You had me at “##@$”

Dear readers: Let’s pretend that you like cozy/traditional mystery novels.

What would you as a reader think of a title like “MURDER AND THE SINGLE PERVERT” for a cozy with an edge? Is it just too over-the-top? Or would that tempt you to flip through or download a sample to take a peek?

Right now, the book is titled NICE WORK (IF YOU CAN GET IT), but that isn’t the kind of title that works nowadays. It’s the first Jacquidon/Chantal Carroll mystery. (Unless the one I’m working on about them going to a contest in NYC turns out to sell first.) Several of you have read it already, but if spoilers bug you, there are a few coming up for the plot.

The story is actually about a woman (Our Intrepid Amateur Sleuth) who is accused of killing the boss who just laid her off. She goes searching for the real killer to clear herself, and finds a web of deceit and intrigue leading to various S&M sex clubs and interest groups where people may or may not be entirely consenting adults. (The scenes are funny and there’s nothing explicit at all–it’s played as “strangers in a strange bar.”)

The boss turns out to have been a sexual predator who took advantage of a trusting newbie to the–would you call it a “belief system” or a “hobby” or what–lifestyle. But most S&M practitioners are NOT predators and take pains to ensure that nothing happens that has not been consented to and/or asked for. I don’t want to offend people who are into mild S&M by implying that they’re “perverts.” Or do they have a sense of humor and could handle the teasing use of the term in the title? It’s tough to say, because everyone takes offense at everything today. (“But I am IN-no-cent, Sir!”) On the other hand, it would intrigue people enough to peek inside the book, perhaps.

It’s supposed to resonate with the title of _Sex and the Single Girl_, see . . . but if I have to explain it, that ruins it. Maybe it’s just a dumb title. Can’t be worse than the title I now have, which doesn’t give any hint at all about the nature of the crime and sleuthing. I had planned to name those books after old standards (THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC, THE SHADOW OF YOUR SMILE), but it isn’t going to work in today’s market.

I don’t want readers to feel cheated by the promise I make in the title. I mean, the book also has a recipe for diabetic-friendly (hi there!) pumpkin muffins, but it’s not a culinary mystery–it’s just that the heroine has just been diagnosed, and I thought that it was a great recipe to share with others in the same situation. So it’s not all whips, chains, and Oscar Wilde readings. It’s mostly not that at all, in fact.

I just don’t know whether it would be worse to imply that the murderer was a “pervert” or just call him “differently turned-on.” Maybe just “kinky” would be better. I don’t know. Titles are tough. The book is a traditional/cozy with humor, a sister-sleuths thing like the Anne George books, but not quite so cozy and domestic as those books; my protagonists are in their late twenties and are urban professionals in Dallas instead of being retired ladies with a retinue of older people. Still, I think it might appeal to the same audience. And that might mean “pervert” would turn off the potential readers who are most likely to enjoy the story.

If this were easy, everybody would be doing it. Wait–isn’t everyone?


Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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