Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Long ago, I had an idea for a funny mystery, sort of Susan Isaacs-like but with a younger, married protagonist. Before I had anything like a plot, I had a title: Yeah, But Houdini Didn't Have These Hips.

That idea never went anywhere. (Clearly, I put the title to another use.)

Later on, I had an idea for an entire series of mysteries with a young, married mom protagonist. Each of these stories would share the title of a hymn. The Common Hymns Mysteries! Sure, not everyone goes to my church. But many hymns are classics with titles that are familiar well outside of the Sunday Morning organist-accompanied cultures in which they are frequently sung. And it's nice to have a marketable hook like that. Excuse, me, do you work here? I'm looking for a new mystery by that author whose books are always called after nursery rhymes/numbers/birds/flowers/cocktails/HYMNS. Right?

So I wrote the book, and I think it's pretty decent.

But it turned out to be about computer gamers. This didn't trouble me as I wrote it. See, I figured each mystery in the series would share little more than protagonist, setting, and voice. Sure, a few good friends would repeat as appropriate, but one novel might be about a scavenger hunt, the next a group vacation, yet another a dance competition, and so forth. Flipping quickly through a hymnal gave me dozens of excellent ideas for sequels.

But the gaming thing really took over this novel.

So much so that it doesn't really fit with the hymn theme anymore. I love love love my title but it just doesn't really fit with the very modern, youthful, gamer-geek-culture novel I wrote.

So now I'm in search of a new series hook and naming convention, preferably one that suggests an infinite supply of titles and mysteries. All the error messages I get from Microsoft? Things I scream at my flickering monitor in frustration?

(I do still plan to write those hymn novels one day. I just don't know if this book is the right way to start the series.)

Suggestions welcome!


RobMonroe said...

What about Old School games that have not been redone yet. Here is the box set of 80's games:

Here is a good of all of the Atari Games ever made...

Bonus: there are games meant for romance novels:
"Touch-Me" and
"Primal Rage"
"Peter Packrat"

flatflo said...

How about starting with "Blue Screen of Death" and follow up with "LAN Party Crasher" or "Command Prompt: Run". Perhaps "Defrag You", "Blogged to Death" or "Firewall Hack"?

RobMonroe said...

I like FlatFlo's better.

Sarahlynn said...

They are both so great ideas. Thank you!!!

Brian said...

Game titles would present copyright and trademark problems. For instance, if you name something "Primal Rage" in any context related to video games, you're going to get a lawyergram from Atari.

Sarahlynn said...

Lawyergram. I love it.

I think game titles (other than Pacman) might not be widely known outside of the gaming community, which limits the intended audience.

And I'd want to "twist" a title to sound clever (and relevant), further obscuring the reference.

But you raise an interesting question. Book titles and song titles are not copyrightable. What about game titles? Obviously I couldn't use a particular (trademarked) little round pie with a missing wedge on my cover without permission, but I could probably call a book about a lazy dude who lives in a haunted house and has a binge eating disorder Slackman without getting into legal trouble.

Not that I would. Write that book OR use that name.