Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey



Title Reveal: The First in the Flora Lively Mysteries

A few weeks ago I was asking for advice on the title of the first in my new series of cosy mysteries, and loads of you got involved. It’s been a tough one, because I needed something that would fit the genre but also work with my own ideas about the story. And I had to love it – titles have to resonate with the book’s author because you are the one who will be saying it over and over, and you need to get behind it and believe in the concept totally.

In the end, after going round and round the houses and talking to almost everyone I know about it, and printing out all the possible titles in cool fonts and then shuffling then about for days, I settled on the one I’d started with! Isn’t that always the way? So here it is:

Murder at the Maples

A Flora Lively Mystery: Book 1

Thanks to everyone who commented on my original post – C.B. Wentworth and Kathryn Michaels, this was your favourite too 🙂 Murder at the Maples will be launched at the end of July/beginning of August, and I’ll be sending the final draft out to beta readers in a couple of weeks. I’m still looking for a couple more beta readers (don’t worry if you’ve already contacted me, I’ll be in touch soon), so if you’re interested here’s some more information:

  • You’ll need to be able to read it within a week if possible
  • I can send either the whole book or just the first few chapters
  • You can receive the manuscript in epub, Kindle or pdf format

All you need to do is read it and send me your comments, which can be as detailed or brief as you like. I may ask a couple of questions upfront, things to look out for etc, but generally I’m just interested in your reactions/thoughts about the story and characters. Send me an email at joannegphillips (at) gmail (dot) com and let me know if you’re interested 🙂

Okay! Back to editing for me.

Help With Titles Needed

You might have noticed that I’ve been a bit lax with my blog posts lately. The reason is, I’ve been using every available opportunity to write  – and the first in my new cosy mystery series about Flora Lively is coming on nicely.

But I’m not making any inroads into the sticky problem of a title. ‘Oh, come on, Jo,’ I hear you cry, ‘It’s not that difficult to think of a title!’ No, it isn’t. In fact, I’ve thought of loads of titles! The problem is, this is the first in a series in a new genre for me and I want to be sure of a couple of things:

  1. The title has to let people know it’s a cosy mystery
  2. The title has to be something that will lend itself to a series of similar or recognisable titles. For example, Edie Clare’s Never … series (Never Buried, Never Kissed Goodnight etc) is brilliant at this.

I’m toying with the idea of going with Flora Lively and the … for each book, like Agatha Raisin, for example, or Harry Potter. If I do this, the title of the book(s) has to be something which follows on from this smoothly. Or I may not use that, I might just have the title, then the subtitle of A Flora Lively Mystery: Book 1 etc.

Other points to consider (come on, stay with me – I’m relying on you):

  • She’s not a private investigator, just someone who happens upon mysteries and deaths and puzzles, so I want the title to reflect that too.
  • There will be humour in the books but it’s not a comedy as such.
  • I’m not averse to obscure titles – catchy is good – but I want it to let the reader have an idea of what they’re getting.
  • I don’t mind using words like mystery, murder, death, the case of etc, but don’t want it to go too dark.
  • I don’t mind a motif – flowers, say, or something else – provided it has enough in it to run on to at least 10 titles

Here’s a very brief (and not very sophisticated) synopsis of Book 1:

Flora Lively’s surrogate grandmother Grace moved into the Maples Retirement Village (I’m not glued to the name The Maples) after the death of her husband six months ago. She was settled and happy until the arrival of the mysterious Mr Felix, who Grace swears is a boy she knew as a child when she was a member of The Joan of Arc club at boarding school. Flora knows there is something Grace isn’t telling her – why is she so afraid of this man? What on earth could she have done to him to believe he is hell-bent on revenge? When Grace’s pet terrier dies in odd circumstances, Grace is even more convinced she’s being terrorized, but Flora has other ideas. In fact, she’s not sure Mr Felix is anything other than a sweet old man with an unfortunate habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. One thing’s for sure – the residents of the Maples are scared of something, and it isn’t just being moved to the dreaded third floor for ‘extra care’. A couple of canine deaths do not a mystery make, but when a third floor resident falls to his death, Flora has good reason to be suspicious. Convinced the Captain’s death was no accident, she sets out to investigate.

Well, as a synopsis it’s pretty rubbish (it’s my first attempt), but you get the picture. The titles I’ve had so far are:

The Joan of Arc Club

Murder at the Maples

Death at the Maples

Flora Lively and the Maples Mystery (I like this but hate the name Maples in this context)

Flora Lively and the Mystery at the Maples

Over to you – what do you think? New ideas welcomed, comments on existing ideas welcomed – basically, anything welcomed! I’m struggling with this, and I find it hard to connect with a book until it has a definitive title.

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