When naming a child, modern parents find themselves faced with a Herculean task. It’s not enough to choose a name that sounds strong. Nor is it enough to chose a name out of a baby book. This is the age of the Internet after all. Modern parents must scour the list of most common high income baby names. They must consider how the name will look on an admissions slip, on a resumé, on a loan application. A name that once signified high stature, might find itself dated, co-opted by the lower classes. Today’s “Madison” is tomorrow’s “Maddy.” What you find to be a strong declaration of your cultural heritage, might just damn your little darling to a life on the pole.
I have the same hang ups when it comes to naming my first novel. It had itself a proper English name, “Jimmy the Nightmare Hunter.” It felt good coming off the tongue, like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” or “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” It lent itself to chronological alterations as the series progressed, like “Jimmy the Multimillion Dollar Film Franchise.” Turns out it had such a good ring to it that it virtually shared it’s name with another projector: Sidney (face palm) the Nightmare Hunter.
Now it’s back to ye old drawing board. Perhaps it’s for the best. “Jimmy the Nightmare Hunter,” sounds like a Saturday morning cartoon. The book is closer in tone to a racy Showtime series. This isn’t Little Nemo in Dream Land, it’s Little Nemo meets Hellraiser. Peter Pan versus the town of Silent Hill. It’s a concept rife with contrast and contrast breeds conflict.
This is not just a story about a little boy fending off boogie men with a cardboard shield and a wooden sword. It’s a story of a boy using fairy tale logic against the sophisticated fears of adults. Nightmares don’t always come dressed in Tim Burton’s pinstriped uniform. Sometimes they come wielding foreclosure notices. Sometimes they come as cheating spouses. They’re dressed as alarmist crime statistics, as the strange van circling the block. They are our worst secrets in the mouth of the town gossip. They’re the cigarettes we swore off, the crimes we’ve yet to commit and the high school humiliation we never thought we’d have to live through again.
To borrow a word from Edgar Allen Poe’s vocabulary, nightmares are phantasmagorical. They are abstract forms that shift upon being seen. They’re not goggly-eyed flipper monsters to be dispatched with holy water. Jimmy deserves a better title than “The Nightmare Hunter.” Sure the boy does his fair share of striking down the things that go bump in the night, but he’s not always turning tire gages into light sabers. His naive innocence spares him from so many of the horrors adults around him succumb to. It allows him the luxury of a strong unwavering moral code.
The story has tried on several titles, ill-fitting garments that don’t flatter it’s features. It tried, “The Overcast” on but it sounded too much like “The Mist” or “The Fog.” I didn’t want my story showing up to the party wearing the same dress.
The story has gone by:
A Siege of Shadows
Invasion of Shadows
The Valley of Shadows
The Taking of Pilgrim Valley
Each of which was a little too on the nose (that and I imagine a quick Google search would reveal most of those titles to be taken).
What I do know is that the story could use a rebranding. A fresh coat of red paint. A new title to get it onto your bookshelves and off of the striper pole.