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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Review of A Burning Truth by Kelli Keith


Book Review

Name:
Kelli Keith
Date:
October 28, 2017
Book Title:
A Burning Truth (Book 2 in the Cady Delafield Series)
Book Author:
Joyce Proell
Date of Publication:
February 3, 2014
Number of Pages:
276
Main Characters:
Arcadia “Cady” Delafield is the administrator for the Women’s Prepartory School.  The devotion to her students leads Cady to unsavory places, putting her in danger.  The relationship she’s developed with Mr. Flanagan is strained and on the verge of ending.
Doyle Flanagan is a wealthy businessman continuously cloaked in controversy.  He was shunned from high society when his wife’s, Millicent, suicide was investigated as a murder—with him as the prime suspect.  After his name was cleared, life seemed to be getting back to normal, when another murder occurs at his factory.

Other Important Characters:

Addison Brown is a dodgy English business owner (and direct competitor of Mr. Flanagan’s) that recently relocated to Chicago.  He courts Cady’s mother in a whirlwind romance that leads to an even quicker engagement.
Inspector Middendorf is the lead investigator of the murder cases.  His contempt toward Flanagan, again, interferes with his objectivity.  His only goal is to arrest Flanagan and put him behind bars, forever.
Setting:
Chicago, Illinois; April, 1881.
Synopsis:
Doyle Flanagan is yet again thrust into the center of controversy.  Two murders and a theft occur at his factory, seemingly tied to the International Worker’s Party.  With union rumblings nearing an eruption, Doyle and Cady must solve the mystery behind the factory murders. They must discover the puppet master who is pulling the strings before everything comes unraveled.
Key Points/Conflict:
Five weeks after Edward Villard admits to a series of murders and ends his life, we find Cady and Doyle still recovering from the events--Cady is having nightmares and Doyle is tender from his a gunshot wound.  Just as they believe life is settling into an even pace, Doyle’s office is robbed of its accounting ledgers and the night watchman is discovered, brutally murdered.  Clues left behind at the scene point to the International Worker’s Party (IWP.)  With union rumblings on the verge of erupting, Doyle who considers himself a fair businessman, finds himself the target of their wrath. 
Addison Brown has become a fixture in the Prentice household, wooing Mimi with rabid enthusiasm.  Cady and Grace are underwhelmed by the man and sense is intentions are dishonorable.  When Cady sees him exiting the infamous Hibernia Club, her suspicion is further piqued.  The involvement of a man known as Hibernia Joe (Joe Malone, owner of Hibernia Saloon,) in the murders and IWP upheaval becomes more and more evident.  Is Brown in collusion with the IWP?  Is he the puppet master? Many unanswered questions surround the Englishman.
Inspector Middendorf is the lead investigator in the murders and also in charge of wrangling the IWP rallies—the biggest scheduled next to Doyle’s factory.  Although the police’s inquiries into the murders is going through the motions, there seems to be no advancement made.  Mr. Flanagan believes Middendorf’s grudge prevents him from properly investigating the matters. 
As the eve of the rally looms, the suspicion, fear, and chaos intensifies.  Cady seeks out Doyle and ends up finding Mr. Brown. The intentions of Brown are revealed and he they are nefarious.  He attempts to cover his dirty deeds by disposing of Cady.  Will Doyle arrive in time to save her? 
Evaluation:
Again, the reader is immediately thrust into the meat of a murder/mystery; we find our two main characters out for the evening, where they stumble upon the body of the night watchman to Doyle’s factory. This scene sets the tone for the remainder of the book.  The descriptions and dialogue are on par with the Victorian period, with some verbal anachronisms. 
The characters are unevenly developed throughout the book.  Cady’s character was well defined in the first book of the series. If read as a standalone, a reader may find her character a bit flat and neurotic.  Doyle, on the other hand, is more developed and interesting.  His character takes center stage and relieves Cady of her starring role. The back-and-forth of Cady and Doyle’s relationship will give the reader whiplash.  It seems more erratic than necessary, leaving the reader to wish they would go their separate ways.  At times, the dialogue of their tiffs take away from the storyline and causes the reader to become a bit distracted.
Throughout the book there were few issues with continuity, the main one in chapter 24, when Cady refers to the night watchmen as Potter instead of Tatter. 
Some of the minor characters that disappeared throughout the first book did not reappear, leaving unanswered questions.  If this is read as a standalone, it is not an issue, and the reader will be none the wiser. 

A Burning Truth is available on Amazon, Kobo, at Barnes & Noble, and the Champagne Bookstore.

Review of Imagine by Linda Workman-Crider

Book Review: Imagine by Jenna Greene
Review by: Linda Workman-Crider


Imagine a world where magic is accessible to only some chosen few, where dwarves and elves are real. Imagine in this world, entire villages being destroyed by an evil spellcaster and raptor-like and dragonish creatures. Imagine, you are Kat, a sixteen-year-old transported to this realm from Earth, told you have elemental magic and are charged with finding the other elementals and saving the land and its people. Now imagine that you are Becky, only ten and charged with discovering the only key that will unlock this quest’s success and all you have to go on is nothing more than a name and riddle. If you think you can be more imaginative than the author, Jenna Greene, you might want to think again.

Kat and Becky find each other after waking up in an empty field. They soon discover that they are no longer on Earth. They have been brought to a realm called Oren, where two different forms of magic are real; spellcasting that can be learned by some through major efforts, and a living form of inherited magic that is capable of evolving. Those-who-came-before were the first generation of living magic holders. The Naturals were the second. Kat is told by the last living Natural, Enalie, that she is the first known member of the third generation—The Elementals. Obviously close to death, Enalie tells Kat and Becky that they must find the other Elementals, recover a magical orb, and “put past mistakes to right.” They must race to save the lives of the citizens of Oren and their own lives, as well. And that’s just a summary of the first two chapters out of forty-four. From here, our quest begins.

I feel like I should warn you that although the author is delightfully diverse in creating characters, challenges, and terrain, she is as cold-hearted as the grim reaper when doling out deaths. Even though one of the main characters is a ten-year-old girl and the language of the text is easy to read, you shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that this is written in a manner to preserve the innocence of a young reader. This fantasy dives deeply into the unfairness of life and includes direct conversations dealing with death. The rest of this quest I shall leave you to discover as the author intended.

I have already given the basic information regarding the two main characters. As you might imagine, Kat at 16 years-old, has already developed some self-confidence and leadership ability prior to her arrival on Oren. She is old enough to use her reasoning skills in her efforts to come to terms with her new situation, as difficult as it may be. But what about Becky? What skills does she bring to enable her to fulfill her seemingly impossible task? Jenna Greene realistically writes Becky as a character viewed as needing protection and whose importance can easily be ignored. Both of our main characters are well rounded in moods and reactions to triumphs, discoveries, frustrations and failures.

All of the diverse characters in this book are given a unique voice and personality of their own, making it easy to feel close and drawn into their emotion, their dialogue, and their actions. While there is a solid storyline to the quest, I honestly feel like the characters are so well written that Jenna Greene could place them anywhere, with any task, and still capture the reader from start to finish.

As with all quest type plots, we follow the collected group and our main characters across terrain, through several challenges, and many physical/emotional trials in an effort to complete the given life or death tasks. Aside from effectively describing changing settings and diverse cultures and governing styles, I think what may set Jenna Greene above a standard level of world building in this book is that she creates plot-twists that are as unpredictable as real life. Jenna applies this as much to building settings, scenes, cultures, and governing styles as she does to creating plot. This life’s not fair approach to fantasy, due to our own experiences, is realistic and believable on a deeper level than most, while still offering an effective and enjoyable escape from our own reality.

I couldn’t wait to get to the About the Author section to gain insight into where Jenna Greene may have acquired this gift of writing such realistic fantasy. I anticipated a PhD in Psychology and an MFA in Creative Writing combined with many other studies and experiences. Her writing talent and her comprehension of the human condition seemed, to me, to require at least these things. Instead, I found her bio to be endearingly humble. She is a married middle school teacher from Canada. Now I can’t help but to imagine a huge spike in the success rates of students in Alberta if her approach to teaching is anything like her approach to writing.

I honestly can’t recall the last time that I have enjoyed a book this completely on so many levels. Out of 345 pages of reading, the strongest criticism I could find is that there were about five portions of writing, around the size of a paragraph or two each, that weren’t as polished as the rest or where the writers voice and style that I had grown accustomed to seemed to be randomly absent. As a reader, I stumbled in those few places and was forced to go back and reread these sections before I could move on. I struggled nowhere else in my comprehension or enjoyment of the book, unless you include the number times that I was shocked by an unexpected turn of events. Thankfully, no one was around to hear me as I gasped out loud, so I suffered from no personal embarrassment.

I especially appreciated that Jenna Greene included a section where death is discussed on a realistic level among the characters. We are brought to an understanding of the emotional turmoil that the death has caused. We view different forms of coping with grief through the characters. And we are privy to a, normally avoided, dialogue about death and grief between two of our characters. I find this to be a brave undertaking on her part.

This is a definite must-read for fantasy fans or anyone who enjoys a well-written book. I am placing the second book in this series, Reality, on my own must-read list, as well. I can’t wait to follow these characters some more. With as much reality as Imagine contains, I expect the next book to be even more brutally exciting.

Imagine is available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and the Champagne Bookstore.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Savvy Saturday: Reflections on a Halloween Party by Kylee Howells

Hello all, and welcome back to Savvy Saturday! This week, I'm your host. Me, Kylee Howells, the Champagne Book Group Social Media Coordinator (aka Social Media Goddess). I'm the planner behind most of the posts, but don't often pop out to chat. For this Savvy Saturday, though, I think it would be fun to talk about what I've learned so far this year with planning Facebook parties.

First and foremost, they are not easy. For those who are thinking of planning their own, just getting people to host is difficult enough! Not to mention having people attend! Between the little and the big details, there is a lot of planning that goes into each party, and I'll be the first one to admit that I'm not the master of it yet. If you have been a host in any party ever,

Things that are great about parties:

  • You get to have fun and chat with people you normally wouldn't get to meet.
  • You get to do all the giveaways. It is always so much fun to be like "free book for you, and a free book for you over there" and so on.
  • You get to really watch authors as they interact with readers, and if you are on top of things, you can talk to them about their encounters and how to improve. I will also be the first to admit I'm not always on top of everything. I'm good, but I'm not all-knowing lol.
  • You get to participate as a party-goer as well as a party planner. I personally love posting pictures for responses, and laughing like crazy at other people's answers.
  • You get to see authors develop new fans right then and there. It's a really beautiful proud mama hen moment.
The not-so-great-but-please-don't-fire-me-for-saying-so parts:
  • No one will ever know what timezone the party is in. You can put it on the sign-up sheet, on the party page, in the emails, in the reminders, in the group chats, wherever; and it is guaranteed that hours before the party at least half of your hosts will ask you what timezone it is, and another quarter will just assume it's their own and post at when they think it's their turn.
    • Not to say to you hosts don't ask. I may get frustrated, but I would very much prefer you to be in the half that asks!
  • Wrangling hosts is like wrangling kittens when it's not nap time. Trying to get everyone in one place and working like a well oiled machine is tougher than it sounds. And it sounds tough.
  • Inviting people to the party, and actually getting them there.
    • It is the worst feeling when I see only one or two people interacting during a party with the authors. But I'm telling you guys, it's like fishing with just a hook sometimes. You might catch one or two fish, but somehow you just aren't connecting with people who might want to participate.
  • You are stuck to your computer with an umbilical cord all day. You think I'm joking, but even when it's not your turn, people are constantly asking questions, sending giveaway winners, running into issues, etc. One party I was stuck inside for twelve hours. I went a little stir crazy and ran around outside when it was over. I tried going out to breakfast during one party and my phone was constantly going off with questions, post, etc. until I felt bad for the person I was with.
Overall, I really do like Facebook parties, and planning them, no matter how stressful they can be. I look forward to our next one (TBD) and hope that all of you reading will be following our Facebook page then so you can know when to be there for my hour (a.k.a Giveaway Bonanza).

About Me:

I am an editor for Champagne Book Group, and the Social Media Coordinator, a.k.a Social Media Goddess—I'll answer to either! I joined the CBG team in June of 2014 as a hopeful and innocent intern in my junior year of college. This ended up being my big break into the publishing world, and now I get to edit while working with the authors to promote their work. I love to plan our weekly blog post with authors and think up all the posts and events we can do using Twitter and Facebook. If there is ever a question about promotion, or just any inquiry at all, you can always ask me, and I'll do my best to find an answer.

I graduated from Missouri State University with a degree in English Literature and a minor in Technical Writing in May of 2015. Currently I enjoy the warm climes of Texas, a drastic change from my home state of Minnesota. In between working on social media, editing, and working at my local bookstore, I enjoy line dancing, reading, and playing with my adorably horrible dog, Billy. I've been camping all of once in my life and realized it's not my thing. I prefer vacations with hotels, and I adore charming places to stop and appreciate life in.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Review of A Deadly Truth by Kelli Keith

Book Review
Name:
Kelli Keith

Date:
October 21, 2017

Book Title:
A Deadly Truth (Book 1 in the Cady Delafield Series)

Book Author:
Joyce Proell

Date of Publication:
July 1, 2013

Number of Pages:
234

Main Characters:
Arcadia “Cady” Delafield is the newly appointed administrator for the Women’s Prepartory School. Her pursuit of a career ruffles the family matriarch’s, Ophelia Prentice, feathers and is considered a near-spinster at the age of 24.

Doyle Flanagan is a wealthy businessman cloaked in controversy. He was shunned from high society when his wife’s, Millicent, suicide was investigated as a murder—with him as the prime suspect. His mother-in-law, Constance Langford, had spared no expense to sully his reputation and seek revenge for the death of her daughter.

Other Important Characters:
Inspector Middendorf is the lead investigator of the strangling cases. His contempt toward Flanagan interferes with his objectivity. His only goal is to arrest Flanagan and put him behind bars, forever.
Edward Villard is in charge at the Bank of Chicago, he his ordinary in appearance—a wolf in sheep’s clothing. A childhood rival of Flanagan, Villard has held a grudge that will ultimately be his undoing.

Setting:
Chicago, Illinois; 1881.

Synopsis:
Victorian era Chicago, was no stranger to murderous deeds. When Cady Delafield discovered the body of her student in the home of Doyle Flanagan, they accuse each other of murder. Although Mr. Flanagan is no stranger to murder allegations, having been the prime suspect in his wife’s death three years prior, Cady reluctantly joins him to hunt for the killer. Putting her reputation, career, and life at stake, Cady will stop at nothing to bring justice to her students.

Key Points/Conflict:
Cady Delafield was informed that her student, Fiona, was missing. A little investigative work leads her to the door of Doyle Flanagan. No one is home at the elaborate townhome and the door is ajar. After calling out, Cady enters to find Fiona, strangled, in the parlor. Enter Mr. Flanagan; he is startled to find the women in his home, sending a cabby to fetch the police, and frantically begins searching for clues. Cady assumes Mr. Flanagan is the murderer and reveals that Fiona left behind a note stating she was to meet someone at this address. Mr. Flanagan is arrested by Inspector Middendorf, who feels that Flanagan got away with murder three years prior, and is determined to keep him in custody this time.

When Flanagan’s salacious alibi for the prior night is confirmed, Middendorf begrudgingly releases him from custody. Cady seeks out Flanagan to ask more questions about his relationship with Fiona. In this conversation it is revealed that another of Cady’s students, Mary “Velvet” O’Hara, was also murdered—and has a connection to Flanagan. With mounting suspicion, Flanagan becomes more determined to find the killer and clear his name.

Over the course of two weeks, Cady and Flanagan push the boundaries of propriety, forming a unique bond despite the societal hurdles placed before them. Flanagan’s reputation, and their (now public) association cause many hardships that force Cady to choose between what is right and what is proper. Defying her upbringing to find the truth could lead Cady to poverty and no marital prospects. The pair gather evidence and search for witnesses.

When Flanagan’s “salacious alibi” is murdered—bringing the body count to three—it seems there is no way to exonerate him from the crimes. Cady, puts herself in danger to bring the real killer to the authorities and to clear the name of the man, with which, she is falling in love. One close call after another leads the reader on an exciting chase to find the killer.


Analysis/Evaluation:

The reader is immediately thrust into the meat of the mystery; introducing the two main characters and setting the tone for the remainder of the book. The descriptions and dialogue are on par with the Victorian period, with very few anachronisms. The characters were well defined, interesting, and the dialogue adequately highlighted the brewing chemistry between them.

Throughout the book there were issues with continuity.

  • When Cady was introduced, it alternated between “Arcadia” and Acadia” so the reader may be confused as to her accurate name. 

  • Ophelia was described as “raising her silver eyebrow” upon her introduction to the character list. Later, she was described as “lifting her rose eyebrow”. 

  • The very first time she dressed to attend a function, the gown was described as velvet and a page later, as satin. 
  • Flanagan kissed Cady, stopping himself so he would “not remove the innocence that made her so appealing”. Yet, a page later, his inner dialogue stated that they had made love. This appeared multiple times throughout the remainder of the book. 
  • The necklace and pendant, found on the third victim, is referred to a bracelet in a conversation with Constance. The next sentence calls it a necklace again. 

Some of the minor characters disappear throughout the book and significant questions remain regarding the main characters, however, this is a series, so it is safe to assume these issues will be resolved later. The love portion of the story was a bit too quick-paced but, it does not detract from the actual story line (and will still satisfy admirers of the romance genre).

Overall, the book was likeable. It is apparent the author put considerable amounts of time into research of the period (and probably the H.H. Holmes murders). Despite the continuity issues, it was a good Saturday afternoon read that will remove you from reality for a spell. 


A Deadly Truth is available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and the Champagne Bookstore.



Saturday, October 21, 2017

Savvy Saturday: Behind the Scenes on Desperate Knight with Keith Willis

During the month of September (and maybe into October as well), Champagne Books Savvy Saturday blog has been taking readers behind the scenes, as authors share some of their inspirations and thought processes for favorite parts of their stories. When they asked me to join in the fun, I immediately knew which scene I wanted to share. Welcome to The Scene That Almost Wasn’t, from my just-released second novel, Desperate Knight.



Later, after everyone else had gone to bed, Morgan sat in the Green Suite with a bottle of Marcus duBerry’s brandy by his elbow. The armchair he occupied was quite comfortable, but it didn’t help him relax. Neither did the brandy, unfortunately, even after he’d topped up his snifter again. It was, he decided, a complete waste of excellent spirits.
In any event, relaxing wasn’t his intent. He needed to finalize his plans for the morrow. Yet, even as he ticked off points in his head, his eyes began to drift closed of their own accord.
They snapped opened again with a start. Off to his left a vague, wavering shape was gliding slowly across the room. It rather resembled an earth-bound cloud. Morgan regarded the shape dubiously, then the empty snifter, and shook his head. He hadn’t drunk enough to make him start seeing things. Had he? He peered at the cloud for a moment as Marissa’s words came back to him. “He just wanders around.”
Well, if this was the Specter of the Green Suite, he certainly did appear a bit aimless. Formless too. There was only the merest suggestion of a human figure about him, like a painting with only the outline done and the interior bits still waiting for the artist to sketch them in.
The wavering form drew nearer. Morgan, amid splashing more brandy into his glass, nodded politely. “Hello,” he said, and took another sip. Because ghost or not, a little more brandy wasn’t going to hurt either way. Besides, being polite cost him nothing.
As it came closer, the shape suddenly took on a bit of substance, as if having made up its mind to stay. It formed into a vaguely human silhouette and loomed up over Morgan, who downed the brandy at a gulp. “This can’t be good,” he muttered.
The wavering mass gradually resolved itself into a more definite figure of a man. An older man, perhaps one of his father’s generation. Or even a bit older still. The figure was still transparent, but there was enough essence for him to make out some details. Like a Royal Navy jacket, complete with brass buttons. Like the crumpled linen handkerchief the apparition pulled from a ghostly pocket to wipe a pair of spectral spectacles. The ghost finished his polishing job, placed the spectacles on a beaklike nose, and regarded Morgan.
He decided courtesy would be the best course. “Do I have the honor to address Mr. Harold Green?”
“My word, yes,” said the ghost. “I believe I am.”
The words came out raspy, as if they hadn’t been used in quite some time. Which made perfect sense. Marissa had told him the specter never moaned or wailed. It stood to reason it might have a hard time with such unused faculties.
The ghost of Harold Green scrutinized Morgan. “’Pon my soul, you’re an Orskan,” he declared, seeming a bit nonplussed by this realization.
Good grief. Lady Hermione was bad enough. If I’m going to be subjected to insults by even the resident spirits, things are getting a bit thick.
“Who would have ever thought to find an Orskan in these parts?” the ghost went on. “Ain’t seen anyone from Orsk in near to thirty years, I’d wager. My commanding officer, bless him, wanted to marry an Orskan girl, you know. Lovely thing, she was. I wonder if he ever did.”
Morgan’s mouth dropped open. The ghost couldn’t have just said that, could he? Inquiries were in order. He cleared his throat, which had become unaccountably tight. “Umm. Your commander? Might I ask his name, sir?”
“Mmmm, it was just on the tip of me tongue, young feller,” replied the ghost, rummaging in spectral pockets again as if hoping to locate the name there. “Commander Mc-something, mmmm, mmm. Oh, yes, McRobbie, that was it!”
“Indeed. An interesting coincidence, if you’ll forgive me mentioning it. McRobbie happens to be my name as well.”
“You don’t say,” replied Green, brightening visibly. He regarded Morgan with a paternal air. “Well, well, small world, ain’t it?”
“And my father,” Morgan said, “was a naval commander, on the HMS Raven, who married an Orskan girl. Which resulted,” he gestured to himself, “in me.”
The ghost shook his head. “Well, blow me down. How d’ya like that? I sailed with McRobbie near to thirty years ago on the Raven. We’d been off to Orsk, where the commander was to arrange for their navy to help us wipe out a bunch of pirates. If I remember rightly, ’twas the admiral’s daughter he fell for. Well, I was wounded badly in a little dust-up with a bunch of pirates not long after. One of ’em I was sure I’d killed was only lying doggo. He near to ran me through. Ship’s doctor could patch me up, but he said I wasn’t fit for duty no more. That’s when I came down here, eh?”
“I’m sure you served with honor, sir,” Morgan said.
“Damn right I did!” replied the ghost. “How fares Commander McRobbie? He was a good man, he was. Martin, that was it. Martin McRobbie.”
“Yes, he was a good man. I’m afraid a wasting fever took him several years ago. He’s in the same condition as you. Although he has never paid me a visit. If you should run across him, please ask him to look me up, would you?”
“Of course, m’boy, of course, happy to oblige, don’t ya know. Although I don’t get out much. Don’t see too many folks. Really just the ones in this house. And it’s quiet, these days. Now ’way back, there used to be a pretty girl here. I enjoyed watching her. A real hellcat, she was. I wonder what ever happened to her.”
“I don’t think she’s changed all that much,” Morgan murmured, more to himself than to his visitor. To the ghost he said, “Actually, she’s back. Grown a bit, but still pretty feisty.”
“Ah, her type never changes. Now you mention it, I believe I’ve seen ’er. Dark hair, nice eyes, talks a lot.”
“Um, yes, she sounds like the one.”
“Pretty young thing, ain’t she?” said the ghost with a spectral wink. “Are you and she…?” He left the question hanging in the air, rather like himself.
“I’m working on it,” he said through clenched teeth. Blast it, even the family ghost is interesting himself in my love life. Why can’t they leave me alone?
“Well, you’d best get busy, young feller. I remember your pa—he didn’t let the swells rock his boat, as they say. Just went right to it.”
“Yes, thank you, I’ll bear it in mind.”
“I could go pay ’er a visit if you’d like. Kinda pave the way for you.”
Morgan’s mind presented him with a brief vision of this proposed encounter. While the prospect of the ghostly Mr. Green materializing in Marissa’s bedchamber had its attractions, there were just so many ways in which this would be an awful idea. Especially if Green started pleading Morgan’s case for him. She would have a few pointed things to say to him about it. No, best not.
“Thank you, sir, but perhaps not. Don’t want to disturb the young lady while she’s sleeping, do we?”
The ghost grinned. “Maybe you don’t, but I would.”
“No!” he roared.
The specter looked affronted. “All right, all right, no need to shout,” he said, a bit peevishly. “My hearing is just fine, even if I can’t always find the rest of me when I need it.”
He began to lose his shape, fading from Morgan’s sight like a mist on the moors after the sunrise. He deliberated the application of a bit more brandy, decided against it, and went to bed.

~*~

The genesis for this scene began, as many of my favorites seem to do, while cutting my lawn. Mowing is one of those repetitive activities that allows my mind to wander strange byways, and often gets me wondering “why” and “what if…” Although admittedly it’s normally, “what if somebody else was cutting this grass…”
In this case, the catalyst was a throwaway line earlier in the story. I’ve no idea why it stuck with me—it was just one of those mysteries of life, but there it was, rambling around in my head. Marissa, arriving at her family’s home with Morgan in tow, asks which room he’ll occupy, and told he’s been put in “the Green Suite, my lady”.
As I cut this grass this particular afternoon, I must have put a nickel in my subconscious. It began to wonder “Why is it called the Green Suite?” I envisioned Morgan entering the room only to discover, to his amusement, that none of the walls, draperies, bedding, or carpeting, have a trace of green in them. No green anywhere. And I could picture the mischief in Marissa’s eyes as she informs him that the room was named for her Uncle, Harold Green. Who had died in it and reputedly haunts it.
Then this description hit me, and I was in love: “There was only the merest suggestion of a human figure about him, like a painting with only the outline done and the interior bits still waiting for the artist to sketch them in.” This, I told myself, is how a ghost should look. I hadn’t planned to have a haunted chamber and a perambulating spook. But Mr. Harold Green, deceased, loomed up out t of the netherworld and I couldn’t resist him.
I pretty much allow my characters to tell me about themselves, and Harold was no different. I learned from him that he was an ex-navy man, as evidenced by his blue naval jacket with its brass buttons. Wounded in a dust-up with some pirates (one our friendly ghost thought he’d dispatched proved able to nearly cut off Harold’s leg), he left naval service and retired to the country, to the home of his nephew, Marcus duBerry, where he subsequently passed on.
This gave me broad avenues down which to stroll and have some fun. Because after all, a bold knight in a haunted room should be fun—at least for the reader, if not said knight. I even have Morgan mutter to Marissa at dinner, “Wouldn’t it make more sense to stick the wizard in the haunted room? Much more in his line, don’t you think?”
But when the ghost exclaims over the fact that Morgan’s an Orskan, that’s just the last straw for this poor harassed knight. On the point of snapping out a reply, he’s brought up short when the ghost reveals that he served on the ship commanded by Martin McRobbie, who as Harold recalls, fell in love with a dark-skinned Orskan girl. When Morgan tells him that Martin was his father, Harold takes an almost paternalistic interest in him, and it becomes a rather sepulchral old-home week, until Morgan refuses Harold’s offer to act as Cyrano for him with Marissa. I was chortling to myself as I pictured how Morgan would react to this idea.
This scene was actually written after most of the rest of the story was done. But it just felt right. And so I went against everything I’ve ever been taught about storytelling—that if a scene doesn’t serve to advance the story somehow, cut it. Well, this scene really doesn’t advance the story in any form or fashion. It’s just there because I adore the raspy-voiced, spectral sailor who’s eager to play matchmaker for the young feller who shows up in “his” suite. And so I fought to keep this in. I knew it was against logic and common sense and all the tenets of good writing. But I wanted to keep my ghost, and I’m glad I did. I’ve had a number of people, including the reviewer for SFF World, say that the ghost was one of their favorite characters.
So, yeah. Sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and go with your instincts, and have some fun.

Desperate Knight (Knights of Kilbourne2) is available at:
Champagne Books: http://tinyurl.com/ybvjgcqs
Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/yd7zzwsr

Keith W. Willis is a semi-professional word wrangler and dragon herder. He graduated (long ago) with a degree in English Lit from Berry College, which has the distinction of being the world's largest college campus. He now lives in the scenic Hudson Valley/Adirondack region of NY with his wife Patty. Keith is certain those rumbling noises attributed to Henry Hudson's crew are really just the dragons grumbling. Keith and Patty have one grown son, Matt, who actually thinks it’s pretty cool that Dad wrote a book.

Keith’s interests include reading classic mysteries, fantasy and sci-fi; camping and canoeing; and cutthroat games of Scrabble. He began writing seriously in 2008, when the voices in his head got too annoying to ignore. When he’s not making up stories he manages a group of database content editors at a global information technology firm. TRAITOR KNIGHT (Champagne Books) is his first published novel, and has won awards for both fantasy and romance. The second book in the Knights of Kilbourne series, DESPERATE KNIGHT, was just released in August 2017. SFF World calls DESPERATE KNIGHT ""...a swashbuckling, drama, and punch- (or slap-) filled romp; it’s a tangled web of politics, motives and emotions, all held together with a wonderful dose of heroics, romance, fun and general chaos – and a dragon. Of course."

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