A Tale of Two Titles

Yesterday, I did a cover reveal of my second Catering Hall Mystery (written as Maria DiRico). On September 8th, my sixth Cajun Country Mystery will be released. And it got me thinking about how each book’s title came to be.

The journey to Catering Hall Mystery #2 was easy peasy. It just came to me. Long Island Iced Tina a title so tongue-and-cheek-cozy it practically winks at the reader. I’d even call it meta if I truly understood what “meta” mean. (I throw the word around a lot to sound cool, but honestly? Not completely clear on the definition.) My agent loved it the title. I bragged about to my fellow authors, who gasped in awe. I proudly revealed it to my editor, who went… Meh. MEH? For the best cozy title in the history of cozy titles?!! W.T. — Heck? (No foul language. We’re in Cozy Territory.) He asked for a list of alternates. I wracked my brain and the brains of others, and cobbled a list together…

Titles for CH

Not exactly inspired, huh? You can tell I’d pretty much given up by the last one. Anyhoo, I sent these in, never heard another word about which one the publishers landed on, and then received this cover…

Long Island Iced Tina (002)

YAAASS!! One title mission accomplished.

Then came the title search for my sixth Cajun Country Mystery. That journey… well, do you remember those AAA TripTiks our parents got when we were kids to map family vacations? You know, where you kept flipping and flipping through a map on a spiral notebook until you reached your destination?

That was the torturous path to title number two. Titles for this series are tough in general because they need to have both a touch of Cajun Country and a touch of the ominous. The book’s working title was Halloween Horreur, which I knew would never live because you want to avoid foreign words in titles. People either scratch their heads trying figure out what the word means or assume it’s a typo. But for the life of me, I couldn’t think of a great alternate. I polled everyone – agent, author friends, readers on Facebook. I offered a prize to anyone who came up with the winning title. Here’s the crazy list I eventually put together…


You can see that by the end, we were basically at the names for Yankee Candles. So, who finally came up with a keeper? It’s a title you don’t see on the list because my Crooked Lane publisher, Matt Martz, simply emailed it to me one day…


Yes! It’s Matt Martz for the win! There’s such a feeling of satisfaction when you land on a great title – no matter who comes up with it – and then see it inspire a wonderful cover.

As I write this, I’m in the title weeds again with my next books. I think I’ve got one for my seventh Cajun Country Mystery, but the title for my third Catering Hall Mystery is proving elusive.  It’s Christmas in Queens. Holiday parties a-plenty at Belle View Banquet Manor, run by the daughter of an ex-mobster. A body is found in the middle of the decorations-on-steroids on the block where she lives. Any ideas? All are welcome!

But first… pre-order buy links for my books…



Readers, do titles entice you to buy books? Do you have any favorites? And any title ideas for my Christmas Catering Hall Mystery?!

45 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Titles

  1. I love hearing all the backstage stuff that happens to push a book out the door. Personally, I love the punny titles in the cozy world, and LOVE Long Island Iced Tina. I haven’t had any title drama, yet—knock wood—because I brainstorm titles before I ever start writing. If I can’t come up with a bunch of titles, then I let that series die a sad, though not murderous, death. More like a quiet, respectful plug-pulling. And yes, I absolutely have been known to buy a book strictly because of its title!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. For my Catering Hall series, I literally take famous mob quotes to inspire storylines! Whether or not they live is up to the editor. I’m guessing, “Leave the Gun, Take the Frijoles,” if I ever write that one, will need a new title.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Titles are SO HARD! So you have my utmost sympathy. My own have been particularly tough, as they all have to convey food, murder/mystery, and which of the five senses they concern (sometimes that one is pretty hidden). But “Long Island Iced Tina” is absolutely perfect–love it! Congrats!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I am dreadful when it comes to thinking up pun-y titles! But they do tempt me when shopping for a new book and I’m always in awe of the person who can create them!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Great titles, El! Coming up with pun-ny titles used to be part of my job, so I actually love the process (it’s much more fun brainstorming with author friends, though!). Also, my employer gave us lots of sugar, popcorn, and soda to inspire us (the more sugar, the more those titles rolled, lol).

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I love the titles of Cozy Mysteries! Bonus points if you keep a “theme” through the whole series (like the Stephanie Plum series) Ellen, you could riff off of “Iced Tina” with more titles about drinks, OR more titles with women’s names. Like maybe your next should be Bloody Mary? Or for the catering theme, how about Portrait of a Ladyfinger? (gotta have some dismemberment in the plot, I guess…hmm, that doesn’t sound very cozy…)

    Negative bonus points if it sounds like your put “classics plus [my topic]” into a Mixmaster-title-generator. If I see one more “Pride and Pineapples”-type title, I’m gonna ask to speak to the manager.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. LOLOL! That’s hilarious. I have to say, I really like “Portrait of a Ladyfinger,” which I might make “Portrait of a Lady’s Finger” for a future book. It’s going in the bank!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks for giving us this behind-the-scenes look into title selection! I love the titles of both. It’s so hard for me to choose titles. Sometimes I pick very punny (but perhaps not very funny?) ones.

    Props to my marketing team for coming up with Mimi Lee Gets A Clue!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I struggle with titles so much. I usually start writing and at some point, the theme starts to reveal itself and I think of a title. For example, the current WIP is titled, wait for it, Laurel Highlands #5. Inspiring, yes? LOL

    Fortunately I don’t have to come up with puns in my titles. I’d be done for.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Love this behind-the-scenes peek, Ellen, and I puffy-heart-love Long Island Iced Tina AND Murder at the Bayou Boneyard!

    I definitely get pulled in by titles. I even like the ones that make me go “What the heck?!!”

    Such fun Christmas titles in the responses. (Cannoli!!)

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Slay Bells Ring?

    Ellen – thanks for sharing. I always wondered if the author got to propose a title or if it was done by the publisher. It sounds like it is a collaborative effort. Many congratulations on your latest book accomplishments! Ruth

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I love punny titles and may choose a new author from one. My favorite authors are a given. How about Fruitcake Murder or Death with Fruitcake.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ve already narrated Felony Fruitcake, so there’s that. The author’s premise is that Fruitcake, in and of itself, should be at least a misdemeanor….in this case, it appears to be the murder weapon.
        I like “Slaybells Ring.” Or maybe “Holly Jolly Murder”? or “I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus”? Anyway, sign me up for your focus group 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I love reading these “behind the scenes” tidbits! Also, when I first saw the title “ Long Island Iced Tina” & literally laughed out loud! It’s fabulous!
    I can’t wait to read both new books!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love puns! It’s one reason I love cozies so much. How about Slashing Through the Snow? It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Murder? Feliz Navidead? Winter Murderland? Glocking Around the Christmas Tree? I’m not very good at these lol.


  13. Hi, Ellen, I know this blog was a while ago but I keep thinking about title options for you since my first suggestion was already in publication. How about:

    Marzipan Mayhem
    Murder in Marzipan
    Slaybells ring
    Poisoned by Pannettone
    Holy Mole Homicide

    Of course, all the best ones were when I was going to sleep and now I don’t remember them!



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