Saturday, July 21, 2007

Love That Title

I love a good title. I just saw a reference to a book called Vanity Fire, by John Daniel. I would read that book. Where does one come up with a good title? I always agonize quite a bit over what to title my books. Since I write a historical mystery series set in Oklahoma, I try to find something that is both eye-catching and ethnic. If it has something to do with the story, all the better.

For the first book in my Alafair Tucker series, I went through several titles before I landed on The Old Buzzard Had It Coming. Since the book takes place in Oklahoma in the dead of the winter of 1912, I first tried to find a title with the word “cold” in it, as in “cold blooded murder”. For a long time, the working title was Blood Run Cold, but in the end, I decided that wasn’t ethnic enough, and changed it to He Had It Coming, since the murder victim is quite a horrible person. Then, one day my mother described a man who lived in her apartment complex as an “old buzzard”. Aha!

Now, I admit that The Old Buzzard Had It Coming is not the most melliflous title, nor does it flow trippingly off the tongue. Truth is, I really expected my publisher to tell me to change it, since I went with it in the first place just to get his attention. To my surprise, they stuck with it, and it's done me well. It is eye-catching, and that’s the point. In fact, someone described it to me as “like a kick in the gut.” I’ve grown quite fond of it.

Early on, my sister-in-law Dolores couldn’t quite remember how the title went and called it The Old Coot Deserved What He Got, which is pretty good, too. In fact, we considered an entire series with similar titles: The Miserable Son-of-a-Gun Got What Was Coming to Him, The Skunk Couldn’t Have Died Soon Enough, and the like.

That would have been fun. Instead, I called the second one Hornswoggled. I actually didn't come up with that one. My husband dreamed it. I had been worrying to him for weeks about a title. It had to be something Western, and I wanted to come up with one-word term for fooled and misled. He simply woke up one morning and said, "I have your title."

It's getting harder and harder to think of intreguing titles. I went with The Drop Edge of Yonder for the third book. I like it because it's colorful, but hardly anyone not from Texas knows what it means. It doesn't matter, as long as it entices people to read the book and find out.

And now I'm off to read Away With the Fairies , by Kerry Greenwood.

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