Choosing Book Titles

Today, my good friend and award-winning prolific author, Marilyn Meredith, visits my blog to discuss how she comes up with titles for her novels. Having written dozens of books, she knows what she’s talking about. Tell us how you do it, Marilyn.

Thanks, John. Every author has his or her own way of doing this—but for me it’s been different for each of my books. When I started the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, the first book I wrote, Deadly Trail, was not the first book published. Deadly Omen was the one my then publisher wanted. With two books having the word deadly in them, for a few short moments I considered having the word Deadly in every title. However, I realized that would be quite limiting.

Unequally Yoked is about a problem in Tempe’s marriage to Hutch because of his Christian beliefs and her using Indian mysticism to solve crimes. This becomes an ongoing problem for them.AColdDeath-lg

The title Intervention refers to something that happens in the story. The Wing Beat is the wing beat of an owl, the harbinger of danger. I don’t think Calling the Dead needs any explanation. Judgment Fire is about fires and in one case the judgment that comes along with it. Kindred Spirits refers to Tempe and new friends she meets—but it also is in honor of the Tolowa woman I met and who gave me some great ideas for this book and became a close friend.

Dispel the Mist and Invisible Path come from Indian sayings and they fit what happens in the mysteries.

Bears With Us is both a play on words and describes what is happening when bears invade Bear Creek. Raging Water is self-explanatory.

Spirit Shapes involves a haunted house, ghosts and spirits. And yes, River Spirits is just that, spirits that come up from the river.

Seldom Traveled is also based on an Indian’s philosophy and fits the places where Tempe has to go. The latest in the series, A Cold Death can be taken two ways.

Some of these titles are what inspired the book, others came to me while I was writing. It isn’t a mysterious process to me, though some titles I know from the beginning, others come later.

For you writers out there, do you have a particular formula for creating a title?


A quick look at Marilyn’s new release: A Cold Death.

Deputy Tempe Crabtree and her husband answer the call for help with unruly guests visiting a closed summer camp during a huge snow storm and are trapped there along with the others. One is a murderer.

Anyone who orders any of my books from the publisher’s website:

can get 10% off by entering MP20 coupon code in the shopping cart.

This is good all the time for all my books, E-books and print books.

On Amazon:

Marilyn Meredith’s published book count is nearing 40. She is one of the founding members of the San Joaquin chapter of Sister in Crime. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taMe at Danas quiltught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra, a place with many similarities to Tempe Crabtree’s patrol area. Webpage: Blog: and you can follow her on Facebook.

Contest: Once again I’m going to use the name of the person who comments on the most blogs on my tour for the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery—which may be the last in the series.

Tomorrow I’ll be here: talking about, “Lessons I Learned Along the Way.”






Published by John M. Wills

Award-winning author and freelance writer. Published ten books in addition to more thant 200 articles, short stories, and poetry. Writing professionally since retiring from the FBI in 2004.

17 thoughts on “Choosing Book Titles

  1. Marilyn, your method of picking a novel sounds like mine…not one particular process. I like it when the title comes to me early, so I can call the book by its name and make sure the book embraces/embodies the title. Of course I do the research to make sure my title is not ‘taken’ already. I’ve found that many of my titles are shared by musical groups…interesting, hmm? Good luck with your new book Marilyn!

  2. I’m always fascinated how authors come up with titles. I like how your story titles interlock a theme. I wanted to use one word in all my titles also but haven’t found the right word yet. Maybe for my next series. Thanks for sharing Colleen Mooney

  3. I think book titles are important, just like with covers. What I like especially about yours are they’re short but convey a lot. And to come up with 40! (are you really thinking of ending your Tempe series? Please say no…)

  4. This was fun to read. Titles are my weak point when it comes to being a writer. It sounds like you do it easily, Marilyn. I envy that and also your ability to pump out one book right after another. You remain an inspiration to all of us.

  5. I’ve always liked your book titles and, having published so many books, you’ve had to come up with lots. I think most of you know you enjoy finding that just-right title.

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