Fiction…Monday: Christmas at the Opera Garnier (Part Two)

Happy holidays!  Today I’m continuing my Christmas excerpt from my Phantom of the Opera trilogy.  Read Part One here, for the preceding scene and a little more context.  Most of this excerpt is from Meg Giry’s point of view, though the last bit shifts to Erik’s (otherwise called the Phantom) point of view.

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Early Saturday morning I showed up to meet Erik with a basketful of garlands in my arms.  At Christmas the Opera Garnier became a whirl of garlands and trees and explosions of giggles among the ballet girls as they planned gifts or discussed hopes.  Not to mention Christmas music everywhere, as we practiced for a series of special performances around the holiday.

It was Christmas everywhere at the Opera, except belowground.

“What is that?” Erik asked warily, eying my basket as though something might jump out at him.

“Decorations,” I said, moving over to the wall of masks in the prop room.

“Where are you planning to decorate?” he asked, no less wary as he triggered the secret door.

“I was just thinking…it would be awfully nice…”

“I don’t decorate,” he said abruptly, but I was getting good at hearing the nuances in his abruptness and this one was more of a ‘go cautiously’ than ‘back away’ abruptness.

Not that I went very cautiously anyway.  “But you could.  And it’s so gloomy with no decorations!”

“It is not,” he protested.  “And I like gloom.”

I heaved a sigh.  “Well, I guess.  I can leave these here, I suppose…”

“What were you planning to do anyway, hang wreaths on my gargoyles?” he asked, and this time it was an ‘I’m pretending I don’t like this, but keep talking’ abruptness.

“Of course not, they have too much dignity for that.  I just wanted to put some garlands on your piano and mantelpiece.”

“All right, fine, give me that,” he said, pulled the basket of garlands away from me, and stalked off through the tunnel. Continue reading “Fiction…Monday: Christmas at the Opera Garnier (Part Two)”

Fiction Friday: Christmas at the Opera Garnier (Part One)

It’s been a long time, but I’ve posted excerpt before from my reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera…which I finished the first draft of for 2016’s NaNoWriMo.  It also turned out to be a trilogy (!) but that’s a long story.  Today I thought I’d excerpt a seasonally appropriate scene from the middle of the second book.  We’re well after Leroux’s (and Webber’s) story, and the Phantom (otherwise known as Erik) and Meg Giry, ballet dancer, have cautiously formed a friendship.

Not without occasional confusing moments…

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It had been a long time since Erik had spoken with the Daroga.  A kind of coolness had grown up between them in recent months.  The obvious, blatant betrayal of bringing Raoul below the Opera at just the wrong moment had been something they could get past.  The Daroga’s ongoing caution that maybe it wasn’t the wisest idea in the world to carry on a friendship with Meg Giry had created a more serious awkwardness.  Not an actual hostility.  Half the time Erik agreed with him—more at the beginning, less recently, but still, he could see his point.  And that might have made it worse, because it wasn’t a point he wanted reminding of.

So they had spoken only occasionally recently, both keeping rather more to themselves, though Erik still saw the Daroga about the Opera now and again, usually the single dark face somewhere in the back of the crowd.  Finally, near the beginning of December, he had a problem of sufficient gravity that it drove him to seek the Daroga out—not as a good source of aid, but as the only one available.

He arrived at the Daroga’s small apartment in the early twilight, was invited in courteously and with less surprise evident than was probably present.  They passed a few moments in small talk, sitting in the Daroga’s parlor, before the inevitable question arose.  “So tell me, to what do I owe the honor of this most unusual visit?”

Erik hesitated, tapping his fingers against his knee.  “I need your advice about something.”  He took a deep breath.  “I don’t know what to do about Christmas.” Continue reading “Fiction Friday: Christmas at the Opera Garnier (Part One)”

Fiction Friday: A Round-Robin Bank Robbery

I recently spent an awesome weekend on a writing retreat with several good friends.  We did several writing exercises (one of which may become the beginning of my NaNo novel this year–we’ll see!) including a very cool round-robin story.  That’s a story where each person at the table contributes–sometimes just a sentence or two, though we did passages.

We each wrote about a bank robbery from a different, assigned perspective, shared what we had, brainstormed briefly, then took turns finishing the story, again with sections from each of our original perspectives.  We were really happy with how it turned out–so I got permission to share it with all of you.

Our writers, in order by perspective (this order in, then reverse order out from the middle section): Jackie Loyd; Jenny Lee; Kelly Haworth (@khaworthwrites); Ruth Gates; Karen Blakely; and me, writing my two sections in a row in the middle.

Enjoy!

A Round-Robin Bank Robbery

Ernest watched the clearly botched robbery unfold from his chair against the wall.  A chair because he was 80 next month and had bad knees, so they hadn’t made him sit on the floor.  Mistake number one—the first of many.

The lead robber, wearing a ridiculous pig mask, struggled with the heavy door to the vault behind the counter.  Ernest knew the teller had tripped the silent alarm two minutes ago.  The robbers should have gone for the cash at the counters.  Quick, easy.  Largely untraceable because it had been brought in by customers and wasn’t in those neat stacks with sequential serial numbers.

He scoffed out loud when one robber tripped and fell to the floor in his rush to get from one counter to the other.  The gun in his hand went off.  The bullet struck the marble floor, chipping it, sound ringing out and echoing off the walls.

The people around Ernest screamed.  He rolled his eyes.  He’d done 40 jobs back in his heyday, and never once had he accidentally fired his gun. Continue reading “Fiction Friday: A Round-Robin Bank Robbery”

Fiction Friday: Mothers, Daughters and Phantoms

I haven’t done a Fiction Friday in a while, and I thought it might be fun to share a scene from the Phantom of the Opera retelling I’m in the process of revising.  I brought this scene into my writing group recently, so why not here too?  This is well after the Phantom plotline that everyone knows; my heroine, Meg Giry, has become friends with the Phantom, and this scene follows directly after her first trip below the Opera to see where he lives…and now she has to explain that to her mother!

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I stayed longer than I meant to.  How could I possibly not stay longer than I meant to in the Phantom’s apartments?  When I finally mentioned leaving, he was perfectly courteous about guiding me back up into the daylight—though if it hadn’t been August, with its long days, there would have been scant daylight left.

I was late getting home.  Mother was in the kitchen, preparing supper, which was at least better than if she had met me at the door.  But she did say almost immediately, “I expected you sooner than this.  Something come up at the Opera?”

“No, not really,” I said, and tried to brush past her to my own room.

But maybe I spoke too fast, or my eyes were too bright or my cheeks too pink.  Something made her turn away from the stove, and study me with eyes narrowed and expression thoughtful.  “Are you sure nothing happened?” Continue reading “Fiction Friday: Mothers, Daughters and Phantoms”

Fiction Friday: Royal Guest Appearances

Earlier this month I featured a guest appearance in The Lioness and the Spellspinners from a recurring character, and I thought I’d do another today.  Marjoram, my Good Fairy, has a tendency to push her way into every story, including this one…but today I thought I’d share the first scene of another character, familiar from The Storyteller and Her Sisters.  Although he’s ten years younger here!

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Karina didn’t really mind going out to the vegetable garden with Forrest.  Honestly, it sounded better than sitting inside and peeling turnips or unsnarling yarn.

She ought to be getting into town, finding out how to get away from this rock.  But everyone had work they needed to do this morning, Richard had promised to give her a ride in the afternoon and that was soon enough.  She’d get there earlier walking, but her ankle still felt tender and it would be easier to find out about a ship with someone local to help.  She still wasn’t entirely clear on how she was going to pay for passage, but…she’d work that out.  Or she’d find out about the ship with Richard, and then sneak aboard later when neither he nor the ship’s captain was looking.  That would serve too.

In the meantime, it wasn’t so bad sitting in the sun, leaned up against a convenient rock.  There hadn’t been many sunny meadows in her past.  None at all, in fact.

The quiet was new too.  It wasn’t silent, with the distant murmur of waves, bird cries and occasional scurrying of small animals in the underbrush.  Repairing a fence involved some knocking together of wood and other sounds.  But behind all that there was a deep quiet, a quiet of empty land with far fewer people on it than she was used to.

It wasn’t quiet like this at home.  At home people were all jammed in on top of each other and someone was always making noise.  Shouts and conversation and creaking carts and a hundred other sounds.  Except maybe in the very deepest, darkest part of the night.  And that was a wary quiet, not a peaceful one.  That wasn’t a quiet you lingered in.  That was a time to get your work done and get gone, quick, before anyone else found you out in the dark.

No, it wasn’t bad sitting out here.  She had pulled the hood of her cloak down over her face, with an announced intention to take a nap.  She did doze a little…and she also spent some time watching Forrest work on the fence, under the cover of her hood’s shadow.  It was a good view.

Arm muscles like that, she had known Farmboy had to be good at something besides knitting.

Forrest was knocking the last fence post into place when a new arrival came into view around a fold of hill.  Karina kept her hood pulled down and studied him covertly, an automatic habit and safeguard—though probably unnecessary here, since the stranger looked to be all of ten years old.

On the other hand, she had met some dangerous ten year olds.  She had been one. Continue reading “Fiction Friday: Royal Guest Appearances”

Fiction Friday: A Redshirt in Fairy Tale Country

Today is Friday the 13th, which always puts me in mind of the good old days when I used to write Star Trek stories and do terrible things to my poor redshirt characters on Friday the 13th.  I don’t write Star Trek anymore, but my regularly-appearing redshirt, Richard Samuel Jones, has gone on to be a cameo character in all of my subsequent novels…no longer in his Starfleet uniform and often without his full name referenced, but he’s still a lot like the person he was back on the Enterprise.

So for Friday the 13th this year, I offer you Sam’s guest appearance in The Lioness and the Spellspinners.  Rin, also known as Karina, has been sitting in The Black Lion tavern, trying without much success to decide what to do if she manages to get a substantial pay-off for a job in-progress…

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A crash from the kitchen jarred Rin out of her thoughts, but didn’t cause any real alarm.  It was the sound of a plate breaking, and that was pretty usual.  She wasn’t at all surprised when Sam came out of the kitchen in a hurry, broom in one hand and a guilty expression on his face.

“Was that the second plate this week?” Rin called with a slight smile.

Sam sighed.  “The third.”  He began sweeping his way towards her table.  “Magdala told me I’d better not come back in her kitchen for at least an hour.”  The general man-of-all-work at The Black Lion, Sam moved in a perpetual cloud of broken dishes, knocked-over items, and spectacular trippings.  No new incident ever bothered him for long, though, and Rin watched expectantly for his smile to return.  She could use some of Sam’s usual cheer right now.

The smile didn’t come.  He swept along and stopped in front of her table, looking if anything even gloomier.  “I heard about Old John.  I’m sorry about…”

“Thank you,” Rin said, throat suddenly tight.

“He was always a good sort, wasn’t he?  He used to tell the best stories about when he was in the theater.”  Sam smiled then, but it was a sad smile.  “Not that I ever believed more than half of them, you know, but they were good stories.”

This was not helping.  “Yeah, they were,” Rin said, and cast about for a topic change.  “Hey Sam, what would you do if you were rich?” Continue reading “Fiction Friday: A Redshirt in Fairy Tale Country”

Fiction Friday: Magical Knitting and General Hostilities

I’ve been working on revisions for my next fairy tale novel (and NaNo novel of 2014) and so thought I’d share another scene with all of you…  This is very early in the book, just after a strange and decidedly unfriendly young woman has crashed into Forrest’s life.  His mother insists they should be understanding and friendly, but he has doubts.  This scene also explores one of the major magic systems of the book.  Enjoy!

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Forrest went back to the kitchen. He could see Karina through the doorway before he entered the room, and he found himself stopping on the threshold to look at her. Alone in the room, she had let her shoulders slump. She clutched the clasp of her cloak with one hand and played with her spoon with the other, tracing patterns in the bottom of her emptied bowl of porridge. She was staring into the bowl, expression…sad? Forlorn? Some emotion he hadn’t seen on her face previously.

All right. Maybe she was lost and scared. Maybe.

He deliberately stepped audibly on the wooden floor as he came into the room. In an eyeblink her shoulders were straight again and her face had wiped smooth of any expression at all except faint disinterest.

“There’s more porridge in the pot if you want it,” he said, even though he was pretty sure that hadn’t been why she was staring into the empty bowl.

Her gaze flicked to the pot hanging over the fire. “I can see that.”

Maybe lost and scared, but still unfriendly. “Right,” he said, pulling out a chair at the opposite side of the table with possibly more force than was necessary. He sat down and unrolled the half-made scarf, concentrating his attention on untangling the loose end of the yarn and lining up the last row of stitches on the needle.

“So you don’t just tie bows,” Karina drawled, “you also knit?” Continue reading “Fiction Friday: Magical Knitting and General Hostilities”