The Guardian of the Opera: Nocturne Cover Reveal

I’ve been talking about my Guardian of the Opera trilogy for a long time, and am so pleased that the first book, Nocturne, will be out June 5th – just about two months away!  And today I’m very excited to finally reveal the cover.

First, a little about the story, from the back of the book…

Set against the backdrop of 1880s Paris and the stunning Opera Garnier, The Guardian of the Opera: Nocturne brings you the familiar tale from a different direction. Meg Giry met the Phantom once when she was twelve years old, a new ballet dancer lost in the Opera’s maze. Years later, when an Angel of Music offers singing lessons to her best friend Christine Daaé, Meg is sure she knows what’s actually happening. But as strange events unfold and the pieces stop adding up, Meg has to wonder if she truly understands the Phantom—or Christine.

Erik is a man of many talents and many masks, and the one covering his face may be the least concealing. The opera house is his kingdom and his refuge, where he stalks through the shadows as the Phantom of the Opera, watching over all that occurs. He never intended to fall in love; when he does, it launches him into a new symphony he’s certain can only end in heartbreak.

I think this description will rather explain the cover…which you can scroll down to see!

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I’m very pleased with how it looks!  I actually took the background picture of the Opera Garnier myself, so it’s especially cool to have it put together like this.  I hope you’ll get your own copy come June. 🙂

Writing Wednesday: Round Robin, Round Three

My writing focus has been a bit scattered for the last couple of weeks, and this week it took a new turn.  It was my turn again to write a chapter of my next collaborative novel, Pesto, Pirouettes and Potions.  I’m trading chapters with three other writers, and this was my third chapter but Chapter Ten of the novel.  Considering we outlined a total eighteen chapters, we are well on our way through the story!

In this chapter, our heroines got closer but then had a huge fight.  Fun stuff to write!  I actually struggled a bit this time around, trying to figure out how to interpret our notes and whether they were lining up with some earlier sections.  A couple notes for different chapters actually were in conflict – for instance, Lola’s roommate Mario was supposed to flirt with Charlie in Chapter Six, but then it’s revealed in Chapter Twelve that he’s a member of Charlie’s coven, so what’s he doing flirting with her like he doesn’t know she’s a lesbian?

I ended up contacting my fellow writers and we held a video chat brainstorming meeting Monday night to figure some things out before we went further.  Very helpful, although we mostly observed that it’s all holding together surprisingly well so far!  We also decided Mario isn’t in the coven and kept the flirting 😉

I finished writing up my chapter today, along with adding a bit to the previous chapter about Charlie’s ballet production.  I researched modern ballet for Chapter Two, so even though I didn’t write Chapter Nine, I had the most expertise to add a bit about the production.  Charlie is dancing to the Rolling Stones, and it’s not at all what Lola expected!

For now, here’s a brief excerpt, from right after Charlie and Lola’s first kiss.

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“So.”  Say something, crack a joke.  “Is Mario going to ask me my intentions?”

Lola bristled, and it was so her that Charlie loved it.  “Mario doesn’t have any say in who I date.”

“I was just kidding,” Charlie said, even though she figured Lola probably knew that.

“Yeah.  Of course.”  Then Lola’s gaze, defiant for a moment, dropped awkwardly as she kicked one heel back against the door.  “Anyway,” she mumbled, “Mario likes you.  I mean, likes you for me.  I mean…”

“Do you want to, I don’t know, grab some drinks?” Charlie suggested.  Ugh, so cliché—but she didn’t know what else to suggest, she just knew she didn’t want this, whatever this was, to end.

Writing Wednesday + Shiny Hardback Arrival

I’ll share my usual writing update, but first I wanted to share some very fun author news.  Guardian of the Opera: Nocturne will be published in hardback, and the first copy of the hardback arrived at my house yesterday.  You’ll be able to buy it in June, but you can see it in the video below!

That arrival was a nice boost to a very strange week…I hope you all are staying well and safe in the coronavirus strangeness!  I expect to be home a lot in the coming weeks, and of course I thought about how to use this time for more writing.  I thought at first I might try another week of writing a short story a day, as I did in February 2019.  I tried it for two days and couldn’t get inspired for anything, so maybe not right now after all.  Maybe in a week or two – we’ll see.  For now, I’m turning my focus to another Phantom side-project.  After the trilogy is out, I want to release a companion book of shorter pieces, and I’ve been meaning to make time to work on the scattered draft bits I have for that.

So for the next few days at least I plan to work on a shortish story (it may yet expand to a novellette) telling the story in my trilogy from Christine’s point of view.  I wrote it several years ago, partially just so I could nail down in my mind how she’s viewing events.  I’ve done something unusual with Christine’s character, so I hope readers of the trilogy will be interested to get her perspective.  But that means I need to edit the short story, and make sure it actually lines up with the books in their final form.

Here are the opening paragraphs; I can’t share much else without spoilers!

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My father was poor—terribly poor.  And it didn’t matter that he was a genius on the violin.  All anyone saw when they looked at him were the patches on his sleeves, and the ragged cuffs of his trousers.

Father had been a famous, respected violinist once, but he gave it all up when my mother died.  He took me on the road and we traveled about, sleeping in barns and earning mere centimes by standing on a corner, he with his violin, I singing.

Once when I was eight, a woman didn’t give us coins.  She gave me a red scarf instead, remarking on how sad and cold I looked.  No doubt she congratulated herself on her kindness.  I was already old enough to understand about pity, and about charity, and about dependence.  That scarf always felt heavy around my neck.  It was a yoke, weighing me down, reminding me that I was helpless, forced to live on the mercy of others, dependent on the kindness of strangers.  I only wore it on the coldest of days, when I couldn’t do without.

Except once.  Just once I wore my red scarf in early spring, one day when Father and I went to perform at the beach.

Writing Wednesday: Knitting Threads Together

I’ve been making good progress in the past week on my writing goals.  I mentioned the two short stories I’m writing to contribute to an upcoming anthology.  Happily, I’ve been able to finish both of them in the last few days.

One is about a woman venturing (magically) into The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, and I needed to write a mid-section where she finally manages to meet the Phantom.  That started slow, then took off with a burst of inspiration to finish in a couple of days.  It was very satisfying too, because my character surprised me.  I always thought that when she finally met Leroux’s Phantom she would be afraid of him; instead, she ended up being angry!  I thoroughly enjoyed that.

My second story involves a boy venturing into Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, and I also had a mid-section missing here, trying to add in a kind of sub-story of an adventure in Neverland.  But it just wasn’t working and wasn’t working and I finally realized I was better off cutting the whole thing and just sticking to the main arc of the story.  So when I finally accepted that, all I had to do was tweak a few bits to knit either end of it together without the story in between.  Not what I planned, but much simpler!

Right now I’m doing some light editing on both stories, and I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do next.  I might write a couple more short stories (with a different premise!) and then turn back to revision in April, this time for The Princess Beyond the Thorns.

Here’s a bit I added into the Phantom short story, to work with my new title: “Ghosts on the Page.”

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So what was my next step going to be?  And just how long did I think I had?

I wandered through the Opera’s halls as I considered that troubling question.  It was so easy to get lost in the world of the book, but I had to remember this wasn’t my life.  This was just a story, and all these people I was meeting, Christine, Henri, the ballet girls, were only characters.  Ghosts, in a way, but even less real than that; they’d never actually lived.  I had to keep that in mind, and remember my real life was much more important.

Writing Wednesday: Short Story Ventures

Happy March!  I’m pleased to report that I completed my February writing goal, and finished this revision pass of Guardian III.  I plan to let it sit for now; I’m waiting on one final beta-reader response, and I plan to read it aloud in a couple of months and then make final tweaks.  With a launch date in December, things are looking good so far.

In March I’m turning away from revision and towards some short stories.  I’m diving back into my short story for an upcoming anthology; well, possibly wading in gradually because I’ve been a bit stuck so far.  I wrote 80% of the story months ago and just need to finish it off, but I’m having trouble getting into the flow.  I’m sure it will come…and then I can go on to finish my second story for the same anthology!

I think I’ve mentioned this project before – the anthology premise is for short stories about people magically entering into familiar books.  It’ll be out later this year.  Right now I’m working on a story about a ballet dancer entering into the original Gaston Leroux Phantom of the Opera (which I reread recently).  My second short story is about a boy going to Neverland in Peter Pan.  I hope to finish both before the end of March.  We’ll see!

I did enjoy a bit I’ve written so far, though I may eventually decide it’s too heavy-handed.  Here it is anyway.

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Following Christine and Raoul began to seem like an even less wise choice when they started climbing up.

And up and up and up, stairs after stairs, until I finally realized they had to be heading to the roof.

It was a lot more steps than I had imagined when I watched the play.  I mean, I was a ballet dancer; I had strong legs and good breath control, but this opera house had to be ten, twelve flights tall, easily.  Why did they think this was where they wanted to go?  And why had it seemed logical in the play?  When I was seven flights up with more stairs disappearing into the gloom above me, it seemed far less reasonable that Christine had run away in terror from the Phantom by climbing all the way up to the rooftop.  The building was a labyrinth, but there were simpler ways to get out of it than this.

It was a good reminder to me that these people were fictional.  Fictional.  If they were behaving strangely, it was because some author somewhere in the real world had made a dubious decision.