How Important Are Titles? Round Robin Post

This week it’s all about titles in the Round Robin conversation! The question posed is this: “How important is a title? What attracts you to a certain title, and how do you determine what to title your book? ”

Now, if I was a marking guru, which I’m not, I would say the title was absolutely important. That and the cover are what buyers are going to see first, right? It needs to attract them enough to get them to pick up the novel and read the back blurb or the first few pages.

When I’m walking through the bookstore and glancing over the titles, I honestly don’t have anything in mind when I’m looking. I’ll read anything and everything under the sun, so it’s a little hard to categorize what I’m hunting for in a book or a title. It really depends on my mood or the season or whatever I happen to be writing at that time.

It’s a lot easier to write Fantasy novels when your brain is already set to “Fantasy” by what you’re consuming. Now, I do have to be careful there because I don’t want MY fantasy novel to start showing traits of the novel I’m reading and all that. So I pick a different sub-genre in the fantasy realm to try and keep things separate.

How do I determine the title of my books?

That’s … a painful process, actually.

Persona was known as “The WWII novel” for many years. I actually had to brainstorm with another author on Google+ to get to that one.

Tapped was easier because I just stole the name of the super soldiers (Yes, I used super soldiers) in that book. I have been tempted to change the name to “Grey Men” from time to time but … that’s marketing strategy and I’m still sort of blundering my way through it.

For those unaware … I’m awful at marketing.

Sedition was called The Ebony Blade at first. And then just Kiavana, the name of the region where much of the book takes place. But after several drafts and a lot of moaning and groaning, I looked at what the book itself was about and came up with the vein of sedition that really pulses through the whole novel.

Generally speaking, I don’t come up with a final title until after the third or fourth draft. By then I have a better handle of what the book is showing about humanity or what adventures I’m promising the reader if they purchase it. But it is really a pain in the rear-end.

Ahem. I’m having the censor myself because my eight-year-old giggles if I use other words at the end of that sentence.

ANYWAY … I find titles and blurbs and the synopsis a pain. I suppose if I didn’t and I actually enjoyed that work, I’d be much better at it and my novels would see more success. Maybe I’ll make that part of my New Years Resolutions for 2017 – “Learn to love titles and blurbs!”

Check out what some of my fellow authors think about titles in general and their own processes for finding the perfect title for their own work.

Marci Baun
A.J. Maguire (YOU ARE HERE)
Victoria Chatham
Skye Taylor
Judith Copek
Helena Fairfax
Heather Haven
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Margaret Fieland
Rachael Kosinski
Rhobin Courtright


The Evolution of a Novel

It’s hard to pinpoint when a novel begins in the writer’s mind. Our intrepid writer could be out with family to lunch, or perusing an antique shop when their hand brushes something and they have to stop.

It’s akin to magic sometimes, that initial spark where a new character comes to vivid life in a writer’s mind. They see something or hear something and suddenly there is this other personality with a grand story all their own and the writer finds themselves needing any sort of pen and paper to get the core of the idea down.

Sometimes a novel is born with just a great idea and no real character to go with it. The character comes later and what comes first is the murder mystery or the magic system or the haunting.

For my part, this has always been the most difficult kind of novel to create – the one that starts with an idea with no great character floating around it.

Primal, for example, was based on a great idea about how dragons get their magic from minerals in the earth. I had a political system in place for said dragons and all the magic figured out but every time I went to write it … I just couldn’t finish it.

The characters left something to be desired.

Now then, I know that the characters are a problem so you would think that by addressing said problem I would be able to write the book to its completion.

Apparently you would be wrong.

I’ve tried a writer’s “casting call” by putting different personalities into different places and …

Found myself writing an outline to a completely different novel.


Which I fell in love with and which will be written during National Novel Writing Month this year. (Yes! That’s just weeks away and I am excited for it.)

But let’s take a look at this evolution because I find it fascinating that I could go from 1920’s noire to urban fantasy to a completely new novel … and maybe I’ll see where it is I went wrong with Primal.

Primal started as 1920’s noire about a detective who is trying to solve a murder and stumbles into a dragon’s lair … literally. But I just didn’t love the time frame. So … I updated it to urban fantasy.

Ashton got downgraded from a detective to a taxi driver, who gets roped in by Pru (our dragon) who likes pretty things and thinks Ashton is too pretty to let go.

I found that funny but that humor could only last a few pages.

So … I swapped the genders.

Ashton was the dragon and the main female became a college student by the name of Tessa and I was in the middle of working on this one, using every cliche in the book, when all of a sudden …

I didn’t want to write it anymore.

I’m not sure if it was the cliche’s or that I was just tired of trying to fix this book, but I reached out to my writer friend (Brendon, you’re totally awesome) and we built a brand new book using only Tessa Pines.

… Nope. That didn’t help me figure out what I’d done wrong.

I’m sure I’ll finish Primal one day, but it won’t be this November/December. Because this November … I’m writing a romance-thriller-thing. And I’m going to have a blast doing it.

Outlines, Deadlines, and NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again! That moment when I start really pushing the writing stuff and getting words on paper and all that. National Novel Writing Month begins in just a few short weeks and I’ve been happily fixing up my outline for a horror/supernatural novel.

If you’ve never heard of National Novel Writing Month then I encourage you to check them out. The contest is basically against yourself and the clock, trying to get 50,000 words written during the month of November. I’ve participated for several years now and have loved it every year … even if I often fail.

Witch-Born was written during NaNoWriMo in 2008, actually. (It’s on the side bar!)

But wait! I’m still working on Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped. Will I be done in time for November 1st?

Why yes, yes I will. Because I am sitting at 10 chapters left in that rough (so very rough) draft. And because it is a rough draft I can totally put things like “Good Lord, Aimee, edit the crap out of this section” in the margins and move on.

So worry not! I will undoubtedly meet my deadline.

And while I’m at it, I’ve been working on the outline for the NaNo project, which has been titled Ashwood.

Pardon me as I do an excited squeal about this particular project. Ashwood is a horror/supernatural/romance thing and I’ve already done the second pass on the outline for it. I’ve been collaborating with another writer, Brendon Mann, who has helped shape the outline of this book and will be aiding me with all the male POV scenes.

Speaking of Brendon, he acted as a bit of a last-minute Beta Reader and Copy Editor for Persona, which I had scheduled to be released in December of this year. However, after he finished the novel he insisted I try another pass at the traditional market, so I’ve sent out several more queries with different publishers and agents.

We’ll see if any of them request a full manuscript. If they do, the projected publication date of Persona will obviously be put on hold until said publisher has made their decision. (Thank you, Brendon, for forcing me to try again. I seriously hate writing a synopsis and things, but at least I can say I gave it another go.)

In the meantime … I’ve got a list of things to help me survive National Novel Writing Month …

  1. COFFEE. Lots and lots and lots of coffee.
  2. Creamer to go in the coffee because, let’s face it, black coffee is gross.
  3. A new coffee mug, only to be opened and used after I make the mid-way point of the novel. (Reward systems are important.)
  4. Ranch flavored Corn Nuts – because I’ll make sure to feed my kid, but I’m likely to forget to eat myself.
  5. Notebooks, note cards, pens and pens and pens – so that I can write the last line I’ve typed down and then carry it with me to work and things. That way I can get more stuff down on my lunch break and whatnot.
  6. … I have to buy all the Thanksgiving stuff now, because I will be a bit of a zombie through the month of November and am likely to forget important things like pie. (Seriously. If I forget the pie this year, my son might flog me.)

I’m sure I’ll think of some more things between now and November 1st, but for the moment this list will do. If you’re going to try NaNoWriMo this year, I’d love to hear what tricks you do to keep yourself productive, awake, and somehow function as an adult at the same time.

Writing Rituals – Round Robin

The alarm goes off at 5AM every morning.

I have it strategically placed several feet away from the couch, where I have collapsed to


Nuisance – Don’t let him fool you. 

sleep some six to seven hours before. Dodging Nuisance (the kitten), I stumble my way across the room to turn the alarm off and stand there for several minutes in the dark, teetering on my feet because at this point I’m still trying to remember why exactly my alarm has gone off at such an hour.

Eventually I remember that it is a weekday and it is time to write.

Making what can only be described as a zombie-like shamble through my dark apartment, I locate the coffee machine and set it to brewing and stand for several more minutes, staring at the coffee level as it rises.

At this point I may actually be sleeping while standing up. It’s really kind of a mystery.

Camp NaNoWriMo mug in hand – full of coffee, thank heavens – I make a somewhat less zombie-like shamble to the computer and power it on. The trick, I have found, is to drink at least half a mug of coffee before I open the manuscript and begin to review what was written the day before. This means that I have approximately fifteen minutes to check email, Facebook, Google+, and possibly Twitter (really, I know everyone loves Twitter but all the hashtags make little sense to me, especially at 5AM).

Once the coffee hits the midway point of the mug I am sufficiently awake enough to really comprehend yesterday’s work. Now then, depending on the time of year, I am either in the middle of editing or I’m in the middle of creating.

296311_500604823329356_837081728_nThe first five to six months of the year are dedicated to editing. January through the end of May I can get through two major hauls on two different novels. This work consists of multiple colored pens and a printed manuscript and, if I’m doing it right, I can get five chapters done in a week.

My pens are color coded for each book. Different colors for different character arcs and development, a color for typos (normally red), a color for plot issues (often purple), and a color for graphic detail (green – which tends to be the heaviest color on the page.)

Monday through Friday I work on a chapter a day. Saturday I transfer all handwritten changes onto the computer. Sunday … I nap. Or play Star Wars.

June through December are my “creation” months. This is when I write new novels. I can do approximately two chapters a week while in “create-mode”. Sometimes more.

At present, I am in “create-mode” so after my first cup of coffee has been consumed I have gone over the previous day’s writing (and hated it, I always hate it at first) I begin working.

I pause for more coffee.

And then I pause again to hold my crystal ball.

Because yes, I have a crystal ball. It feels good in my hands, large and cool to the touch, and it helps me concentrate.

By 8AM I have gone through my second cup of coffee and must save all content to multiple places because I am obsessive-compulsive about making sure all copies in all virtual hidey-holes have been updated.

At random intervals I will have had to pause to pet Nuisance and Pest (the grumpy older



cat) and informed them both that they are detrimental to the creation process, but neither of them seem to care.

Nevertheless, it is now 8AM and I must wake the child up and prepare him for school. At 8:25AM we are in the car and heading out for the day (because we are freaking awesome at that). For the rest of the day my writing rituals include keeping the outline of the novel on hand for note-taking and 3×5 cards for any scenes that must be written down before they are forgotten.

Check out what some of my fellow authors do for their writing rituals in this month’s Round Robin Discussion!

Skye Taylor
A.J. Maguire (YOU ARE HERE)
Beverley Bateman
Dr. Bob Rich
Rachael Kosinski
Anne Stenhouse
Connie Vines
Helena Fairfax
Victoria Chatham
Margaret Fieland
Rhobin Courtright


The Countdown

I am now exactly three months away from Persona’s publication date.

What does this mean for me?

AJMaguire-PersonaCoverArt-ChrisHoward_rev28_ART_ONLYWell, it means a lot of work, actually. I have a list of things that need to be done like … hunt for virtual space (AKA – look for people online who wouldn’t mind me commandeering their blog/site for a day) and prepping advertising spots and getting reminder letters ready for all the wonderful people who agreed to advance review the book and … so much more.

SO. Much. More.

Side Note: Thank you so much to all of my advanced readers. I’ve heard from most of you already and I really, really appreciate the time it takes to sit down and read a book these days. You’re all awesomesauce on toast and I uber love you.

What happened to the Kindle Scout Campaign?

As predicted, this was not the right fit for me. Kindle Scout is made for people who really don’t mind shouting over and over and over again that their book is up and needs votes. I am not that sort of person.

Granted, if I were that sort of person it is entirely possible that I would sell a lot more books. The tactic seems to work very well for a lot of people. For my part, I cannot justify being that much of a pest. And if I spend all my time promoting, I get no writing done. (I am a single parent. My time is limited.)

Having re-read the manuscript hunting for any last-minute errors and the like, I have to say that Persona is a favorite of mine. While I may have bemoaned all the research I had to do writing a historical fiction, it is still one of my favorite stories. Megan is a gentle hero, which I believe to be one of the more common and less noticed heroes in the world today.

In any case … the countdown has begun! Three months and two days and this novel will finally be out for sale. It’s been a long but very satisfying road to see it get to this point and I’m excited for the next step.



Round Robin Discussion – Scarring your characters

This month for the Round Robin topic we are talking about emotionally scarred characters. The questioned posed is; “What mental, physical or spiritual wounds or scars have you used in your stories?”

The truth is … we all have scars. Whether they’re big or small or whatever, we have them. They define us as people. And the same should be said of any fictional character.

Now as a writer I don’t sit down with a particular “scar” in mind for the characters I’m dealing with. It’s really a discovery process for me. But once I’ve discovered that particular “wound” in my character’s personality I make sure to highlight it during the editing process and really draw it out.

Because being a writer is really being a student of humanity. We’re here to show what it is to be human and touch on subjects, both painful and joyful, that are often too complex to be fully expressed.

But which scars have I actually used?

Well, Trenna Dyngannon (Sedition series) had a serious issue with her mother that was really brought out in the second book of the series; Saboteur. Basically there was neglect and self-worth issues that Trenna had to battle through, which I found very interesting given how very strong Trenna is as a character.

One wouldn’t expect someone like Trenna Dyngannon to feel a sense of inadequacy, but due to close contact with her mother she finds herself struggling to remember that she isn’t actually defined by what her mother does or says.

In the Tapped series, both Seach and Jorry are deeply scarred by the fact that they had to abandon their former Captain. Relo’s absence is a deep burden for both of them given that they know exactly what has been done to him at the clutches of the government.

On top of that, Jorry and Seach are haunted by things that happened during the war. Moments that they wish they could forget, and truly traumatic orders that they found themselves bound to follow. This particular scar carries through the whole series (I’m in the middle of writing the second book now) and, inevitably, will come to a crisis point where they have to make a decision to either fight again, or try to find some other way to change the galaxy as they know it.

But perhaps the most noticeably scarred character of mine is Reesa Zimms from the book Deviation. Reesa is a science fiction novelist who has used her writing as a means of therapy for herself (no, this is not even remotely autobiographical, I promise) and in the book … well … let’s go ahead and give a snippet. I haven’t done one of those in ages.

“I’m dying, Matt,” she whispered.

She felt him move to her side, felt his knuckle graze her cheek, and heard him sigh.  “David is very good at what he does.  You should have a little faith,” he said.

Opening her eyes again she met his gaze. “And why should I be spared from a fate I forced onto the whole female race?”

He frowned, gently pushed a lock of hair behind her ear, and made a thoughtful hum.  She waited for his answer, praying it would be right.  She needed him to have an answer, to have some form of redemption for her.  Perhaps justice was served in her death, but even death-row inmates were given a chance at clemency, weren’t they?

A final prayer, a last wish, she thought.

“I think we’ve come to the matter of your own motivations, Reesa,” he said. “Tell me why you really wrote the books.”

Her heart might have stopped at the sudden wash of pain.  She certainly wished it would.  Fixing her gaze on the juncture between wall and ceiling above them, she was transported through her memory, to the small clinic exam room when she was eighteen years old.  Her mother’s voice rang loud in her ears, calling her irresponsible and thoughtless, convincing her that a child would ruin eight years of modeling competitions and progress.  And in her hand, Reesa could still feel the coarse, politely brown paper bag of contraceptives she’d been given after it was all over.

Matt made a soft, soothing sound and wiped the tears from her face.  Reesa closed her eyes, unwilling to look at him as she made her confession.

“I wrote a book where everyone was as ugly as I felt.”

Take a look at what others are saying about scarring their characters!

Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham
Rachael Kosinski
Anne Stenhouse
Helena Fairfax
A.J. Maguire (YOU ARE HERE)
Fiona McGier
Rhobin Courtright


Crappy First Drafts

The last several weeks I have been focused on Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped, and I’ve been taking my NaNoWriMo approach with it.

What is my NaNoWriMo approach?

Well, for those of you who might not be aware, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is held by the Office of Letters and Light, and it is basically a free-for-all competition where you try to write 50,000 words in 30 days. They have little competitions run throughout the year, but the main one starts November 1st.

That’s a lot of words in 30 days and in order to achieve this lofty goal, one must set aside certain things …

Like their internal editor.

So when I say I’m taking my NaNoWriMo approach with Dead Weight right now, I mean that I have gagged my internal editor and shoved her in a dark closet somewhere. She’s still screaming at me, especially about Chapter 14 because I think I broke the rules of gravity in there somewhere, but I’m not listening.

Not yet.

The focus is to get a draft down that I can edit. The focus is that the story line makes sense, the plot is engrossing, and the basic elements of the characters are fleshed out. I can add more color and life to the page later.

The goal is to have a completed crappy draft by the end of October so that … I can participate in NaNoWriMo for real this year. I think I say that just about every year and I end up having to use November as a motivational month to get my current projects done, but this year …

This year I’m going to win NaNoWriMo.

With a paranormal romance novel, no less.

That’s right. I will be writing a full-on romance novel. I know several of my books are in the “fantasy romance” category, but when push comes to shove those are more Fantasy than they are Romance.

It’s going to be fun.

It’s going to be a challenge.

And I am going to win … leaving me with two crappy first drafts that will desperately need editing in 2017.