Sample Saturday: Around the World in 80 Pages

atw80p-v2Today, I thought I would give you an entire story that appeared in my first short fiction collection, Around the World in 80 Pages. This book is perma-free on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBookstore, and Amazon.  I hope you’ll pick up a copy.  Enjoy!


No Eyes But Mine Shall See
Originally published in Bestseller Bound Anthology Vol. 1, 2011

Gilbert Rochambeau first appears in my debut novel, In The Eye of The Beholder. He also plays an important role in the upcoming sequel, In The Eye of The Storm.

~~~

Gilbert’s cravat hung loose, his shirt collar open. He dried the pen, closed the inkwell and sighed. His handsome face was tired and drawn in the lamp’s glow. Outside, the rain fell on dark London streets; it was late. He ran his fingers through cropped curls the color of old Roman coins and willed the tears to remain in his dark brown eyes as he reread the letter he would never send. He absently rubbed his leg with the other hand; the damp English weather made the old injury ache.

“Dear Claire” …

So innocuous. How could such a simple salutation say so much and so little at once?

He read on, the words flowing in his native French.

~~

I watched your carriage drive away today, standing at the window until it was out of sight. There were so many things that I wanted to say to you, but you were gone.

I wanted to say those things when you stood in front of me, saying your farewells. You looked so beautiful in your blue cloak, its silver fox-furred hood lighting your eyes. Did I ever tell you how much your eyes reminded me of the Camargois sky?

No, I don’t believe I ever did.

Your glorious chestnut-colored hair was styled in an elaborate coil of braids: very fashionable. Yet my fingers recall its weight as I held those locks to brush them.
And my lips recall the kiss I stole that night. Did you feel what I did?

I wanted to speak so many times when I escorted you around London or Paris. Restaurants, museums, shops; we went so many places together. I wanted to be much more than your majordomo, but you never knew.

You encouraged my drawing, but you never saw the dozens of sketches I made of you. Some were from memory, from the days in Paris. You riding your fine horse; I know how you have missed that black mare. Many of them were made while you lay ill; I feared for you, as did all the household.

I wanted to whisper to you then, but I said nothing. Instead, I brought a black velvet toy mare and gave her to you. Your quiet smile was thanks enough.

I understand so much better now how a sadness of the heart sickens the body. The doctor called your illness hysteria, said you were mad. How wrong he was. You have ever been sane, even in the darkest times. Perhaps I could have done more to ease your burdens; I will never know. But I did what I could.

I wanted to speak when you befriended Joseph Merrick, and when you railed at Doctor Treves, my benefactor thanks to you, for the way he treated Joseph in death.

I thought about speaking up when the English ladies decided not to receive you anymore. You tried so hard to make things right. I wished, many times, that we could all go back to France. Now you are going, and I am staying here.

I wanted to say something the night you made sure, for the first time in years, that I was dressed and barbered properly. Your eyes were the first to look upon me as a woman looks upon a man whom she admires.

I wanted to tell you whenever I watched your kindness to the people of the Opera Garnier. You never failed to smile and say a kind word, even though I knew your misery.

Oh yes, I knew your misery. I watched your cousin François … my brother-in-law … take everything you had. He did the same to my sister; she died giving birth to his child. He lived in my home, but made it clear I was there at his sufferance. I became a servant in the home that should have been mine: your cousin’s valet. After all, how could a man with a twisted leg manage the affairs of a cattle ranch?

I watched François beggar and ruin you, and I could say nothing. He sold your home, just as he did mine. Damn those laws that say a man must control a woman’s property. Those same laws gave my sister’s inheritance to François; he squandered it all.

The closest I ever came to speaking my mind was the night I learned you were married, when Erik pressed his wedding ring into my hand and sent me to the little cottage where you awaited your newlywed husband’s return. Francois even tried to take him from you.
That night, I said that I was your man. You presumed that I meant only to help you. The truth was, I meant that and more. I wanted to be a bold chevalier: a protector. Yet, you barely knew me; I was your cousin’s valet, after all. It would have been unseemly to say more than I did on that night.

As it was, our lives were never the same.

Claire, I said nothing because I am a coward.

How could I say “I am in love with you,” even as you were preparing to return to France with your dying husband? Erik was as good a friend to me as he could be, and you chose him.

How could I say “I have loved you from afar,” without looking like a madman?

How could I consider casting myself at your feet and begging you to stay in London? And yet, that very thought crossed my mind as I watched your coach disappear.

How like you, in your compassion, to ensure that I would not be destitute in this strange land, since circumstances prevent me from going back to France with you.

There were times when you thought me so brave, Claire, but I am not. Only a craven would fail to speak these simple truths.

So, now I have done so, in a letter that no eyes but mine shall see. Perhaps one day, when I am in my dotage, I will tell my grandchildren about it. Perhaps, by then, I will be brave enough. I will live without you because I must, but your face will always live in my heart.

I am, your humble servant,
Gilbert Rochambeau

~~

Gilbert blotted the ink and folded the paper carefully. He swiped a hand across his eyes, wiping away tears of regret, and tucked the letter into a desk drawer. He thought of glancing through the sketchbook there, but had felt his share of melancholy for the night.

Using the blue-knobbed walking stick, a gift from Claire at Christmas, he rose to his feet. He tried to keep his halting footsteps quiet as he made his way to the bedroom where his wife slept, peacefully unaware.

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Sample Saturday and Some News

news-1644696_640Hi, everyone.  I’m very excited to report that Twelve Hours Later is about to be re-released!  This charity anthology was created by the Treehouse Writers to support the San Jose Public Library System.  We did it ourselves as a one-off, but it was subsequently picked up by the good folks at Thinking Ink Press.

The official release date is March 24, 2017, but you can pre-order.  Particulars are here.

twelve-hours-later-1I have two stories in the anthology:  Nous Sommes Deux Heures and Nous Sommes Quatorze Heures.  Those of you who have been begging for more tales of Erik LeMaître, the Phantom of the Opera, will be very happy indeed.  Here’s a little sample to whet your appetite.  Enjoy!

2 AM
Paris, 1889
A Sunday

 
Lucien Dubois was always glad when the ormolu clock set in the fireplace at his end of the Opera Garnier’s Grand Foyer rang the two o’clock hour. It meant that the patrons and their parties were long gone and that he could remove his wig and livery. His work was far from over, though. There was the floor to sweep and the ashes to be cleared away so that a fresh fire could be laid before the next performance.

 
Lucien enjoyed serving in the Grand Foyer; it gave him a chance to hear the well-to-do folk talk about the sets he had helped build. Servants were treated as though they were invisible, but no one knew his name anyway.

 
At twenty years of age, Lucien was also one of the senior apprentices in the set shop; he was a gifted woodworker already, specializing in the miniatures used to create a set. He sometimes joked that it was in his blood; Dubois literally translated to “of the forest.”

 
Usually, Lucien finished his duties in the Grand Foyer and then went back to the dormitories where he lived with his fellow apprentices. Tonight, he had other plans.

 
Lucien had heard rumors of an actual house in one of the lower cellars of the opera house. Tonight, after all of the chandeliers were dark and the fireplaces empty, he planned to find out the truth of the matter.

 

Sample Saturday, and a Bonus Track: “In The Eye of The Storm”

Eye Of The Storm Cover_revisedHello, everyone.  It’s time for another Sample Saturday.  This week, it’s from my award-winning novel, In The Eye of The Storm.  The first-person narrator is Gilbert Rochambeau.  After reading, please enjoy a performance of Chopin’s Heroic polonaise, referenced in the text, by the late Vladimir Horowitz.


The circumstances of Honor and me coming to know one another were singularly unpleasant. Claire’s melancholia manifested itself so strongly that she became bedridden. She wished only to sleep. Erik gave orders that she never be left alone; melancholics often took their own lives. I later read, in Miss Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing, that melancholics did better if they found company upon waking and if their rooms were well-lit via windows that could open for fresh air; Erik had made sure of that as well. I do not know whether he read Miss Nightingale, but that book became my Bible where Claire’s care was concerned.

It was Erik’s greatest fear that Claire would indeed suicide. He tried all he knew, even consulting a physician. When that man told him to kill Claire’s beloved cat, Pierre, and get a child on her so that she would dote on the baby instead of her pet, I was surprised that Erik merely escorted him from the house instead of striking him. Heaven knows I considered it myself; I can only imagine how that must have felt to Claire’s husband, with his violent tendencies. What kind of odd quackery demanded taking away a beloved friend as a means of so-called comfort? None that I could imagine, that is certain.

That evening, Erik carried Claire down to his music room and situated her on the divan. She looked so pale and wan, the entire household feared for her. In his desperation, Erik tried his one gift on her: music. Claire loved Chopin’s Polonaise in A Flat, the so-called “Heroic,” and Erik played it over and over again that evening. His virtuosity at the piano was undeniable; I stood in the doorway and watched him play the difficult piece flawlessly, tears streaming down his face.

After the sixth or seventh repeat, he closed the key cover and went to Claire, kneeling next to the divan. He slipped his arms around her waist and sobbed into her lap while she stroked his raven hair. I turned away myself, helpless to aid either of them in that dark and miserable hour.

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Sample Saturday, and a Bonus Track: “Bayou Fire” and “Jolie Blon”

Today’s sample is from my work in progress, Bayou Fire, and includes a video of Jimmy C. Newman, Jo-El Sonnier, and Doug Kershaw performing the song I reference.  Enjoy!


“Amos Boudreaux, you stop kissing on that girl and go get your squeeze box,” Pauline called after the song ended. “I’ve a mind to hear ‘Jolie Blon’.”

Turning to Diana, she said “You sit down here with me, chère, and get ready for a treat. My boy Amos can sing!”

Amos went into the house and came out with an old Sterling button accordion. When he sat down in the gathering dusk and started to play, Diana couldn’t take her eyes off of him. He was quite the package, with his dark good looks and talent. Harmon joined in with his violin, and the two men harmonized beautifully. Amos’ baritone joined in with Harm’s tenor seamlessly.

“You should have seen us in the old days,” Pauline was saying. “Those Kershaw and Savoy boys would come around and we’d have a real laissez les bon temps rouler.”

She stopped and watched Diana watching Amos.

“You look like you’re fallin’ in love with my boy, chère. I think you must be, me. You can’t stop watching him.”

Sample Saturday: “His Beloved Infidel”

layoutToday’s sample comes from my first inter-ethnic romance, published in 2013.  Please enjoy this excerpt from His Beloved Infidel.


The institute did not hold class on Wednesdays. Farukh asked Catherine to come with him to the Louvre on their day off. It had been a long while since Catherine last visited there, and she looked forward to an entire day with Farukh instead of the few hours they typically spent together.

 
They met at the ticket holders’ line; Farukh had come early to pay the admission fees.

 
“I wanted particularly to share the Islamic art with you,” he explained as they entered the building. Farukh led the way to the Department of Near Eastern Antiquities.

 
He showed her the Celestial Sphere, made in Isfahan in 1145, that showed all of the constellations. Then it was the rooster-headed ewer made of fritware … the beautiful bowl with hunting scenes sculpted on it … all amazing works of art that came from his country. He spoke with both pride and authority on the history of each object.

 
Because the Louvre was so crowded, Farukh put his arm around Catherine’s waist to draw her closer to him. If she was surprised by his public gesture of affection, she did not show it. It felt good to have a physical connection to a man of such obvious erudition.

 
They went to lunch afterwards at a nearby cafe.

 
“Thank you for this morning, Farukh. It was so interesting to learn about those pieces from you.”

 
“I am proud of my country’s history,” he replied, “although I do not always agree with my government.”

 
“I could say much the same thing,” Catherine replied ruefully.

 
“You see, my khanum, we are not so different after all.”