Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Conflagration of Titles

I am so not good at titles.

My first agent once said, "You're so bad at titles, you should call your books MS1, MS2, MS3 et cetera."

I told her that was a dangerous suggestion to make to a recovering math major.

Oh well -- with lots of practice over lots of years, I hope I've gotten a little better at this arcane art. But I've been struggling with the title of the 5th Applied Topology book (not the one that's about to come out, that's #4.) I wanted to keep it in the format I'd used for the first four books: A(n) NOUN of NOUN. Like the title of this post. Not too difficult, wouldn't you think?

For a while I was calling it A Veiling of Djinn, but that never sounded right. It sounded awkward, and wouldn't mean much to people who hadn't read that the Djnoun veil themselves from mortal sight. (Djnoun being the Arabic plural for Djinn, but even I am not crazy enough to put that word in a title.)

So I switched to A Shadow of Djinn, and used that most of the time I was writing, and thought it was an okay title, until one of my children upset the applecart.

The other night at dinner I casually mentioned that the fifth book would be called A Shadow of Djinn.

Daughter and son-in-law: A Shadow of what?

Me: D-j-i-n-n. You know, like in the Arabian Nights?

D and s-i-l: The what?

Two takeaways from that: (1) I should have homeschooled that kid, and (2) time to think up a new title.

And I had to think fast, because #4 (A Tapestry of Fire is in the hands of the formatting service as I write, and at the back there's a short excerpt from #5 with the title.

So I'm going with A Smokeless Flame, in the hope that it will sound interesting to readers even if they don't happen to be up on the finer points of Islamic theology, such as the fact that Allah created the Djnoun (knew I'd be able to work that word into a sentence sometime!) out of smokeless fire. (I didn't want to use the word "fire" because it would echo Book 4's title.)

I hope this one works.

At least I feel reasonably sure that my semiliterate offspring and their spouses know the words "smoke" and "flame."

I'm still vacillating between just A Smokeless Flame and something like A Creature of Smokeless Flame. Any opinions would be more than welcome.


  1. I like 'A Creature of Smokeless Flame' as it both fits pattern better and seems more mystical/magical than just 'A Smokeless Flame' which might only seem to be well-adjusted combustion.

  2. Ha! I hadn't thought about the latter interpretation, but you're right!

  3. I hate to admit that I am amongst the illiterate as well and think it a good idea to nix that word from the title. I too would be enticed with the title A Creature of Smokeless Flame rather than the shorter version.

  4. Djinn, facepalm. Really. I'm staggered. Oh well, onward we go into a future that knows no past.


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