Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Guest Blogger KC Burns

Titles - The Bane of My Existence.

So, titles. Perhaps bane is a wee bit excessive, but seriously… coming up with titles for me is painful and vexing. Surprisingly, to this point, none of my titles have been changed by editors. Choosing a title is the very last thing I do when writing a book, and I find it agonizing. The problem with a title is that it has to catch a reader’s attention as well as provide some hint about the plot or characters or setting or genre… sometimes all four. Not a simple endeavor at all.

When I chose the title for my first book, MIA Case File
s: Wolfsbane, I had a picture in my head of a nerdy bureaucrat typing up a report about a confidential investigation, and applying a ‘code name’ to the investigation. That particular case involved werewolves, hence Wolfsbane. Seemed a perfectly logical leap for my office worker.

The same theory worked for the sequel. I pictured my same boring clerk reporting on another agency investigation, this time involving vampires and two brothers. And so, MIA Case Files: Blood Relations was born. Imagining my clerk didn’t mean I agonized any less, though! Oddly enough, the third book in the series, wh
ich I’m working on now, my office worker was more proactive. It’s one of the few stories I’ve written where I had the title in hand before I even started. As soon as I knew what creature the MIA operatives were fighting, the name fell into my brain.

Spice ‘n’ Solace spent its creation days under a folder called ‘rent boy’. It’s the story of a brothel owner on another planet who gets mistaken for one of the escorts he employs. Even though I’d decided on the name of the brothel fairly early on in the story, it wasn’t until I was title hunting at the end when I realized I could call the book by the same name as the brothel!

My newest book, due out in late summer from Loose Id, is called Trompe L’Oeil. It’s an art term meaning trick of the eye, and despite how perfect I think the title is for the book, I thought for sure my editor would change it! But, if you consider the manuscript was filed under a folder called ‘cursed painting’, perhaps you can see why Trompe L’Oeil works.

The title of a book needs to do a lot of heavy lifting, and I’ve certainly chosen books based on title alone (heck, I’ve chosen books based on the font of the title and nothing more). One of my favorite titles is The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks by Josh Lanyon. Caught my interest immediately, with both the ‘ghost’ idea and the slight absurdity of a ghost wearing socks. Another title I like is The Good Thief by James Buchanan. The juxtaposition of someone breaking the law while remaining an admirable person is made utterly clear in the title, making you want to know what makes the thief good, or how he’ll redeem himself.

Do you have any favourite titles? Ones that grabbed your attention right away, demanding you buy the book? What about titles that make you scratch your head, wondering why that particular title was chosen?

I’d like to thank Simone for having me visit today, and I’ll leave you with a short R-rated excerpt from Spice ’n’ Solace (unfortunately I don‘t have any excerpts for my upcoming release yet). You can find me on the web at and I’m on Twitter and Facebook as well.

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Every year, Jathan One-Moon faces increasing pressure that he marry and have children. What Jathan really wants is a male mate that can enjoy both playful sex and his more dominant nature. To tame his stress, Jathan orders a male escort from Spice 'n' Solace, the premier male brothel in the Galactic Alliance—and is thrilled to be sent a man whose air of innocence and obvious desire for Jathan arouse him like never before.

Jathan doesn't know he has mistaken Kazha Deinos, the owner of Spice 'n' Solace, as his escort. Kaz doesn't intend to pleasure Jathan personally, but his powerful masculinity is irresistible. Kaz has dreamed of a man who'd take charge and indulge his hidden cravings—a man just like Jathan.

With their explosive passion and unexpected tenderness, Jathan and Kaz soon want to stay together—if Jathan's position and Kaz's secrets don't tear them apart...


The unmistakable lurch of a shuttle docking coincided with the chirping of Jathan One-Moon’s comm unit. Bram Hakers was beginning to piss him off. Jathan silenced the device, wondering what the alliance’s undersecretary would do if he turned it off. He’d talked to Hakers every day of his trip to Elora Ki, and he wasn’t doing it again. For some reason Hakers—and the rest of the alliance—treated this brief sojourn as nothing more than an exotic vacation for Jathan, with the alliance picking up the tab.

Jathan did charge the alliance an enormous amount, but they were the reason Jathan had been forced to become a negotiator in the first place. His other negotiations paid well, but they were on a much smaller scale. For the Ankylos negotiations, Jathan charged the alliance in proportion to the almost unimaginable consequences of failure. Because if Jathan failed, the human race could be snuffed out.

Every year he returned to Elora Ki, the site chosen because of its position as the farthest planet from the center of both the Ankylos Empire and the hub of planets ruling the Galactic Alliance. Every year he repeated the negotiations on behalf of the human race.

In truth he’d do the negotiations for free. Diabolical not to, since the Ankylos wouldn’t negotiate with anyone else after his father died. Without him the Ankylos Empire would renew the Wolframite War with the Galactic Alliance. But people didn’t respect things they got for free, and Jathan wanted the alliance to respect his services. Unfortunately Hakers acted as though the exorbitant fees meant Jathan was his slave for the length of the negotiations. With the Ankylos refusing to negotiate with anyone but a person in his father’s bloodline, he was a prisoner of sorts.

A knock sounded at the door to his quarters.
“Come in.” The military escort to his headquarters had arrived.
“Sir. We made good time. We’ve docked early.”
Dammit. Should he contact Spice ’n’ Solace? With his escort due to arrive the next evening, was it worth altering those arrangements? “Yes, thank you. I’m almost ready.”
Jathan fastened his bag and hefted it to his shoulder.
“Sir. Let me take that.” The well-put-together soldier moved into Jathan’s personal space, took the bag and smiled.
Jathan looked down at the man’s face, assessing his motives. The blond was good-looking, although broader and more muscle bound than his usual type.
The soldier used his firm chest to pin Jathan against the wall—under other circumstances a move like that would have made Jathan’s cock swell. Before the negotiations, though, the aggressiveness didn’t work for him.
“We’re on unexpected furlough for the night.” The soldier might have been making conversation, but the erection pressing into Jathan’s hip made his words an invitation.
“Tempting.” Jathan pushed all inflection out of his voice and painted on his most disdainful expression. This wasn’t what he needed. Not now. Military men weren’t equipped to give in, to submit. “But not a good idea.”
The blond quirked a brow. “Sure? Everyone knows how you spend your nights on Elora Ki.” His hips undulated against Jathan’s. Lies, clearly. If everyone knew what he did—he peered at the shorter man’s name patch—Williams would know this wasn’t the approach to take.
Although the forthright invitation was at odds with a man on duty, starfuckers were rather single-minded. He’d fucked others, but it made him uncomfortable. Still, the blond was quite attractive.
“You going to be part of my escort on the return trip?”
“Mmm, I think so.”
On the way home might be a different story. “We’ll talk then.”
“Yes, sir.” Williams stepped back before leading the way out of Jathan’s quarters. In many ways Jathan preferred to pay for his pleasure. No strings, no expectations on the part of the escort and Jathan could take what he needed to make it through another year of negotiations.
Jathan took out his comm unit, still unsure if he wanted to call for an escort. The unit chirped in his hand. Undoubtedly Hakers again, toadying little suck-up. Screw it. He’d had enough. Jathan turned the device off, determined to pretend that for at least one night no one relied on him to save countless human lives.

Text Copyright © 2011 by K.C. Burn
Cover Art Copyright ©2010 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.


Barbara Longley said...

Yeah, me and titles. Let me tell you how THAT works. I'm at a workshop for my day job. Everyone thinks I'm taking copious notes. They're impressed by my professional fervor. Hah! What they don't know is that I'm coming up with a long list of catchy titles, and plot scenarios to go with each one! I love coming up with titles. I often have a title before I have the plot and the characters. I'm weird that way. Eh, I'm weird in many ways. Best, KC! :0)

Ruth A Casie said...

Titles! Mine was 'To Hearth and Home.' It was a key phrase in my story. What strikes you about this title? Cozy, comfy contemporary? Nope, it's a historical time travel adventure. When my publisher came up with 'Knight of Runes' I thought it was a great title but my story is not about the knight but the female history PhD she meets. My husband said it all when I voiced my concern. Every woman would pick up that title. I was an instant convert. I love the title.

Thanks for your great post.

... Ruth

Christine Bell said...

I love intriguing titles that give me an idea of the book inside, or, even better, the author's voice! And I actually love coming up with titles. That and character names are my two favorite things. Now, how about a trade? If you write my synopsis, I'll do your titles ;op

Toni Anderson said...

LOL--I suck at titles. The only one I've kept was STORM WARNING which I named fast just assuming it would get changed by the powers that be. I'm glad it wasn't :) I did eventually think up SEA OF SUSPICION that started as OUT OF TEARS after an old Rolling Stones tune. Spice n' Solace sounds like a wonderful story, and great title!

Adrienne Giordano said...

Oh, I stink at titles. Out of 4 titles, I've only had one that was a keeper. I actually don't mind though. If marketing can come up with something better, I'm all for it.

One of my favorite titles is from Harlan Coben's "No Second Chance." Love that title!

Elyse Mady said...

Hate titles.

Hate titling.

They are the bane of my existence most of the time.

Have offered the marketing department my firstborn child* in fervent gratitude for their excellent work.


*firstborn is a *little* leery about going to live in the Harlequin offices full time but I told him it was the sacrifice he had to make so Mom had good titles... LOL

Georgie Lee said...

Title can be tough critters. Some come naturally, others are just stubborn.

Bonnie R. Paulson said...

The name Jathan does it for me! you had me at Jathan! love the post!

Seleste said...

I hate doing titles. When I signed my first contracts, I totally expected my editors to change my titles too, but none of them did.

Right now I'm working on Badlands 2 and for the moment that's the title, which is driving me batty. I need a real title! LOL

My favorite of my stories is still my YA (as Julie Particka), Pretty Souls.

Wynter Daniels said...

I love your titles! Sometimes a title comes to me before a book. The one that I get the most comments on and a lot of sales because of it is "Rude, Nude and Socially Unacceptable."

Elise Warner said...

I find that if a title comes easily,the writing of the piece is smooth. If it doesn't--woe is me. Interesting blog, Simone.

Lilly Cain said...

I have a love / hate thing going with titles. I can't really write a story without one. Don't know why but that is the truth. So no title, no story. Yet the titles are killers to come up with! I do keep a list of titles when they come to me. :) I really love Spice 'N Solice - both the book and the name! I enjoyed reading it and can't wait for the next one!


Shelley Munro said...

I suck at titles too, although occasionally, I have a flash of brilliance. I like your title for your m/m - Spice 'n Solice. It says everything.

The funny thing is that I need a title before I can start writing. It causes days of consternation and muttering sometimes.

KC Burn said...

Whee! Finally got to a proper computer instead of my phone! Thank you all for stopping by.

Barbara... shhh, don't tell anyone, but I've been known to make a few plot notes on meeting notes, too!

Hi Ruth - I can see some potential confusion for To Hearth and Home, and anything with Rune in the title? I'll likely pick up w/o reading the blurb :)

Christine, you're on! Okay, maybe not. I hate writing the synopsis too. I do enjoy coming up with character names, although I had a recent WIP where one character spent a lot of time as "lastname" until I'd come up with something brilliant :)

Toni - thanks so much. I like Storm Warning, that's a great title.

Adrienne - No Second Chance, yeah, that is a good title.

Elyse - LOL, poor firstborn! But I hear they have cookies at HQ... okay, total lie, but it might work

Georgie - I love titles that pull in a significant line in the book, but I bet those are the most stubborn ones.

Bonnie - thanks so much... Jathan was much easier to name than the book, that's for sure :)

Seleste - Ooh, Pretty Souls. Love it!

Wynter - thanks so much, and yeah, I love that one of yours... such an awesome title!

Elise - hmmm... I'm trying to remember how difficult each WIP was to write vs. how problematic the title was... you could be right.

Thanks so much Lilly! Although, if I had to wait for the title to write, I'd have NOTHING at all :)

Thanks Shelley! Funny thing is, I've started writing without even having character names decided on... it's rare, but it's happened.

Tanith Davenport said...

A lot of my titles suggest themselves, either from music or poetry, but I did have to spend ages on "The Hand He Dealt". I went through about five titles on that one while I wrote it and still didn't like any of them.

That said, ever since I discovered "Pregnesia" I've felt much better about my titling ability.

KC Burn said...

Hi Tanith - poetry or music, those are good sources! Maybe I'll have to think about that. I like The Hand He Dealt... you have nothing to worry about in your titling ability :)