Book Titles, Part 2

Now that you’ve had the serious advice, here’s some fun with book titles!

Writing (17 of 30)

  • Martin at the NY Times suggests Noun + Number of Nouns or Somebody’s Something
  • Promise how to change something
  • Use satisfying numbers: 3, 7, 10, 99
  • Hyatt offers four choices: Make a promise, Offer intrigue, Identify a need, Explain the content
  • Some say you should use alliteration or spoonerisms

And here’s a fun little Best-Selling Title Generator

Writing (10 of 30)

Try one of the following cliche titles:

  • The Art of ______
  • ______ For Dummies
  • Transforming _______
  • The Joy of [something not usually thought of as joyful]
  • The End of [something people don’t usually want to end]
  • Extreme _______
  • The [something important] playbook/guidebook/handbook
  • Breakthrough _______
  • How to [verb] {adjective]
  • [Outrageous Claim] – how something will do something
  • The [number} Sins/Secrets of Something
  • [Made-up Word You Sincerely Hope Will Become a Meme]

And once you’ve picked a title, just for fun here’s a Title Scorer to see if your title will hit Number One!

How To Title a Book

I get this question all the time over on WikiAnswers … “What is a good title for a story/book about _____?”

Writing (27 of 30)

So how do you find a good title for your book? Here are a few tips:

  • Finish the book first (unless the perfect title “just comes to you” along the way) – the best titles come from something within the work, so unless you’ve finished, you might miss the perfect line or phrase that creates your title
  • Try a double meaning – the most memorable titles are ones that can mean several things depending on how you look at it
  • Be sure the title matches the story – sometimes you have what seems to be the perfect title, then when you’ve finished the story, the title doesn’t fit any more. Be sure to check the fit before you slap the title onto the cover
  • Make it short – your title should be short enough to type, tweet, or say easily
  • Remember your voice and POV – if you’ve written in third person point of view, don’t title the book “The Day I Learned The Truth”
  • Use precise nouns and active verbs – while there’s no actual algorithm for writing book titles, you can be sure that “Desire Under the Elms” beats “Love Under the Trees” as a title
  • Grab their attention – your title should be something that “hooks” a passer-by and interest them enough to make them pick up the book and check it out
  • Give an idea of what’s to come – your title should hint at what’s in store for the reader inside your book, but not give away any important plot points
  • Make it easy to say – the title should be simple, easy to remember and say, and not something that would embarrass your friends to ask about in a bookstore
  • Make it something you can say 1,000 times – you’re going to be saying your own title thousands of times, so make it something

For You: The Lads Board a Train

This is part of the scene where the lads (and Emily) head off to New York for their new case:

A few last-minute arrivals bustled over, and were hurried on board. With a whoosh of steam and a series of great jerks, the double engines pulled us away from the station. A cloud of cinders flew past the windows, sparkling in the gloom, and the scent of wood smoke stung my nose. That ash would get everywhere if we opened the windows or left the car. Our clothing would require a good cleaning once we reached our destination. I had to remember that it was small price to pay for such a speedy journey. After all, it had taken our grandparents months to travel across the country. Just because I’d prefer to be relaxing within my own drawing room was no reason to disparage the wonders of modern technology[ Check etymology].

Emily and Barbara stared eagerly out the windows as we rode through the Sacramento Valley. This late in the year, the harvest was all gathered, but the valley was still green and lovely. The train swayed and jerked, and the constant rattle of the wheels lulled one into a daze. I pulled out The Mysterious Island, a new volume by Jules Verne. That, a couple more new books and a few old favorites should last the journey. I didn’t look up until the train began to climb the Sierras. The setting sun turned the rocks of the mountains golden. My appreciation of nature may be less than that of modern convenience, but I can recognize beauty when I see it.


We broke out the fried chicken dinner Mrs. Rowell had packed, and made use of the dining table. The porter, when summoned, was happy to fetch a coffee service and pour the wine, especially when I dropped another coin into his palm. These fellows made little or nothing from the big bugs of the railroad, and depended on their tips to make ends meet. A well-greased wheel moves easiest, and Chance Knight is all for greasing the wheels of society. “George” agreed to keep the coffee pot filled for us.

“If you like, sir,” he added, “I can provide an informative lecture when we reach the most interesting spots on the journey.”

“Oh, we should enjoy that very much,” cried Emily. “I’m certain you have seen every inch of the countryside by now.”

“George” smiled and nodded his curly head. “Yes’m, and I’ve got some mighty interesting stories, too. You’d be surprised what happens on a train.”

The landscape outside the windows changed from rolling fields to rugged cliffs and ravines and broken ridges, covered by dense stands of pine. The odor of the evergreens overpowered even the scent of the ash flying alongside the windows. I reached for my book.

“About our conversation the other day…” Emily said with a smile that raised the hackles on the back of my neck.

Kye had the audacity to chuckle.

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” I said, opening the novel pointedly.

“Your memory is perfect, my dear. You are well aware that I am discussing Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid.”

30 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

As the year draws to a close, writers everywhere dream up something new to write: their list of resolutions.
Here are my top 5 resolutions for writers:
  • Read – both for pleasure and for research. See how the experts do it and lose yourself in someone else’s universe.
  • Write – even if you don’t feel inspired. Just plant your butt in that chair and get to work. Make the time to write every day.
  • Rewrite – trust me, that first draft isn’t the perfect gem you think it is. The second one’s probably not that much better. Keep polishing until you’ve got something to be proud of.
  • Jump – take the plunge and submit that project. Get an agent. Try for a publishing house.
  • Save – for Pete’s sake, back up your computer! Make it a habit to do this at least once a week.


Author J.A. Konrath has the following to add to your list:
Newbie Writer Resolutions
  • I will start/finish the damn book
  • I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth
  • I will attend at least one writer’s conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers
  • I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to
  • I will join a critique group. If one doesn’t exist, I will start one at the local bookstore or library
  • I will finish every story I start
  • I will listen to criticism
  • I will create/update my website
  • I will master the query process and search for an agent
  • I’ll quit procrastinating in the form of research, outlines, synopses, taking classes, reading how-to books, talking about writing, and actually write something
  • I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing–and I’m a lot more talented than that guy

Professional Writer Resolutions

  • I will keep my website updated
  • I will keep up with my blog and social networks
  • I will schedule bookstore signings, and while at the bookstore I’ll meet and greet the customers rather than sit dejected in the corner
  • I will send out a newsletter, emphasizing what I have to offer rather than what I have for sale, and I won’t send out more than four a year
  • I will learn to speak in public, even if I think I already know how
  • I will make selling my books my responsibility, not my publisher’s
  • I will stay in touch with my fans
  • I will contact local libraries, and tell them I’m available for speaking engagements
  • I will attend as many writing conferences as I can afford
  • I will spend a large portion of my advance on self-promotion
  • I will help out other writers
  • I will not get jealous, will never compare myself to my peers, and will cleanse my soul of envy
  • I will be accessible, amiable, and enthusiastic
  • I will do one thing every day to self-promote  I will always remember where I came from



Merry Christmas!


Happy holidays to all my readers! I hope you have a great one, whichever one you celebrate, and that 2016 is even better than 2015.




FB_Cowboy_Santa1 FB_Cowboy_Santa2

In old San Francisco, the lads have decorated their house – probably not with the sort of decorations I’ve got on my tree, but you can bet the place is decked out top to bottom.




Carmela has the day off, but she’s left a feast for the lads to nibble on (in between parties). San Francisco’s favorite bachelors aren’t going to spend the day loafing by themselves, after all.


What sorts of presents do you think the lads will get this year?


A Writing Retreat

As most of my followers already know, I’ve just gotten back from a “working vacation” where I spent most of my time writing Book 2. I got somewhere around five chapters done in just over two days.


Here are some ideas for planning your own (not too expensive) writing retreat:

  • Take the train – this is what I did. Just book a short train trip, either round-trip or one-way and fly or drive the return trip. There won’t be any WiFi to distract you, and cellphone coverage will likely be spotty as well, so you’ll be forced to knuckle down and get that writing done.
  • Get a room – splurge on a local hotel you’ve always wanted to try out. Even just a weekend away from the usual setting can be enough to stir your creative juices, and you won’t have to cook or make the bed.
  • Rent an RV – just drive somewhere fairly scenic and park. Stay as long as you like. The downside is that you have to do your own cooking and cleaning.
  • Go off season– you can often get a private cabin, condo or other location for cut-rate prices during the off season. Visit the beach during the winter, or the ski lodge during summer. You’re not going there for the socializing, anyway.
  • Set your alerts – most of those travel-booking sites have alerts you can set up to email you when there are special deals or when prices drop below a certain level. Keep an eye on your favorite spots and book a retreat when prices are low.
  • Go off the grid – if you can’t afford any of the above ideas, you can have a retreat at home if you steel yourself and shut off all the distractions. Set a time and shut off everything except the essentials. No internet, no cellphone, no TV or video games. You might even consider going whole-hog and writing longhand on paper, just to avoid temptation.

I recommend a retreat for every writer, even if it’s only for a few days, as mine has been. Just getting away from the routine can result in a great jump-start for your project. Oh, and  that train trip? Going to do it again next year – you can bet on it!

ZephyrArt2015 (2 of 34)

25 Fantastic Gifts for Writers

GiftGivingDon’t know what to get that writer for Christmas? Here are some great ideas:

A genuine Leather Notebook Gift_Notebook






Aqua Notes for those ideas that pop up in the shower Gift_Aqua

Gift_Dock An iPad and tablet workstation

Writer’s Block … literallyGift_Block

Gift_ToolboxThe Writer’s Toolbox kit

An Out of Print shirt or tote bag – out of print book titles

Writer’s Remedy – a bottle of magnetic wordsGift_Remedy








Space Age Pen – writes at any angle, any temperature

Gift_KeysTypewriter key jewelry

Something from Litographs – literary shirts, totes, even tattoos


The Rumpus Mug – just read it … your writer will agree

Gift_BagA good, solid bag

Bookends, of course Gift_Bookend

The Storymatic – 6 trillion stories in one box


Gift_SoapWriter’s Block soap

A writer’s clock Gift_Clock

An antique (or reproduction) portable writing desk


Gift_Journals Journals, of course

A smartass mug Gift_Mug

A really nice pen and/or pencil set


Gift_Typewriter An actual typewriter

And, of course … books!


Books about writing or books just for reading

And for those with a little more money to spend:

  • A session with a literary editor
  • A stay at a writing retreat (or just a nice, quiet hotel)
  • The mod notebook – a notebook that syncs to the cloud

Best of the West

I’m working on a booklet to give away – a semi-exhaustive list of everything Western (books, movies, TV shows). Here’s a taste.


Top 10 Western TV Shows:

  1. Gunsmoke – Marshal Matt Dillon keeps order in Dodge. Stars: James Arness, Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone
  2. The Rifleman – A rancher and his son, plus a customized Winchester rifle. Stars: Chuck Connors, Johnny Crawford, Paul Fix
  3. Rawhide – The crew of a cattle drive run into adventures every week. Stars: Paul Brinegar, Clint Eastwood, Steve Raines
  4. Bonanza – The adventures of a rancher and his three sons. Stars: Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Dan Blocker
  5. Maverick – A gambling family travels around, looking for card games and adventure. Stars: James Garner, Jack Kelly, Roger Moore
  6. Wagon Train – The adventures of a wagon train on the way to California. Stars: Frank McGrath, Terry Wilson, Robert Horton
  7. Have Gun, Will Travel – The adventures of a gentlemanly gunman for hire. Stars: Richard Boone, Kam Tong, Hal Needham
  8. The Big Valley – The adventures of the Barkley family. Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Long, Lee Majors
  9. Cheyenne – He roams the west, looking for adventure. Stars: Clint Walker, Clyde Howdy, Chuck Hicks
  10. The High Chaparral – The adventures of the Cannon family. Stars: Leif Erickson, Cameron Mitchell, Henry Darrow

Social Media 101: Instagram and Pinterest

These two are the visual social media platforms – you post photos instead of just text. Here are some tips and tricks for writers:


  • Send your book with traveling friends and have them post photos
  • Follow bloggers who review books and fellow authors
  • Snap photos of what you’re reading
  • Snap photos of what you’re writing
  • According to Socialbakers, “the top brands on Instagram have a post engagement rate 47% higher than on Twitter.”


  • Add the “pin it” button to your browser
  • Make an “If you like ___ you’ll like my book” board (covers of similar titles)
  • Make “People and Places” board for people who look like your characters and places your characters would have visited or lived in
  • Make a board for cover art and behind the scenes images
  • Make Lives of Your Characters boards – what they’d wear, eat, visit, etc.
  • Make a quotes board: reading, writing, books, authors, whatever you like
  • Make a visual writing prompt board with provocative photos
  • Pin images and add quotes from your books
  • Make a Best bookstores or libraries board
  • Data shows that since 2011, “the number of Pinterest users going from the platform to a website has multiplied seven times, far outstripping Twitter and others.”

Social Media 101: Twitter

Here’s some more information from the Western Fictioneers Conference:

  • Type into the search function words with hash tags #amreading or #GoodReads
  • Follow other authors and organizations
  • See who other Tweeps are following or who is following them
  • Show some personality
  • Followers want content that is credible, intelligent, and valuable.
  • Don’t use up your entire 140 characters – leave room for re-tweeters
  • #ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) on recycled posts
  • More than 70% of re-tweeted content is about news, and more than 50% of re-tweeted content is either instructional or entertainment-related.
  • Using the words “Please Re-Tweet” will generate 4 times more re-tweets.
  • You’re more likely to get re-tweets on the weekend
  • Use no more than two hash tags (#) to avoid clutter.
  • 5/5/5 Rule – 5 minutes responding, 5 minutes searching, 5 minutes tweeting
  • Pay with a Tweet – readers can download a freebie if they tweet about it. Costs minimal amount per tweet.
  • Schedule tweets at different times for followers in different time zones
  • Use Followerwonk to find optimal posting time tailored to your audience
  • Create a tweet that promotes one of your books, preferably with an image attached and then pin the tweet to the top of your feed. Doing this will help other authors find your book tweet to promote. Also, when people check out your profile, the first thing they see will be your book tweet, which again will help build awareness