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.

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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 Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #4

By my fourth story on this writing adventure, I decided it was time to break the sad trend of the previous two and write something funny again.  With the prompt, “an intermission, a chateau, mistaken identity,” I wound up with a P.G. Wodehouse-inspired story of a conwoman, with a lot of absurdity and a touch of romance, with a happier ending than Story #3!

Here’s the opening scene of the story.

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It all began during a production of Gounod’s Faust.  A quite bad production, or so the gentleman with the pince nez told me.  I happen to be tone deaf.

“Egad, but this is shockingly bad, isn’t it?” he said to me on the interval, as we milled about in the grand entry hall, chandeliers glimmering overhead and the crowd glittering around us.

“Oh yes, shocking,” I agreed, sipping my champagne and studying this new conversation partner.  He was at least forty years my senior, hair gray, evening coat gray, eyes gray, skin with the grayish pallor of a man who has never worked outside in all his life.  He was the most elegant, most obviously rich person I had ever seen, and I was surprised that he was speaking to me.

“That Marguerite couldn’t carry a tune if her life depended on it, and Faust looked no more like a man capable of demonic involvement than a choir boy,” he derided in a stentorian voice.

“I don’t imagine you’ve met many choir boys,” I murmured.

He stared at me through his pince nez for a moment, then erupted in a roar of laughter heard around the room.  “I have always loved your sense of humor!” he informed me, then clapped one hand to his forehead.  “By jove, I nearly forgot!”  He reached into his jacket pocket and drew out a folded square of paper.  “Here is your invitation to my château, for my Friday to Monday shooting party.  You mustn’t disappoint me.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” I said smoothly, accepting the paper.

“Capital, simply capital!” he said, just as the bell sounded for five minutes to curtain.  “Ah, back to the wars.”  He turned towards the entrance to the theater.  “I look forward to seeing you again, Cousin Mabel,” he tossed over his shoulder, and disappeared into the crowd.

I wondered who Cousin Mabel was.

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.

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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!

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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: In the Beast’s Library

I wrote a few months ago about a writing retreat I attended, and the joint novella I worked on with a few other authors, retelling Beauty and the Beast.  Well, I recently finished the latest draft of Book Two of my Phantom trilogy, which calls for some form of celebration, I expect.  🙂  I sent it off to beta-readers for feedback, and turned back to novella revisions.

I wrote three chapters for the story, two from the point of view of a certain Good Fairy, and one from the point of the view of the Beast’s librarian.  The last excerpt I shared was from the fairy’s perspective, so today I’m sharing one from the librarian, Hugo Livre.  We set the tale in France (as traditional Beauty and the Beast tales are) so I named my librarian after Victor Hugo.  The other French writer I might have chosen to reference just wouldn’t have worked…because you can’t put a character named Gaston (Leroux) into a Beauty and the Beast story! Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: In the Beast’s Library”

Writing Wednesday: Charles Garnier at the Opera

Charles Garnier by Nadar - Leniaud 2003 p142.jpgCharles Garnier plays a funny role in my Phantom novel–a character who is and isn’t there.  I wanted him in it as a kind of shadow, a part of the Opera he built, almost literally.  Erik reads his book on the construction of the Opera–Meg sees his portrait in two places in the Opera–Erik references him with respect–and of course, the building is called the Opera Garnier throughout my trilogy, an actual choice since it could have been the Opera de Paris (or the Palais Garnier, or the Salle des Capucines) and still been correct usage.  But I wanted that Garnier acknowledgment.

Garnier is nearly the only historical figure in my novel.  The only other one is Degas, and he’s only referenced very slightly by comparison (although the Phantom does have one of his paintings on his wall!)

Somewhere I picked up a kind of fondness for Garnier, maybe from Susan Kay’s novel where he’s a more prominent character, or from visiting the Opera Garnier itself.  Or maybe because of one story I heard about Garnier that I just love.  While the Opera was under construction, Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, was not wild about Garnier’s design.  She asked him what style the architecture was and, being a clever man, Garnier responded, “The Napoleon III style, of course!”

So he’s in here, a little, for those reasons–but also for what I can say about the Phantom through him.  And that mostly comes out in one very brief flashback.  Garnier may be in the rest of the trilogy just for the sake of this moment, because I love the image of Charles Garnier and the Phantom of the Opera sitting on the edge of the stage the night before the Opera opens, drinking champagne to their masterpiece.  And I will trust that the ghost of Garnier won’t mind me giving a little credit to the fictional Phantom!

Here’s my favorite bit of the flashback, as the Phantom reflects on their relationship and his role.

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Finally, looking at the champagne bubbles and not at Garnier’s shadowed face, he had said, “Please don’t tell them about me.”

“Of course not.”

That was all.  No more than that.  It was enough, because unspoken between the words and filling the empty auditorium was the tacit understanding that had always existed between them.  There had never been anyone else who understood their mutual obsession for this building, no one else who loved it as they did.  He had liked to think of it as similar to two men in love with the same woman, each uniquely able to understand the feelings of the other.

Of course, when that situation actually came about, it had been utterly different.  So much for metaphor.

Garnier had a career, a family, a public face, and had gone on to design other buildings, explore other landscapes.  Erik was the shadow he left behind to watch over his masterpiece.