Some thoughts on the contest

Sifting SoilI wanted to say a few paragraphs on what running this most recent contest was like and let you in on some of my thoughts concerning picking titles, which ones I liked, which ones surprised me, etc.

Before I do that, though, I want to keep the winners list fresh on the page, so we’ll go over that again:

First Place: Probability Angels

Second Place: Practically Immortals

Third and Fourth Place:

Angels of Choice

Pickpocket Souls

Right.

So this was a weird process overall.  At first I had some doubts about going ahead with this contest; as a writer I’ve found it essential to maintain a wall between me and the critical world.  You let too many people into your head and the work can suffer something awful.  There was a part of me that was worried that opening my work up like this would cause some bad things to happen.  But they didn’t and I’m happy to say it was a great experience.  Even the haters were entertaining.  My personal favorite amongst those was Crap I Wrote When I Wasn’t Writing Other Crap.

I tip my hat to you, good sir.

For the most part though, the entries were solid attempts at coming up with a title.  Now, I’d like to fill you in on what sort of process I normally go through when I’m thinking up a title, but I can’t.  There is no process.  Titles just pop into your head.  I can’t think of anything else in the whole creative process where this happens.  Maybe the initial scenes for a story, those usually pop out of nowhere, but then they get fleshed out whereas titles just rattle around with the two or three other titles that have popped up and then one presents itself as the obvious choice.

In this case things were obviously different, so what I wound up doing was sort of dividing the entries into different categories.  That helped a lot and I think I can explain my final choice best if I walk you through the way I sifted through the entries.

At first there were those who focused in on the experience of the characters.  A lot of people attempted to sum up what it was that lay at the heart of these people, the weird mix of sacrifice and servitude that let them become who they became.  There were suggestions like Immortal Longings, Perpetual Service and The Bondage of Choice. These were some of the more poetic entries, but they weren’t exactly what I was looking for.

The second category is those of you who plucked my own lines out of the book and entered them as titles.  These blew me right out of the water.  Seriously.  These were some very clever entries and when you add to that the weird sensation I repeatedly got while going over the text of stumbling across entry after entry…well this batch gave me the most fun.  You had entries like Altitude Signifies Nothing (upon first reaching Everest while Mary is explaining to Matthew what he’s seeing he asks her if where you fall on the mountain has any significance.  That’s her response), the second place winner Practically Immortals (Matthew’s disgust at their choice of drinking spot one night makes him point out that they can probably go somewhere more upscale as they are all practically immortals) and Bones on the Comforter (one word….Nyx).  There was also Looking at it All in Reverse, which came from “Black Eyed Susan,” interestingly enough.

Far and away though, the biggest shock for me was Open Her Up and See What You Can Find. Throughout the contest there were plenty of entrants who clearly didn’t read the book, not even a bit of it, and just threw out titles based on the fact that I wrote it without meaning to write it or that there were ten parts.  I always thought that Open Her Up was one of these.  I guess it still might be.  But during editing I actually burst out laughing when I came across those very words in my own book.  That’s a quote from Hector after he…well let’s say after he arranges a snack for his friends.  He turns to one of them and points out the bar car and says, “Open her up and see what you can find.”

Very cool. But not what I was looking for.

Third were the entries that focused on the nature of the bad guys.  These were fun and wonderfully playful.  What’s Eating the Humans, Grave Decisions and Humanity Bites for example. Not much explanation needed for those. Great fun, but not what I was looking for.

Fourth were the ones who picked up on the dark humor and impishness of the gang.  The ones who seemed to appreciate as much as I did how cavalier these characters could be about bending space-time, living two thousand years or blinking off to the middle of the Atlantic when the need suited them.  Among these titles were ones like Circumstantial Alchemy, The Merry Pranksters (though I think that phrase belongs to someone else) and the third place winner Pickpocket Souls. I enjoyed the way these mixed dark or imperfect notions with notions of a somewhat higher nature.  There were a fair amount of these mixes of the grimy and the divine and they were also quite good but, again, weren’t exactly what I was looking for.

They were close, though, especially the one I just mentioned that made it to the winners’ circle. See what I found myself gravitating towards were the titles that tried to sum up the characters as a whole.  Not their experiences mind you or what they did, that wasn’t quite it.  I sort of wanted a name for what Matthew, Epp, Mary and Kyo all were.  But I didn’t want to use anything I had already mentioned.  I didn’t want their own language in their name, I wanted the words that one of us might use to describe them…if one of us ever caught sight of them.  Those were the titles that grabbed me the most.  The Handlers, The Shades, The Shadows.  Things of that nature.

I don’t think it’s any secret that I plan on writing more of these books.  I don’t know when, mind you, but there are going to be more coming.  With that in mind I started becoming very conscious of the fact that this book was the first in the series.  Most likely.  I have a habit of doing things out of order, but assuming this was the first in the series my mind just started hungering for a title that would sum up the entire group yet existed entirely outside of their personal verbiage.

So that’s what I wound up choosing.

What are they? They’re ghosts, they’re spirits, they’re visitors that deal entirely with juggling the odds so that what might happen has a chance of overtaking what should happen.

They’re probability angels.

And I thank you all, again, for entering.