Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #5

After several fantasy stories and a bit of P.G. Wodehouse, on Day 5 I decided to do a real world story.  It turned out to be a somewhat serious story, though with a humorous side to it.  The prompt I used was “Being painted wasn’t what she expected,” and here’s the opening.


Being painted wasn’t what Evelyn had expected.  She had always heard that you had to stay perfectly still, to a degree that could grow exhausting as the minutes and hours passed.  She had imagined that painters studied their models with laser-like intensity, making solemn faces and adding careful daubs and strokes to their canvases.  She had worried that she would grow uncomfortable, stared at like that.  Even by Mark.  Especially by Mark.

They’d been circling each other for three weeks already at the café.  A popular spot for artistic types to hang out, drink cheap coffee and take advantage of free wifi, free heating, or free comfortable chairs, as applicable, they moved in different circles who both frequented the establishment.  They had yet to find a direct common acquaintance, though she felt sure that the degrees of separation couldn’t be too many.  The twenty-something artist community in town was only so big.

He had spilled coffee on her papers one day, and it was a sign of just how cute he was—or how lonely she was, her cynical side said—that she had forgiven him for it.  They had chatted amicably that day and most days since, as she corrected proofs of her latest manuscript and he sketched.  And yesterday he had asked if he could paint her.

Evelyn had been touched—honored—hopeful.

Her cynical side said he probably painted every girl he wanted to sleep with.

Evelyn was not entirely sure that was a problem.  And then, because she was too much of a romantic to let that comment stand unqualified, she argued with herself that a portrait was a serious commitment, and surely a sign that his interest was equally serious.  And committed.

Anyway, she had agreed to be painted, and now here she was.  And somehow it wasn’t exactly as serious as she had expected.  But in a good way, she hastened to add.

Writing, um, Thursday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #3

I got a little behind in my blogging this week, but here a day late is the continuing excerpts from my “flash fiction” stories.  The prompt this time was “Winter is the only season we can be together.”  Possibly carrying some of the melancholy from the previous day’s story, I found myself writing a very bittersweet romance, about a woman in love with a dryad, a tree spirit, who can only meet her in winter.  Here’s the beginning.


Winter is the only season we can be together.  Every year I watch impatiently for the signs.  The temperatures dropping day by day, the birds making their pilgrimage south, the ice slowly, so very slowly, forming across the lake.

I know the village thinks me eccentric, with a kind of amused tolerance that I both accept and despise.

Spring, summer and fall I live alone in the big old house beside the lake.  Built by my great-grandfather, built for his dreams of an expanding family tree, children and grandchildren on down the line, he never would have expected that by now there would be only me.  Only me to rattle about amongst the many empty rooms.  I closed off most of them, made a kind of smaller house within the bigger one.  My kitchen, my bedroom, my library, and outside, my garden.  That’s all I need.

Because in the winter, I have him.

Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #2

Last week I shared about my short story project, trying a different writing prompt each day and trying to complete a short story or flash fiction piece that day.  I planned to try it for seven days, and wound up writing eight short stories in nine days…one of them 9,000 words and split over two days as a consequence!

Today I’m sharing Story #2, from Day 2.  I call this one “The Once and Never King,” and it’s the only one that didn’t come from a writing prompt.  There’s a certain song that has fascinated me for years because it hints at a wonderful story–but it’s not based on a specific legend, piece of history, or anything else.  So I finally wrote the story myself.  I’d rather not tell you the song, to see if anyone can guess at it!


They walked slowly together down one of the long boulevards branching out from the market, into the narrower, smaller streets that crowded together by the river.  One friend, then another, joined them as they went, falling into step as they all made their way towards home, done with whatever tasks they did in the bustling city to stay alive another day.

They were a kind of army, he thought sometimes.  An invisible, disregarded army, sweeping away dirt, digging ditches, chopping wood, performing a hundred, a thousand other tiny, menial tasks.  Each one insignificant, all together necessary to keep the life of the city going.

And sometimes he thought to himself that he shouldn’t put them in such terms, that he shouldn’t think of martial things anymore.  That he shouldn’t try to make his life now more important, more meaningful.  He swept the steps of a dozen people and lived from one day to the next.  That was all.

As they neared the river, the royal palace came into sight.  It was so big, so grand, with soaring towers and shining lights, marble arches and peaked roofs.  It was as beautiful and otherworldly and inaccessible as the moon.

“I lived there once,” he remarked, his eyes on the glowing windows of the palace.

He heard the soft chuckle of his friends, felt Alden pat his shoulder.  “Of course you did.”

He knew they thought him slightly mad, slightly touched, on this point at least.  He didn’t mind.  They were always kind to him, and he valued their kindness all the more, when they showed it to one they thought mad.

For a long, long time he would not have dared to say such things.  But it didn’t matter now.  The old king, the wicked king, had been killed a dozen times, was living in exile in a dozen places.  Everyone was sure that the wicked king that was had gone far, far away, in this life or into the next.  And after years of sweeping streets and living rough, with accumulated layers of rags and dust, with his hair faded and his back bending, he no longer looked like the imperious monarch who had once sat on the throne.

Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #1

I recently read The Creative Life by Julia Cameron, which is mostly not important to this post, except that her roommate tried a project of writing 90 songs in 90 days.  And that got me thinking.  I don’t write songs and I don’t have 90 days for a project, because I need to get back to revisions on Book 2 of the Phantom trilogy–but I could respond to seven flash fiction prompts in seven days and see what happened.

Today I’m on Day 6.  I haven’t written yet today, but so far I’ve written five short stories in five days.  None of them ended up being flash fiction (1000 words or less), mostly clocking in around 2,000, but aiming for flash fiction has still taken some pressure off, and helped me rein in my tendency to elaborate and convolute.  When I need to finish the story today, I have to figure out the ending almost as soon as I begin.

And I’ve been having a lot of fun with this.  I’ve written a few stories quite different from my usual style, explored some interesting ideas, and created some things I like.  In only five days!  I thought I’d share what I’ve been creating over the next several weeks. Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #1”

Writing Wednesday: Characters Galore

I’m on a break from my ongoing work on my ongoing Phantom trilogy, and have turned back to the Beauty and the Beast novella I co-wrote with several writer friends.  It happened that I wrote my two (early in the book) chapters before the rest wrote theirs.  Which was fine for all plot purposes, because we had a good outline, but it means none of their characters had been created yet.  (It probably also gave an opportunity for prominence to Archambault, my footman-turned-coat rack who’s running around the castle with a feathered hat and a pink fur coat, but that’s a different point entirely…)

Now that I’m revising and we’re working on tying our respective chapters more closely together, I’m trying to get more characters into these early chapters.  Mostly just a glimpse, partially because my chapter one POV character really doesn’t care about any of them (she’s like that)–but it’s been fun working in those glimpses.

Here’s an excerpt, including no less than seven characters (plus music being played by three others), who will all have their moments of importance as the story goes on.


“Now then,” I said once I was inside.  I shook snow off my cloak and looked over the two footmen standing in the hallway—both quite common fellows, one with long stringy hair and the other young, with freckles and very big eyes.  I do like how impressed common folk get.  As they should.  I pointed a long bony finger at the impressed footman.  “Where can I find your prince?”

He stammered for a moment, then blurted, “…in the ballroom?”

Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: Characters Galore”

Writing Wednesday: Research in Novels

In doing research for my Phantom trilogy, I’ve gone down some interesting trails trying to get information on a specific detail, like whether a Paris police officer would have a six-shot gun (yes), whether the catacombs are actually under the Opera Garnier (no, but I’m putting them there anyway) and where Meg’s home village ought to be (near Toulouse).  Bigger topics require more intensive research though, and I’ve read entire books on classical music, on 19th-century Parisians’ attitudes towards darkness and towards eccentricity, and on ballet.

The single most helpful book, however, has actually been a novel.   It’s been remarkably difficult to find substantive information about the ballet program at the Opera Garnier in the 1880s.  A lot of my information about the Opera Garnier itself has come from forwards in different copies of the Phantom of the Opera!

But I did have one wonderful find with regard to what life might actually have been like for Meg: Marie, Dancing by Carolyn Meyer, about the model for Degas’ famous statue, “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.”  Marie was a dancer at the Opera Garnier at exactly the same time as Meg, and the novel paints a more vivid and more substantive picture than any book or essay I’ve managed to find.  I read it some six years ago, then read it again just in the last year, and it was incredibly helpful.  Along with a general picture, she has details like how much money the dancers earned, which nights performances were held on, and the schedule for practice and rehearsals.  Also, it’s just a good book!

Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: Research in Novels”

Writing Wednesday: The Phantom and Madame Giry

Madame Giry is one character who had a big influence on my Phantom retelling.  In most versions, including mine, she knows a little more than most about the Phantom, and may have some level of sympathy for him.  That was part of what led me to wonder about the story told from the point of view of her daughter Meg.

After that initial spark, though, Madame Giry became a supporting character in my actual story–although I think a powerful presence.  What I don’t actually have much of is Madame Giry and the Phantom together.  If I ever write a fourth book, one reason will be because I’m curious to explore the two of them.

But they do have a scene together near the beginning of Book Two that is one of my favorites.  The Phantom has taken a first tentative step towards a friendship with Meg, and Madame Giry comes into Box Five to make sure he fully understands that he’d better not step out of line.  Here’s just a bit of it. Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: The Phantom and Madame Giry”