Friday, April 21, 2017


During the discussion that lasted through several posts a few weeks ago here at Spacefreighters concerning a trend toward lurid covers and titles in SFR, I neglected to mention I was having my own little title crisis over Book 4 in my Interstellar Rescue series.

At that time, I was nearing the end of the first draft of the novel, which, for anyone else would be a second or third draft, since I edit as I go. I had a working title, which was everything you don’t want a title to be: vague, dull, tied to nothing in the plot or characters and of no use in determining what kind of book this was. I assumed when I began revisions of the draft, something more exciting would come to me.

Here's a hint: Gen. MacArthur says goodbye.
Well, guess what? I went through the manuscript, actively looking for title hints as I cut slow passages and sharpened dialogue, and . . . nothing. Nada. Zip.

I have a pattern for the titles in my series—three-word song titles, the first of which (Unchained Memory) was slightly modified. But the only song titles that presented themselves for this book steered the reader too much in the direction of romantic suspense or contemporary rather than SFR. Or they applied to the romantic plot and not the external plot (or vice versa). Or they made no sense at all unless you had read the book until the end. (I don’t know about you, but I hate it when I have to really think about how the author came up with that stupid title!)

I played word association games. I asked my walking group. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. I even considered running a contest to let my readers come up with the title. I’ve never had such trouble performing this basic function of writing life. And even now I worry that people will hate my choice, or not understand it, and won’t buy the book because of it.

Buddy Holly belts one out.
At least I have a plan to help readers with the understanding part. No one will have to spend more than a minute wondering where I came up with this title and what it means to the book they’re about to read, a story about a Rescue agent who brings his ailing father home to Earth to hide him from an alien assassin and falls in love with the extraordinary woman chosen to care for him. They’ll simply open the book and read this:

        “Old soldiers never die. They just fade away.”
                                  --General Douglas MacArthur

         “A love for real, not fade away.”
                                      --Buddy Holly

The title? Not Fade Away: Book 4, the Interstellar Rescue Series, a tribute to the Buddy Holly classic. Maybe not perfect, but it beats Follow the Sun, Daddy’s Home, Down to Earth, Last Starship Home and, especially, My Secret Alien-Fighter Lover.

 Cheers, Donna


  1. Titles are a mixed bag for me. They often come during or after the first draft, but I'm editing one at the moment that *still* doesn't have a proper title. It's second in a series. Book One has a legal phrase as the title so I've been trying to come up with something that ties in but reflects the book's own theme. I think the problem is maybe I'm not entirely certain of its core theme myself...

  2. It sometimes takes a while for me to come up with a title. Like you, I don't go for the tropes. And anything with 'Daddy' in it... Anyway, I like what you've come up with. It's intriguing.


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