A Novel in Need of a Name

January 21, 2021

A deserted city street. The distant ruckus of drunken revelers, laughter, Christmas carol fragments. Under the faint glow of street lights a flurry of snowflakes drifts to the frigid cobblestone surface, then swirls aside as a girl’s bare feet sprint past.

She darts through an intersection. Then another. Street names she can’t pronounce. On a wild guess she takes a left at the next corner and runs another block before stopping, bent over, hands on her knees, breathing hard. Listening.

There’s nothing but the silence of the snow and her own rapid panting. She looks around, frantic. Has she gone too far?

Those are the first 100 words of my next novel.

No, not this July’s Steel Fear (we’ll come back to that one next post, I promise) — no, these are the opening lines of the sequel. That one hasn’t even been fully written yet, but it’s in the forger’s fire right now.

And you can help.

Before I explain how, let me set the stage:

It’s Christmas Eve in downtown Reykjavík, Iceland, the land of fire and ice. The darkest time of the year, when the sun struggles each morning to breach the horizon by a few degrees before falling back and plunging the city into darkness again a few hours later.

Just past midnight, a young woman streaks barefoot through the frozen streets until she reaches the lake at the heart of the city, where she stops, strips naked, slips under the lip of the ice and deep into the lake. And drowns.


That question is the engine that drives the story. Reykjavík detective Krista Kristjánsdóttir fears she was assaulted by some drunk hard-partier. Maybe someone with enough connections to make crucial evidence disappear. Krista’s partner thinks the girl was high as a cloud, thought it would be a lark to go skinny dipping, and drowned all by herself. The dead girl’s sister believes she was trying to escape from a sex trafficking operation run by a prominent Icelandic philanthropist.

Into the mix throw a handful of Navy SEALs, in country under cover for various cross-purposes—some maybe legitimate, some maybe not.

And a psychopathic, drug-addled former Navy SEAL turned freelance hit man, there to wipe out all evidence of past war crimes. No matter how many bodies he leaves behind.

Our book doesn’t drop till fall of 2022—but we have a puzzle to solve right now, and you can help. How? Just this:

We need a title.

The first book, again, is called STEEL FEAR. It’s the first of a series, and we want all the titles to have a similar feel to them. Maybe even the same cadence: two words, adjective-noun, both monosyllables. Or maybe not. We think the word ICE may be one of those words. But maybe not. We really don’t know.

And we need to decide soon.

Because the first four chapters of this untitled book will be included in the back pages of Steel Fear when it comes out this summer — and that book is already in production. Our deadline for this sneak-peek excerpt, in fact, is next week.

We have the four chapters finished. But we don’t have a book title.



  1. Adrian

    Midnight Ice ? Ice Grave ?

    I Crave, You Crave, We All Crave for Ice Grave ?

    • John David Mann

      Points for first entry!

    • Mark Given

      Frozen Like Ice
      Fear Icelandic
      Naked Ice
      Iced Tears
      Reykjavik Ice

      I’ve probably got some more…but trying to give a brother a hand…even if it’s a chilly one!

      • John David Mann

        Thanks, Mark!

  2. Ron Nitke

    4. Do not use “ICE CAPADES”—it won’t work!!!

    • John David Mann

      Thanks, Ron — great suggestions!

    • John David Mann

      And extra points for knowing the lake’s name!

  3. Celinda

    Ice Heart
    Steel Ice

    • John David Mann

      Ooooo! You guys are good.

  4. Scott O

    New Ice Fear
    Blue Ice Fear
    Knife Ice Fear
    Bare Fear
    Molten Ice
    Molten Fear
    Molten Ice Fear
    Alloy Ice Fear
    Fear Schmear I need a bagel
    Iceland Fear
    Iceland Steel
    Iceland Death By Chocolate
    Iceland Cake Or Death
    FireSaga Fear
    Ice – The Elves Went Too Far

    • John David Mann

      Gratz, dude. P.S. – A title we will never use: Remington Steel. (Great title, though.)

  5. Virginia

    Ice Heat

    • John David Mann

      Nice cognitive dissonance!

  6. Abbie

    Black Ice
    Phantom Ice
    Ice Ghost
    Ice Queen

    • John David Mann

      Ooo, nice ones! Black Ice was my first thought, when the story first starting taking shape, and still a strong contender!

      • Abbie

        I had to refresh some geography lessons before suggesting Arctic Fear and Polar Fear – turns out Iceland is on the edge of the Arctic Circle but not exactly in it. I still like those titles. My next official shot is Glacial Fear.

        • Abbie

          Naked Fear

        • John David Mann

          Yep, it’s right up there! Reykjavik is the northernmost capital city in the world. One intel analyst described the little volcanic nation as “an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the middle of the North Atlantic.” You can see what drew me! 😉

  7. Scott O

    Brown Ice
    (oh wait, scratch that one. Too many Wisconsin winter memories.)

    Purple Ice
    (this will attract Prince fans)

    Iceland Heat
    Iceland Cold
    Frozen Steel

  8. Ruth A Anderson

    Steel Fire (slight evolution from “Steel Fear” and Iceland is the land of fire and ice)

    • John David Mann

      I like that! Lovely evolution of the title

  9. Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

    There are so many great suggestions above!
    I like Steel Ice very much.
    Down that line and in connection to the first book: Icy Fear

    • John David Mann

      Icy Fear is excellent.

      • Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

        When I suggested Icy Fear, I recalled J.D. Robb’s (Nora Roberts’) “In Death” series: There is such a multi-dimensionality in the titles. You can write any word and then add “in Death,” and it would sound great.
        You can put the word “fear” in the same chain of books and even call it The Fear series: Steel Fear, Icy Fear, Crystal Fear, Hot Fear, Happy Fear, Treacherous Fear, etc. ;D

        • John David Mann

          Exactly! We’ve now run this suggestion past our editor and publisher, and they both love it! (Our editor also worked on the Kathy Reichs “Bones” series so is well familiar with how this goes!)

  10. Dan Clements

    Hmmm…Ice Prey? Or, to stay on a series theme: Cold Fear?

    • Dan Clements

      Although, if I could vote, it would be Scott’s “Ice – The Elves Went Too Far”

      • John David Mann

        Oh by all means, vote!

    • John David Mann

      You got me seriously thinking . . .

  11. James Monroe Justice

    Nordic Fear
    Deep Nordic Fear

    • John David Mann

      You guys! I am loving this. Thanks, all, I immensely appreciate this collective brainstorm!

  12. Donna

    What fun! Here’s a few I thought of.

    • John David Mann

      Dear Donna ~ So nice you see you here! And your bids came very close: the title that won us over, and our editor and agent, and our publisher — and hopefully will win over a vast readership in 2022! — is COLD FEAR. That’s the official title of book 2. No cover design yet, but when it’s ready, I’ll share it here!


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