Here's the problem: As I said a couple of weeks ago, the file on my desktop is now called "Alison 4."
I haven't come up with a title for the fourth Haunted Guesthouse novel yet. That's not terribly unusual, although at 110 pages or so (okay, 114), this is a little longer than I've usually gone without figuring out what the book is going to be called. It's not terribly alarming, but it's starting to get into my head a little.
Titles are significant. Sometimes they actually help me (I can't speak for other authors) define for myself what the book is about. I was very pleased when I decided (much sooner than with this book) on the title OLD HAUNTS for the third Guesthouse book; it clarified the theme of the novel. A lot of people from the past show up in that book, each one sort of haunting one of the series characters (two of whom are ghosts, so that's a serious haunt!). I'm happy with that title.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEED worked well enough, but I've never really been happy with it as the first title in this series. It sends the wrong message. If the books were going to be parodies of ZOMBIE stories, that title would work. But they're not; they're lighthearted ghost stories (try figuring out how to do THAT sometime and see where it gets you), so the title is misleading. Worse, about 7 out of 10 people think the book is actually called NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and that's a problem.
By the same token, I've gotten more misreadings of the title SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED than I ever anticipated (I didn't anticipate any, so you can imagine). People have referred to it--often when the book is sitting there in plain view--as SOME LIKE HOT-BUTTERED POPCORN, I LIKE POPCORN, SOME LIKE IT HOT (luckily, you can't copyright a title, so Paramount Pictures wouldn't be after me if I HAD called it that, but do people really think you can just appropriate the name of a famous movie and stick it on your book?), just HOT-BUTTERED POPCORN, and a few variations I can't bring to mind just at the moment. Often, it's SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED POPCORN. What does that even mean?
AN UNINVITED GHOST was an interesting title. It took a while to form in my head, and when it did, it was referring to the original premise of the book, before I knew who the culprit in the crime was going to be. I got that one, frankly, by just playing with the word "ghost," and seeing if there was something for which it would be a good substitute. Since Alison Kerby runs a guesthouse, "guest" was a natural fit. And the premise was that a ghost she didn't know--not one of the two inhabiting her place--was going to ask for help. So he'd be uninvited, see. It wasn't until later that the title could be seen as referring to another character, so I got to feel really smart without actually doing anything all that clever.
The book I'm writing now, which is due to the publisher around January 1 (so I should be writing that instead of this as we speak) and will be published early in 2013, deals with Alison's somewhat reluctant investigation of her own father's death. While she's always believed he died of natural causes five years ago, some signs are pointing to something more sinister. And that's all I'm going to tell you.
So in addition to the usual pun possibilities--GHOST, SPIRIT, SPECTER, and so on--we have some variations on DAD, FATHER and the like.
So far, no idea has really struck me. When you're actually starting to consider POP GHOST THE WEASEL, you know you've got nothing.
Something will suggest itself. It always does. And perhaps when that happens, I'll have even a clearer vision of the book I'm writing.