The Hook: The Dead Hamlets by Peter Roman

February 25, 2015
The Dead Hamlets
The Hook:

I lost the angel Baal in Berlin during a rainstorm of biblical scale. Some might say the weather was a sign of things to come, or maybe a sign of things past. But if there was one thing I’d learned over the ages, it was that the weather was usually just the weather. Usually. So instead of killing Baal and getting drunk on his heavenly grace, I found a bar on a quiet street and got drunk on regular spirits instead. It wasn’t the same, but I’d learned to make do. 

Make that drunker. I hadn’t been sober in months, not since the Barcelona Incident. The less said about that, the better. Let’s just say if I didn’t have a reason to kill angels before, I had one now.

Peter Roman writes:
The first few paragraphs of a novel are always the most important ones to me as a reader. They’re what’ll hook me or lose me. They tell me what I need to know about the style of the book, the writing level of the author, the genre coordinates — basically the whole works.
That means the first few paragraphs of a novel are also the most important ones to me as a writer. So how did I begin my new novel, The Dead Hamlets? By using the ol’ dark and stormy night intro.

It’s a dangerous game opening a book like that. But it’s the perfect start for a tale that is so strongly connected to the theatre world. The Dead Hamlets is a ghost story of sorts, where the immortal Cross must solve the mystery of who or what is killing the members of the faerie queen’s court. As it turns out, Cross’s search leads him to an ancient and startling secret about the Shakespeare play Hamlet. There’s a long tradition of dark and stormy nights in the theatre — lots of blackouts and thunder sound effects. The first stage directions of Macbeth, for instance, are “Thunder and lightning.” So I was hinting at the subject matter of my book in its opening lines. Shortly after that initial scene, I have Cross stumble into a theatre full of the dead — at which point things really get dark and stormy!

There’s a bit of the noir to this opening, too. Cross often treads the same moral ground as Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, and he operates in the shadows just as many hard-boiled detective characters do. Cross has seen it all and done it all, thanks to his immortality.

Then there’s the angel Baal, who is mentioned in that first line. Opening with Cross hunting the angel immediately sets the tone for the book and tells us a bit about his character. This is a dark and gritty urban fantasy, populated with dangerous and sometimes unpleasant people. Readers of the first book in the series, The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, will see immediately that Cross is in a grim place mentally as he’s back to hunting angels for their heavenly grace, which he needs to power his supernatural abilities. He loses Baal and then gets drunk (and later beat up), which tells us that he’s still making a mess of his life. Some things never change for Cross.

Plus, there’s that word “Baal.” The very sound of it is dark and foreboding. This is a book where nothing good is going to happen if characters have names like that.Introducing an angel in the very first sentence of the novel also sets up the supernatural nature of this book. Readers won’t be surprised when other crazy creatures show up, such as the real Witches of Macbeth, the eerie Alice from the Alice in Wonderland tales, a demon, a god of the dead — and a very supernatural and very nasty Shakespeare. If you’re down with the angel, then you’ll be fine with everybody else that arrives with weapons drawn.

As for Berlin? It sets the international scope of this book and reinforces the moodiness of the story. Berlin’s not exactly a place with a lot of happy memories and pleasant associations, after all. And I admit it’s a very subtle nod to the Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire, which featured angels hiding out in Berlin. Nick Cave, who has a cameo in the film, would probably feel at home in The Dead Hamlets.The last hook I put in the opening of The Dead Hamlets was the mention of The Barcelona Incident. This kind of lets readers know Cross has a back story and sets up where the book is in the series overall — The Mona Lisa Sacrifice opens and ends on two very different Barcelona incidents, so it’s a rich reference.

There you have it. In a couple of paragraphs I tried to set up the mood and plot of The Dead Hamlets, give an insight into Cross’s state of mind, and describe how the book relates to the first one in the series. Did all these hooks succeed? I suppose the true test of that is if you keep on reading the story. I certainly hope you do, as I’ve got a lot of tales to tell about Cross and his crazy group of friends.
About the author:
Peter Roman is the alter ego of Peter Darbyshire, a Canadian writer. Roman is the author of The Mona Lisa Sacrifice and The Dead Hamlets, while Darbyshire has written the novels The Warhol Gang and Please, which won Canada’s national ReLit Award for best novel. Both of them share an office in Vancouver, where there are no angels. You can follow their adventures at
If you’re an author with a book coming out soon and you wish to participate on The Hook, please read this.

Introducing: The Hook

February 25, 2015

The Hook is a guest post feature on this blog that will help promote other authors’ latest science fiction and fantasy books. Optimally each of these will be posted on the book’s release date.

Each post will open with a very short (up to 200 words) quote form the opening of the novel, followed by the author’s brief post consisting of two parts:

1) Elevator pitch — A paragraph or so talking about the book; what is it about, why is it awesome, etc.

2) The Hook — The author will explain why you they chose that specific scene/those specific lines as the opener. What makes it a great hook that will stick with the readers, and what makes it the right place to begin their story?

It is my belief that such posts will be both interesting to the readers and instructive to fellow writers.

I already have a number of authors lined up and will reach out directly to others on my radar whose books I’d like to bring to attention of this blog’s readers.  If you are an author who would like to participate, please have your publicist contact me. Self-published books will occasionally be featured, but those slots will be available by invitation only.



Audio book of “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories” is live at Audible

February 20, 2015


It took them some extra time to approve the book, but it is now live! I’m tremendously excited about Tina Connolly’s narration, and really hope everyone at least checks out the free sampler.

Click here to buy the audio book

Click here to listen to “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma,” the title story, for free.





UFO4 Cover Reveal, Submission Guidelines, Headliners

February 13, 2015

At long last, here’s the info about UFO4:

image description

The cover is by Tomasz Marosnki (the same artist who drew the UFO3 cover.)

Unlike the previous volumes, UFO4 will be themed. The theme of this anthology is: dark humor.

As with previous UFO volumes, this book will feature 2 reprints and all-original material for the rest. The headliners are attached to the project are listed below:

George R.R. Martin – “The Monkey Treatment” reprint

Neil Gaiman – “We Can Get Them For You Wholesale” reprint

Esther Friesner – “The Match Game”

Piers Anthony – “Hello Hotel”

Other headliners that have agreed to write original stories for this volume include:

Mike Resnick – Gini Koch – Tim Pratt – Jody Lynn Nye – Karen Haber

Submission guidelines are now posted. We’ve raised our pay rate to $0.07 per word for original fiction.

There will be a Kickstarter campaign launched sometime in early March. As with previous volumes, the book will be published regardless of the crowdfunding campaign’s success. However, a successful campaign will allow us to purchase more stories, include interior illustrations and otherwise maintain and improve the annual series.

Some of the notable changes from previous volumes:

* Themed volume (see above)

* Maximum story length is 5000 words.

* One submission per author.

Hope to see many great stories from all of you!



Podcast: “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma”

February 6, 2015

You can now listen to the title story of the collection here:

If you enjoy Tina’s narration (and there’s no good reason why you won’t) you can pick up the audio book containing all 40 stories at Audible, forthcoming in the next few weeks.



Book Birthday!

February 2, 2015

Today is the day! No, I don’t mean Super Bowl (or, as I prefer to think of it, Superb Owl.) Rather, today is the day my short story collection is officially released. Many writers affectionately call it book birthday.



[Buy direct: Paperback | E-book]
[B&N] [Smashwords] [Kobo]

If you already have the book (because you received an advance review copy, got it as a Kickstarter backer, or are a time traveler) you would be doing me a huge favor if you post an honest review on your favorite book-buying web site (and especially Amazon, which uses an algorithm that accounts for the number of reviews each book has in their marketing of the title.)

Over the last week I’ve been working feverishly on typing up interviews, guest blog posts and arranging things like giveaways and podcasts, all meant to launch around the same time as the book releases. So rather than inundate you with each of these individually, here’s the collection of links for all of this various promotional stuff in one neat bow-tied package:

Giveaway at SF Signal: Enter for a chance to win one of two signed paperback copies of the collection.

Giveaway at GoodReads: Another opportunity to win a signed copy of the collection.

Interview at A.C. Wise’s blog

Interview at David Walton’s blog

Interview at Darusha Wehm‘s blog (forthcoming tomorrow)

Listen to Icarus Falls podcasted at Toasted Cake: This is probably my strongest story published last year. If you haven’t read or heard it yet, I strongly encourage you to.

Listen to Requiem for a Druid podcasted at Far-Fetched Fables (forthcoming later this week)

The Art and Science of Anthology Editing - a long, detailed guest post at Locus Online. If you are interested in editing an anthology, or just want to know how the sausage is made, you might find this interesting.

There’s more to come in the next few days, including the release of the audio book!


January 22, 2015


The first of the Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories physical copies have began reaching readers this week, and it’s a surreal feeling. I’m beyond excited for the February 1 official release. I’m lining up lots of different promotional things for the book: blog posts, interviews, giveaways, convention appearances and such. But ultimately, I’m just one guy. That’s why my friends’ help on social media has been so huge!

The official release date for the book is February 1st, and I’m trying to organize a Thunderclap to set off on that Sunday morning. What is Thunderclap and how it works, you ask?

Thunderclap is a web app that will synchronize and simultaneously post a message on the willing users’ Twitter, Facebook, and/or Tumblr feeds. It’s free to use and takes less than 10 seconds to join, but there is a catch: like Kickstarter, it won’t fire off unless a minimum amount of people join in. That minimum is 100. So if you don’t mind posting a message about my book’s release on any of those three social media feeds, would you please click below and join in?

Also, the early reviews for the collection are in, and they’re very positive! So far it has been reviewed by:

Tangent Online

Albedo 1

Fantastica Ficcion (Note: this last one is in Spanish.)

I’m looking forward to more reviews soon, hopefully.





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