Bone Boxes and Ghosts at the Gate

Durnstein portIn my recent Viking river cruise on the Danube, we visited the charming Durnstein. Our program director recommended seeing the bone box in the graveyard. Impossible to miss it, we were told.

On our first attempt to find the cemetery, we discovered instead the town’s end and a gorgeous outlook over the Danube. Our second try took us on a wending path to the ruins atop the hill. Which you can see just to the right of the steeple in the picture above. You cannot see a cemetery.

Durstein cemetaryOn our third attempt, ably guided by Neal Shusterman, we found the graveyard. But not the bone box. Dusk had fallen and we hunted down shadowed paths and in a small mausoleum. Later we discovered that local contractors used the enclave housing the bone box to store their tools and paint buckets, obscuring the bone box from pilgrims. At dinner that night we learned that my smart phone whispered this photo of a headless ghost at the cemetery gate. Or better known as Sue Masters.

That all happened early June. It’s now August and I’m racing to finish LILLIAN IN THE DOORWAY for a September 20th publication. While part of me still cruises down the Danube, I work on the bone box of this novel. I align the skeleton: 1920s setting, danger from a Chicago mobster, Americanization classes on the California orange ranchos, a fake betrothal, and how far people go to protect those they love. Then I whisper in the ghosts at the gate: the man Lillian saw killed in Chicago, the doughboys of WWI that surround her, the dead wife of the man she loves, and the identity she left behind.

Each bone and ghost have been mapped but in Durnstein, I learned how easily we can get lost. So with every page, I leverage this Danube lesson.

In the mad rush to get a mature version out to my treasured beta readers, I’ll pause this week for our First Friday Breakfast with mystery author Gayle Carline.  Mark your calendars!


About mlknowlden

In 2011, I left engineering to write full-time. Between the years 1992 and 2011, I’ve published 14 stories with Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine that have featured the hypochondriac detective Micky Cardex and two stories that did not. The 1998 story “No, Thank You, John” was nominated for a Shamus award. Many of these stories have been included in anthologies and translated in multiple languages. With Neal Shusterman, I’ve also published a science fiction story for the More Amazing Stories anthology (Tor) published in 1998 and co-authored with Neal Shusterman an X-Files Young Adult novel (DARK MATTER) for HarperCollins in 1999 under the name Easton Royce. For Simon & Schuster in July 2012, we published an e-novella UNSTRUNG in Neal's UNWIND world. I have graduate degrees in English and Electrical Engineering.
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