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The Daaé Case (ch4)

In which Jos finally meets Christine Daaé, and she isn't — in several unsettling directions — entirely what he had expected.

Chapter 4: Ah, Christine!

Even caught flushed and off-guard in her morning wrapper with a cup of coffee in one hand, Christine Daaé in the flesh was quite some lady. As exquisite as the room that framed her — why, if he hadn’t had more sense, he might have thought the place had been designed express for the purpose. Hard to see how any man could have problems waking up next to that, Jos thought, unguarded... then took stock of the set unhappiness in her eyes that was a constant silent reproach.

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The End in Sight?

I've now rough-typed two more chapters for "Blue Remembered Hills" (Ch18 and 19) and dared for the first time to look ahead in the manuscript and work out how many chapters I have left to go -- it looks as if after all this time there are only three chapters left :-D

I've got chapter length issues, though: Ch19, the pivotal one, is under two thousand words, and the surrounding three are at least twice that size, while the final two scenes constitute another very short chapter. The penultimate chapter has two scenes in it and might be splittable, but the second scene of that would be pretty short as a chapter on its own, and really can't stand together with the epilogue material following; there's a significant time/distance jump.

And Ch19 will just have to stay short, I think. It's probably explosive enough on its own. All those long chapters are going to be a real pain to proofread... (it takes the computer about twenty minutes just to read them out :-p)

Current word-count: 65,000, more or less. I estimate around another 10,000 in the remaining material.

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The Daaé Case (ch3)

And the other material I've been working on this week...

I'm amused to gather from reviews that what I hear as 'Americanisms' the US readers hear as 'period talk' -- appropriate for this setting, of course, but it certainly dates the material from which I obtained this vocabulary!

Chapter 3: Once Upon Another Time

“I guess... what we do don’t always look too good, when you step back,” Jos said slowly, measuring out words like sips at the rough liquor he still nursed. Round here the stuff could strip your throat numb, if you let it. But it numbed other things. “Not too good, or too wise, maybe. But then it comes hard when your fairytale romance has you all set to fight off the dragon to save the pretty maid, and you wind up as the prince in ‘Rapunzel’ instead.”

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The Man Who Knew Too Much

I've spent about a month mulling this over (and writing it!) for the Writers Anonymous Alternate Format challenge; unlike with the Halloween Challenge, I did actually put some effort into fulfilling the challenge requirements this time (and a lot less, i.e. none, into dutifully reviewing the other entrants, I'm afraid!)

I originally had ideas about taking up the 'epic poem' option and writing a ballad about the Daroga's rediscovery of Erik in Paris (which must have come as something of a shock) with a refrain about the bulls of Mazendaran. However, this foundered on my inability to come up with a plot idea for how on earth the Daroga did discover where Erik was living (EMK81 suggested that the obvious way was for Erik himself boastfully to let it slip, but I didn't really like that one) -- never mind the strain of actually writing a poem to a minimum of a thousand words!

In the middle of this I finally got round to rewatching the 2004 filmed version of "Phantom of the Opera" so that I could get a clear idea of what the 'canon' for a movie-based fan-fiction that I was reviewing was, and was rather surprised to find that, despite the fact that fan-fiction inspired by this film depicts the stage-hand Joseph Buquet as a villain purged from the world by the righteous hand of the Phantom, the film actually shows a man trying to do his duty and being hunted down in a horror-filled sequence. And when I was thinking as a result about doing a Buquet-centred fan-fiction to go with my Piangi-centred story, it occurred to me in a blinding flash that the unexpected narrator challenge would very nicely solve the problem of writing a man's death from his own point of view!

(I had the same issue in "Blue Remembered Hills" when trying to write a passage where the only person in the room throughout the whole scene from start to finish is the dead man -- in the end I had to write it from the point of view of two characters watching on CCTV.)

I still don't have a decent summary on this one for purposes, though I've got four or five discarded attempts, but I did have a brainwave over the title on Wednesday. And at the last minute it occurred to me that the 'sun-allergy' theory (which I thought was rather neat) didn't explain why the Phantom only feels the need to wear a protective mask on one side of his face, so I decided I'd better remove the 'protective' element, though it was a pity :-P

The Man Who Knew Too Much

Joseph Buquet was no saint, that’s for sure. But for all his curses he took good care in his work, and I think he was fond of me. I trusted him. One has no choice, of course, but I’d have trusted him anyway.

And I never forgot the way he ended.

Who was Joseph Buquet, you ask? And well you might, for he was no-one. No-one who mattered at all to Paris beyond these walls; no-one they ever saw, save for those indelible jerking moments on that one night. He died a long time ago, when I showed a bright new face to the world, gilded and full of hope... but he was with me from the first. It’s something one doesn’t forget.

For I was young then, still fresh and raw beneath my elegant trappings and the paint so artfully applied, and he took me in hand: those calloused big hands of his, strapped in worn leather and hardened by rope. He learnt my ways, and I came to know his. And we went through our intricate dance of cues and curtain calls and backdrops night after night, until the last tremors of the roar at the climax had ebbed away at the last, and he was grouchy and sleepy and wanted only to slip away home. Sometimes, if he’d taken enough drink to be sentimental, he’d leave with a parting pat or a passing caress as he went. He’d learned his trade elsewhere — mastered it before ever he came to me — but I counted him as mine all the same. And no man set a hand out of place when he was around, not where I was concerned. Not where it mattered.

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The Daaé Case (ch2)

One thing I hadn't anticipated when I started writing this was that I was going to pick up a genuine French-speaking reader on! I did do my best on the 'back-translation' for the French-tinged English here, but I hope the outcome isn't going to be too embarrassing...

The language problem is, of course, something that gets brushed under the carpet by Lloyd Webber for the sake of simplicity -- one can assume that Christine, Raoul and Gustave naturally speak French in their scenes together, and that Christine and the Phantom conduct their relations by default in their shared native language, but the reporters at the dockside can't possibly be speaking French when they shout questions at the little boy, and when Christine accosts Meg without recognising her she has no reason to suppose that this showgirl understands anything other than English either — nor Raoul in his rant to the barman. So apparently everybody is effortlessly bilingual.

Since my viewpoint character is obstinately monoglot, I, however, had to address the issue.

Chapter 2: Why Does She Love Me?

The husband. Which made him the one who signed the cheques. Connections began to come together with an almost audible mental click.

Jos had been steadily coming to the conclusion that someone had gone to a lot of trouble to whisk Christine Daaé out of Oscar Hammerstein’s reach — someone with influence on both sides of the law. But this husband of hers was another matter altogether. Hard to imagine anyone covering up for the likes of him... but when it came to enforcing contracts, he might turn out to be just the leverage the Manhattan Opera company needed.

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Cursed Child failure

Tried to book seats for "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" when the new batch of performances went on sale this morning. I got the onscreen countdown all right... but by the time the computer actually displayed the 'Book here' boxes, I was already number 20,145 in the queue. Seven thousand people got seats -- or at least, there were still thirteen thousand in the queue when the 'Sold Out' sign went up.

It's just not worth it. No performance can survive that sort of gold-fever rush a year in advance -- even if it's a good show, it can't be as good as all that. And no live performance that I've been to has lived up to the stress and price tag of getting seats, however cult (or otherwise) the show and good the reviews. Not "Flight Path", or "Mack & Mabel", or ENO's "Tosca", or "Les Misérables", or "The Phantom of the Opera"; I remember only a handful of theatrical productions that have ever worked magic for me, and one of those was "Bitter Sweet" at the local theatre when I was too young to be sophisticated. (The "Opera Up Close" productions, using small venues and English-language libretti to bring famous operas back to life, were the most effective that I can remember of late -- but their most recent ventures seem to constitute an attempt to 'fix' the perceived ideological flaws of the originals instead of merely restaging them, which puts my back up.)

So I don't think it's 'sour grapes'. I wasn't terribly keen on the idea of launching into this cut-throat clicking competition in the first place (and I wouldn't have been any happier about the idea of hanging endlessly on the telephone trying to get through to the Box Office, for that matter). I don't particularly enjoy spending large amounts of money on anything, because in my experience it has never, ever, been worth it, whether on ordering much-awaited books or a once-in-a-lifetime tall ship voyage -- the things that give pleasure are often the completely free ones, and the things that cost money and are hard to get come with an unpayable debt burden of anticipation to fulfil.

I can just imagine booking tickets, waiting a year, and then sitting through your two performances thinking 'well, was that it?'

So I may as well read the script now and find out what happens, since it doesn't look as if I'm likely to see the actual plays any time in the foreseeable future...

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The end of Choc-plus

I finished my tin of 'Choc-plus', having discovered that the easiest way of using it was simply to add a single teaspoonful to bog-standard supermarket own-brand 'just add hot water' instant chocolate and pour a little boiling water over the mixture until this smaller quantity had dissolved, before topping up the mug.

However, the best use for it was really to treat it as a tin of sweets and eat the chunks of chocolate and tiny marshmallows dry out of the packet. I'm still not impressed!

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The Daaé Case (ch1)

I see that I finished writing this at the start of October, which indicates just how long it has taken me to push it (and myself) through the 'beta' process!

The original "American-picking" beta eventually dropped out after a series of month-long gaps, not all of which was her fault, and I was very lucky to pick up a replacement who steamed through the remaining three chapters in nine days -- the delay had at least given me time to get the whole thing typed up, which is always laborious for me. He found a lot more lapses in chapters 4 and 5 than the previous beta did in Ch1–3, as well, which makes me a little nervous about the earlier chapters...

After going through various Hammerstein-related titles I eventually settled on simply "The Daaé Case", since if the story is being seen from Jos's point of view every case he's involved in is some kind of 'Hammerstein Affair'! And I think that version conveys the 'private eye' overtones of the story well enough.

The Daaé Case

Chapter 1: Christine Disembarks

“What do you mean, the Daaé’s disappeared?”

John McWhirter was a big man with gray in his wiry black beard, but his voice had cracked into a schoolboy’s high-pitched incredulity, and Jos winced. When the boss blew his top, he could make you feel mighty small. And right now, in the face of a foul-up this colossal, Jos Perlman would give a fair sum to shrink clear away and out of McWhirter’s sight.Collapse ) This entry was originally posted at, where there are comment count unavailable comments.

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Disgruntled with Choc-plus

Deeply unimpressed with the Oxfam Fairtrade 'Choc-plus' best-ever Belgian drinking chocolate that I was given for Christmas -- basically, it consists of hard little chocolate chips that can only be induced to melt with the greatest reluctance, and which then congeal on the bottom of the cup at the slightest excuse. Oh, and contrary to the legend on the outside of the tin, it doesn't contain instructions inside, which is a pity, because it badly needs them!

After searching their website, I managed to track down some directions; you were supposed to microwave chocolate chips and mini marshmallows together (I assumed the marshmallows needed to be added separately) in a small quantity of milk, then add the rest of the milk and heat further. I thought I'd succeeded in melting and stirring the chocolate adequately, but when I retrieved the finished cup after the second stage all I had was pale brown milk with a large lump of stuck-together chocolate adhering to the bottom!

On my second attempt, I tried laboriously melting my four teaspoonsful of mix in a bowl over boiling water in the oldfashioned way, to be absolutely certain they were properly liquid. It took an extremely long time, since the chips didn't behave like 'normal' chocolate, going all quivery on the outside and then collapsing into a soft puddle; they remained hard and whitish in the middle, and the pan boiled dry before the mix was more or less ready. I stirred it very thoroughly and added milk before pouring the whole back into the (emptied) saucepan to heat up -- to my digust, the moment the cold milk hit the melted chocolate, it solidified even as I stirred it, and I ended up batting the lumps round and round the pan trying to melt them all over again. And it didn't taste at all special, either.

I wonder if the chocolate had simply gone stale sitting on Oxfam's shelves? Either that, or someone sold them a pup: £3.99 for a tin of this stuff is ridiculous. I've had better results with a giant bar of cheapo milk chocolate that was wished upon us; I've had much cheaper and nicer (and much, much quicker) cups of cocoa using a single teaspoon of Fairtrade cocoa powder and a teaspoon of sugar.

The best destination for the remainder of my Christmas present would probably be baked into biscuits as a substitute for supermarket chocolate chips, where their reluctance to melt or lose their shape might be an advantage...

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Blue Soap

Got a Reindeer Rock soap for Christmas (although I wouldn't have described -- or recognised -- the scent as 'rose'; more 'antiseptic and slightly floral cologne', though I like it).

It's blue -- very blue. And it produces blue lather on your body, which is slightly disconcerting; luckily it doesn't seem to stain the bath, unlike their bath bombs!

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