Thursday, March 15, 2012

What's in a name?

I got a call from my publisher today. They're busy trying to wrap up the edits on Long Tall Lester so they can get it into print in April.

They just had one problem. They didn't like the subtitle: The Orneriest Encyclopedia Salesman in the West.

I've got to admit, I never gave that part of it much thought.

I wanted some kind of subtitle, because I thought it added a nice period flavor, as in those old melodramas. And I thought the title I picked was funny and gave a pretty good picture of what the story was about.

But my editor said they didn't find Lester to be particularly ornery. And after a moment's thought, I had to agree with him. The whole point of the story is that Lester defeats the outlaw Billy Black through brains, not brawn. I guess I had always intended the subtitle to be ironic.

He gave me three alternatives, and also suggested I offer my own.

The three alternatives were: slickest, shrewdest, cleverest.

Think, Todd. Think. And fast. They're giving me first dibs, and if I don't respond quickly, like in an hour or so, I'll miss my chance. And rightfully so.

My mind went into hyperdrive. Lester is clever, but that doesn't really give any sense of conflict. It also doesn't roll trippingly off the tongue (of course, in that respect, orneriest was worse).

Slickest provides some nice alliteration. Slickest... enCyclopedia... Salesman. But, like orneriest, it doesn't really describe what he's like.

And shrewdest just make him sound like an evil banker.

So I decided to offer my own suggestion. Wiliest? No. Wisest? Yuck.

Quickest? Hmm, not bad. Wait. Not quickest. Fastest. As in Fastest Gun in the West. After all, Lester doesn't wield a gun. He wields an encyclopedia. And he unloads the five sets he brought with him pretty quickly.

So I sent them my suggestion: Long Tall Lester, or The Fastest Encyclopedia Salesman in the West.

They liked it. And that's the title you'll see it come out under in April.

I should be happy. It is a decent title.

So why does the same worrisome thought keep circling my mind?

Fastest? That's the best you could come up with?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Travails of a playwright

So last week I was all excited for my New York City debut as Thespian Production was getting ready to perform my 10-minute drama The Wanderer.  No longer would I be a mere playwright. I would be an off-off-Broadway playwright.

The debut would be completely vicarious. The Big Apple is a long (and expensive) way to go for a 10-minute play. And besides, the good folks in the theater company promised they would send me programs as well as any reviews or other feedback they received.

And so it was with bated breath that I clicked over to their website, hoping to see my the title of my play in the lineup, maybe even get a glimpse of the cast.

Well, the cast photos were all there. There was just one problem. None of those bright shining faces were from my play.

My breath bating even more, I checked the lineup. Nope, my play wasn't listed.

I clicked around the website. No mention of The Wanderer anywhere.

The truth was clear. Paul and his cantankerous father Edmund were never going to have that talk in the police station.

With calmer breath, I sent the organizer an email, asking what happened and whether they had plans to do my play at a later time.

I mean, I get it. This is show biz, folks. Budgets are cut. Seasons are rearranged. Directors bail.

But it would be nice if they told me. Here it is a week later and I still haven't heard a peep out of them.

And so on Sunday, I submitted that play to five more contests.

Maybe it won't ever get done in NYC. But it will get done, one way or another.