Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Obscure word choice for titles will spare you weekly heartbreak

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Obscure word choice for titles will spare you weekly heartbreak

About three times a week I receive a Google news alert that, at least for a few seconds, makes me feel as though perhaps someone out there in a place like Bald Knob, Arkansas (a real place by the way, check it), is reading and reviewing one of my novels.

But no, no. They're not. In fact, the "news" that triggered the email alert is more than likely to be the result of a middle-aged man blogging enthusiastically about video games from his mother's faux wood-paneled basement while dressed in boxer shorts and with a cornflake glued to his chin from the breakfast he ate six hours ago.

"Slow Recoil ... " arrives the promising email heading. Ahhh, my second novel based on the after effects of war in the former Yugoslavia is still drawing chatter from the lit crowd, I see. But click it open and the full story is revealed: "Slow recoil is just one feature of the new X1000 as players from around the world celebrate the newly calibrated digital firing mechanisms that make killing others on screen feel so much more realistic."

Hmmm, ok. Weird. But I get it. Perhaps I should have narrowed my keyword search to something like “Slow Recoil book by C.B. Forrest NOT video games or hillbilly postings about the recoil on a shotgun used for duck hunting”.

My first novel, The Weight of Stones, still receives Google alerts. I keep the alert active because one in every twelve alerts actually pertains to the novel. Usually some library in a place like Sober Island, Nova Scotia (real place, check it) has acquired a copy and is announcing it to the community via a leaflet.

But the other eleven Google alerts? These are for the postings and ramblings within the strange and somehow very alarming world of stone and gem collectors. “The weight of stones .... blah blah blah” will invariably send me a Google alert that goes on and on about the size, the colour, the shine and sheen, of a stone or gem. These are always written with an intensity that makes me conjure images of that kid we all knew in Grade 8 who was absolutely obsessed with marbles. How he actually knew the names for different marbles. And how he wouldn’t actually play with them. They were just for looking at and touching. Well guess what? That kid grew up and now has access to a computer and the spare time to blog about his “weight of stones”.

My third novel, The Devil’s Dust? Forget about it. I was really asking for it with this one. There are the alerts that confuse the album ‘Devils and Dust’ by the little-known artist Bruce Springsteen; there are the alerts that delve into a realm of Satanism that I wish not to discuss without my psychologist and a spiritual guide on hand; and there are the alerts that focus on the very theme of the novel, which is to say methamphetamine – and let me tell you, I already know more than I ever wanted to know about that stuff from my earlier research.

All this to say: Dear writer friends, please choose obscure words for the titles of your work. Also, tighten the parameters of your keyword searches as though your self-esteem depends on it.

FYI: the title of my work-in-progress? The Palingenesis of Panentheism

(The Devil's Dust NOVEL by CB Forrest is available in stores now. This is not to be confused with video games, satanic clubs, models of vacuum cleaners etc.)

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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C.B. Forrest

C.B. Forrest is the author of the literary crime novels The Weight of Stones and Slow Recoil.

Go to C.B. Forrest’s Author Page