship before Roan arrives on the scene. In honour of the 22nd of January, I present (approximately) 22 lines from a draft of The Legend of the Kings:

Peter was towering over her, his hair falling down into his eyes, which were overly bright and fixed on her with an uncomfortable intensity. As he registered the shocked expression on her face he loosened his grip on her arm.

“I’m sorry.  I startled you.  Dinner?  With us tonight?”

“Oh. What a kind offer…” Megan took a deep breath and smiled weakly up at him.  “But I need to stay with Magda for a few days.  Her infection is putrefying and I’ll need to lance it regularly and stay close in case she loses consciousness.”

The colour drained from his face as she spoke.  Peter had always been squeamish when it came to the less savoury elements of her profession.

“I’d ask you to come in, but the stench is pretty strong, and I’m going to need to bathe her…”  She reached for the door handle, giving him a resigned look .

“Yes of course.”  Peter stepped back and nodded sternly, failing to mask his distaste.  “Perhaps when Magda is recovered then?  Father and I don’t like to think of you up here on your own.”

“That’s really kind of you, but please don’t trouble yourself on my account.  Between Magda and Matthew, I seldom find any time to myself at all.”  Megan gave him what she hoped was a gracious smile, “Goodbye Peter.”  Before he could reply, she hurried inside Magda’s house and bolted the door behind her.

“My infection is putrefying is it?  I hope the stench doesn’t overpower you.”

Megan looked at the older woman who was sitting up on a large soft chair, her foot resting on a cushion.  Her eyes sparkled with humour and a cheeky grin was plastered across her face.

“Shhh, he’ll hear you…”

Poor Megan. And it only gets worse.

Many thanks to the lovely Kathi Schwengel for hosting WIPpet Wednesday; a day when writers from all over the globe share passages from their work-in-progress, and then encourage each other to keep pursuing their writerly dreams. It’s about community, and having something to show for a very long, solitary, process. If you’d like to join us, post your own WIPpet with some relevance to today’s date and join us over at this linky.

As for me, I’m still looking for the scene where the Captain of the Dragon Guard is caught crawling on his belly through his mother’s vegetable garden… Who knows where that got filed…

Happy writing!