The Monarch Key by Darren Craske


Having solved the mystery of the Hades Consortium and uncovered the truth about his life, circus conjuror Cornelius Quaint is looking for a quiet life.

Being back with his circus and all its performers should feel like bliss after all he has been through .However Cornelius Quaint can’t shake the need to do something. Cornelius is a man of action and being immortal is no excuse to get lazy.

Thankfully, the Queen of England offers the perfect distraction to boredom.

Queen Victoria wishes to invoke the powers of the Monarch Key, given to Quaint when he saved her life on a previous occasion. The Queen only gives the key to trusted individuals and there are only seven in existence.

She needs Cornelius’s help. Her close personal friend, Lady Crichton-Blake, has been murdered. The Queen wants to know the obvious questions: how, why and who? However, when Cornelius arrives on the scene, he notices two things:

The first being that Lady Crichton-Blake’s head has been removed. The second is that playing cards have been strewn across the floor and the one missing card is the Queen of Diamonds. Upon looking at the cards more carefully, Quaint realises that the killer isn’t done. They are only just beginning.

With the help of Madame Destine, Cornelius Quaint will have to use all his cunning to find out who the next target is and where they will be, before time runs out…

I love Cornelius Quaint. I don’t know how he does it, but Darren Craske always manages to top his last book and The Monarch Key is no exception.

Cornelius Quaint is as suave and debonair as usual and Madame Destine as all seeing. What makes The Monarch Key so incredible is that you have no idea where the story will go. Just when you think you have it figured out, Craske pulls the carpet out from underneath you.

What starts off as a brilliant murder mystery takes an incredible turn when we’re introduced to a medium capable of contacting the dead. Rather than being a fraud, however, the medium is the real deal. She also has it in for Quaint and Destine.

I wondered where the Quaint series would head next. After the closing off of the four book story arc, where Quaint finally learns the truth about his childhood and takes on the Hades Consortium, I wondered how Craske would continue the story. What could be next for the conjuror?

After finishing The Monarch Key, and being left with one heck of a cliff hanger, all I can say is that I’m anticipating the next book with relish. Craske continues to write some of the most amazing books with the most wonderful characters and his genius for storytelling knows no bounds.

I can’t wait to read the next adventure and catch up with Cornelius, Destine and company again. I have only one request for Darren Craske: write faster!


Endless Possibilities – A Poem

It’s been a long time

since I’ve wanted to

get to know someone romantically.

Normally I’m confident,

unafraid, calm, centered.

That was before.

Now I carry something with me

internally and externally.

On the outside, there is

my third leg, the metal appendage

that helps me to get around.

On the inside, it is the unseen

that I carry with me, that shapes

how I walk, how I function.

The seen and unseen

shapes the first impression

the romantic interest has of me.

More often than not, they will

take one look at third leg made of metal

and want nothing to do with me.

When they find out what is unseen

inside of me, most want less than nothing

to do with me. But every once upon a time,

there will be one person who will see

beyond the seen and unseen, and only

see what is inside of my heart instead.

And then, the possibilities are endless.

Chalice – A Poem

It can take only seconds

to break the chalice.

That internal barrier that we

keep within. It is holds our

dreams, hopes, and wishes

and is very fragile.

Every time I fall,

my chalice breaks.

It shatters inside of me,

though my body just bruises.

I jingle with the clink

of broken glass.

Later, I’m able to shake

the glass from my skin. Soon I am

surrounded by pieces of glass,

shards of them, in a pretty

smoky blue hue. When I’m done,

I get my bottle of glue.

Every time I fall,

I glue the pieces of the

chalice back together.

We Begin Again…Again!

Two steps at a Time coverSo, here’s the thing. I find it extremely difficult to write about myself.

When I started One Step at a Time up again, after a very long absence, I began with what happened earlier this year and how I went about being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. However, something wasn’t working for me.

The blog was turning into a pity me kind of thing when my only intent (with the Cerebral Palsy portion as well) has been to make sure people are aware. That they know. I wanted to write honestly and bluntly about what it’s like to live with a disability so they know what me and millions of others go through every day.

However, writing about the time leading up to the diagnosis was proving difficult. It was wrapped up in so much angst and a lot of drama. I was also stuck. I didn’t want to write about what had happened, I wanted to write about what was happening.

When I began the blog, back when it was just One Step at a Time, I wrote about my daily experiences with CP. My writing had changed and I’ve developed as a writer. The blog felt different, but it had lost its focus. I also came to a realization. It didn’t matter how I had been diagnosed with MS. All that mattered was that I kept on living.

So I’ve taken out the posts that dealt with the diagnosis. I may write about that at some point. However, I’ve switched the focus back to what the blog was supposed to be about: my daily life and how disabilities affect it.

I also changed the name of the blog. Instead of One Step it became Two Steps. I often feel as if I am taking two steps at a time as I have both CP and MS. But I keep on walking.

I still don’t like writing about myself. I would much rather be writing a novel or a novella or a short story; but I’m compelled to write about this. Some people have called me brave, but I think of it as brave. I don’t have a choice. I have to live with MS and CP. However, if just one person learns something from what I write, if one person takes something from it, then I’ll have done my job.

I hope you take a moment and click at the link below. I’m immensely proud of Two Steps at a Time.

And if you feel like sharing the blog posts or leaving a comment, so much the better. I hope you’ll take this journey with me…Two Steps at a Time.

Some Thoughts on 69B – Download the novel for free!

69B Cover

I want to talk a little bit about 69B. You’ve been there, haven’t you? You know the apartment building on Carmichael Street? Yeah, that one, the scene of the murders…

69B started out as an idea. I had written the first thirty or so pages and put it aside. I had just finished writing a novel called The Other Side of Oz. I wanted to write something completely different while I waited for the novel to be edited. I stumbled upon the old manuscript and thought it would be a neat premise for a serial novel. I wanted to keep busy while I was waiting and though it would be fun.

I had no idea how long it would be, I gave myself a goal of 20, 000 words. And whereas my Oz book was magical realism, 69B would be my take on horror movies-that was the general idea. It didn’t turn out that way though. The first issue being is that people kept living.

My ordinal intent was to introduce the characters in the first part, kill most of them off in the second and let the third part be mostly about Oliver. When I began 69B, Oliver had no last name.

He was a character from two of my previous novella: 12 and 12 + 1. I wanted to find out what would happen to a guy like that. I knew that he would end up being something like Freddy meets the SAW movies. That was the intent. What came out instead was more about the characters.

My books have always been about the people that live in them. Yes, it’s about the story as a whole, but my philosophy (in reading and writing) is you have to care about the characters first. That’s true here, maybe too much. I felt kind of bad just killing these people off after just introducing them; I wanted to give some of them a fighting chance. Most of them kept living when they should have died and then the novel really took off, proving that the author doesn’t have as much control over his or her characters as first thought. Originally, I had intended to have five characters alive at the end of the novel: Shane, Justin, Rex, Barbarella, LaWanda.

Towards the middle of the novel, I thought it would be fun to see how long I could keep it going, inviting people to submit character sketches for a chance to be in the novel. I only had one person submit a character sketch and added another in myself. The interactivity didn’t pan out how I thought it would but it ended up being a blessing in disguise. The same friend that submitted the character sketch pointed out that it would be impossible to keep the novel going forever and I would eventually have to think of an ending.

So I had another idea. I would encourage interactivity another way. I would share the story. Yes, the story was free to read on the blog itself, but I’m a big lover of eBooks and I love free ones. So I offered the Acts for free download, each put up as it was done. I’m going to 69B a touch up and then offer the whole book for free as well. Why? I was writing it to have fun, so why not?

When I arrived at the beginning of Act Three, I still had no concrete idea about how to end it, but as I wrote an idea began to take shape. What if fighting against what I wanted to do, I let the characters tell me? I knew that they would prefer that good triumphed over evil. I wasn’t sure how many people would die in the end and even some of the characters I killed off worked their way back on to the pages.

A vague idea for an ending began to make itself known and I wondered how I would write it. I let go completely and let the characters tell the story they wanted, something I’m usually loathe to do. Turns out, they knew what they wanted to do all along, I just had to let them.

Did I get to every story line that I left hanging? I think so, but there might still one or two left dangling or ones that didn’t work out how I had originally intended. And that’s just how it has to be. It’s the nature of a serial novel in that it’s unpredictable, but I still had an absolute blast.

And I hope you do, too! All three Acts of 69B are now available to download in PDF format. Coming soon, the whole book in epub and mobi formats. You can download and read 69B here:

Welcome to 69B-I hope you enjoy your stay.

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