Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Touching the Past

I was going through some photos I took when I was in Burgos in October 2005 and was thrilled to find this gem:

It's a document granting Covarrubias to a noble monastery. It's signed by Count García Fernández, supreme leader of Castile and a character in SNKL. His wife Ava also signs. She isn't a character in SNKL, but a strong possibility for a sequel. The document dates from 972, ever so close to the year SNKL opens.

This wonderful piece of faded, wrinkled, and water damaged vellum was on display in the cathedral, under glass, and you can see the reflection from the window in the picture. At the time, I was impressed with the undulated Visigothic majuscule writing and the sheer age of the document. Could I have known that seven years later, having finished the dissertation I was researching, I would complete the biggest, most complex piece of writing of my entire life about the very time period when this document was made and one of the very people who signed it?

Now that I've written SNKL, I find myself wishing I could tell my 2005 self to take even more pictures and look even more closely at these extraordinary objects I haven't had the chance to get so close to since then. In that way, 2005 seems farther away from me than even the year 972.

In other news, the artist completed scanning all the pictures for the SNKL trailer, so keep an eye out for that. It's going to be great!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Catchphrases and the Title

Because I haven't yet encountered the enthusiastic support from New York every writer dreams of, I've been thinking about what I can do to give The Seven Noble Knights of Lara that X factor.

In the first draft of my query, I had a major attention-getter in the opening line: "The Seven Noble Knights of Lara is a medieval epic with strong women, valiant knights, and a bloody cucumber." It even made it into a radio clip when I presented it at the Book Doctors' Pitchapalooza in Naperville! It garnered laughter at the time, and there are a couple of problems with that: I wasn't sure whether it was funny laughter or uncomfortable laughter, and the book itself isn't intended to be a laugh fest. I kept it for a while, thinking that any attention I can grab is good attention, but eventually I felt too strongly that I was setting up false expectations, and changed it.

The first way I made it less comical was to remove the rule of three: "The Seven Noble Knights of Lara has strong women and valiant knights. It is probably the only novel you'll ever read with a bloody cucumber." (This version is up on the "About the Novel" page and will come down soon.) I got at lot of approval for this arrangement, but eventually, also some puzzlement. Why do I think anyone would necessarily be attracted to a novel with a bloody cucumber?

I'm trying! I really am. So I took that version out, too. My query letter now has no real "logline." It launches right into the "When Gonzalo does one thing, Lambra does another" plotting. I felt the loss of the logline and decided to try to remedy it. I came up with the logline in the picture above.

Not making giant leaps of progress away from humor, am I? I'd like to invite my readers to help me write a logline that conveys more of the feel of the book, which tends toward the dramatic. Not the melodramatic! Please comment or contact me on Facebook or Twitter if you have good ideas.

In the meantime, I like the picture above and may use it and its logline.

So, no logline. How about the title? Is it too long? Too boring? I'm willing to admit I haven't been creative with the title. I just translated the title academics have assigned to the epic poem. If it helps the book, I'll change it. But to what? Would THE FAULTS OF OTHERS work? If not, I'm afraid I'll lapse into the unintentionally comical, such as BLOOD IN BURGOS or CRESCENT OVER CÓRDOBA.

The trick is to be concise and impactful without dipping into the flippancy that seems to surface in me whenever I try to write in such a short form.

I look forward to hearing from you!