Friday Reads: 44 Scotland Street, a Scottish Delight!

Friday Reads: 44 Scotland Street, a Scottish Delight!

posted in: Books, British, Entertainment | 2 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

I discovered the 44 Scotland Street series while listening to Confessions of A Serial Novelist by Alexander McCall Smith, an obscure audio offering in the OneClickdigital App. I downloaded it because I had read The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency some years earlier and was curious to hear what nuggets of wisdom such a successful author as McCall Smith might have to share.

The recording turned out to be a one hour lecture given in New York City in 2006 and featured more humor than substantive advice on how to succeed as a novelist. (Although, perhaps that is a good lesson in itself. Perhaps humor is the secret to success as a novelist?) The highlight of the lecture came at the end: an excerpt from the second 44 Scotland Street novel: Espresso Tales.

44 Scotland Street takes place in Edinburgh. Pictured above is <a href="" target="_blank">Edinburgh Castle</a>, one of many Edinburgh landmarks mentioned in the series.
44 Scotland Street takes place in Edinburgh. Pictured above is Edinburgh Castle, one of many Edinburgh landmarks mentioned in the series.

The passage was about a six-year-old boy named Bertie whose mother forces him to learn Italian and play tenor saxophone. This was interesting. I immediately checked the app for the 44 Scotland Street audiobook and downloaded it. While the passage McCall Smith read focused on Bertie, the series features a much larger cast of characters, some of whom are listed here on his website.

The first book of the series focuses primarily on the residents of the building the book is named after. (While Scotland Street is a real street in Edinburgh, there is no number 44.) There is Pat, a young girl of 20 on her 2nd gap year, working as a receptionist at an art gallery. Pat’s flatmate is Bruce, a rugby shirt-wearing narcissist with a passion for hair gel who works as a surveyor (real estate appraiser in the US). Across the hall is Domenica: world-wise anthropologist, widow, advisor to Pat, and friend to Angus. Angus lives on a neighboring street: a 50-something portrait painter and companion to Cyril, a beer and coffee-drinking dog with a gold tooth.

There’s also Matthew, the somewhat dejected owner of the art gallery Pat works at, who often enjoys long coffee breaks at Big Lou’s. Before Big Lou purchased Big Lou’s, it had been a bookshop. After the purchase, Lou moved all the remaining book inventory to her residence. She reads them whenever she is not running her coffee bar, giving rise to thoughtful and occasionally spirited philosophical discussions over coffee with customers.

With all the characters and funny storylines, I am reminded of Julian Fellowes and Downton Abbey. The books are fun to binge on, another thing in common with Downton Abbey! I discovered the series in August, four months ago, and I am already on the fourth book of the series: The World According to Bertie.

I have plenty more to say about the books, their author, and the narrator of the audiobooks, Robert Ian Mackenzie, but I will save it for a later post. For now, I will leave you with this interview with Alexander McCall Smith that I discovered from The Guardian. In it, he discusses the 44 Scotland Street series in his usual light-hearted and modest style. Happy Friday!

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National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Planner Stickers & FREE PRINTABLE!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Planner Stickers & FREE PRINTABLE!

posted in: Armadillo Amore, Indie Publishing, Our Work, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

November is almost upon us, which means that it is nearly National Novel Writing Month. If you have never heard of this event, the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. This equates to 1667 words a day from 12:00AM November 1st until 11:59PM November 30th.

This event was started in 1999 amongst a group of friends in San Francisco. It originally took place in July, however it was moved to November “to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather.” We have never participated in this event however, we might try this year.

We have created a FREE printable sheet to help you keep track of your daily and running word counts during National Novel Writing Month in a colorful way! Click the image below for the free PDF printable: NaNoWriMo Tracker!

Free NaNoWriMo Tracker Printable

As some of you may know, as well as being indie authors of three books, we are also sticker makers. We have an Etsy sticker boutique called Armadillo Amore, where we specialize in original, handcrafted fancy planner stickers. We have designed a collection of stickers to help you keep track of and reach your NaNoWriMo goals.

NaNoWriMo Full Boxes & Motivational Stickers
Book Stack Icon Reminder Stickers
NaNoWriMo Half Boxes & Motivational Stickers
Book Icon Reminder Stickers
Book Icon Reminder Stickers
Typewriter Half Boxes
Typewriter Half Boxes
Open Book Icon Reminder Stickers
Open Book Icon Reminder Stickers

This weekend we are having a 25% off sale using the code: GRATEFUL! We also have cute Thanksgiving and Christmas Stickers up for sale!

Armadillo Amore Planner Sticker Shop 25 Percent Off Sale

Happy Saturday everyone!

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The Lincoln Lawyer: A Connelly Classic Despite a Rough Start

The Lincoln Lawyer: A Connelly Classic Despite a Rough Start

posted in: Book Reviews, Books, Entertainment | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

The Lincoln Lawyer is the 16th book of Michael Connelly’s and is the first in the Lincoln Lawyer Series. The main character is Mickey Haller, a defense attorney in Los Angeles who works out of his car, a Lincoln, hence the name of the book.

Mickey is doing fairly well defending drug dealers, prostitutes and motorcycle gang members. One day, he gets a call to defend a man accused of attempting to rape and kill a prostitute. The defendant claims he is innocent, and thus we begin the journey of Mickey trying to defend his new client and get an acquittal.

The Lincoln Lawyer Review

Skeptical at First

This book was difficult for me to read for a couple reasons. My first and biggest reason for not immediately liking this book is that the defendant is not a likeable guy. From the beginning, you are very suspicious of him. He doesn’t seem trustworthy.

The second reason I had a hard time with this book is that in the beginning, the storytelling is very choppy and we are introduced to a lot of characters. Now, maybe I would have been able to keep track of who was who if I didn’t read it before going to sleep, but I’m not so sure. There are a lot of names and it became confusing.

Eventual Redemption

I won’t spoil the ending, but for all my dislike of the first three-quarters of this book, in the end, I actually liked the Lincoln Lawyer. The ending was satisfying and brought all of the characters that Michael Connelly introduced along the way together.

This book was made into a movie in 2011 starring Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller and Ryan Phillippe as the defendant. I didn’t see the movie before reading, so I didn’t have any spoilers while reading the book. This fact made the ending all the better.

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Good, Evil, and J.K. Rowling, Post-Harry Potter

Good, Evil, and J.K. Rowling, Post-Harry Potter

posted in: Book Reviews, Books, Entertainment, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

After Harry Potter, the theme of good versus evil remains a key focus for J.K. Rowling, however post-HP, she has ventured much further into the evil side of things.

The Cormoran Strike series is set in London and features a cast of celebrities and models in the first book and a cast of prominent writers, literary agents, and editors in the second. I have just begun reading the third book of the Strike series, Career of Evil, and therefore have limited commentary on the book. Depraved behavior can happen anywhere, but it may be easier for some to observe it in the harsh conditions of London in the Strike series, rather than the purportedly idyllic setting of The Casual Vacancy.

In my 10th grade history class, we studied various Enlightenment thinkers, including Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. Namely, Hobbes said, “The condition of man… is a condition of war of everyone against everyone.” This seems to be a guiding philosophy certainly for The Casual Vacancy, and to perhaps a milder extent, the Cormoran Strike series.

In all of Rowling’s post-Harry Potter work, it feels as though you are being forced to stare unblinkingly at the more unseemly side of humanity. It can be quite uncomfortable to read, and maybe that is her goal. There seems to be a keen desire to look at people’s imperfections, all the parts most people keep concealed due to social niceties.

Rowling pokes and prods mercilessly at her character’s vulnerabilities, creating a sense of brutal honesty. The bright jewel of hope that was a constant reassuring presence in Harry Potter is nearly entirely snuffed out in her work since. The brightest point of the Strike series is his assistant, Robin Ellacott, but even she may have a dark secret lingering in her past.

The Strike series so far is definitely engaging and thought-provoking; the storytelling and suspense, top-notch. However, and I realize J.K. Rowling doesn’t answer to me, I would love if she could write something a little lighter in this post-Harry Potter world.

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Connelly’s ‘Black Echo’: A Gateway to Gritty LA (Book Review)

Connelly’s ‘Black Echo’: A Gateway to Gritty LA (Book Review)

posted in: Book Reviews, Our Work, Writing | 2 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

I was introduced to Michael Connelly and his main character, Harry Bosch, by my parents. They had seen Michael Connelly’s books for years at local bookstores, but only after seeing Connelly playing poker on an episode of Castle did they finally purchase their first Bosch book: Angel’s Flight (Bosch Book #6). This was a driving factor in our first Woof Trekking stop at Angel’s Flight. They have been hooked ever since and now I am too. We own all 18 of the Harry Bosch novels.

Black Echo is the first in the series and is the first that I read. It was originally published in 1992 and won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award that same year.
Black Echo by Michael Connelly Book Review
In Black Echo, we are introduced to Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch, a detective in the LAPD. Bosch is a Vietnam veteran who worked clearing the tunnels of the Viet Cong, a so called “tunnel rat.” He has worked his way up through the ranks to detective in the elite Robbery-Homicide division until a bad shoot gets him demoted to the Hollywood division and assigned to be partners with Jerry Edgar.

Bosch is called out to a crime scene where the body of a fellow “tunnel rat” has been found. As Bosch and Edgar investigate, they discover their body leads to an unsolved bank robbery. This induces Bosch to call on the FBI for information. Special Agent Eleanor Wish is assigned to assist the LAPD in their investigation. As the investigation continues, the case becomes more and more dangerous. Bosch must follow his instincts and re-enter the tunnels under the city of Los Angeles to find out who murdered the tunnel rat.

Overall, this novel was very well written and I can see why it won an award. The book kept me guessing as to what was actually going on up until the end. The first couple of chapters are a bit difficult to get through but once you get to Chapter Four, you are rewarded. The action starts to pick up and you are sucked in. You want to keep reading and reading to find what is going to happen next.

The Bosch series was recently adapted to be a superb web television series, created by Amazon, starring Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch. We were skeptical at first if Welliver could really play Harry, but after watching both seasons, we are convinced. Each season is based on a couple of novels. The upcoming third season will be based off of this novel and A Darkness More Than Night. You can hear it from Michael Connelly himself in this video from his YouTube channel.

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How to Discover Inspiration from the Dictionary

How to Discover Inspiration from the Dictionary

posted in: Indie Publishing, Our Work, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Feeling bored with the writing you have been creating? You know you have brilliant ideas and can spin a good yarn, but maybe you just need a little boost of creativity, a little zesty zing. If so, today’s post will help reinvigorate your writing.

Step 1: Get a physical copy of a dictionary.

An online dictionary does not have that all important tangible quality. Large or small. Hardback or paperback. Writing is so wispy and ethereal. A physical copy of a dictionary with help bring some earthy weight to this airy craft.

Step 2: Thumb casually through the pages.

Flip, shuffle, and peruse, getting a feel for the weighty book. Relax the mind in a semi-meditative state, not worrying about where you are in the alphabet. Just relax.

How to Discover Inspiration in the Dictionary. It's like using a Ouija Board.

Step 3: Pick a word.

With dictionary in hand, hold with the intention of finding a good word for your story. Follow your intuition toward a page that feels right, then the section of the page that feels right. This can be a bit like using a ouija board. You can close your eyes, look away, or look right at the page as you land on a word.

Step 4: Deliberate.

Like it? Write it down and use it immediately or save it for later. Don’t like it? Look around the page for some other word. Still don’t see a good word? Start at Step 2 and begin again. How do I know if I like it or not? You feel connected to the word, excited and inspired. If you don’t feel these things then, start the process again.

We like to find at least 5 words in a dictionary session. Here’s an example of five fun words plucked from the dictionary using this technique:

1. Relish
2. Smudge
3. Iron Lung
4. Bucolic
5. Damask

Step 5: Enjoy the process!

Writers are among the most insecure people in the world. We can get so down ourselves before our stories ever even see the light of day. Writing should be fun and this process will help with that. Every writer grows as he or she writes more and more, developing a style that may sometimes feel redundant or repetitive as we try to express the story within us. Have patience with yourself. Writing is all about playing the long game. Remember what Gore Vidal said:

Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps 20 players. ... I have 10 or so, and thats a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them. - Gore Vidal


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How to Discover Inspiration in the Dictionary

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