Tag Archives: Book Titles

Finding Novel Titles by Pat Bertram

Finding a title is not an easy task. My novels all had simple working titles: The Red Death, The Chameleon, The Gangster Book, The Alien Book, but except for The Red Death, none of those titles were ever possible for the real title.

I considered using the title The Red Death for my story about Colorado in the grip of an epidemic since  the quarantine mirrored the middle ages, though in a hi-tech way, but the name had already been used several times. And anyway, from the very first, I’d planned on using A Spark of Heavenly Fire. That was my inspiration for the book, the Washington Irving quote: “There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” I wanted to tell the story of ordinary women, women who seemed colorless in ordinary times, but who blazed brightly in dark times. When I found no takers for the book, I thought perhaps the title didn’t reflect the story, so I changed it to In the Dark Hour. And I got an agent. She couldn’t sell the book, so when my contract was up, I changed the title back to A Spark of Heavenly Fire. And that’s the title Second Wind Publishing released it under.

I had to try several times before I got the title of More Deaths Than One right. The working title was The Chameleon but that was never a real contender since I didn’t want to give the story away. So first I used the Law of the Jungle, which amused me since the jungle was so much a part of the story. Also, at one point I had my hero say that the villain might be above the law, but he wasn’t above the law of the jungle. Both the line in the book and the title ended up being deleted because they were too trite, so next I went with Nature of the Beast. It was adequate, and I would have stuck with it despite its triteness, but then I came across a couplet from Oscar Wilde’s “Ballad of Reading Gaol”: He who lives more lives than one/More deaths than one must die. Since my hero appeared to have more lives (and deaths) than one, More Deaths Than One struck me as the perfect title.

Daughter Am I, my gangster book, only had one previous title: Sins of the Fathers, though really it should have been Sins of the Grandfathers. Then I found the Rudyard Kipling quote: “Daughter am I in my mother’s house but mistress in my own.” The quote would have more accurately described the theme of the book if it were “daughter am I in my father’s house,” but I was taken with the title Daughter Am I and decided it was close enough.

Which brings me to my final novel, Light Bringer. Sad to say, I haven’t a single story to tell about the title. Even though the working title was The Alien Book (because it was meant to debunk alien/UFO myths), I always knew the title was Light Bringer. Light is the theme of the book, and the Light Bringer (planet X) was the reason for the story.

So, how did you find the title(s) of your book(s)?

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Going Fast by J J Dare

Yesterday, my neighbor and I stood outside discussing the latest news in the ‘hood. As we were talking, thunder clouds started circling overhead.

“They’re spinning toward morning. Garbage ditches tomorrow,” he commented. Looking up again, he remarked, “Going fast.”

I understood the meaning behind the idioms. Clouds were moving toward the east, heavy rain in the night will flood the ditches and debris will float (compliments of our city’s horrible drainage system), and the thunderstorms will move quickly through the area.

As we were talking, I felt that familiar brain tickle. My next story was in the amoeba stage. The local dialect was shelved in favor of generic. While holding up my end of the conversation, I was mentally shaping the first paragraph:

Above my head, heavy malevolent clouds the color of a dying iris were spinning furiously toward the east. A strong wind pushed me away from the sunset, but I pushed back even as the rain poured down. Storm God or no, I was not turning around. I was leaving the pain behind and my only hope was to move toward the end of the dying day.

My neighbor unknowingly picked the title of my book. Going Fast is joining my multitude of WIPs. I don’t have a synopsis yet. I don’t know if the main character will be male, female or even human. I have no idea the genre of my latest escapade. All I have is the beginning and the title.

I like simple titles. I’m more comfortable with two words or less. I don’t know if that’s saying something about my minimalistic tendencies or simple laziness. Looking through my overweight writing folder, most of the titles are minimalists.

Collide, Dog, Heritage, Snow People, and Zero are only a few in the triple-digit pack. ABC, Don’t Know and Uhmm are a few of my lazier titles. Regardless of minimalism or laziness, I know the story (or at least the beginning) behind every title.

How do you pick your titles? Do you write the story before you title it or does the title itself inspire the story? Does inspiration for stories strike you at will or do you have to will it to appear?

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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SNARE – Uncovered

I’ve received raves for the cover of my debut suspense thriller STACCATO, so the pressure was on to think of equally compelling ideas for my latest release.

This project has held the title ICE ON FIRE since its inception as a screenplay, but after receiving input from quite a few published novelists I decided stay with the musical theme for Book Two of the Deputy Hawk/Inola Walela thriller series. In doing so I had to come up with a different title—a single word grabber more relating to this rock music themed thriller. Not an easy task, believe me.

Many suggestions were offered, but SNARE kept coming to my mind and wouldn’t let go. I try my best to implement titles that signify more than one element relating to the plot. The word “snare” has not only has a musical connotation, but also means caught in a trap—which every character in the novel finds themselves ensnared in.

Once the title was nailed down I enlisted the assistance of the incredibly talented designer Chantelle Aimée Osman for the crucial task of coming up with ideas for the cover most fitting the new title. Chantelle insisted I stay with the “hands” theme. She was absolutely right. Due to her innovative efforts, SNARE truly is a killer cover.

SNARE is slated for a limited release December 28th and will be available to a wider audience beginning February 22, 2011.

As with STACCATO, I look forward to taking you on the journey to publication for this release as well.

So, what do you think? Does the title work for you? Is this cover an eye catcher? I look forward to your comments.

Be the first to read the first 25 pages of SNARE before the official release by going to my website.

 

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel STACCATO, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon and Kindle. If you’re in the Arizona area, STACCATO can be found at Borders Scottsdale Waterfront, The Well Red Coyote, and Changing Hands Bookstore.

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Stormy Weather — Flash Flood? — Heat Wave? — by Sherrie Hansen

My latest release, Stormy Weather, is the first in a trilogy about three sisters – Rachael, Michelle, and Tracy Jones. I am heavy into revisions on the second in the series – Waterlily, and hope it will be released in June of this year.  Tracy’s book, Merry Go Round, will hopefully be ready by the end of 2010.

While there is no single plot that weaves the three books together (a la Nora Roberts) or unresolved cliffhangers left dangling from book to book (a la Debbie Macomber), there are repeat appearances by the sisters, their parents, and a few, key secondary characters in each of the books, and character arcs that span the entire series. While each book stands alone, my hope is that once people become invested in the Jones family, they will want to read all three books.

Writing a trilogy has been fun – I know the family well by now. It’s easier to get into the characters since many of them were introduced in the first book. On the down side, I’ve needed to look up all kinds of names and other little details to be sure they are the same from book to book (which I expected). Aside from that, character consistency has been my biggest challenge – does Rae’s voice sound the same in Waterlily as it did in Stormy Weather? Her role in the family and status in life has changed a great deal by the time Waterlily opens.  (I don’t want to give away the ending, should you not have read Stormy Weather.) But I wonder, should her voice reflect those changes? Is she more cynical now? Softer? More content? Less snarky than she was at the beginning of her book?

The other thing that has really started to bother me is that the names of my three books are totally unrelated. My plan has always been to have the covers of the books be linked by their style: a photo on top, and a quilt block on the bottom. Stormy Weather has a photo of a rainbow in a stormy sky on top and a rainbow quilt block on the bottom. I’ve got a wonderful photo of a water lily to use on the top of Waterlily’s cover, and I plan to make a quilt block with a pink waterlily blossoming in a pond of watercolor hues for the bottom. I just found the perfect photo for the top of Merry Go Round – an old-fashioned carousel horse, taken by one of my friends from Gather. (Thank you, Rose!) The quilt on the bottom will be some sort of a spinning pin wheel design in rich pastels to match the horse’s finery.

So, if I have a common theme in the design of the book covers, do you think the names of the books still need to be related? I’m curious to see if you think this is a problem.

I love the way Nora Roberts weaves together the titles of her trilogies – my favorite of her trios are titled Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, and Heart of the Sea. Some of her series are even more obviously linked – Born in Fire, Born in Ice, Born in Shame, or Key of Light, Key of Knowledge, Key of Valor.

In Lyn Cote’s Women of Ivy Manor series, each book is named – simply and elegantly – after the main character: Bette, Chloe, Leigh, and Carly.

In Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cover series, each book is named after the street address of the main character, with each sequential book having a house number one number higher. (16 Lighthouse Road, 204 …, 311…, 44…, 50…, 6…, 74…, 8…, 92 Pacific Boulevard.) Then there are the Dakota series, and the Blossom Street series, also cleverly named to alert the reader that these books are continuations of a series.

Since it’s too late for me to change the name of Stormy Weather to Rachael, if I want the titles of my trilogy to be in sync, I’m left with the option of somehow tying the names of the remaining two books to something weather related.

I refuse to do something so obvious as Stormy Weather, Cold Weather, and Hot Weather, so…

The imagery in waterlily is tied to water (Michelle has a lily pond, Jake is a championship swimmer, Michelle is too self-conscious to be seen in a swimming suit, a pivotal scene occurs in the water, under the camouflage of a new moon). The book could conceivably be called Starry, Starry Night, Trace of Moisture, Rainy Days and Mondays, Scattered Showers, Summer Solstice, Moon Shadow, Misty in the Moonlight…

In Merry Go Round, Tracy’s entire world is turned on end (an atmospheric inversion?) when her husband, a pastor, and the father of their three children, leaves her for another man. I can think of a few weather-related terms that might work for a title in this case, too:  Total Eclipse of the Heart (yes, I’m sensing a theme here – I like the names of songs) , Unstable Air, Updraft, Wind Shift, Whirlwind, Heat Wave…

Since I’m still working on both the second and third book in the trilogy, I could weave in the needed imagery to make any of these new names work.

Thoughts? Ideas? Leave well-enough alone?  What are your expectations as a reader when you begin a trilogy?

If you’re a writer – have you ever had to change the title of your book at the last minute? If so, how did it impact your work?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Filed under books, fiction, Sherrie Hansen, writing

Finding the Right Title

Finding the right title for my story, or book, is an experience similar to naming a child. It’s gotten a little easier for me, but still consider it a daunting task. I look for titles that haven’t been used before, even if names and titles aren’t copyrighted.

For my mystery thriller series, I try for ominous-sounding names that arouse curiosity and get people interested. The first book in the series, Murder in Winnebago County, laid around for years without a title. I could not think of one, so that’s what I called it. When I submitted the manuscript to a contest, I threw the title on, hoping a better one would come to me along the way. When I started working with my publisher to get the book in print, I asked if he could think of a better name. He said he liked the rural-sounding title. Murder in Winnebago County it was.

Buried in Wolf Lake was fairly easy to title after I decided on a name for the lake. The title for the next book in the series, An Altar by the River, came to me when I was running on the treadmill and thinking about the plot. I ask a number of people what they think about the title before I make it “official”.

A few people have noted the water theme in my mystery thriller series. I live in a Minnesota county where there are two rivers, three hundred lakes, numerous creeks, ponds and marshes. Including water in the storyline of my books, and consequently, the titles, is inevitable.

Many of the classics have simple titles that don‘t reveal much about the content: Moby Dick, Little Women, Oliver Twist. Others are stronger-sounding and invite questions about their content: The Last of the Mohicans, A Farewell to Arms, Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird. I often wonder how authors choose the names.

I went to a book signing of a famous author who has a number of books in a series. His books are named before he writes them. He said one book did not have anything in it that related to the title, so he had to add a line to make a connection between the story and the title.

Is finding a title for your work an easy, or difficult task? How do you decide on the titles? Do you do a search to see if the title has already been used, or doesn‘t that matter to you?

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