Such a strange time we're living in today. It's nice to have people virtually stop by to share their stories. Today we have author Kenneth A. Baldwin in the house, so to speak.
SC:. Tell me a little bit about your main character of this book.
KAB: Luella Winthrop is a woman that clawed her way out of the poor part of the town she lives in. She’s getting into her late twenties and hasn’t been married, which is a big deal for a woman in the late 1800s. She’s engaged to a man that publishes a weekly magazine, partly out of fear that no other offers will come along.At the beginning of the book, her whole life is about taking care of her younger sister and trying to advance her reputation as a journalist. But, her fiancé only assigns her dreadfully boring article topics like street etiquette, reviews on fine china, and proper curtain hanging.
She realizes that if she wants to take her career seriously, she’s going to have to find better stories. That’s where the book begins. She’s headed out to explore the more exciting side of the town she’s lived in her whole life. That’s where things start to get paranormal.SC: Do you believe in the paranormal and if so, do you have an experience you can share?
KAB: I do. I believe the line between magic and science is actually quite thin. It’s one of the themes I really hope to explore with this book series.Personally, I’ve had a lot of brushes with things I can’t find a satisfying explanation for. I don’t share a lot of those because I believe they were gifts intended just for me. But, I’m happy to share one of them.
When I was probably seventeen or eighteen I had a job as a rehearsal and audition accompanist for a theater in my hometown. I lucked into the gig, and often I would find myself a little out of my league when it came to the amount of piano talent required to do the job.In a musical audition, the accompanist just gets handed a piece of sheet music and has about thirty seconds to look through it before playing. Sight-reading, they call it, is a very difficult talent to develop. And, when an auditioner is relying on you not to mess up his or her song the pressure gets intense. I was also young to be filling that role, so I’d get stressed sometimes hoping to do a good job and not spoil my reputation. (Ha! If you want some parallels with my main character there you go).
Well, one evening the production staff was really in a rough mood, and what we could tell was going to be a difficult auditioner walked in, tossed me a piece of complicated sheet music with some rough markings on it, and strode to the stage. Looking at the song, I was in trouble, and I knew it. If I had a couple of weeks to practice that piece, sure. But, playing it on the spot was not happening.My director gave me my cue, and what could I do but try?
When I put my hands down on the keyboard, I felt another pair of hands rest on top of mine and just guide me along. I played the piece near perfectly. I was floored, shocked, and a little scared.My great-grandfather was a famous traveling musician in England. I like to think it was him helping out a grandson in a pinch. I have no other explanation.
SC: Thanks for sharing your story. What titles are you working on now that you can tell us about?KAB: The Crimson Inkwell is the first in a trilogy about Luella Winthrop. I’m working hard to get the sequel done soon. It’s called The Silver Currant and should be out later this year. It’s been an awesome challenge. We’re diving much deeper into the magic in book two and exploring the consequences of decisions to tamper with the unknown. I don’t appreciate stories that just wrap up neatly with a bow because the end of the book is coming up. The Silver Currant has given me a chance to explore what happened under the bandaids I applied to conflicts in The Crimson Inkwell.
I hope readers will love it.
Thanks for having me Supernatural Center. It’s been a total pleasure.
SC: Thanks for stopping in. Let's take a look at your novel now.
The Crimson Inkwell
The Luella Winthrop Trilogy
Kenneth A. Baldwin
Genre: Gaslamp Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Eburnean Books
Date of Publication: May 8th, 2019
The Luella Winthrop Trilogy
Kenneth A. Baldwin
Genre: Gaslamp Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Eburnean Books
Date of Publication: May 8th, 2019
Number of pages: 277
Word Count: 97,000
Cover Artist: Vikncharlie
Tagline: A Gaslamp Fantasy Novel
The Crimson Inkwell is a story about journalist Luella Winthrop. In her journey to become Dawnhurst-on-Severn's most acclaimed writer, she discovers that her city houses dark, magical secrets too uncomfortable to believe.
When an enigmatic carnival worker offers her a pen that can turn fiction to fact, she quickly learns that tampering with the unknown can be intoxicating, lucrative, and dangerous.
Magic exists where we cannot see.
It lives in unexplained phenomena, in attraction to strangers, in a pen and crimson inkwell, from a trunk, in a tent, at a fair, in the fog.
I didn't believe in magic.
Before he died, my father taught me the world was solid. Reporting was more like science, anyway. Hard facts. Logical inferences. Of course, I wasn't exactly an award-winning reporter so what did I know about it? But, when Detective Edward Thomas told me he had seen a phantom, something woke up inside of me. I could have tried to dismiss it as a trick of the lamplight, but how else could I explain the body on the cobblestones?
Instead, I simply believed him, and not just because he was arrestingly handsome. I was engaged, after all, to a sensible, though older man--the same man who published my articles, in fact.
No. I believed him because somewhere, deep down, I knew magic was real. What's worse, I knew it was a part of me. The detective's ghost story had just woken me up.
As soon as I accepted this truth, everything changed. My writing career, my family, my domestic prospects, and my freedom.
What woman, pray tell, can fit three men and a writing career in her life and still keep her sanity?
But there I landed.
Byron was my fiancé. He was sensible. He could provide a modest life of means for my sister and me. He could also continue to publish my little articles in his weekly magazine. He adored me.
Edward was my detective, so good and true, straight as an arrow and noble as a knight. He inspired me to be something more. But, I could never live up to such a high standard.
Bram was a mystery. Who could say where his life had taken him before he met me or what adventures he had endured. Everything he did was curious. I was drawn to him in ways I didn't understand.
Could I escape this journey with my engagement intact? Which course would lead me down a road to the woman my father always believed I should be?
And why did I feel so angry all the time?
My fingers still have that enchanted twitch even as I peck these words out on an old typewriter. Before another episode comes, let me tell you what happened that fateful autumn in Dawnhurst-on-Severn. . .
“Excuse me,” I said, after clearing my throat.
“Who’s missing?” The clerk didn’t look up.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Missing persons will file with Ms. Turner down the hall.”
“I’m not here to report a missing person,” I replied. This was enough to give the clerk at least a moment’s pause. He glanced his terrier of a face up at me and squinted one eye in the lamplight.
“Has your husband beat you?”
“I’m not married. I’m looking for Sergeant George Cooper.”
“Sarge, you’ve got a visitor!” he bellowed down the hallway behind him before turning back to me. “Right down the hallway, Miss. He’ll be happy to have a visitor that isn’t a felon. I guess, assuming you’re not here to turn yourself in… You aren’t uh, you know, soliciting wares and suddenly discovered religion if you catch my meaning?”
This I did not grace with a verbal response. Instead, I leveled my eyes at him the way I used to as governess of an impish child, took off my gloves menacingly, and started down the hall.
“Please have a seat,” said whom I presumed to be the Ms. Turner the clerk had mentioned. She wore a tweed skirt and vest, and her hair was done up into what was once a bun. She too was busy in paperwork, pounding away furiously at a typewriter. I brushed off a filthy chair and waited. I watched Ms. Turner for some time, wondering what pathway may have brought her to this desk. She appeared older than me. It’s difficult to guess the age of women around the middle of their lives, but the gentle lines around her eyes hinted to me that she was now closer to forty than thirty. I noticed no wedding ring.
I felt an almost immediate kinship to Ms. Turner. It wasn’t a large stretch to imagine that I was looking at myself in ten years, pounding away at a typewriter, perhaps trying to publish works of my own in my spare time outside of my professional duties.
I have Byron now. I had to remind myself about my fiancé so often. How silly. Even when I was here on his bidding, for his publication no less.
“I wasn’t drinking on the job, sir!” I heard a man’s raised voice through the sergeant’s door.
Ms. Turner slowly looked up at me. “They all say that.”
The door swung wide open, and I was struck by what I could only assume was the model for a police force figurine. The man had an acutely trim waistline that stretched up into a broad chest and shoulders. His hair was combed impeccably, as if each strand dared not stray from its assigned position. His eyes, alert and lively, were peculiarly warm for being steely grey. His brow furrowed, and his neatly trimmed policeman’s mustache curved downward into a disconcerting frown.
He swept through the office door and stood erect, as though he was at a self-called attention. Behind him, the large Sergeant George Cooper, a man whom I could only describe as a younger, meaner looking Father Christmas, filled the doorway.
“I don’t want outlandish stories, Lieutenant. I want arrests. I want brigands behind bars. I want young do-it-alls like you to stop trying to turn every little case into the next apocalypse,” Sergeant Cooper stammered. He was only mostly red in the face.
The young lieutenant stood and, though he looked thoroughly unamused, took the tongue lashing admirably.
“You’ve got a visitor,” butted in Ms. Turner. Sergeant Cooper looked at me, and his expression instantly melted into a rehearsed sympathy.
“Ma’am, my deepest apologies,” he said, putting his hand on his heart. “Do you have a missing person to report?”
“No,” I stuttered. “I’m here… do you get a lot of missing persons?”
“Most of the women we see in here are reporting a missing husband or, regrettably, a missing child,” he replied.
“I’m sorry to hear that. But, and, well, I’m not sure how to put this exactly. I’m here from Langley’s Miscellany, and I—”
Before I could finish my sentence, the warm expression on Sergeant Cooper’s face melted away.
“You’re a reporter. Thank you, Miss, but the door’s over there.” He turned and retreated back into his office. I stuck my foot in the door, which was more painful than I thought it might be.
“I don’t want to be a bother. I’m just curious about the latest. I don’t mean to fabricate anything or inflate your efforts. I just—”
“You just want to be first to know about the dreadful muck the police force deals with each day.”
“Well, yes,” I replied.
“Like I said, Miss, the door is over there. I have a lot to do.” He put on a pair of spectacles and sat down at his desk. I felt a burn creep up my cheeks. It was one thing to be denied, another to be rejected right in front of a woman I had suddenly come to admire and a deeply handsome police lieutenant. The propriety!
“Please, you knew my father,” I said. He looked up at me over his spectacles. They were comically small for his large face. “Gerald Winthrop.”
“Jerry Winthrop?” the sergeant said with a laugh. “Devils blind me. You were the scrap of a thing always hiding in the corner, thinking we couldn’t see you.”
I nodded. He barked out a triumphant laugh.
“Your father was a hell of a man! Always sticking his nose in places it didn’t belong. Any mate of his in trouble, he’d be here before a spit trying to talk their way out it.” He stared into the air as if he could see my father in the office presently. “How is Jerry doing? I got into more arguments with him. He could take a yelling and deal it out in turn. If only my lieutenants had half the backbone. We exchanged words like lads in a fistfight.”
“Well, I hope you got the last word in then,” I said. His countenance dropped sharply.
“You don’t mean—how’d it happen?”
“Fever. Or something like that. I never did get a straight answer from the doctors.” I hated doctors. A fair majority of them might as well be bunkmates with critics.
“Doctors are thieves,” the sergeant said.
“I’m very sorry for your loss, Miss,” said a clear voice behind me. They were the first words the lieutenant said to me. The purity in his voice took me off guard. After losing my father, I’d heard “I’m sorry for your loss” time and time again. In nearly every case, it was mere etiquette, obligation, and passing fancy, as though someone might check a box of a tidy little list somewhere by saying the appropriate thing. This man, whom I barely knew, sounded arrestingly sincere.
I turned toward him, and he bowed slightly. Behind him, Ms. Turner slid into focus with two very inquisitive eyebrows.
“Yes, well, this is Lieutenant Edward Thomas. He’s our resident… bleeding heart and imaginist,” Sergeant Cooper said. Edward extended a hand.
“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” I said. His eyes were smothering. I couldn’t seem to escape them. He had no shyness about looking a stranger squarely in the face, that’s for certain.
“The pleasure is mine,” I managed. “Imaginist?” I inquired of the sergeant.
“No doubt in it. In fact, Lieutenant Thomas may be exactly what you’re looking for,” he said with a coy smile.
“I’m engaged,” I spit out.
Sergeant Cooper erupted into an ungraciously loud belly laugh. I noticed Ms. Turner turn her face down to suppress a giggle as well. Edward flushed.
“I’m sure you are. I meant for the stories you’ve been looking for,” Cooper said. I immediately felt feverish as itchy perspiration appeared on the small of my back. Luella Winthrop. Gift with words, I have.
“He has a story for me then?” I muttered, eager to move on.
“Aye. Lieutenant Thomas here claims to have seen a ghost!”
About the Author:
Kenneth A. Baldwin loves stories you can sink your teeth into.
He lives nestled under the Wasatch Mountain Range with his wife and dog. He writes historical fantasy. When he's not working on his next book, he can be found teaching story mechanics or sketch comedy writing.
Kenny has worked as a staff writer for TV, Radio, web, and comedy scripts for years. The Crimson Inkwell is his first published novel.
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