The all-important title

by | Dec 8, 2022 | Newsletter

I have become a little distracted deciding on a title for Hennessey’s next great adventure.
At the moment the working title is INTO BONE AND DUST.
Other contenders include:

  • BLOOD AND FURY (Does this sound more like a war novel?)

In listing these I just clicked that of seven possibilities, five incorporate various animals and end in ‘Canyon’.

Like everything in the book world there are supposed guidelines when choosing a title, but realistically, of course, you can do whatever the heck you want. With any argument ‘for’ there will be one ‘against’. I’m leaning toward a three word title – I read somewhere this is optimum but who really knows – to fit with ONE FOR ANOTHER and DYING GRASS MOON. But there are fabulous titles that consist of five words or more, for example, BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME, by Kiwi Jacqueline Bublitz and, basically, every James Lee Burke masterpiece. On the flip side, Dunedin’s fabulous Vanda Symon’s books generally have a one word title like FACELESS, and CONTAINMENT, where that single word conveys so much.

Do you prefer a book title it to purvey a sense of the premise? Or do you like a hint of mystery, of ambiguity to draw you into reading the blurb?

Whatever I choose for Hennessey’s next foray into mayhem, I hope you enjoy the short excerpt below.


I looked to where the trail bordered a ravine that plunged to nothingness.
  I looked at the buggy wheel hanging over the lip of said ravine, earth trickling from beneath its rim, bites nibbled from the bank.
  I looked at the bay mare hitched to the buggy: my hands clenched on the reins either side of her bit. Distressed, she shivered, sweat-drenched coat dark and ridged with foam where the harness had rubbed.
  “Steady girl, we shall get you out of this pickle,” I said, voice light, calming, as though partaking in convivial conversation with an acquaintance. There were no signs she believed or trusted me.  
  “Come on, all it takes is a step.”
  Her eyes rolled. If she moved away rather than toward me the weight of the buggy would tip it and the horse into free-fall.
  Raff should have caught me up—he had said to go on ahead, he would follow soon. Where was he?
  I risked a second to glance along the trail and caught a flash of white. A body on a tall paint merged into the trees, which inspired lightning bolts of anger that whomever it was did not avail themselves to help me avert disaster. My wolfhound, Raven, stared in the same direction, ears pricked, tail aquiver.
  The mare shook her head and I near lost my grip.
  “Come on, sweetheart, you can do it.” I stepped aside, grasped the reins under her chin, and tugged. She lunged against me. “Easy!”
  The buggy tipped further. The unseen child inside it, whom I could not reach and whose bawling had rent the air these past minutes sobbed pathetically then quieted, likely exhausted—or prepared its lungs for an encore of heart-rending misery.
  My stallion, Samson, whickered. The bay paid attention so I chirped to her.
  “Call her again, Samson.”
  He did not oblige, but his equine effort had turned the tide. Dainty as a ballerina the bay inched toward the stallion ground-tied well back from the yawing split in the earth. The buggy slithered sideways. I held my breath; all it needed was a shift in the center of gravity and over buggy, horse and baby would go.

Me with Kerikeri author Catherine Lea at her author talk last week. Unsure how to wrap her latest work she wrote three endings, then chose one.

*The Water’s Dead is available at Whitcoulls, Paper Plus, and various online platforms.

Did you know . . .

  • As with many idioms in common use (or maybe not so common!) the origin of “cock of the walk” is lost in the mists of history. One theory is that back in the 1800s boatmen on the Mississippi River would hold fights between champion fighters from different vessels. The winner was crowned cock of the walk.
  • Screws came into being in the 15th century and were used to secure breastplates etc on jousting armor then, later, on firearms. (it’s incredible what turns up when I Google subjects such as the history of the screwdriver. Random, I know).
  • based primarily on a study into the noses of cattle, it is said the creases on a dog’s nose are unique to the animal, as distinct as a human fingerprint.

Take care, and happy reading,

P.S. If you’d like to drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.

On my bedside table at the moment is WINTER COUNTS, by David Heska Wanbli Weiden.

For a fee, Virgil Wounded Horse brings his own brand of justice to criminals who have escaped prosecution on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. But when heroin is brought into the community and Virgil’s teenage nephew nearly becomes a fatality after an overdose, Virgil has to use attributes other than his fists to discover who is distributing the drug, and determines to stop them.

I powered through this book in a day, thankful I had the time available and have absolutely no compunction about lying on my bed in the middle of the day, with a cat, reading for hours straight. This book is a fascinating insight into contemporary life of Lakota and their the spiritual beliefs and customs – which Virgil struggles to accept.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

Kurt Vonnegut

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