You’ve Got Five Pages, #BeastsandBeauty by #SomanChainani, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

We interrupt this month of mystery with a dark fantasy recommended by my daughter!

As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.

JEFF GERKE, THE FIRST FIFTY PAGES

Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani

I had originally planned a mystery for today, but once I saw my selection directly tied back to a previous book without much context, I took my daughter Blondie’s offer to read Beasts and Beauty by Soman Chainani instead. I’m so glad I did!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

The illustrations of the first story, “Red Riding Hood,” are stark and bleak–a perfect balance with the vivid yet succinct prose that describes the story-world. Just look at this first sentence: “On the first day of spring, the wolves eat the prettiest girl.” That right there is intense and violent while also providing a sense of time and action. Even though the story is written in third-person omniscient, we as readers feel like we are a part of the story, watching the girl who never thought herself beautiful be chosen by the wolves for their meal. We watch her discard fear, take up her red cloak and knife, and enter the forest. We have heard this tale a thousand times, yet we cannot help but read on, for we don’t know where Chainani’s unique tellings will take us. His control over language is pure magic, and I cannot wait to see his imagination play with the story-worlds of Snow White, Peter Pan, and other classic fairy tale folk.

No matter what the season brings, keep reading!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

You’ve Got Five Pages, #AGhostofCaribou by #AliceHenderson, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

Another January day, another mystery!

As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.

JEFF GERKE, THE FIRST FIFTY PAGES

Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

A Ghost of Caribou by Alice Henderson

Once again, we have a prologue, and once again, this is where the action happens.

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

On a technical level, the writing itself is fine: the pacing of the action is clear. The details help us see the woman being chased by a “thing.” Yet this prologue also feels very distant; we’re not really feeling things as the character feels, but merely stand as witness as this old woman runs and is eventually captured. And that’s something that snapped me back to reality, too: a seventy-two-year-old is outrunning what sounds like a drone through dangerous terrain in the dark. Whaaat?! It reminds me of the opening sequence to a tv episode like X-Files, where we’ve got to see someone in danger so we can be motivated to keep watching and see that person be saved.

But this is not TV. This is a book. And so we have the words and ability to gather the words that could help readers feel what someone in danger is feeling.

The first chapter’s opening pages continue to give me those “TV vibes.” After writing the characters’ full names for the reader, Henderson then has the characters say their names as if they’ve not seen one other in twenty years. “Alex Carter!” “Ben Hathaway!” But they did see each other only a year ago. Why this double-dump of information? It happens again when Ben asks if Alex wants to get something from the coffee shop. We get double-details that the shop is decorated with local art on the walls and has an “artistic” vibe. This kind of repetitive description simply isn’t necessary, especially since such an environment has become quite common in the western world and therefore is easy for readers to picture. Again, it feels like these details are there as if a script needs a quick setting description before the dialogue starts.

But this is not TV. This is a book, where every word counts. And when one’s writing a mystery, those words should always propel us toward the mystery’s heart rather than its “artistic” walls of generic detail.

No matter what the season brings, keep reading!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

You’ve Got Five Pages, #ThePersonalAssistant by #KimberlyBelle, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

We take a darker turn today into a thriller fueled by the virtual illusions created on social media.

As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.

JEFF GERKE, THE FIRST FIFTY PAGES

Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle

Ironically, the prologue is my favorite part of the opening pages in Kimberly Belle’s The Personal Assistant.

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

These first two pages are a well-paced scene with balanced external action and sensory detail from the perspective of an unnamed girl without a dime to her name. Her car’s run off the road by a farmer in the middle of nowhere, her tire blows out, and she has no one she could turn to for money. The prologue ends with a mysterious man pulling up to her vehicle offering aid.

Now I mention in my episode that prologues make me nervous because they seem to be the author’s backup plan to hooking readers when they know the first chapter is a slog.

Lo and behold…

We meet protagonist Alex, a social media influence married to a financial talking head named Patrick who also does a lot on social media. The opening pages detail how happy she is with her rise to fame, his skepticism about why people care enough to follow her online, and how he never cared about her daughters.

+++CORRECTION+++ It is not clear in these opening pages if Patrick is the father of those girls or not. In the episode, I interpreted that he is, which makes him sound like an even bigger jerk than he is supposed to be. Upon checking later pages, he is not the father of those girls, so at least this guy is decent with kids. Just wanted to clarify that. +++

Kimberly Belle clearly knows how to craft a scene. Belle knows how to balance detail and action, and she knows how to use dialogue to relay information. If I spot another book by Belle, I’ll likely give it a try. I just struggle to read a story about this particular kind of character. For folks who enjoy the realm of social media drama, or thrillers with that social media flare, this fiction will fit right in with your tastes. As one who is not as keen on such drama, I struggle to relate to such personalities. So, I’m going to see what the next mystery from my library contains.

No matter what the season brings, keep reading!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

You’ve Got Five Pages, #TheTwistofaKnife by #AnthonyHorowitz, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

Happy New Year, my fellow creatives! I’ve got a trove of mysteries from my library for this month.

As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.

JEFF GERKE, THE FIRST FIFTY PAGES

Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

The Twist of a Knife by Anthony Horowitz

CORRECTION: Over the course of the podcast I say The Twist of a Knife is the third book of Horowitz’s series, but it is actually the fourth. My apologies!

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

One of my favorite styles of writing is writing with personality. Horowitz’s The Twist of a Knife has plenty of personality in the prose because the narrator, Horowitz himself, IS a character in the series. It’s a delightful homage to the Watson-style storytelling approach Doyle took for chronicling the adventures of Sherlock Holmes–except in Horowitz’s case, the story begins with him and his Detective Hawthorn parting ways.

NOOOOOooooooo…..

Of course, they can’t stay parted. There is a whole book here, after all. But such a beginning does help establish some immediate conflict between protagonists that is bound to help make future points of plot–such as the murder of Horowitz’s critics–more challenging to overcome. The pair’s banter and chemistry were a joy to read, rather like the Thursday Murder Club in Richard Osman’s series. My one niggle here is that Horowitz opens his story with an exposition dump. While I appreciate we are getting exposition from the character in character voice that establishes the story-world, it’s still a bit of a slog, especially when compared to the quick, delightful dialogue that follows it.

I hope you’re ready for a few more mysteries to get you through these coming weeks. 🙂 No matter what the season brings, keep reading!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

You’ve Got Five Pages, #TheHouseAcrosstheLake by #RileySager, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

Hello, my fellow creatives! A New Year means a time to reflect…on a mystery. Dunh dunh DUNH!

As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.

JEFF GERKE, THE FIRST FIFTY PAGES

Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

The House Across the Lake by Rile Sager

Welp, we’re back to prologues.

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

Thankfully, the prologue is brief–a little over a page–and does accomplish two important things. First, there is a childhood memory used to establish the ominous mood and setting where the story takes place. Second, the narrator is very restrained and a little ominous in her word choices to the point where we can’t–or shouldn’t–trust her as a narrator. The first chapter shifts into the present time, a casual interrogation between a police detective and our narrator, Casey. The dialogue is very taut, and any exposition relays to the action, including the narrator realizing she has to lie to the police.

I’m not a fan of time-jumping between the prologue and first chapter (and the by looks of it, several chapters throughout the book), but I do appreciate Sager’s choice in keeping the narrator’s inner reflections to a bare minimum. Sager doesn’t want readers to trust the narrator, so the narrator’s language reveals very little. Some readers may not care for such a small amount of insights into our narrator, but a mystery can’t remain a mystery for very long if too much is revealed too soon. So, if you are keen for a cozy mystery situated in the cold, silent autumnal woods, then I think Sager’s tale will set your nerves on edge perfectly.

And what will we find on the library’s New Release shelf next week? I can’t wait to find out. 🙂 Cheers!

No matter what the season brings, keep reading!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

You’ve Got Five Pages, The Twelve Topsy-Turvy, Very Messy Days of #Christmas by #TadSafran and #JamesPatterson, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

Hello, my fellow creatives! I was happily surprised to find a new release at my local library that touches on the Christmas spirit.

As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.

JEFF GERKE, THE FIRST FIFTY PAGES

Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

The Twelve Topsy-Turvy, Very Messy Days of Christmas by Tad Safran and James Patterson

To be blunt, the first chapter of The Twelve Topsy-Turvy, Very Messy Days of Christmas by Tad Safran and James Patterson was infuriating.

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

The first page begins with a lighthearted approach about the worst Christmas present being different kinds of socks–this is relatable and fine. Then the next paragraph goes in a different direction and says the worst Christmas present for two siblings was the death of their mom. This is a shock so early in the story, but also something many of us can relate to. We’re even ready as readers to sympathize and perhaps even empathize with the characters.

But unfortunately, the exposition establishing this family’s situation is so distracting that it turns off any desire to empathize and actually inspires us to abandon those kids to their fate, unread. The narrator wants to be lighthearted about their dead mom–don’t worry, they didn’t “technically” lose her because she’s in a cemetery. Don’t worry, she’s not a zombie. Don’t worry, she didn’t spend all her time outside because she wasn’t house-trained. What on earth was this supposed to be? Humor? I can appreciate that folks use humor to cope with grief. Again, completely understandable. But we are brand new to this story-world and this family. We want to meet this family and understand them, but we can’t if we’re only told poor jokes about the family member all of them love and miss so much. If anything, we only learn about the narrator in this first chapter, and what I’ve learned does not encourage me to stick around and get to know the narrator better. It’s a shame, really, because there really are some lovely lines about the family at the end of the first chapter that, sadly, are soured by what came before.

Perhaps you are fine with this brand of humor. Please enjoy! As for me, I think I’ll see what’s on the library’s new release shelf next week. No matter what the season brings, keep reading!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

You’ve Got Five Pages, #TheManWhoDiedTwice by #RichardOsman, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

Hello, my fellow creatives! After a bout of illness and some time writing for NaNoWriMo, I am finally back and able to read the opening chapters of various new releases at my local library.

As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.

JEFF GERKE, THE FIRST FIFTY PAGES

Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

The Man Who Died TWICE by Richard Osman

It’s been a while since a story truly tickled me, and Richard Osman’s The Man Who Died TWICE did exactly that.

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

Here we watch a group of four friends having lunch after their “Murder Club” meeting, where they get together to study cold cases. I didn’t even realize this was the second book of the series until I caught this brief exposition in the first chapter, and thankfully, that was all I needed to be brought up to speed. The chemistry and personalities of these characters will have readers chuckling before they’ve even gotten to the third page, let alone to any murder. When a writer can establish four unique characters through a single lunchtime conversation, then you know their writing is worth a study! For those who need a lift in the heart and spirit while also tucking into a good mystery, then I have a feeling Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series will be the perfect fit for you. I know I’m excited to find the first book!

As always, I love hearing what’s on the shelves of your own libraries. No matter what the season brings, keep reading!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

You’ve Got Five Pages, #Haven by #EmmaDonoghue, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

Hello, my fellow creatives! After a bout of illness and some time writing for NaNoWriMo, I am finally back and able to read the opening chapters of various new releases at my local library.

As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.

JEFF GERKE, THE FIRST FIFTY PAGES

Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

Haven by Emma Donoghue

When I first grabbed Haven, I was admittedly hesitant because of my mixed feelings for her previous novel Room. Once I saw Haven is a historical novel featuring monks, though, my hesitation dissipated. 

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

I’m a big fan of Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose and the Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, so another mystery with monks? Sign me up! And as a writer, Donoghue packs a lot in those first five pages for readers. We open with an active abbey meal from the perspective of a young, hungry monk. We see the importance of the abbey to a community and the power the abbot enjoys. Yet there is an outsider visiting the abbey who, as the rumors say, is far more intelligent, far stronger, and simply far more blessed than any resident of that abbey, and this conflict reveals itself in a brief public interaction between the abbot and the outsider.

It’s a terrific setup for a number of possible progressions of plot, especially since we know from the book’s blurb three monks are going to essentially be stranded on a small island. Will that be by choice, or by punishment? The worldbuilding, too, is artfully done. I mentioned earlier that we can see the abbey is a central part of life, but I particularly dug how Donoghue utilizes the vocabulary of the period with her prose so that modern readers can use context to know what she’s talking about. This is one of the biggest challenges of historical fiction, and these early pages show that Donoghue conquered that challenge. 

As always, I love hearing what’s on the shelves of your own libraries. No matter what the season brings, keep reading!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2022: Day 14 With a Teen Awaiting Her Doom at Graduation. #Magic #ShortStories

Day 14 of National Novel Writing Month. Time to move on from reflection and back to writing! This one’s taking me some time to feel out, but I think–I think–I can see what (mis)adventures await teen Soffire. First, though, we’ve got to get through graduation, much to her shagrin.

Day 14, Story 4: Graduation Glums and Glamours

Calling Day. Her Calling Day.

Soffire stood at the end of the line of graduates waiting to cross the garland entry into Pips Row Town Square. Every year, the entire town shut down on the Winter Solstice to celebrate the graduates of Pips’ Pupilry, and once again, the town really put out. Every multi-colored banner from the lamp posts glittered with golden dust for the occasion. Enlarged holly berries and ivy wound around and between every post to celebrate both the Graduates and Winter Solstice celebration. Goodwill and Congratulation streamers hung over every shop window of the Square alongside wreaths of straw, fruit branches, silver, and gems to reflect the specialties of the town. If a town could be a birthday cake, this is what it would look.

Soffire preferred a good chocolate muffin. Alone. Away from human beings.

Not that such a thing was possible on this annoying clear, balmy December day. All cars and carts were pulled from the square to make room for rows upon rows of chairs. Everyone in Pips Row would be here. Everyone wanted to see where the thirteen-year-olds of the town would continue their studies. Farming? Tooling? Smithing? Everyone wanted to know who was Called where.

All those eyes…even the idea of those eyes on her weighed Soffire down as much as the heavy white cotton robe all graduates wore. Why couldn’t they wear the hoods? At least she could hide her face when they call her name and say:

Soffire of the Wool Makers, you are hereby Called to the Dung-Gathering Department of City Cleanliness.

Something like that. It was going to be something like that, she just knew it.

“Good good GOOD morning, Graduates! The Elementals worked especially hard to make this day a beautiful one for us. I really must send them a thank-you card.” Professor Hastlot bustled by Soffire, all bear and lists and spilling coffee. “Let’s see, let’s see. Thirteen robes, good, thirteen graduates, good.”

Maybe Soffire could alter the course of the graduates over a manhole cover so she could disappear.

“Thirteen chairs in the square by the podium, thirteen diplomas on the table by the chairs and the podium, good.”

Maybe Soffire could will the threads of their robes to come undone and leave them all in their PIP PUPIL, PROMOTED! shirts and shorts the school had gifted them on their last day of class. Her inner magic didn’t have terrific control over fabric, but that specialty was in her family line, so she could probably make something happen. Make all winter hats explode? Cause all pants to explode? Could be worth it.

“Wait, where is the Volumizer?! Ack!” Just like that, a little smoke erupted from his ears. “Not the Volumizer! Stay here, Graduates. Do NOT cross until I tell you.” The smoke from his ears swallowed him up in an instant.

Typical crisis for a Calling Day.

I can’t wait to see how Graduation will turn out! Hopefully Soffire won’t cause too many fabric explosions…

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2022: Day 11 with a Troublesome Fence and Even More Troublesome Neighbors. #Magic #ShortStories

Day 11 of National Novel Writing Month! I was so bummed I had to stop writing this morning to attend my university’s conference! Argh. So we’ll have to finish this story tomorrow. The Bee Trainer’s revenge is officially in the works!

Day 11, Story 3: The Bee Trainer’s Revenge

Another bright and glorious morning.

A loud morning! Birds chirping, bees buzzing, dishes clanging, voices chattering and laughing—from inside his house! No one ever laughs in his house!

Nacle Themormo rolled out of bed let out a loud and hit the rugged floor with an indignant “Umph!” Donned in his black silk bathrobe and most dower of expressions, he burst through his bedroom door and bellowed, “Show yourself, intruders!” down the stairs.

“No no, Peach, we should set the dishes over there. Oh! Good morning, Ex-Banker!” Bee Trainer appeared, her overalls and yellow shirt smeared with dust and dirt. The cheeriness of her eyes beneath that ridiculous sunhat churned Nacle’s stomach. “And here I had hoped we could finish our surprise before you woke.”

“Surprise?!” Nacle nearly tumbled down the stairs, in such a state was he. From his meager front hall, he could see at least one man on the floor checking the floorboards in his parlor while a child peered in every book upon the shelves. Even the Strawberry Triplets moved in and out of sight, always with a few of his dishes. “Let’s make sure we give those cupboards a good scrubbing!” someone said from the kitchen.

And all the while Bee Trainer—Queen Bee, more like—stood before Nacle with an innocent smile he was all too keen to wipe off her face. “Madame, you and your co-conspirators are trespassing!” He hadn’t rumbled like this since the Board of Governors dared prod him over those extra emergency funds.

“Nonsense! We are simply being good neighbors. You know what they say, ‘one good turn’ and all that, ha ha!” She motioned to his folding chair outside the front door. “When I told everyone about those beautiful new flowers you grew for a fence, they were thrilled as can be. That old fence had been such an eyesore, you know!” And before Nacle knew it, that squat bee woman was nudging him to his chair and had him seated so he had to look up at her, the sun creating a halo round her face as it shown through the hat’s weaving. “You just sit and have a nice cup of tea while we do all the work to make sure your house is ready for the cold months. Winters can be awfully harsh in Pips Row.”

“GOOD MORNING, LATE BANKER!” Plum Grower poked his out the parlor window with what was surely an aeronaut’s helmet and goggles.

Has this town gone mad?!

“WE WANTED TO MAKE SURE YOUR FLOORS DON’T HAVE ANY ROT! DANGEROUS THING, ROTTEN BOARDS! DID YOU KNOW A FEW BOARDS ARE LOOSE? I’LL CHECK FOR ANY DAMAGE AND REPLACE THOSE STRAIGHTAWAY, SHALL I?”

Nacle blanched. Yes, there were loose floorboards. He made them loose for those extra emergency funds. “Plum Grower, you must listen to me and leave those floor—”

Nothing but a blank smile on the bastard’s face. “YOU’RE WELCOME!” Back in he went to ruin Nacle’s floor.

“Good morning, Ex-Banker!” The woman from his kitchen huffed. Four different baskets full of jars hung heavily from her arms. “I am so glad the children and I are cleaning your kitchen. Did you know your cupboards had hardly a scrap of proper food in them! I found all these toxic powders instead. Don’t you worry—I’ll be sure to label every one of them POISON lest a child comes to visit. Can’t be too careful with these precious creatures!”

On cue, the Strawberry Triplets tumbled out with armfuls of paper, paper from Nacle’s study. Oh no.

“Precocious creatures, more like, wouldn’t you say, Pear Grower?” Bee Trainer laughed.

“MISS BEE TRAINER LOOK!” The boys plopped the papers at Nacle’s feet. At last, up close, Nacle could see why they shouted: each boy wore wax earplugs with little acorn caps on the ends. Nacle’s voice—and magic—shriveled in his throat. “HE HAD PICTURES OF BEES THAT LOOKED LIKE YOUR BEES SO WE MADE SURE THEY LOOKED DIFFERENTER.””

Nacle stomped on one pile and crushed it under his folding chair. “Oh dear, these are but, but scribbles, ideas your bees gave—”

“Why Ex-Banker, you should have said something!” One Triplet looked particularly proud of the sketch he handed Bee Trainer. It depicted a honey jar with MORMO HONEY. THEY’LL ALWAYS ASK FOR MORE MO! The honeybee in sketch, which already had a spoon and apron, now also had a giant mustache, googly eyes, and fart gas. “I would be happy to guide you in the honey trade if you’d asked. Have you always had an interest in bees?”

Nacle could feel all his blood pool in his feet. “Well, um, I, er—” He didn’t get a chance to finish. Fruit Seller’s truck pulled up to Nacle’s home and parked. Out hopped that blasted Clover Gardener bubbling with words to the passenger departing after her: a peculiarly formal man in an ill-fitting suit polishing a large monocle.

“And I told Bee Trainer I said, ‘Surely Pips Row has never seen such a breed of flower before, it could be from another land altogether!’ And Bee Trainer, she was so worried for Ex-Banker’s lovely new bushes that she felt it important to check with you at the Exotic Plant Registry lest the frost ruin what surely is a priceless investment for that dear, kind man.”

And just like that, the blood rushed right back up Nacle’s bulbous body and pressed against his temples. He rose, straightened his robe. “Oh dear, I’m not nearly so, so properly attired. Please give me pardon, Sir, so I may ready myself for this meeting.”

For a moment, it looked like Nacle had an impact: The suited man’s knees bent a bit, and his face went slack. But only for a moment, since that cow Clover Gardener grabbed the man’s arm and practically shouted in his ear, “ARE YOU ALL RIGHT, EXOTIC PLANT REGISTRAR?”

The suited man tapped his monocle to his temple. Sparkles erupted from the frame and settled about the prissy man’s head. Tiny whisps of smoke twirled from his cheekbones and ears as he righted himself. “We shall see. I have very, very high standards.” He held the monocle up to his eye and stared hard at Nacle with his now-giant eyeball. “Your name, Sir?”

Plum Grower’s boy appeared with a tea tray, of which everyone primly took a cup. “In this town I am known as Ex-Banker, Sir,” he said with a polite chuckle. “Retired, you know.”

The glass of the man’s monocle flashed with the sun as he hmmm’d and moved on. “So I’ve heard. But if we are to name the breed, it should be done with your name, should it not? Or would you prefer ExBankerus Levandula?”

Well that did admittedly sound a bit silly, even to Nacle.

Who is this peculiar man in the ill-fitting suit, and is Nacle going to find fame after all? I honestly had no clue the story would take this turn a few days ago, but now I see the end in sight and am super excited to reach it tomorrow.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!