ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Write...Edit...Publish monthly bloghop - my flash fiction - Interrupted in Paris

Welcome to the inaugural Write...Edit...Publish regular monthly bloghop. As you visit participating bloggers, you will find all sorts of stories and other creative postings. Anyone is welcome to join us! Entries close Friday August 23. If you've missed this one and would like to join in for September...theme -- Moving On...the linky will go up early September. Would love to have you on board!

Here is my entry for VACATION...a flash fiction set in Paris...


Interrupted in Paris
Willow leaned over the parapet of the Pont Neuf bridge, ignoring the wind that snatched her long blond hair from her face. She strained for a better view of the redheaded woman in the orange hat who was yelling at one of the booksellers along the Seine.

Alors, not planning to jump?’ a voice asked in perfect French.

Willow hadn’t expected to be interrupted in Paris—Parisians ignored you, she’d been told.

The guy was a bit older than she was, about twenty. Would have been the perfect Gallic specimen except for his Harry Potter glasses and cowboy boots.

Merde, are you crazy?’ she snapped in her schoolgirl French. ‘Jumping into the Seine would be like jumping into a swimming pool.’

Harry Potter pushed his glasses higher up his nose with a leather-gloved finger and laughed out loud. She liked the sound. It was nice hearing someone laugh instead of yell.

‘Mademoiselle, it would be like diving into an ice rink. Don’t jump in head first. Such a pretty head.’ He slipped off his gloves and handed them to her.

He folded his arms, studied her while she slipped them on. ‘Well?

‘Well, what?’

 ‘Why are you standing on the Pont Neuf this freezing winter’s day, with only that, uh, flimsy thing between you and becoming an ice sculpture?’ He removed his cashmere coat as he spoke. Was this a Paris striptease?

‘Not your business.’ She backed away. ‘No, it’s okay. Keep your coat on.’

‘It’s fine. I’m wearing another underneath, see?’ He indicated a uniform jacket,  with an embroidered ‘B’ on the pocket. ‘I keep a spare for damsels in distress.’

He seemed harmless enough. Willow cracked a smile, then tossed the cashmere over her battered army-surplus jacket. Bliss!

‘Come, Mademoiselle.’ He took her hand.  ‘I’ll buy you coffee. There’s a cafe nearby that the bouquinistes use.’ Bouquinistes? Later.

She searched for the redheaded woman in the crowd, but all she saw was black coats moving through snow like extras in a movie.


Mercy beaucoop.’

A plaisir, Mademoiselle. Bon appetit!’

She spooned three teaspoons of sugar into her frothy brew, gave it a quick stir then gulped down a few delicious mouthfuls. She handed back the gloves.

Mercy. You’re a lifesaver.’ She held out a toasty hand.  ‘Willow.’

‘Jacques.’ He looked like he was about to kiss her hand, but refrained, unfortunately.

She crammed her face full of macarons—raspberry, triple chocolate, champagne drops dusted in gold—oh, the French! Her mother would be appalled at her table manners, but it was all her mother’s fault anyway…

                                                            ☁

Her mother had run away to Paris after the last blazing row with her dad. Natch Dad didn’t believe his wife could do such a thing, but Willow knew. But why hadn’t mum taken her too? No doubt she thought Willow should finish school. As if she could concentrate! She’d flunked her exams big time—too busy planning how she would solve the mystery of her mum’s disappearance…

‘Now, what brings you to Paris?’ Jacques interrupted her thoughts—again!—picked up his gloves, slapping them against the edge of the table--schlep, schlep, schlep.

‘Mum,’ Willow said without thinking. Whoops! What if he was fully a creepster? Stranger danger alert! ‘Er, it’s school holidays.’

‘Is your maman here?’

‘Uh…I…yes. She’s on a long holiday, er, in Paris.’

‘You mean you don’t know where your maman is?’

‘She has to be here.’ Willow pointed to the door. ‘I think I saw her…I’m not sure.’

‘Oh?’

‘When you interrupted me today. I think she hangs out at the book stalls.’

‘Why would you think that?’

Willow shrugged. Why not tell him? She had a good feeling about Jacques, and she had a great creep-o-meter.

‘Her life with Dad was pretty damned horrible.  She always said she’d run away to Paris, so I’m thinking she finally did.’ Tears pricked her eyes.  ‘She just disappeared one day. I’d hate to think anything bad happened to her.’

Jacques reached across the table and held her hand.

‘Books are her life. Maybe she got a job selling them here.’

‘I doubt it. You have to stand in line for years to buy a stall.’

‘How do you know? She could be working one, right?’

‘Doubtful. My father officially manages the bouquinistes, but they’re a law unto themselves. They have their own controllers.  I work with Papa while I’m on vacation from the Sorbonne.’  He handed back the gloves. ‘Come. Do you have a photo?’

‘Of course.’

                                                                  ☁

The bitter breeze chased them along the footpath under a grey and heavy sky. Puffs of white blew from tree branches into their faces. Willow opened her mouth and let the snowflakes fizz on her tongue. Jacques wrapped his scarf around her face. She’d be loving this day except for her mum.

At the curb of the Quai Saint-Michel, they paused to watch spluttering bateau mouches surge past Notre Dame like icebreakers. Tourists waved hello, their voices like squawking seagulls.

They reached the line of green metal bookstores. Willow was momentary distracted by retro postcards, Toulouse Lautrec posters, old books.

‘Je m’excuse.’ Jacques addressed a bookseller stooped over a metal box, the hem of his ragged black coat filthy with brown slush. ‘Paul, have you seen this woman?’

The old man squinted at the photo. ‘Alors, Monsieur Hoareau.’ His lip curled. ‘She was a thief. She tricked me into selling her an uncatalogued first edition. Gave me €500. Worth €200,000 at auction I since found out.’

‘The name of the book?’ Willow and Jacques asked together.

‘The Great Gatsby.’

‘That’s her favourite book!’ Willow yelled. ‘Mum’s been collecting different editions for years. Totally annoyed my father.’ She hugged herself. ‘So…where is she now, Monsieur?’

‘Probably at the bottom of the Seine. You don’t mess with the bouquinistes and live.’


 

©DeniseCovey2013

I would like a Critique Partner who writes romantic fiction.

WORD COUNT: 976
FULL CRITIQUE WELCOME

I hope you enjoyed my story for the VACATION prompt. Click on the names in WEP's linky in my top right hand side sidebar to read more entries.








46 comments:

  1. Hi Denise
    Had a little trouble finding this but here I am. Well done. I take it this is a part of a larger story. Intriguing idea. I will be up for critique soon. Just need to get on a good vitamin regimen I think.
    Nancy
    PS. I'll email you in a few days.

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  2. Of course, it's already Wednesday in Australia! Mine will be up in a few hours.

    The story's nice, very tactile. I like the quirk of a woman traveling the world collecting copies of the same book.

    You might check your French spelling. "Thanks" should be "merci" with an I and "very much" should be "beaucoup" with a second U. There may be others but that's all I saw.

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    1. The misspelled words were on purpose to show her bad pronunciation, lol!
      Will look forward to reading your entry Armchair Squid

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    2. Got it. That's fun! Still Tuesday here... Everything's ready to go.

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    3. It's 12.30 Wednesday here! But it doesn't matter. A few beat me to it so I thought I'd better get mine down!

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    4. Mine is up. I shall make the rounds myself now.

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  3. haha that would make a great larger story indeed. Nice premise with the books.

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  4. August 21st, 2013

    Dear Denise,
    What a fun story! I can see these two wandering along the Seine in a wintry Paris.
    Hope you make this a longer story, but it works well as flash fiction too.

    Best wishes,
    Anna
    Anna's Write-Edit-Publish Challenge for August: Vacation

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  5. Great ambiance and I like the story overall. I want to know more about what's going on with these characters.

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  6. It is a fun story. I am pulling for Willow and her Jacques to find each other if not her mother. :-) My own Vacation entry will be up at midnight. About another 4 hours here. I hope you enjoy it. It's a vacation ... in the past. :-)

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  7. Loved it! Felt as though I were there, wished I were too! A new cozy mystery by any chance? Can't wait to hear more. Well done Denise.

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    1. Yolanda, you got it. Hmm. Cozy would be good.

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  8. Enjoyed your story, Denise. I just stopped by to see your story as 'Paris' gets my attention easily. I like the premise and loved all the reminders of the lovely city, like Pont Neuf, etc.

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  9. Very atmospheric. Intriguing and fun story, and the Gatsby motif is charming. Will make a great long short, but good and satisfying on its own too.

    Mine goes up right after.

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  10. Well, you said it's a flash fiction piece meaning it's complete, though I really would love to read on and find out she really isn't in the Seine. :P But what a way to end the story!

    It's an interesting story because a lot of it is quite light and airy and 'delightful', and then you have the sadness of a missing mum, abandoned daughter, and mum's potential destruction by the icy Seine waters! I agree that it's very atmospheric though, and having been in France recently I can say it felt authentic. :)

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    Replies
    1. Seems everyone wants to read more about these characters. I will think on it for next month.

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  11. An intriguing story with the hopes of a romantic liaison along the way but also the hope of finding her missing mother tinged with the thought that her mum isn't quite as good as she should be and if she's still alive.

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  12. Hi, Denise,

    Charming... Quirky... Very FRESH. I really like this. Your descriptions of Paris are WONDERFUL..

    Nice banter between Willow and Jaques.

    I definitely would like to read more! WELL DONE!

    What a lovely introduction to your new site !

    I have half of mine written. YAY... Hope to have it up by tomorrow or even later today!

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    1. Thanks Michael. It was fun to write this mostly! Can't wait to read your story and all the other Friday posters!

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  13. Great ambience!
    Quaint yet charming piece which matches the quaint and charming setting!
    I was there...in-the-moment...every step of the way!
    Thank you for the vivid multisensory experience which allowed me to soak in the sights, sounds and smells of Paris...
    I loved it!
    Writer In Transit

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    1. Glad you felt it Michelle. Paris is so easy to write about!

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  14. What? Don't stop there. Where the rest of the story? Gah! Now I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon postulating on how this story would turn out. You're not truly done with it, are you? (Say no. Please, say no?)

    I've got a blog award waiting for you today--and greatly deserved, it seems. ;)

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    1. Crystal, if people really mean what they say, it appears they like these characters. I may produce the mother's POV next month. Might end up with a novel at the end of it, eh?

      Thanks for the blog award!

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  15. There's something about Paris. What a romantic setting!

    Love picturing the Harry Potter glasses with cowboy boots.

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    1. I'm glad you mentioned that Theresa.

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  16. She might not find her after all if her mother's been doing bad deals with the book people. This piece had a great feel to it. I could feel the cold.

    My entry will be up on Friday.

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    1. Excellent Diane. Look forward to it!

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  17. This feels like the start of something exciting!

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  18. Can you say happy feeling gone? Hey, sounds like she has help now though.

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  19. I am very intrigued by this mystery mother who collects editions of The Great Gatsby! And I loved the girl's 'French' - very cute!

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    1. Thanks for that. I may write the mother's POV next month.

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  20. Poor girl. I like your story, though. Sounds very interesting and I'm curious to see what happens next.

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  21. I liked this story very much. I was totally in it and following the storyline. The only thought I had was that a French man is ordinarily not this outgoing and he probably isn't going to have much patience with her bad French. He would cross those well-maintained social lines though if there was something really intriguing about her when he first notices her. She is worried about him being a creep, but I'm thinking he isn't going to be bothered with her unless there is something striking about her--maybe her French is really good instead of mediocre and he doesn't realize that she's not French. Well, you can dismiss all this as nonsense, but I was just thinking he might have a different, more careful and correct approach.

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    1. Thanks Linda, for your feedback. I had more about her in the text but had to remove it in terms of word count. You can be sure there is something striking about her. No Australian is going to be mistaken for a native French speaker, lol and the whole point of the story is for her not to be French. You've made me think deeper Linda.

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  22. Love it! I agree on general principle with the French language thing, Parisians in particular are odd that way, but if he's a student that might not be the case. He might even like speaking english with her, who knows.

    ; )

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  23. I liked this--it's funny, I am finishing my second Amy Leduc mystery (by Cara Black) and they are set in Paris, so I eased right in.

    I think this might be stronger if you give some emotion to her sighting of the red headed woman right up front--is she yearn? fret? is she desperate? It would make the transition from the 2nd to third section less jarring and make the 3rd feel less 'information dumpish' because it's already been hinted at so the reader is eagerly looking for the info. But I love the setting and 'foil' of the handsome young man--it is just the early trickle of hints that needs a little more punch.

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  24. LOVED this- you set the scene perfecctly and I instantly fell into this world. My one critque was the the setting was stronger than the characters but I think that's appropriate for a piece like this- the characters need a bit of mystery since we're just glancing them for a moment. Really, really impressed with this.

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  25. Nice story Denise. I've never been to Paris, but you gave a nice walk through and I can imagine it clearly. I'm intrigued to know if her mother is indeed in the Seine ...

    I've just posted mine up, better late then never :-)

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  26. Your piece reads as smooth as silk, Denise. Intriguing, just enough to prick interest! Popping in to say hello, so I was pleasantly surprised to find your story. Well done. :)

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  27. Great piece. I really liked how you added the Harry Potter bit.

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  28. Too fun! I LOVE Paris and stories set there. I can imagine it perfectly. Sorry I was late getting my entry posted,and THANK YOU so much for "prompting" me to get my butt in gear. I've posted it now and am busy visiting all these great blogs participating. Thanks again and hope you'll come back to see what I posted. Thank goodness I'm almost done with the current wip!

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  29. I enjoyed reading this too. I loved that we get a reason for her visit to Paris, before Jacques asked the question. I felt like I was there and I could relate to the misspelt French words. Certainly the ending makes me wish it was a longer story.

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  30. Oh! This was such a great read! And what an ending! I was working on a piece to enter, but LIFE started throwing bricks, so...

    Paris. Sigh....I wanted to read more :)

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  31. I made it through all the blogs!! There are some GREAT ones on this hop. Thanks for making it happen!

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  32. Hi Denise .. this is great - and sincerely hope I can read more ... brought back memories of visiting, yet also reading youthful romantic novels all those years ago!!

    Vunderbar ... Hilary

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