Cogs was originally a series of books called The Bastard Cadre. Both the series and the first book carried that title, and while I still like The Bastard Cadre as a title, the places where I tried to advertise my work (and introduce the stories to potential readers) very much didn’t like it.
Ad submissions were frequently rejected due to profanity, and as Bastard was right there in the title, there was no simple way around it. Occasionally, ads were let through when I explained Bastard was used in a legitimate way, but I suspect my advertising attempts failed to get off the ground due to the combined forces of overzealous automation and inadequately empowered employees. Either way, going toe to toe against that machinery is a Sisyphean task best avoided.
When I relaunched the series as a web serial, I knew my preferred way of sharing the stories would be through paid advertising. I’m time poor and any spare time I have is better spent creating new stories than annoying people on Twitter.
With that in mind, The Bastard Cadre and www.thebastardcadre.com weren’t fit for purpose, and I needed something new.
Naming things is hard, but it’s also a lot of fun. Every book and episode in the serial has a title. Currently, there are 5 books and 220 episodes on the site with just as many again queued up for release.
I’m told the original titles from The Bastard Cadre were pretty epic (which is what I was aiming for): The Bastard Cadre, The Godslayers’ Legacy, The Dead God’s Shadow… and I want to keep that epic feel, but I also like titles that can be read in different ways. I published a novel a decade ago called d.evolution and that title was intended to be understood as digital evolution until the midpoint of the novel where the reader comes to understand the meaning is really devolution. For some of the episodes in Cogs, I’ve used titles with double meanings that don’t become clear until after the episode has been read. It’s fun how meanings can change over time or be inverted by context.
I played around with lots of titles for the series, some more epic than others, but ultimately, I settled on Cogs (partly because the domain name www.cogs.ws was available). I like that Cogs goes in the opposite direction from the more epic titles; it’s really short and doesn’t attempt to evoke the sweep of imagined histories or the defeat of almighty beings with titles like The Dead God's Shadow or The Godslayers’ Legacy, but instead, is tiny (cogs are typically pretty small), and yet, focusing on something so small side-loads the bigger thing it’s part of. A tiny cog is only tiny, relevant to the machinery it’s part of.
It’s possible I’m overthinking this. As a writer, overthinking the arrangement of words and specific word choices is 50% of what I do.
Still, Cogs can be thought of in several ways, the stories are about a few people who will eventually take on the gods (not a spoiler, it’s in the tagline, “Take a stand. Defy the gods!”). Those people, compared to the gods, are mere cogs; small and insignificant, with almost no power.
The stories are from multiple perspectives and different points in time, but no matter the time between the stories or the differences between the characters, all the stories are connected and contribute to the bigger story. Malicious Designs (book 1) is set twenty-five years after the gods cleansed Rasa (the continent where it all takes place) and killed most of humanity, how and why that happened is the subject of stories that come later in the serial, and how the gods have such power is revealed even later. All these pieces are the individual cogs that make up the bigger story.
I hope the episodes, read one at a time, are an entertaining way to spend five minutes a day, and that over time, just as how complicated machinery is constructed, the story will grow in the reader’s (or even just this writer’s) mind, adding weight and complexity and meaning to that simple, single syllable word until it means something really epic.