As someone who writes novels clocking in at 130,000 words, it should probably come as no surprise that I don’t do well with tasks that require me to whittle down information. I’ve always struggled with book titles in particular and can spend hours agonizing over the right handful of words to properly convey the essence of a particular story. Usually I end up with a rambling, grandiose title that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Even now, I’m a little bit amazed I was able to arrive at a single-word title for my book; I’ll admit, brevity is not my strong suit.
As for chapter titles, I never gave them much thought until I published my book. In fact, I hadn’t originally intended to title my chapters. Most romance novels don’t utilize them, but with the advent of the e-book and its indispensable Table of Contents, I feel like chapter titles are becoming more popular. They plant these wonderful little kernels of dread or excitement, and all based upon a solitary word or clever turn of phrase. After all, if I’m reading a book well past midnight and am toying with the idea of reading just one more chapter, I’m much more likely to do so with a chapter heading vividly shouting “Prison” versus boring old “Chapter 10.” Prison?! How dreadful! How intriguing! I must keep reading! Sleep is for the weak!
Better still, my experience creating chapter titles for Clingstone wasn’t the torturous quagmire I’d feared. Each new chapter was an opportunity to keep my prospective readers engaged and anticipating the next arc in the story, and it was a relatively simple matter of plucking out a favorite line or keyword that best encapsulated the twists and turns to come. Below are all the chapter titles from my book, which begs the question: Did the chapter titles help enrich Mae and Creighton’s story? Did reading a particular title propel you eagerly forward and promote the overall flow of the book? Are there ones that make you wince a little when you read them, anticipating the worst? Better yet, do you have a favorite, or is there one that makes you laugh aloud when you read it? My favorite is always changing, but I’d probably pick “A Dream, as Told by Mae,” simply because it conveys Mae and Creighton’s story coming full-circle.
But “The Extraordinary Miss Sadie Levine” is a very close second because of the antics that ensue in that particular chapter. Reading that title makes me grin and cackle every time!
Chapter 1: “Lasting Impressions”
Chapter 2: “Gossipmongers”
Chapter 3: “Inspection”
Chapter 4: “Wrath of a Yankee Officer”
Chapter 5: “Eviction”
Chapter 6: “Treasonous Acts”
Chapter 7: “Coralie’s Latest Boon Companions”
Chapter 8: “Georgia Military Institute”
Chapter 9: “The Extraordinary Miss Sadie Levine”
Chapter 10: “Prison”
Chapter 11: “An Unforeseen Outcome”
Chapter 12: “Mercy from a Harridan”
Chapter 13: “To the Things That Matter”
Chapter 14: “A Momentary Reprieve”
Chapter 15: “Hopping Off the Fence”
Chapter 16: “Eviction II”
Chapter 17: “Indigents”
Chapter 18: “Smoke and Mirrors”
Chapter 19: “Cost of a Stolen Toy Horse”
Chapter 20: “Mr. and Mrs. Branagan”
Chapter 21: “Eyes the Color of Fine Wedgwood China”
Chapter 22: “Strangers in the Woods”
Chapter 23: “Revelations”
Chapter 24: “The Moss Family”
Chapter 25: “A Dream, as Told by Mae”
My workplace tries to get its employees to submit fun little facts about themselves and post them on the employee spotlight page of our agency’s intranet. Naturally, the willful side of my nature plugs its nose and refuses to do this. It seems a little too much like a meddlesome interrogation to me. I don’t want to say what my favorite restaurant is! You can’t make me! I figure my employers already own a good portion of my soul; they don't get to be privy to my innermost thoughts. And yet I’m always quick to notice the newest profile that pops up. I metaphorically unplug my nose and rapidly consume the personal details my fellow employees are more than happy to impart to the masses.
Recently a book blogger asked me to send her my media kit (for those out there unfamiliar with this terminology, this is a document that contains relevant information about my works as an author). I intended to copy my author bio information straight from my “About” page on my website when I was struck by how uninteresting my profile is. Uninteresting and stagnant, and that just will not do. I decided to add a few more details, mostly silly little asides about hobbies and such, but it led to the larger realization that I just don’t like my author bio page very much. It’s frozen, a petrified lump of humdrum facts that don’t reveal a whole lot about myself. I don’t want someone to read it once and never revisit it again. Instead I want it to always be a work in progress.
As much as I hate to admit it, maybe my employer is on to something with that whole employee spotlight thing. That being said, I encourage those of you who have visited my website before to take a second look at my author bio page. I’ve added a new section tentatively titled, “Life Picks of the Week.” It won’t be anything too world-shattering, just some observations and fun facts. I’ll change up the themes every now and then. Should any of you have a question you’re dying to ask me, just fire it off via the contact page and I’ll add it to the next roundtable of tidbits. Hopefully the responses will make you laugh and contemplate the things we all have in common, or, if nothing else, be comforted by yet more evidence that the world is full of weirdos, and we’re all in great company.
It’s that time again: our monthly dissection into the unique sayings found throughout Clingstone. What if these words still lingered in our modern ethos? The first example of each is a quote directly from the book; the second is a glimpse of their usage in a strange alternate reality.
An albatross around one’s neck-burden, a liability
Sit-down-upons-pants or trousers
To go boil one’s shirt-an expression that encourages someone to go away, to get lost
I've shared on Goodreads how I found my source material for Clingstone, but I wanted to share it here on my blog as well. For those of you who enjoy history, particularly the American Civil War, Ms. Cook's historical nonfiction book is still available on Amazon (print only).
I am constantly astounded by history’s blunders. I discovered the source material for my novel by happenstance over a decade ago in an Alabama bookstore. I was browsing the American history section and read the spine of an unassuming volume entitled, “North Across the River” by Ruth Beaumont Cook. It chronicled the ordeals of Georgia millworkers imprisoned during the American Civil War. I read the description on the back and immediately realized the potential was there for an interesting novel. Over the next couple of years, I piecemealed my own research with what I had learned from Ms. Cook’s history book and came up with the first draft of Clingstone. American history is riddled with conflicting testimonies and poor record-keeping, and so I dedicated a couple of more years to editing, a second draft, more research, copy-editing, and eventually a final draft. History truly is stranger than fiction, and I consider myself fortunate that I stumbled across that unassuming paperback in that Alabama bookstore all those years ago; Clingstone would not have existed without “North Across the River.”
I’m halfway through that daunting rite of passage all self-published authors must commit to—combing through Amazon’s top 10,000 reviewer list—and thought now would be an ideal time to share my thoughts on the process, and the practice of self-promotion in general.
I knew the downside of self-publishing was getting lost in the thousands of other titles that share my genre, and the struggle for distinction among my fellows would be a long and methodical process. I am absolutely up to that challenge. I think some authors would find it dismaying to spend weeks sifting through vast quantities of online profiles to find the occasional book blogger receptive to their genre, and subsequently receptive to reviewing their work, but it doesn’t bother me. I think it appeals to that academic part of my brain that loves searching for lost things. And I realize there’s an easier way to comb through those thousands of names than manually clicking on each profile, but I’m in no particular hurry to reach the end of the list, and so I’ve chosen to prolong what some might interpret as undue suffering. The part of me that loves a challenge gleefully rubs its hands together every time I reload the list, and the search begins anew through an elaborate warren that often leads to dead ends, but sometimes rewards persistence with a favorable reply.
I’ve had some minor success securing reviews, or at least promises of reviews to be posted at a later date, but amassing reviews is an extensive process that doesn’t favor the faint of heart. I’ve read about other self-published authors’ frustrations regarding this, but I find I don’t share the feeling. I never expected this to be easy. I like that stubbornness is necessary to get anywhere. Rejection has never cut me off at the knees, to wallow in self-pity. No, I am one of those willful creatures who grow more and more determined with each rejection. Rejection is my fuel. I would have collapsed in a puddle of despair years ago if rejection, or even simple indifference, could cause me to throw my hands up and quit. After all, one’s self-esteem has to be powder-coated in Teflon and Kevlar to futilely send off manuscripts to publishing houses and agents for nearly twenty years. Either that, or have some very serious delusions of grandeur.
As for my marketing skills, that area admittedly needs work. I haven’t taken full advantage of the many avenues out there available to self-published authors. I could certainly do more to promote myself. I could advertise more, be a more visible presence on social media; instead, I’ve limited myself to this blog and website, and the occasional book giveaway. Not very industrious of me, now that I think about it. Hopefully I can expand my horizons in the coming weeks and utilize some fresh ideas to creatively market Clingstone to a broader audience.
But until then, I’ll smile and boldly plug onward, zigging and zagging through my gauntlet of 10,000 names.
Congratulations goes out to Joanna Starnes! Joanna, you're the winner of the April paperback book giveaway of Clingstone!
Since there was such interest in the contest, I will give away another autographed paperback of Clingstone this month. The contest runs throughout the entire month of May and is open to participants in the continental United States. Simply submit your name and email address via the contact form. The winner will be announced in my blog post on June 1. Good luck!
*Names and emails are for contest purposes only. All contact information will be deleted after the contest ends. The winner’s contact information will be deleted once mailing information is received and book is confirmed delivered.*