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A Sea (Title) Change

A woman sitting at golden hour
Alas, this was not the fated moment when inspiration struck. It is the right time of day, though, and it is featuring a sloped chaparral landscape, just not the one I write about here.

When I procured my book deal six months ago, the story was called Wise Man's Folly.

A lot has happened since then. I finished the third draft, sent it in to my editor, got it back, did an (unplanned) fourth draft and finally, finally, finally submitted this shiny 102k version on June 2nd, the day my husband, James, left for Alaska. I was making line edits right up to the end, at which point I just had to close my eyes (and my laptop) and let the thing fly.

Between all of that, I also had the fortune of participating in Futurescapes workshop, and was able to workshop the first 10k of the novel with a cohort of really talented writers, not to mention receiving detailed feedback from SL Huang and Scott Lynch, two vaunted writers in the SFF field. I was never confident about the Prologue, about its ability to ensnare and enrapture a would-be reader, and my suspicions that it was not as strong as I wanted it to be were confirmed amongst those who took the time to assess it at Futurescapes.

So I rewrote it completely, with the seed of an idea from one amongst my cohort who had thought about my story to such a degree that he came up with a pretty stellar idea for how to refashion the opener. I am eternally grateful. It is the opener I needed to write but was afraid to.

Somewhere along the way, amidst working on the back cover copy, the strap-line and the design for the cover, another long-lingering insecurity arose: the title.

Wise Man's Folly isn't random. It's not some catchy title that sounds cool (it does) and bears little resemblance to the plot. It's a direct pull from a character's line, and it implies that the quest undertaken by two of my main characters would be just that: Folly for a man who considers himself wise. Spoiler alert: they undertake it anyways.

Herein lies my predicament. If you are a fantasy reader with a penchant for doorstoppers (which, let's be honest, what fantasy reader worth their stripes isn't?) you've probably read Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles. You also probably really enjoyed it, and you know what Book 2 in that series is called: The Wise Man's Fear.

Riffing off of popular art, no problem. All art is derivative. If you like Rothfuss' prose (evocative, wry, lyrical with the occasional toe-dip into the whimsical), chances are you'll also enjoy mine. Stylistically, I'm about as far away from Sanderson as a trout from the sea, but the irony of both those statements is that when you plug the deets about my work into ChatGPT and asketh of it, "What works are comps to mine own?" What works does it giveth? Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles and Sanderson's Mistborn (and also, Brent Weeks' Lightbringer Series and Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora, go figure). Don't mind the bot, it doesn't know what it doesn't know.

But I digress. I admire Rothfuss. I admire Sanderson, even though his prosaic style is for me the equivalent of shucking perhaps a metric ton of corn: soothing but ultimately redundant and lacking for any semblance of intrigue (sorry to the Sanderson fans, yes, there is no question he is an epic world-builder and also, forgive my absolutely terrible similes, I'm writing this on the fly on the heels of an editing deadline and my brain is pretty kaput at this present moment. I promise they hit harder in the book).

When it comes down to it, I don't want my work to be viewed through either a Rothfussian lens or a Sandersonian.

Add to that the reality that identity politics is a cut carotid and is still managing, with all the strength and vigor of a vital artery, to hemorrhage all over the place. I don't want a potential reader to be deterred from picking up my book because the title has Man in it. Trust me when I say that while men certainly feature prominently, so do women, and they both make mistakes.

So, a sea change. The inspiration struck on a walk, and if you really want to know, I was enjoying a pretty mundane thought whilst ambling about at golden hour, and it was, "I love a land when shadows grow tall." The sun was at a slant and the shadows at that time were tall, you see. My brain instantly scolded itself. 'A land is the description used to describe a country, a nation, a city-state or what-have-you, dummy,' certainly not the sloped chaparral I was then amongst. So I revised it in my head, 'I love the land when shadows grow tall.' At which point my brain begins to hum again, this time with tiny pings of positive reinforcement, 'Ooh, so clever. Well done, you. That has a nice ring to it. Oh...'

My book, the book I'd named haphazardly and in a hurry. People were asking, and I needed an answer, so I scanned the first three chapters for a line and out came a (derivative) title.

But "When Shadows Grow Tall..." Cue a frenzied mental detailing of everything that happens in the book - the first of a trilogy, the ostensible sunset (and what follows but midnight and the dawn?), the set-up, the character studies, the darkness which looms...

It was perfect, and I more or less (after crowd-sourcing a comparative vote, of course) changed it the next day. I didn't even have to write in a line to justify it; it was already there in the text all along.

And so I present to you, When Shadows Grow Tall, an epic quest fantasy with men and women, boys and girls. Like all epics, it is an examination of not one thing, but many: freedom, equity, truth, free will, how to effectively forage flora and fauna in the wild and more. I hope that you will enjoy.


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