Archive for the ‘Inside the Book’ Category

How to title a novel

At first it was fun. This novel is going so well, the author exudes on page 124. Let’s stop writing and play with titles! Some time later: Book titles are so much harder than I thought. Followed swiftly by: I found it at last! Then, doing a bit of digging, you realize hundreds of authors have thought of the same title. And used it.

When you have to come up with a novel title. In a hurry.

A few months later when it’s absolutely time to decide, the attitude is more likely to be, I don’t want to Talk about it anymore! And if you’re writing a series, it’s like sticking pins in your cheeks.

Since I’ve just titled four books in an upcoming fantasy series, here’s a brief recap of my journey into the bog of titles.

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Spycraft in the Dark Talents trilogy

Within intelligence communities, spycraft refers to the techniques used by spies to gather intelligence and remain undercover. The need to manipulate, discover, and remain secret has spawned the time-tested techniques used by spies everywhere.

I used these methods throughout the Dark Talents trilogy, set in England in 1936. Here are some examples culled from Kim Tavistock scenes in Book two, Serpent in the Heather.

In eBook and hardcover. In paperback on Apr. 16.

SIGN OF LIFE. To confirm with handlers or HQ (the “office” in British intelligence service parlance) that one is on duty and pursuing the mission.

In a wool skirt and sweater set Kim made her way down to the castle parlor, where she put in her call to Knightsbridge and Nash Photo Finishing. Someone from the Office answered appropriately and said her photo prints would be ready on Wednesday. Her sign-of-life call complete, she turned to find Powell had entered the drawing room.

THE COVER PERSONA. Obviously, spies wish to remain undetected as such. To that end, they adopt ostensible business and deflecting personal attributes.

“Tread carefully with this Coslett woman, Kim. We’re only allowed a limited operation. You must deploy your witless- American mode to perfection.”

She snapped a look at him. “I didn’t know I had one.”

“What? Oh, yes, quite a good one. Charging around all innocent and eager. Top-notch.”

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FAQ on Serpent in the Heather and the series

For a little background on how I came to write my latest novel, here are some frequently asked questions.

Why did you chose to set this historical fantasy series in the 1930s?

The 1930s – and particularly in England – was a period overshadowed by the catastrophic losses of World War I. Every family had its losses, and the public attitude was to willfully turn a blind eye to Hitler’s arms build up. So instead of a war with steal, it became a shadow war of spies, secrets, and deception. It is such a fertile ground for fiction! The roster of characters and motivation is vast: British aristocracy fearing the loss of class privilege, fascists, pacifists, spies and those who chose to do nothing. This historical context raises an interesting question: What would you have done? How much would you have sacrificed to stop the coming war?

Is this a series?

Yes,  the Dark Talents novels began with At the Table of Wolves and continues with Serpent in the Heather. Nest of the Monarch will come out in 2019. All of them feature the espionage missions of Kim Tavistock, a flawed but extraordinary spy. Read More…

Goodreads Giveaway of Serpent

If you read At the Table of Wolves and liked it, here’s a chance to win a print copy of Book 2 in the series: Serpent in the Heather.

The Goodreads Giveaway.

Ends March 27

A teaser on Book 2:

Summer of 1936. Assassinations are underway in Europe, targeting people with meta-abilities. It is an undercover German operation to deprive future targets like Poland and France of important Talents.

Now the killings have begun in England and they are young people, their bodies left in public places, ritually murdered. But how can the killer know which youngsters have Talents? Read More…

Women Spies of the World Wars: Pearl Cornioley

At the Table of Wolves, historical fantasy

Many women worked undercover during the world wars, but we know the names of only a few. Like men in the secret intelligence services, many went to their graves never revealing their roles. This blog series highlights a few that inspired me while writing At the Table of Wolves.


Pearl Cornioley

This amazing World War II operative rose to the highest ranks of the French resistance and was deemed the best shot British intelligence had seen, male or female.

Cornioley was 29 when she was sent to France as part of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (SOE). Her flawless French and determination to fight the Nazis brought her quickly to prominent leadership in the resistance.  She began as a courier between the British and the French resistance and rose to command 3,000 underground fighters, the only woman to serve as a network leader. At one point she presided over the surrender of 18,000 German troops. As cover, she often had a suitcase of cosmetics to deflect suspicion during her travels in occupied France. Read More…