Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guest Blogger Kathryn Scannell

Today I welcome author Kathryn Scannell to my virtual veranda. She has a new book out with Torquere and she's going to tell us about that, but first she has something to say about book titles. Go ahead, Kathryn, get comfy, while I get our drinks.

The Pitfalls of Titles

Picking a good title is the part I find hardest about writing, no matter what the length of the piece is. This blog article is no exception. It would have been great to come up with something cute and clever, but no. You got something utilitarian and descriptive because cute and clever eluded me.

Titles are important. They need to fit the story, and ideally to be cute and clever. Along with the cover they catch the reader’s eye and attention, and hopefully entice them into picking up the book or clicking on the link to learn more, and maybe eventually buy the story.  

I love a good, clever title. For example, years ago Mildred Downey Broxon wrote a fantasy novel which she titled Too Long a Sacrifice. That’s a brilliant title. It grabbed my attention immediately because it’s a line I recognized from “Easter 1916,” a poem by William Butler Yeats. That suggested that the story would be about the Irish troubles, as well as giving me an immediate sense of shared interest with the author. I like that poem, she apparently likes that poem, so we may have similar tastes.

Better still, it makes sense even if you don’t recognize the reference and interpret it literally, because the story involves a couple who find themselves thrown forward in time, from ancient Ireland to modern Ireland in the midst of the troubles in Belfast, by a curse. A very long time is involved.  Also, being poetry, it falls nicely off the tongue, which is good.

I sweat blood every time I need a title. It’s usually the last thing that happens, in one of those “Oh God, the deadline for this submission is tomorrow, but I can’t send it to the editor without a title!” moments. More often than not it ends up being something totally uninspired.

For example, every year Torquere Books authors get together and write stories to benefit a charity – we donate our royalties, and Torquere matches the donation. This year’s charity was Doctors Without Borders. I wrote a little story about an American doctor doing charity work in the Gaza strip having a romantic encounter with an Israeli soldier during a long weekend in Tel Aviv. The story came out great, but I never did think of a clever title. It ended up going in as “Borders”. The only saving grace is that the title puts it near the front of the list when they alphabetize the collection.

I have a brand new book, Embracing the Dragon, which just came out from Torquere yesterday. I really thought I’d been successful when I came up with the title for that one. I’m happy with it. It’s a romance, and as you might expect it revolves around our hero’s love life.  In past lives Danny, the main character, and Mordellir, Emperor of the Tengri, were lovers. Mordellir wants to resume that relationship, but of course there are complications. The Tengri Empire shares common cultural roots with the Chinese and Japanese cultures on Earth, and one of the Emperor’s titles is “Dragon of Heaven.”

I thought Embracing the Dragon was very clever – it plays on the Emperor’s title, and can be taken literally, or more figuratively, since the embraces involved are both physical and political. Now I’m wondering if I overdid it. I’m already finding myself needing to tell interested potential readers that it involves neither actual dragons nor dragon shifters, at least as important characters.

So, I’m curious. Do you like clever titles? Do they make a difference to you when you’re looking for books?

If you’re a writer, have you got any brilliant tips you’d like to share for coming up with clever titles?

As a thank you, I’m offering a give-away to anyone who comments on this post. I have a short story, Leap of Faith, no longer available since it finished its licensed run at Torquere last year, which features some of the secondary characters from Embracing the Dragon. I’ve repackaged it with a new cover created by the very talented Sheri McGathy (, and will send one to you if you send me an email (Kathryn.Scannell <at> saying you commented here, are over 21, and would like to receive a story featuring explicit homoerotic scenes (or some reasonable approximation). Sorry for the red tape, but I don’t want to risk complaints if someone who is underage asks me for the story.

Kathryn Scannell writes fantasy and paranormal romance. You can find her on the web at Her most recent release, Embracing the Dragon, is available from Torquere Books starting on April 13. Buy Link:

Now, here's some info on Embracing the Dragon:    

Two-Line blurb:

In the days of Atlantis, in other lives, Danny O’Riordan and Emperor Mordellir were lovers. Now, they’ve found each other again. But Danny already has other commitments. Can he afford to follow his heart and embrace the Dragon of Heaven in this lifetime?


Danny O’Riordan’s life was complicated before he had the vision of a past life that forced him to admit to himself that he was bisexual. There’s a war going on, and being Liegeman to Aran, the Elven King of Avalon puts Danny squarely in the middle of the politics of two worlds, Earth and Avalon. Adding a romantic relationship to the mix could be explosive.

His lover from that previous life has been reborn as Mordellir, the ruler of the Tengri Empire. The Dragon of Heaven is the most powerful person in his world. Will he want Danny back once he knows he’s been reborn? If he does, how far will he go to get his way?

Danny knows it isn’t smart to get involved with the Dragon of Heaven. Aran hates the Tengri. Following his heart and renewing that old relationship with Mordellir will leave him torn between his commitment to Aran and those old feelings which are still frighteningly strong. If he yields to tempation, can he balance his love for both men?  



Mordellir looked more at ease than Danny had ever seen him. Was this what he'd been like before he became Emperor?

Looking at him now, in this mood it was easy to see the resemblance to Demeth. Certainly there were differences. Demeth had been only part Tengri. He'd been shorter and a bit heavier built. Demeth's hair had reddish highlights, which hinted at demon in his family somewhere. But there was still something in the body language, and the aura which reminded Danny achingly of those memories of Demeth. It wouldn't be hard to put this man in place of the image of Demeth in those memories...

Thinking that had not been a good idea. Danny realized his mistake when he felt his cock start to swell. Just remembering the damned dreams he'd been having was enough to get him hard again, and the bathrobe he was wearing was not going to hide it. He could see a telltale bulge already. He shifted to cross his legs, hoping to keep things under control, but it just didn't work.

Mordellir had noticed, too. His gaze followed that moving bulge, and he gave off a mix of amusement and interest. All the extra blood that wasn't already in Danny's cock rose promptly to his face as he realized that.

Mordellir grew even more amused as Danny turned bright red. "I didn't think you were interested, Daniel. It's certainly nothing to be embarrassed about. You're a handsome young man. I'm not intimate with all my Favorites, but it's certainly an option."

Danny cursed inwardly. This was rapidly becoming a disaster. "No! I'm not-- I mean I don't-- Oh Hell." He ground to a halt. Doing anything would be stupid, and guaranteed to make settling the problem of those old memories worse, not better, but how did he say no without insulting the Emperor? Especially when his cock was obviously saying yes.

"Slowly, Daniel," Mordellir said gently. "If I read that wrong, I'm sorry. Will you tell me why you’re so confused and embarrassed? It can't be just having an erection in front of someone else, not after living among the Elves and the Kennakriz. What is it?" He looked probingly at Danny out of his good eye.

Danny took a deep breath to try to calm himself. "No. This isn't simple to explain. You didn't misread my reaction, but it would be a terrible idea to act on it."

"Why?" Mordellir sounded genuinely puzzled.

"Because you're the Emperor of the Tengri, and I'm the senior Liegeman to the King of Avalon, who happens to hate Tengri in general, and you in particular. That gives whole new levels of meaning to conflict of interest," Danny said, wondering why he was explaining the obvious to someone this experienced in politics.

"So?" Mordellir felt perplexed. "Is this an Earth thing? A little sex hardly constitutes anything important. It's not as if there was a commitment involved. There isn't even a chance of children to worry about negotiating."

What could he say to that? From an Avalon or Empire perspective, Mordellir was entirely right. The problem was that Danny was sure that if he let himself get any closer to Mordellir that those old memories would hit him full force, and he'd want something more. A lot more. That would be a serious political problem.

His first impulse was to explain that, but doing that could be opening a huge can of worms. He didn't really know Mordellir. He might not be anything like Demeth. There were vast differences between Danny and Emrys, thanks to the different worlds they'd lived in, and the things that had happened to him in this life. Emrys had trusted Demeth, but everything he knew about Mordellir told Danny not to trust him. This was a man who'd schemed his way to the Imperial Throne over a trail of bodies, including his father, the previous Emperor. Then he'd held his own against his remaining siblings and children to keep that throne for more than 10,000 years. He had to be a master of manipulation and deceit. It would be ridiculously risky to lay a vulnerability like this out for him to exploit. But it was so very tempting. It felt right to do. Danny's thoughts spun in circles, his impulses arguing with his common sense.

Mordellir waited for him to answer, looking faintly puzzled. In the end, that pushed Danny over the edge in favor of explaining. The expression was so like one Demeth had often directed at him when Emrys was new to the Empire, and reacting oddly to everything. This was still Demeth, and some deep part of him trusted Demeth.

  Thanks for stopping by, Kathryn! Your book sounds incredibly interesting, I wish you the best of luck!

Bring on the questions and comments for Kathryn!


  1. Thats one thing I do struggle with, like you say, the title counts. I choose my books by the cover and the title. Mine always change by the end of the book. Except one, Abigail Cottage, that remained the same throughout. I think you need to start with an idea for the title, then as the novel takes form, the real one will jump out at you usually. Embracing the dragon sounds fab, but I have to say (please don't kill me) your cover doesnt do it justice. Good luck with your books.

  2. You're in no danger where the cover is concerned. Covers probably deserve a whole blog post of their own. I was actually a bit surprised, having listened to a number of big name authors with NY publishers grumble about getting no input into their covers to get a questionnaire to fill out for the book.

    In hindsight, I probably could have done a better job filling it out. I do wish I'd thought of specifying a preference in the area of font - I'd much rather have something with a more oriental feel.

    I made a big deal of wanting a black, oriental style dragon, because that's a very important symbol in the Empire.

    I also absolutely didn't want to have one of those photo covers with the heads cropped off because so few models want their face on a M/M romance cover. I hate those. I'd rather have a plain brown wrapper with a bar code. :-)

    Next time around I'll be wiser in specifying what I'd like on a cover, or possibly even buy my own stock photos and hand them to the artist.... I learned a lot about that side of things working with Sheri on my promo story, as well as getting a great cover out of it.

  3. Hi Kathryn,

    I loved reading Too Long the Sacrifice, and had no idea the title was from a poem.

    I'm terrible with titles but got lucky with my first novel, Windswept Shores. I was inspired by the weather in the Bahamas where the story is set.


  4. Hi Kathryn. I have a hard time with titles too. Sometimes they come in a flash but most times I've finished the story and still no title. I try to find a theme or a phrase that's somewhere in the story and use that as my title. (It doesn't always work though and most of my wips are simply saved as their progatonist's names until I have to come up with a title.

  5. Janice,

    I found a link to the poem that Too Long a Sacrifice was taken from, if you want to read it. It's one of my favorites:

    On Easter weekend, 1916 a group of Irishmen rose in armed revolt against English rule and published a declaration of independence for an Irish republic. This initial effort failed and the signers of the declaration were all executed, but their they set events in motion that led to the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922. Yeats knew many of them - three of the signers were also poets - and wrote this to commemorate their sacrifice.

  6. Pender,

    Thank you. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who does this. I've got a novel I've been working on off and on for two years now, and for the first year or so it was just "Joe". It has finally gotten a title ("Aliyah"), but I'm afraid it may be way too clever for my own good. It's great and meaningful if you know anything about Judaism, but half my crit group thought it looked like a woman's name.

  7. Yeesh, titles -- that's often the last thing I come up with, too, and once I changed the title after the contract was offered (and it's probably still lame.) I even wrote a query letter where the first draft had *** for the title. Must read the poem, thanks for the link.

  8. Hi PD,

    Sounds like we're all in the same boat on titles. Maybe we could find someone who's good at them and subcontract? :-)

    I'm resisting the temptation to wax too enthusiastic about Yeats. There's so much depth in his work it's amazing, and he had such an interesting life on top of it. I discovered his work in middle school, and still enjoy it more years later than I'm going to admit to in public.