Opening Lines: The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert B. Parker

We all know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover (yet, publishing companies spend big bucks on cover design/art). But, the opening sentence(s)/paragraph(s) are fair game. So, when I stumble on a good opening (or remember one and pull it off the shelves), I’ll throw it up here. Dare you not to read the rest (plus the 39 novels to follow by Parker (not to mention the 8+ by Ace Atkins)).

from The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert B. Parker:

The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse. It was paneled in big squares of dark walnut, with ornately figured maroon drapes at the long windows. There was maroon carpeting and the furniture was black leather with brass studs. The office was much nicer than the classrooms; maybe I should have worn a tie.

Bradford W. Forbes, the president, was prosperously heavy—reddish face; thick, longish, white hair; heavy white eyebrows. He was wearing a brown pin-striped custom-tailored three-piece suit with a gold Phi Beta Kappa key on a gold watch chain stretched across his successful middle. His shirt was yellow broadcloth and his blue and yellow striped red tie spilled out over the top of his vest.

As he talked, Forbes swiveled his chair around stared at his reflection in the window. Flakes of the season’s first snow flattened out against it and dissolved and trickled down onto the white brick sill. It was very gray out, a November grayness that is peculiar to Boston in late fall, and Forbes’s office seemed cheerier than it should have because of that.

He was telling me about the sensitive nature of a college president’s job, and there was apparently a lot to say about it. I’d been there twenty minutes and my eyes were beginning to cross. I wondered if I should tell him his office looked like a whorehouse. I decided not to.

“Do you see my position, Mr. Spenser,” he said, and swiveled back toward me, leaning forward and putting both his hands palms down on the top of his desk. His nails were manicured.

“Yes, sir,” I said. “We detectives know how to read people.”

Forbes frowned and went on.

“It is a matter of the utmost delicacy, Mr. Spenser”—he was looking at himself in the glass again—”requiring restraint, sensitivity, circumspection, and a high degree of professionalism. I don’t know the kind of people who usually employ you, but…”

I interrupted him.

“Look, Dr. Forbes, I went to college once, I don’t wear my hat indoors. And if a clue comes along and bites me on the ankle, I grab it. I am not, however, an Oxford don. I am a private detective. Is there something you’d like me to detect, or are you just polishing up your elocution for next year’s commencement?”

Forbes inhaled deeply and let the air out slowly through his nose.

“District Attorney Frale told us you were somewhat overfond of your own wit.”

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart

Today I welcome the Book Tour for Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit. But let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?

Book Details:

Book Title: Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart
Release date: December 11, 2017
Format: Ebook/Paperback
Length: 331 pages

Book Blurb:

Fearing the Good Friday Agreement will effectively end the lifestyle his IRA terrorist cell has enjoyed for years, Michael Caldwell the leader of the 1972 Club (named after the Bloody Sunday Massacre) decides to turn his attention to targeting the UK Government economically. He launches an attack threatening to bomb the Scotch whisky industry unless the British Government pay the terrorists a £20m ransom.

Armitage Brown, Assistant Controller of MI5 is given the task of stopping the terrorist attack but is unable to get any information on the assailants as to how, where and when they are going to deploy their explosives if their demands are not met. He co-ordinates a strategy, using all the emergency services, to thwart the terrorists under the code name ‘Operation Large Scotch.’

Bothe the military and the intelligence services have been guilty of murderous acts going back over the previous eighteen years. John Johnston, a young Ulsterman, living thousands of miles away in South Africa, is determined to get revenge for the killing of his father in Belfast. With the assistance of Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service he releases information that will haunt both the British Military establishment and the terrorists.

Will MI5 succeed in preventing mayhem in various towns around Scotland?

About Bill Flockhart:

Bill Flockhart‘Operation Large Scotch’ is my first book and at my age (71) possibly my last. it reflects on my life in many respects having worked in a distillery in my early working life before digressing into financial services.

My interests are sport (especially golf, swimming and basketball, (the latter through my two sons who played at international level) and current affairs in our ever changing world.

I have always enjoyed a challenge, which producing a book has certainly proved to be, but I would recommend writing to the retired population as it certainly keeps your brain active.

Two years after publishing ‘operation large scotch’ I am delighted to release my second novel ‘She’s Not a Lovely Girl’ which is a sequel to my first book. I only hope it gives everyone the pleasure ‘O.L.S.’ did judging by the favourable reviews it received

Social Networks:

Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram ~ BookBub ~ LinkedIn

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Wizard Ring by Clare Blanchard

Today I welcome the Book Tour for Wizard Ring by Clare Blanchard. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit. But let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?

Book Details:

Book Title: Wizard Ring by Clare Blanchard
Release date: August 24, 2019
Format: Ebook
Length: 284 pages

Book Blurb:

I knew nothing about the alchemist John Dee until one winter’s night in Prague when I met the ghost of a barber.

My name is Sylvia. I was just a burnt-out teacher with a subversive sense of humour. Then my mother gave me a magic ring made in the Prague workshop of John Dee.

I’ve never been the same since.

About Clare Blanchard:

 Clare BlanchardOriginally from the North Yorkshire coast in England, Clare Blanchard spent half her lifetime in Czechia in Central Europe, where her books are mainly set. Inspired by noir fiction, her settings are often like another character in the plot. She writes crime mysteries and dark urban fantasy with a historical twist.

Clare loves beautiful landscapes and architecture, cross-country skiing, the wine of South Moravia, and of course Czech beer. When she’s not being literary she knits funky socks.

Social Networks:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Instagram

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ Nook ~ Nook

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

Saturday Miscellany—1/18/20

I’ve been knocked out by a nasty cold this week (which seems to be returning) and couldn’t focus enough to read anything for a horrible three days. I don’t think anything I posted suffered from lack of focus (but I had to do a lot of re-writing to make them coherent). Thankfully, I recuperated enough that I could focus on the best thing that Steph Broadribb has written (see this space on Monday…I think).

While I couldn’t read, I could surf a bit and this ended up as one of the longest entries in this series that I’ve compiled (I believe). But there was a moment today when I thought this would be my shortest post yet–my browser and Pocket decided to stop cooperating (as they’re under the same corporate roof, this is doubly problematic). I prevailed, sort of, but I’m beginning to wonder if I need to find an alternative. Suggestions to replace Pocket, anyone?

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • A Beginning At The End by Mike Chen—A SF Family Drama set 6 years after a global pandemic changes everything.
  • The Wild One by Nick Petrie—Peter Ash brings his brand of action to Iceland. I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever read anything that takes place there, this should be a great way to fix that.
  • Burn the Dark by S. A. Hunt—I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I’ll have time to get to this, but it’s a fun concept: “a YouTube celebrity gone-viral with her intensely-realistic witch hunter series. But even her millions of followers don’t know the truth: her series isn’t fiction.”

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to aloysius5, writingeatingwalking, Dora , Hâf, Susan, and Shell-Shell’s for following the blog this week. Don’t be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK I., Chapter v.-ix.

Fridays with the Foundling
(yeah, I know, I typically hate using actor’s images when it comes to discussing the source material…but, w/o Finney, I’m not doing this) Bridget shocks the housekeeper by showing actual tenderness and affection toward the (as yet unnamed) foundling. She follows that up with what could (should?) be construed as a less than compassionate move–she hunts down his mother (a far easier task than you’d expect) and brings her before the magistrate, Mr. Allworthy. Allworthy doesn’t condemn her for what she does, he gives her a lecture on morality, assures her he’ll take care of the child better than she could’ve, and then tries to get the name of the father from her. She doesn’t give that up, but does so in a way that she earns the approbation of Mr. Allworthy, as well as Miss Bridget and the housekeeper (who were absolutely not eavesdropping, they just happened to hear what happened between the magistrate and mother.

Really not a lot happens here, and Tom is “off-screen” for almost all of it. Still, it’s good to get this kind of thing out of the way and the narrator continues to be entertaining.

A Few (more) Quick Questions With…Matthew Hanover

So, I gushed a bit about Hanover’s upcoming novel, Not Dressed, earlier. Now it’s time to ask him a few questions about it and a few other things. I should add, the book is available for pre-order, get on it.

With maybe two exceptions, I’ve only had good experiences doing these Q&As over the years, but this was by far the best—Hanover went well above and beyond the call with this one and was more than generous with his time and effort. Drinks are on me if we’re ever in the same city, sir.

Before we move to Not Dressed, let’s look back at Not Famous for a moment—I’ve asked a couple of your colleagues this question, and I’d love to hear your perspective: Why is it, do you think, that male readers respond so strongly to books about music? (your novels, Hornby’s, etc.)
I think—and I could be wrong—but the love of music is such a universal thing that it’s easy for male readers to relate to characters that are interested in music, or music-themed books. It’s a universal language we can all understand even if we listen to different stuff.
What lessons were you able to take from the writing, editing, marketing, launch, etc. of Not Famous to the process for Not Dressed? Were there some things that you assumed “Oh, I’ll know better next time” or “I’ve got to do this again for the next book” that in the end, you couldn’t use? Was this an easier process, more difficult, or are the experiences so tied to the different books that you can’t compare?
Not Famous did better than I expected, but I kind of set a low bar for myself as to how it would perform. I was generally happy with the launch, but when sales slowed down, I was often told that the best thing to do is to write your second book because it’s easier to sell a novel if you have more than one. So, I’m hoping that plays out, but I’ve also learned that promoting a novel—any novel—is really hard work. Both traditional and indie authors are competing with millions of other authors trying to get their novels read. While I consider my genre to be “lad lit” it’s also quite clear that most readers are women, and you have to market to women readers as much as men.

One thing that was really different was the time it took to complete each novel. Not Famous was mostly an on-and-off effort over seven years to finish the first draft. Not Dressed took seven months to complete the first draft. My writing has also become a bit more efficient. The first draft of Not Famous was over 107,000 words. The first draft of Not Dressed was 97,000. They both ended up at approximately 94,000 words, so there was a lot more cut from the first novel, which makes sense because I was still learning how to write fiction. I suspect future books will also get easier to write. Whether I’ll improve on my marketing remains to be seen. We’ll see how this new novel goes!

Let’s turn to Not Dressed now: Jake has two significant females in his life his girlfriend (a talk radio producer/co-host who moonlights doing nude modeling) and his new friend (a giant geek who doesn’t know what to do with her life), which came first—the nude modeling hook or the idea for a geeky best friend? And just where, if you can recall, did the girlfriend helping make ends meet via nude modeling come from in the first place?
I knew I wanted to do a workplace comedy for my next novel, and my original development of ideas focused entirely on that. But, I think a good novel requires multiple arcs to be really interesting, and so the first arc hat I came up with was the nude modeling one. I’d been trying to write a short story about a guy whose girlfriend models nude for a long time, even before Not Famous was finished, but I just couldn’t get it to work as a short story. It worked great for the novel because she is driven to model because they’re trying to make ends meet, and her solution to that problem causes another, bigger problem for their relationship.

The geek girl theme I came up with towards the end of writing the first draft of Not Famous when I came up with the scene where the main characters end up at a vintage gaming night. I loved the idea of exploring that type of character and quickly realized a geek girl as a love interest would be a lot of fun to write. And so I decided to use that in my next novel.

Kaylee’s more than just a geek, there’s more to her than the excellent taste in SF/F, how did you make her more than the stereotype?
Developing Kaylee as a character was even more fun than I thought it would be. She started as more of a retro gamer geek but eventually decided to make her a sci-fi geek with an affinity for Star Trek.

To really capture the realistic geek girl I reached out to people on social media, and drew upon my own interactions, and came up with a series of traits and quirks that I thought made her as realistic as possible. I liked making her a bit quirky with her geek obsessions, like her OCD with mixing and matching clothes from different SF/F properties. Which I thought was a fun trait. Most young women would say they feel sexier wearing matching bra and panties, Kaylee, however, would never wear Marvel and DC Comics together. I thought that was a perfect manifestation of her personality.

I’d forgotten you’d said that there’d be a tie between Not Famous and Not Dressed, so it was a pleasant surprise when I got to that passage. How fun was that to write? How tempting was it to bring the two sets of characters together more?
After Not Famous I heard from readers who said they’d love a sequel. I knew I didn’t want to write a sequel because I felt that I was done writing Nick and Alli’s story, and any attempt to continue it in a new novel would take me in a direction I don’t want to go down. But having the book set in the same universe was a lot of fun, and I started planning for this before finishing Not Famous. You may recall that Not Famous begins after Nick has a one-night-stand with Emma, who works at Burnham & Modine—the office where Jake, the main character of Not Dressed, works. I loved doing this as opposed to a sequel, and I really enjoyed featuring more of Emma in this novel. Her friendship with Jake is loosely modeled off a friendship I have with a female coworker.

Readers of Not Famous will be happy to know that even though they don’t appear in this novel, you will get some gossip about how things are going with them.

Typically, when I run into architecture in fiction, it’s the kind of career that Jake imagined himself having, not what he ends up with. Burnham & Modine, the architecture firm that Jake works for, strikes me as incredibly accurate—is that the result of research (if so, how did you go about that) or is this from personal experience (not necessarily as bad)?
I know a lot of architects because I work in marketing for a developer. So, over the years I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about working in the business, and overwhelmingly I hear that the job isn’t as glamorous as it is made out to be in fiction and in Hollywood. And I loved that because it was a great angle to play up in juxtaposition to the theme of expectations versus reality. I also used some generic bad office stories I’ve experienced as well.
Sisters play a significant role in both of your books—is this coincidence? Do you owe your own sister some debt you’re repaying?
It’s not entirely a coincidence, that’s for sure. I think the dynamic between siblings makes for great stories, and while each novel delves into a sibling relationship, these relationships are completely different.

In Not Famous, Nick has a much younger half-sister going through her own coming-of-age issues. In Not Dressed, Kaylee has a younger sister, close in age, who, unlike Kaylee, was popular in high school, had a lot of boyfriends, and ultimately reaches certain life goals before Kaylee does. This wasn’t one of my original ideas, but as I developed Kaylee’s character and her backstory, I really liked the idea that while she’s comfortable being a geek she feels insecure around her popular younger sister. It really made for an interesting character and resulted in some of my favorite scenes in the novel.

That said, it wasn’t my original intention to have another sibling conflict in this story, but it really gave Kaylee the depth I felt she needed to be a three-dimensional character. She’s not defined just by her geeky interests alone, but by a rivalry with her younger sister who had a much easier time growing up because of her popularity.

It appears you put a lot of thought into the backstories of your female love interest characters. How do you approach creating these and making them realistic and unique?
I’m really proud of both characters and how they turned out. I spend a lot of time thinking about the backstories of my main characters and how that affects their actions throughout the story. I spent seven years thinking and rethinking and tweaking Alli Conwell’s backstory for Not Famous because it needed to explain so much of her behavior long before the reader finds out what her backstory really is.

Developing Kaylee and her backstory was a similar, albeit quicker, process. First and foremost, I wanted Kaylee to be different from Alli. But, I think readers will find lots of similarities and differences between them. Both are ambitious, but Alli knew what her path was, and Kaylee doesn’t. Alli is independent and works hard to maintain that independence. Kaylee, however, still lives with her parents and is trying hard to find her true calling so she can be independent. As for their differences, Alli is shy, while Kaylee is more free-spirited. Alli was proudly innocent and virtuous. Kaylee, however, feels insecure about her lack of experience and has years of pent up jealousy of her promiscuous younger sister. Despite their differences, both are strong young women with hopes, dreams, and fears.

How much Star Trek: The Next Generation did you have to watch to get this written? Favorite episodes from this time?
I actually binge-watched the entire series as research. I’d seen bits and pieces before, which is why I chose that particular Star Trek show to be her primary obsession. I wanted to have her quote some episodes and really feel like a genuine Trekkie. I also got the idea of her being fluent in Klingon after watching the show and learning about the subculture of people who have done just that. I even got help from the Klingon Language Institute (yup, there’s such a thing) to help with the translations when Kaylee speaks Klingon. I thought it would be a fun easter egg for Trekkies who know Klingon to read it.

TNG has a lot of great episodes, and I would have loved to have quoted more, but one of my favorites does get a mention by Kaylee as one of her favorites, too.

What’s next for Author Matthew Hanover? Is Novel #3 underway, or are you solely focused (for now) on getting this launched?
I’m currently focused on the forthcoming launch of Not Dressed, but I have been jotting down ideas and notes for a third novel, of which I’ve already determined the primary plot. Just like Not Dressed, it will be in the same universe as Not Famous and have some character crossovers.
Thanks so much for your time and help in getting this Q&A into better shape. Also, thanks for Not Dressed, I had a blast with it and hope that it finds its audience.

Saturday Miscellany—1/11/20

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire—It took less than a paragraph (maybe less than a sentence) for me to fall in love with the latest Wayward Children book. Jack and Jill are back and worse than ever? More to come on this one!
  • Deep Dark Dead by Steph Broadribb—Bounty Hunter Lori Anderson is going to get beat up (I’m betting) in a whole new city! The ebook came out in the UK this week, but for some reason, it won’t release until next week in the U.S. (it takes awhile for the electrons to cross the Atlantic, I guess). It’s the next novel I tackle (assuming it doesn’t get held up in e-customs?).
  • Born in a Burial Gown / Body Breaker by M. W. Craven—the first two books in his Avison Fluke series have been updated, revised, and re-released in the world. Not a new Washington Poe/Tilly Bradshaw, but probably the next best thing. Don’t take my word for it, see what Noelle Holten, the Crime Book Junkie, has to say.
  • QualityLand by Marc-Uwe Kling—a satire about life run by algorithms—I’ll do a better job describing it after I’ve read it. I hope. Go click the link in the meantime. (I’ll confess to a moment of panic about this release this morning, until I found the email saying the blog tour has been rescheduled for next month, and I wasn’t actually four days late with my posts (and even further behind in reading it)).
  • The Heap by Sean Adams—”Blending the piercing humor of Alexandra Kleeman and the jagged satire of Black Mirror, an audacious, eerily prescient debut novel that chronicles the rise and fall of a massive high-rise housing complex, and the lives it affected before – and after – its demise.”

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to penelopeburns, TL Wright, and Mugilan Raju for following the blog this week. Don’t be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?