My latest release, Stormy Weather, is the first in a trilogy about three sisters – Rachael, Michelle, and Tracy Jones. I am heavy into revisions on the second in the series – Waterlily, and hope it will be released in June of this year.  Tracy’s book, Merry Go Round, will hopefully be ready by the end of 2010.

While there is no single plot that weaves the three books together (a la Nora Roberts) or unresolved cliffhangers left dangling from book to book (a la Debbie Macomber), there are repeat appearances by the sisters, their parents, and a few, key secondary characters in each of the books, and character arcs that span the entire series. While each book stands alone, my hope is that once people become invested in the Jones family, they will want to read all three books.

Writing a trilogy has been fun – I know the family well by now. It’s easier to get into the characters since many of them were introduced in the first book. On the down side, I’ve needed to look up all kinds of names and other little details to be sure they are the same from book to book (which I expected). Aside from that, character consistency has been my biggest challenge – does Rae’s voice sound the same in Waterlily as it did in Stormy Weather? Her role in the family and status in life has changed a great deal by the time Waterlily opens.  (I don’t want to give away the ending, should you not have read Stormy Weather.) But I wonder, should her voice reflect those changes? Is she more cynical now? Softer? More content? Less snarky than she was at the beginning of her book?

The other thing that has really started to bother me is that the names of my three books are totally unrelated. My plan has always been to have the covers of the books be linked by their style: a photo on top, and a quilt block on the bottom. Stormy Weather has a photo of a rainbow in a stormy sky on top and a rainbow quilt block on the bottom. I’ve got a wonderful photo of a water lily to use on the top of Waterlily’s cover, and I plan to make a quilt block with a pink waterlily blossoming in a pond of watercolor hues for the bottom. I just found the perfect photo for the top of Merry Go Round – an old-fashioned carousel horse, taken by one of my friends from Gather. (Thank you, Rose!) The quilt on the bottom will be some sort of a spinning pin wheel design in rich pastels to match the horse’s finery.

So, if I have a common theme in the design of the book covers, do you think the names of the books still need to be related? I’m curious to see if you think this is a problem.

I love the way Nora Roberts weaves together the titles of her trilogies – my favorite of her trios are titled Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, and Heart of the Sea. Some of her series are even more obviously linked – Born in Fire, Born in Ice, Born in Shame, or Key of Light, Key of Knowledge, Key of Valor.

In Lyn Cote’s Women of Ivy Manor series, each book is named – simply and elegantly – after the main character: Bette, Chloe, Leigh, and Carly.

In Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cover series, each book is named after the street address of the main character, with each sequential book having a house number one number higher. (16 Lighthouse Road, 204 …, 311…, 44…, 50…, 6…, 74…, 8…, 92 Pacific Boulevard.) Then there are the Dakota series, and the Blossom Street series, also cleverly named to alert the reader that these books are continuations of a series.

Since it’s too late for me to change the name of Stormy Weather to Rachael, if I want the titles of my trilogy to be in sync, I’m left with the option of somehow tying the names of the remaining two books to something weather related.

I refuse to do something so obvious as Stormy Weather, Cold Weather, and Hot Weather, so…

The imagery in waterlily is tied to water (Michelle has a lily pond, Jake is a championship swimmer, Michelle is too self-conscious to be seen in a swimming suit, a pivotal scene occurs in the water, under the camouflage of a new moon). The book could conceivably be called Starry, Starry Night, Trace of Moisture, Rainy Days and Mondays, Scattered Showers, Summer Solstice, Moon Shadow, Misty in the Moonlight…

In Merry Go Round, Tracy’s entire world is turned on end (an atmospheric inversion?) when her husband, a pastor, and the father of their three children, leaves her for another man. I can think of a few weather-related terms that might work for a title in this case, too:  Total Eclipse of the Heart (yes, I’m sensing a theme here – I like the names of songs) , Unstable Air, Updraft, Wind Shift, Whirlwind, Heat Wave…

Since I’m still working on both the second and third book in the trilogy, I could weave in the needed imagery to make any of these new names work.

Thoughts? Ideas? Leave well-enough alone?  What are your expectations as a reader when you begin a trilogy?

If you’re a writer – have you ever had to change the title of your book at the last minute? If so, how did it impact your work?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!