In the Dark: About Titles, Writing and Eclipses

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I usually develop the titles to my books somewhere in the early stages of writing. I know the theme, I know the murder weapon and motive, and I know the red herrings that will be swimming through the story. The title usually comes from one of those. This time around, I find myself in the dark.

Simple three books

My current work in progress takes place on a cruise ship traveling from New York to Bermuda. Our hero, Philadelphia detective Adam Kaminski, must figure out who poisoned the Claypoole family patriarch—and how—before the ship docks and all the witnesses (and suspects) hit the open seas. But first he has to convince himself that he still has what it takes to catch a murderer.

I really want to title the book, Through a Glass Darkly. It’s part of a verse from the bible, 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I love the poetry of the words and also the theme it implies—being in the dark but eventually finding your way to the light. After all, isn’t that what happens in most mysteries?

It didn’t take much polling of friends and readers to realize my working title wasn’t a hit. Too many people didn’t get the reference. And my books are not religious in any way, shape or form, so I really don’t want to give the wrong impression.

That led me to working title number two, Voices Carry. It fits with one of the elements of the story. It’s short, kind of catchy. It would work as a title. But I just kept thinking about the darkness.

Eclipse

Today is an appropriate day to think about darkness, obviously. I’m not on the path of the total eclipse, sadly, but I was able to see a partial eclipse. I loved watching not only the eclipse itself, but also its effect on the shadows on the ground around me. They became visibly crisper, cleaner. I’m a huge fan of shadows, so for me that was one of the highlights.

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Light and dark, shadows and sun. I need a title that captures it all. Being in the dark, then seeing clearly.

Right now, I’m on working title number three, A Pale Reflection. I’m toying with changing that to A Dark Reflection.

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At some point soon, I need to make a decision! I’m still hoping the right title with come to me, focused like an eclipse-sharpened shadow. Or perhaps a sign from above, like the blotting out of the sun.

If any of you have any suggestions, I’m open to ideas! Let me know what you think!

For more information about Jane Gorman’s books, visit janegorman.com or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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Daily Practice

      About five years ago, I made a commitment to write daily. How many words? It doesn’t matter; the act itself does. Sometimes I put in hours, sometimes only thirty minutes. Now that I’ve retired early from academic work, I look forward to many days as a full-time writer. However, while I was packing, downsizing, moving across the country, unpacking, and doing all the paperwork of setting up in a new place, I only had time to write a paragraph each night before going to bed. So why did I bother?

One, it kept me in touch my work in progress. Even the briefest engagement with it feeds the underground springs, the aquifer of ideas. As long as I make that daily connection with the characters, they stay alive in my mind and show up to join me, in a way, while I’m doing things like walking or running that tend to promote creative free flow.

Skill is the other reason I keep the daily commitment. Like practicing yoga daily, writing keeps my verbal skills flexible and my imagination in shape. In one of my brief writing sessions while on the road, I came up with some lines I love so much I’m afraid they may be darlings I’ll have to kill. Nonetheless, they gave me insight into a character’s thinking about relationships and intimacy, an “aha” moment inside his head.

I take breaks from individual books. I’m working on Book Seven while Book Six is being critiqued, and then I’ll get back to revisions on Book Six while Book Seven rests. The separation from each story helps me see it with fresh eyes, but so far I don’t want a break from writing.

Do you take some days or weeks off between projects or do you write daily?

 

On the Trail of Inspiration

Some of my friends here think I’m crazy. Not because I’m any more peculiar than most people in Truth or Consequences—that would be more difficult than the odd thing they question, which is running at noon. In the desert. In July.

It’s much more pleasant than it sounds, though it would have been hell in June before the rains came. Now the temperatures are in the upper eighties or low nineties, with a few little storm systems flirting with the mountains, and no one around except the quails and jackrabbits and lizards. Snakes are hiding from the midday sun, and all the humans are out on the lake. That’s the way I like it. Not that I have anything against snakes, but I prefer not to meet them—or my own species—while I run. I want to be alone. It may look as if I’m only exercising, but actually, I’m writing.

With my train of thought taking a crooked path between lizard sightings and admiration of quail chicks, cacti and the rain-promising sky, I get creative. At the beginning of the run I pick a plot problem and turn my mind loose to play with it. Something about the free flow of running breaks mental dams. Key lines of dialog and important character goals arrive, ideas that refused to show up at my computer the night before. Snake Face has a lot of music in it, and all of those songs came to me on my favorite trail in Elephant Butte Lake State Park, complete with melodies no one will ever hear.

Over the past couple of years, someone has had the urge to make art along that trail. First, there was the miniature Stonehenge. Now there’s a spiral of pebbles presided over by a bulbous lava rock that looks like the Venus of Willendorf with a few too many endowments, and another that looks remarkably like a fluffed-up bird. The bird rock faces out, with its clutch of egg pebbles nearby. The fertility goddess squats on a large flat rock overlooking the spiral. All along the trail I keep noticing additional smaller arrangements, such as a square white rock placed in the center of the square red patch on a larger white rock. I find light green on dark green, bright yellow on dark brown and gold, all sorts of little rocks arranged on shape-and-color-compatible members of the community of stones marking the trail’s boundaries. These creations required time and thought and close observation.

As I wondered how long they took and try to picture the person behind them, a plot puzzle I was struggling with resolved itself. These little henges and heaps are going to find their way into the book in progress, perfectly suited to a certain character and his needs. Art meets art on the trail of inspiration.