Keppan: Coming Along

Readers occasionally ask how the next Burkebook, Keppan: The Blood Oath, is coming along. The answer is sloooooowly. Partly due to extraneous issues like my pesky day job, but mostly because I think the next chapter in Burke’s journey has some significant terrain to cover: issues of loss, disability, and identity. This has made me aware that I really think about the writing process and what I’m trying to say before hammering out the book. Maybe this conviction is  a bit pointy-headed for an author who writes what are known as “boy books” in the trade, but I think any sort of writing requires some serious thought and effort on the part of the author if it’s to be worth reading.

So the good news is that I’ve been wrestling with Keppan for some time but am now at the point where I think some aspects of the book are getting clarified in my mind. They were lurking there all along in my unconscious, I suppose (why else call it Keppan?) but I’m at the point where I begin to see how the arc of the story needs to be shaped. 

In the meantime, for those readers curious about how Connor is faring, here’s an excerpt from Keppan’s Prologue



I jerked upright in bed, not sure what I had heard out in the night. It could have been a car door slamming, the bang of a truck hitting a road seam on the distant highway, or a cat yowling in pain or desire. It didn’t matter. My heart hammered and I was dappled with sweat. My eyes were wide open, searching the night for dangers that existed mostly in my head.

“It’s called hyperarousal,” the therapist had said. “The sorts of things you’re experiencing: feeling tense, the difficulty sleeping, being easily startled.” She gave me a small, reassuring smile. “With what you’ve experienced, it’s perfectly understandable.” Her voice was warm and calm. She was a scientist, and believed that naming something was the same as knowing it, that corralling up my symptoms and pinning them in a cluster to the relevant entry in the DSM-5 was tantamount to curing me. She was sincere and caring and patient.

I wanted to punch her really hard.

But that’s just another symptom. They weren’t sure whether it was Acute Stress Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—“time will tell,” she said soothingly, “let’s work on getting you better.”

I swallowed my anger and nodded with resignation. During the day, I’m working on it and the symptoms seem to be better, but at night all bets are off. Sometimes I sleep soundly. Other times I rocket up into wakefulness and my heart is hammering and I hear the shooting start all over again in my mind.

I smell his blood.

I rolled out of bed, trying not to wake the woman next to me. I padded out to the rear of the house where there is a room with a bare floor and no furniture except for the low table with a wooden stand that cradles the black slash of a sheathed sword. He gave me that sword and taught me how to use it. Yamashita. Now, I teach others and the action is both a constant reminder that my sensei is gone and tangible proof that in some ways he never will be.

I sat down on my heels in the dark, slick with seat, and tried to calm the wild beating of my heart. When the dreams come or memory surges through me and creates this panicked wakefulness, I take refuge in some of the first things my teacher had shown me long ago: the discipline of the breath, the power of the mind to yoke the body into obedience.

But my breathing was ragged. I shivered. And from behind me, I heard the rustle of cloth and the whisper of bare feet.

Chie pressed herself against my back and wrapped the comforter around us both. She kissed my cheek and we sat there in silence until dawn came and the monsters in my head went back to sleep.


15 Comments Add yours

  1. Charles Parker says:

    So glad you are making progress on Keppan. I’ve missed your stories!

    1. johndonohue says:

      Glad to hear it
      I hope Keppan will be as satisfying

  2. Darwin Niekerk says:

    It has been far too long! I respect your devotion to ‘getting it right’ with the latest Connor saga. As in life, there is a balance between the pursuit of perfection and the demands of the devoted audience/market. I cannot wait for the book.

  3. Brad Knowles says:

    Awaiting publication patiently but petulantly as well. At 62, time is a constant threnody playing in my head! Always enjoy your work, Mr. Donohue.

  4. mhatchett13 says:

    Just finished Enzan: The Far Mountain, really enjoyed it.

  5. johndonohue says:

    Good to hear! Hope you like the next one–Keppan–when it comes out in a year or so…

  6. Jill Denney says:

    It is now 2020, any news on Keppan? Any idea on a possible release date? I have really enjoyed this series. They are so well written that I actually purchase them brand new in paperback form! Rarely do I buy books brand new!

  7. Jill Denney says:

    I see now that you had mentioned Keppan possibly being released in 2021 so thanks for that.

    1. Jill Denney says:

      Thank you for all your hard work. It makes a big difference. I very rarely purchase books new, but I have been with yours; they are that great! I have a hard time waiting for Keppan to come out, so I was glad to see that it should be ready in a year or two. I reread the Burke series about every year or two and enjoy them all over again.

  8. Mike Sosa says:

    Ha! I was hoping that Connor would end up with Chie! I was thinking that they could heal each other.

    1. johndonohue says:

      Good to hear

  9. Mike Wade says:

    Looking at the dates of some of these comments 2018, 2020. It is now almost 2023. Just write the damn story.

    1. johndonohue says:

      Ha! Typically takes 3 years to do these things (due to my pesky day job). The book is done and the manuscript is being shopped around by my agent. Hope to have some news soon. Thanks for hanging in there.

      1. Alex says:

        Any news? Its been a while…

      2. johndonohue says:

        It has been a while and I have to apologize. But my editor wanted some changes (and not simply cosmetic ones) and so I’m working through the editing process. I hope to have it all dne by December, so it looks like a 2023 release.

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