fantasy fiction Liam in the World work in progress

Liam progress note

Gentle Publisher has forbidden the title I chose for the Compleat Liam, oh, four years ago. It’s boring and unevocative, he says, won’t attract readers. At the moment he issued the ultimatum I told him this had never happened to me before, in the nearly forty years since I sold my first story: but on reflection I realize it isn’t so. My second pro sale was retitled for similar cause and the third for reasons having to do with long forgotten sci-fi politics of the day. So be it. Ave atque vale, Liam in the World.

Because he is not entirely heartless (or maybe he is), Gentle Publisher came up with a list of five alternate titles. Following a strategy I’ve only recently noticed other writers using, they’re all direct quotes from the text itself.

  1. Fairy Teeth
  2. A Literal Fairy
  3. That Door Is a Mischief and My Heart Is Sorrowful
  4. All the Feral Promises
  5. In the Grotty Mirror

As you see, I’ve dismissed three out of hand. Doubtless he expected me to. Number 4 is perhaps too…Sweet Savage Love? Or maybe I’m thinking of a movie from the 1950s.

Number 3 I love. I loved it in context when I wrote the line of dialogue, love it again divorced from context. But does it work as a title? First of all, the last time I used a book title similarly lengthy, You Will Meet a Stranger Far from Home, the title proved a mischief—misremembered, misquoted, mangled, once ignored entirely in favor of the subtitle Wonder Stories. Nor will I soon forget the snarls of irritation that greeted the novelette title “Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Salt for Sorrow, Blood for Joy.”

Second, I wouldn’t wish people to assume Liam’s book is some lugubrious recitation of sorrows or any variety of tragical Faerie Ballad: it is quite other than either.

Third, the mischievous door, although present in the first chapter, doesn’t assume its true importance till quite near book’s end.

So I will ponder and fret a while longer. There’s time. I await responses (thoughts, critiques, rippings of new assholes) from a couple of people I sent the current draft to who have more pressing demands on their time. As do we all. I have two (at least) books to design and lay out and a couple of novel-length MSs to proofread prior to layout.

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