When I was a kid, my family got a dog, a big, broad-shouldered Alaskan malamute who came to us from the shelter with the name Dozer.
“Dozer?” we all said.
“Yes,” they told us. “Because he’s built like a boulder and enjoys barreling into people’s legs with the force of a Medieval battering ram.”
“We’ll take him,” we said.
And take him we did. But the name Dozer had to go. As nutburgers as this dog was, he was not a Dozer. It just didn’t feel right.
So we decided to call him Babe. That lasted approximately twenty minutes, at which point he decimated my mother’s garden with unbridled and unapologetic enthusiasm. “Not Babe,” we said.
Then we called him Yoda, because he had a wrinkly forehead, and because the MT and I were both in the throws of what we now call The Star Wars Years1. But this dog, we soon discovered, was not wise in a Yoda-esque sense. Instead, his intelligence was more of the Anakin Skywalker variety—keen and cunning and often involved working the system and operating outside the law. Rising bread dough left on a counter that we assumed was far out of his reach? Reachable. Lunch left overnight in a zipped backpack? Unzipped. Rat poison cleverly hidden in the back garden? Found2.
Then he ate my Queen Amidala action figure, a final gesture of defiance against his namesake. “Not Yoda,” we all said.
So we decided to call him Max. I don’t remember why. Max. Max. We said it a lot and called him a lot and got used to the sound of that name on our tongues.
“Max,” we said and somehow it just fit.
Like dogs, all books need a name. A good name, a name that is representational of the story within them and just feels right. And like dogs, sometimes you have to go through a few names for a book before you land on the perfect one.
The original title of my novel, THE SHADOW BOYS ARE BREAKING, was not quite right. It was cool sounding, but not quite right for this book and how my publisher wants to position it. I know, I know, it’s hard to say goodbye to an old, familiar title3 but I think we have a newer, sleeker, sexier title that I am really excited about.
Which is the main point of writing this—my book has a new title! And I get to share it with you now! The book, formerly known as THE SHADOW BOYS ARE BREAKING, will now be called….
THIS MONSTROUS THING
Creepy, right? It sounds very Gothic and dark and a little chilling, which is about how I would describe my book. I’m still turning it around in my mouth and my brain and trying to get used to it, but I’m excited. Damn that’s gonna look good on a cover.
And much like Max4, it just sort of…fits.
- It was also about the time that MT dressed up as Yoda for Halloween and was so dedicated to the outfit that she asked my mom to sew together the fingers on her green gloves so she’d only have three, just like Yoda. All our pictures from that Halloween have the MT flashing the perpetual Spock fingers.
- This happened twice. And that dog survived. He was apparently made of steel. Perhaps we should have named him Indestructible.
- I’m primarily mourning the loss of the companion cookbook I was going to write, THE SHAODW BOYS ARE BAKING.
- Rest in peace, old boy. You were a king among psychotic, manic dogs with anger management issues.