A DRINKING TALE • by Christopher Owen

Marci and I run through the streets of Montmartre, drunk. Rain falls, turning the streetlights of Paris blurry against the dusk-time sky. Marci is barefoot, shoes in her hands, the streets too slick for high heels.

She seems particularly exuberant, and I like it. She’s been moody of late. Lecturing. But between then and now there’d been wine, which frees her soul like a bacchanal celebrant. It’s enough to make me forgive her incessant texting at each pub we’ve visited today.

We had started our day at a lunchtime writers’ social that took place at a restaurant atop Montmartre. The party was full of boring fellow writers who’d brought their big dreams with them to Paris, Hemingways every one of them. Marci had made me go. Good for you to network. Some publishers will be there too, Noel. Ha! At least there’d been plenty of booze. Wine. Beer. Spirits aplenty. Such tipple helps to fend off all the obligatory ‘how’s your writing going?’ and ‘have you published?’ remarks.

Such things bother me when I’m sober, but hours of steady drinking have alleviated that, and as I run with Marci, I feel good. Everything seems pre-ordained and possible when you’re drunk.

“Oh look, Darling, a little cat,” says Marci. I don’t bother to look. We’ve been playing this game all day.

“Let’s just go into the pub.”

“Oh, you,” she says. “Play the game.”

“Fine.” I look around. “What cat?  I don’t see any — ”

“She must have gone into that bar. Come on, let’s go in.”

Marci loves cats, and when she read Hemingway’s Cat in the Rain, she made up a game where she sees them around the streets of Paris. Today they always appear outside the doors of brasseries or pubs. I don’t really mind, I’m always rewarded with a drink inside.

We go in and I hear someone call Marci’s name. Marci’s eyes brighten and she pulls me along.

“Who the hell?” I whisper.

“Come on, it’s someone I want you to meet.”

“Is this who you’ve been texting all day?”

“Yes, now move.”

The man stands when we approach his table and holds out his hand to Marci. “Nice to finally meet you,” he says. “He then turns to me, hand held out like a hatchet. “Blake Vaughn,” he says, “Scrimshaw Publishing.”

We shake. We sit. We order drinks. My merciful bourbon arrives and helps to quell the queasy feeling that is growing inside me.

“Sorry I couldn’t make the social,” Blake tells us. “Crappy day. But hey, this worked out fine. So, Marci, shall we tell him the good news.”

“Good news?”

“Sure,” says Blake. “On behalf of Scrimshaw, I’m pleased to say that we’d like to buy Streets of Paris.”

“My novel?”

“Of course. I’ll forward you all the details via email, but Marci thought it would be nice for you to hear it in person, and well, since I was in town.”

“But, I didn’t submit it.”

“Oh, Noel,” says Marci. “I sent it. You’ve been worrying over that thing for a year since you finished it. Time to get it out there.”

“But it’s not done.”

“Well, I’d say it is,” says Blake. “Everyone thought it was brilliant. Consider yourself lucky. We don’t usually read unsoliciteds. But, Marci was convincing, and well, friend of a friend, you know.”

“Noel, don’t be mad. This is what you wanted. Take it. It’s time. And lord knows you need the money.”

Ouch, that stung. The grant that brought me to Paris to write has long since run out, and I’ve been living off Marci and her family’s good graces.

“I know this can be overwhelming,” says Blake. “Just look for my email, and think it over. No rush. But on that note, I’ve got to go.”

Blake pays and leaves. Marci smiles at me.

“Don’t be mad, Noel.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because you wouldn’t have sent it.”

“I would when it was ready.”

“Didn’t you hear him? It is ready. Let it go. Start another one. Every single word doesn’t have to be perfect.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Jesus, Noel, you haven’t even done anything to that manuscript in months. All we do is eat and drink and carry on like…”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know, like you’re trying to be Hemingway or something.”

“Maybe I am.”

“Well, write like him, and stop drinking like the old sot for a change.”

“Great. A lecture.”

“Noel, I love you, but I’m tired of going on like this.” She stands.

“Where are you going?”

“Home. You can come if you want.”

“Hmph. Think I’ll hang here a bit. Looks like I’ve got a lot to think about.”

She leaves. Through the blurry windows I see her hail a cab and she is gone.

After a few moments I decide I don’t like the air in this place, so I go out and walk through the rain for a little while. At length I come to another pub. In the window is a little cat. I laugh in spite of myself. It’s the only god-damned real one we’ve seen all day. As I go into the pub, the refreshing scent of stale alcohol greets me.

Marci doesn’t know that I’ve stolen a good bit of Streets of Paris from others, taken freely the words and sentences of long dead writers languishing in obscure novels. My plan had been to turn those phrases into something I could call my own eventually, but the task has proven difficult. Perhaps I took up a crutch that never should have been used. But my mind, these days, is no longer sharp. Even my hands shake sometimes. Whatever, it will all come out soon enough. Who knows how much I will lose. The deal, certainly. My reputation. Perhaps Marci as well.

Still dripping rainwater, I approach the bar and order a drink. Outside, the streets of Paris echo with a million stories that I’ll never know or tell.


Christopher Owen lives in Texas with his wife and two cats. His work has appeared at Daily Science fiction, Mirror Dance, Mystic Signals and other places. He is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing workshop and the Yale Summer Writers’ Conference.


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Every Day Fiction

  • What a nice start to an early day, reading over my first cup of coffee.

    Conflicts which may likely hit a lot of us – the urging of someone close to us to submit; well meaning but controlling. Reluctance to finish a work no longer in progress but mired in guilt and fear. Perhaps burnout. Playing a writer’s role as if cast in some stereotypical role in a B-movie. Panic at the thought of latent plagiarism being discovered. And one more drink to cure what the hundreds before.

    Now comes the question. Does he accept the offer or not? Where will his conscience take him. Is he burned out on writing as perhaps evidenced in the last line?

    The lack of answers is what solidifies this story giving me the task of completing the scenario without feeling cheated.

  • What a nice start to an early day, reading over my first cup of coffee.

    Conflicts which may likely hit a lot of us – the urging of someone close to us to submit; well meaning but controlling. Reluctance to finish a work no longer in progress but mired in guilt and fear. Perhaps burnout. Playing a writer’s role as if cast in some stereotypical role in a B-movie. Panic at the thought of latent plagiarism being discovered. And one more drink to cure what the hundreds before.

    Now comes the question. Does he accept the offer or not? Where will his conscience take him. Is he burned out on writing as perhaps evidenced in the last line?

    The lack of answers is what solidifies this story giving me the task of completing the scenario without feeling cheated.

  • I enjoyed this. You know they say if alcohol is a crutch, Jack Daniels is a wheelchair. Cheers 🙂

  • I enjoyed this. You know they say if alcohol is a crutch, Jack Daniels is a wheelchair. Cheers 🙂

  • Third paragraph from the bottom: I think that should read “I’ve seen all day.” Instead of : “we’ve seen all day.” Noel is now by himself.

    I like the idea of the story. Although, I felt a real lack of emotion from the MC in this piece. The voice of the MC/Narrator didn’t seem genuine to me. I think it is due to the contractions and word usage.

  • Third paragraph from the bottom: I think that should read “I’ve seen all day.” Instead of : “we’ve seen all day.” Noel is now by himself.

    I like the idea of the story. Although, I felt a real lack of emotion from the MC in this piece. The voice of the MC/Narrator didn’t seem genuine to me. I think it is due to the contractions and word usage.

  • Connell Regner

    I think he is predicting his own demise. Let it ride and he’ll get caught. Pull out and he won’t be able keep sponging on others indefinitely (the relationship just won’t take it) and if he is truly burnt-out so to speak he has no career anyway. To me it seems to be a tragic story of someone who might have been a writer had he been more talented. It’s a nice tale to ponder.

  • Connell Regner

    I think he is predicting his own demise. Let it ride and he’ll get caught. Pull out and he won’t be able keep sponging on others indefinitely (the relationship just won’t take it) and if he is truly burnt-out so to speak he has no career anyway. To me it seems to be a tragic story of someone who might have been a writer had he been more talented. It’s a nice tale to ponder.

  • Drunk on the streets of Paris? I am so there. Had a hard time with Marci going behind his back like that, pretty unbelievable. Then I thought what if my wife did that for me, would it be time to party in France.
    Good writing
    Good stuff
    Thanks

  • Drunk on the streets of Paris? I am so there. Had a hard time with Marci going behind his back like that, pretty unbelievable. Then I thought what if my wife did that for me, would it be time to party in France?
    Good writing
    Good stuff
    Thanks

  • Writer’s conference in Paris, well of course. Good twist of Marci submitting Noel’s manuscript because “it’s never ready.” A common story among inexperienced or unconfident writers. Writing is tight, dialogue natural, except Blake sending the information via email. Do people typically talk that way? Via is mostly used in writing, not speaking. If I mention a nit like that, it’s a sign the story is good. Nicely done, Christopher.

    • Kathy

      It may be an age thing, but people who have grown up with email or texting, as well as those who have thoroughly embraced the technology, would tend to say, “I’ll email the details.” For those who haven’t abandoned print & postal delivered mail, it is still an option, not a given, and it makes sense to them to provide clarification (like using “via email) as to which they will be using. I do hear people talk this way.

      • Kathy

        Oops, missing “!

  • Writer’s conference in Paris, well of course. Good twist of Marci submitting Noel’s manuscript because “it’s never ready.” A common story among inexperienced or unconfident writers. Writing is tight, dialogue natural, except Blake sending the information via email. Do people typically talk that way? Via is mostly used in writing, not speaking. If I mention a nit like that, it’s a sign the story is good. Nicely done, Christopher.

    • Kathy

      It may be an age thing, but people who have grown up with email or texting, as well as those who have thoroughly embraced the technology, would tend to say, “I’ll email the details.” For those who haven’t abandoned print & postal delivered mail, it is still an option, not a given, and it makes sense to them to provide clarification (like using “via email”) as to which they will be using. I do hear people talk this way.

  • S Conroy

    Was too immersed in this to dissect what I liked. The writing felt effortless. 5 stars.

  • S Conroy

    Was too immersed in this to dissect what I liked. The writing felt effortless. 5 stars.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    A writers’ social full of boring fellow writers? I’d sort of expect that…

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    A writers’ social full of boring fellow writers? I’d sort of expect that…

    Didn’t vote. Not my genre. I remain an admirer of “Down Rail.” Would love to hear more of that voice.

  • Carl Steiger

    I’m not going to vote because I recognize my prejudice against this kind of story. Fiction written about fiction writers generally annoys me, and fiction written about fiction writers who drink too much just goes beyond the pale in my book.

    But, as others have said, the great thing about EDF is there’s something for everybody some time or another.

    • Carl, there are lots of other sites who are explicit about not accepting stories about a main character who is a writer involved in many of the ways the art goes, good or bad. Particularly contest writing. In general I have found that this sort of thing is taboo across the table. I stay confused about this because I have read terrific novels that center around this very same thing. Perhaps there is a solid consequence, but to me it does not figure.

  • Carl Steiger

    I’m not going to vote because I recognize my prejudice against this kind of story. Fiction written about fiction writers generally annoys me, and fiction written about fiction writers who drink too much just goes beyond the pale in my book.

    But, as others have said, the great thing about EDF is there’s something for everybody some time or another.

    • Carl, there are lots of other sites who are explicit about not accepting stories about a main character who is a writer involved in many of the ways the art goes, good or bad. Particularly contest writing. In general I have found that this sort of thing is taboo across the table. I stay confused about this because I have read terrific novels that center around this very same thing. Perhaps there is a solid consequence, but to me it does not figure.

  • I suffer from multiple personalities: reader/writer/editor. Recent remarks from staff here indicate this is a readers’ site. Another person voiced a comment that this isn’t a writers’ circle, and if one wants to discuss detailed merits of stories then go get a MBA and discuss it in class.

    Today I was up at 4, and over first coffee made the decision to read as a reader – a non-writer. I finished the story with a feeling of satisfaction as I expressed in my early comments.

    If read as a writer, numerous flags go up. As an editor half as many more.

    Thus, my quandry.

    When I was a kid there was a show on TV, competing with Bandstand, in which teens voted on new releases. Often the performers were backstage. High praise from the teens went like, “It had a good beat and was fun to dance to.”

    As a reader I am struggling to find my voting “voice” if you will. As a reader I gave this a 4. As a writer a 3. As an editor a low 3. Perhaps anonymous stars IS the way to go. I dunno.

    Has anyone surveyed story authors to get a feel for what type of response they would like. Do they want one with only good beat comments so they can show friends and family that they are published. Fun to dance to.

    This may not be appropriate for this page, so delete it if you want. Or start a discussion page about it. Or simply ignore it. Not all posts require a response/rebuttal.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      One of my own motivations for finally starting to write was the constant silent editing I could no longer stop myself from doing whenever I read novels or stories. I was beyond grateful if an author’s prose didn’t trigger that. It’s a joy when an author lets you forget you’re reading and pulls you effortlessly into his world.
      I want to believe. I want to be captured by stories. I’m willing to reread and reread if I don’t quite understand something or if I keep finding more layers to explore. But if language choices or plot elements create potholes or toss boulders, I’m going to notice. And mention.

      • Michael Ampersant

        I can’t agree more!

    • From the FB post earlier in the month, it seems that the comments are dual purpose; reader and editorial. I find, like you, being a reader/editor/writer the 5 star voting paradigm is hard to express how I would want to rank a story.

      Being able to write a comment to show how I might feel about a story, with my mixed viewpoints, is helpful. But that often leads me to a 3 star vote because I don’t have anything other than an overall category to apply the vote.

    • Camille Gooderham Campbell

      Any fiction magazine, by definition, needs to serve its readers (some of whom are also writers and/or editors, but not all). Without readers, we have no purpose. We can’t be a writers’ circle or developmental critique forum, since the stories are published and thus are no longer in a fluidly editable state.

      We’ve had extensive feedback from authors over the past seven years, and the consensus is that the majority want honest feedback as long as it’s relatively brief and doesn’t cross the line into humiliation. Most authors don’t find sarcasm and mockery helpful. Most aren’t looking for a developmental-edit-level critique after publication. Most do like to hear why a piece did or didn’t work for the reader, at least at a general level, and what might be worth looking at in future stories.

      I hope this is helpful, and you’re welcome to start a discussion in our Facebook Roundtable if you’d like a more in-depth conversation about it.

  • I suffer from multiple personalities: reader/writer/editor. Recent remarks from staff here indicate this is a readers’ site. Another person voiced a comment that this isn’t a writers’ circle, and if one wants to discuss detailed merits of stories then go get a MBA and discuss it in class.

    Today I was up at 4, and over first coffee made the decision to read as a reader – a non-writer. I finished the story with a feeling of satisfaction as I expressed in my early comments.

    If read as a writer, numerous flags go up. As an editor half as many more.

    Thus, my quandry.

    When I was a kid there was a show on TV, competing with Bandstand, in which teens voted on new releases. Often the performers were backstage. High praise from the teens went like, “It had a good beat and was fun to dance to.”

    As a reader I am struggling to find my voting “voice” if you will. As a reader I gave this a 4. As a writer a 3. As an editor a low 3. Perhaps anonymous stars IS the way to go. I dunno.

    Has anyone surveyed story authors to get a feel for what type of response they would like. Do they want one with only good beat comments so they can show friends and family that they are published. Fun to dance to.

    This may not be appropriate for this page, so delete it if you want. Or start a discussion page about it. Or simply ignore it. Not all posts require a response/rebuttal.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      One of my own motivations for finally starting to write was the constant silent editing I could no longer stop myself from doing whenever I read novels or stories. I was beyond grateful if an author’s prose didn’t trigger that. It’s a joy when an author lets you forget you’re reading and pulls you effortlessly into his world.
      I want to believe. I want to be captured by stories. I’m willing to reread and reread if I don’t quite understand something or if I keep finding more layers to explore. But if language choices or plot elements create potholes or toss boulders, I’m going to notice. And mention.

      If I’d written this, I’d wonder why it sank so quickly from 4.4. when I read it, to 4.1 as I type. That indicates a fair number of people started to rate this rather poorly. Takes a lot to move the rating noticeably after the first dozen or so votes. I’d want to hear from the people who didn’t like it. The two of us who didn’t care for it, so far, didn’t vote.

      As reader and writer, I’d say this is useful and meaningful feedback.

      • Michael Ampersant

        I can’t agree more!

    • From the FB post earlier in the month, it seems that the comments are dual purpose; reader and editorial. I find, like you, being a reader/editor/writer the 5 star voting paradigm is hard to express how I would want to rank a story.

      Being able to write a comment to show how I might feel about a story, with my mixed viewpoints, is helpful. But that often leads me to a 3 star vote because I don’t have anything other than an overall category to apply the vote.

    • Camille Gooderham Campbell

      Any fiction magazine, by definition, needs to serve its readers (some of whom are also writers and/or editors, but not all). Without readers, we have no purpose. We can’t be a writers’ circle or developmental critique forum, since the stories are published and thus are no longer in a fluidly editable state.

      We’ve had extensive feedback from authors over the past seven years, and the consensus is that the majority want honest feedback as long as it’s relatively brief and doesn’t cross the line into humiliation. Most authors don’t find sarcasm and mockery helpful. Most aren’t looking for a developmental-edit-level critique after publication. Most do like to hear why a piece did or didn’t work for the reader, at least at a general level, and what might be worth looking at in future stories.

      I hope this is helpful, and you’re welcome to start a discussion in our Facebook Roundtable if you’d like a more in-depth conversation about it.

  • MPmcgurty

    This is just lovely. Readers are escorted along with the couple, learning about the characters and situation, and left with just enough questions at the end to ponder. The predicament at first seemed odd, even unbelievable, but the more I thought about it, the more possible it became. All of a sudden, I’m trying to think of ways he can avoid or survive the reckoning. A lot to think about, bundled up in that second to last paragraph.

    What is the character going to do now? First, get a drink. The last line is wonderful.

    I think this is one of my favorites here at EDF.

  • MPmcgurty

    This is just lovely. Readers are escorted along with the couple, learning about the characters and situation, and left with just enough questions at the end to ponder. The predicament at first seemed odd, even unbelievable, but the more I thought about it, the more possible it became. All of a sudden, I’m trying to think of ways he can avoid or survive the reckoning. A lot to think about, bundled up in that second to last paragraph.

    What is the character going to do now? First, get a drink. The last line is wonderful.

    I think this is one of my favorites here at EDF.

  • joanna b.

    Snappy dialogue, first paragraph drew me in. i enjoyed reading this. The twist was surprising. I saw something coming but didn’t think of plagiarism.

    The plagiarism, however, turned the story 180 degrees into something serious. And, in my mind, it needed more. Only when it appeared on the scene did I realize how much of the story was not credible: so much drinking, so much texting, such an abrupt offer of publication.

    I think it’s terrific to tackle the issue of plagiarism but this attempt at it made me back off from the story. The MC, at least this is the way I read the plagiarism paragraph, is going to accept the deal. He really is a cheat. Yet until the “reveal” I liked him, or at least, was on his side. So I felt cheated too.

    I wanted more about the MC’s process of stealing other authors’ work and what it did to him and less running around the streets of Paris in the rain.

    Excellent writing, but, for me, 3 stars.

    • MPmcgurty

      I don’t think the writer meant to tackle plagiarism. The main character didn’t submit it for publication, so I took the plagiarism as something, now possibly exposed, that brings the writer’s failure and cognizance of his own lack of talent to the forefront.

      Curious…when the “reveal” came, did you actually move from liking him to disliking him? He gives a reason for using the plagiarized bits. Did you not believe him, or did you think he would actually have published it at some point with the plagiarized lines?

      • joanna b.

        Thanks, MPmcgurty. I didn’t factor in that important point that the MC didn’t submit the novel for publication, Marci did.

        The MC did reap many benefits, however, by presenting himself to the world as a writer who had an almost complete novel that he was just putting the finishing touches to.

        Wallowing in the middle of my 4th unfinished novel, I have such respect for writers who have completed a novel.

        So you could say i felt a little ripped off by the MC. When the “reveal” came, I was shocked. In answer to your question, however, almost immediately the shock settled into my losing sympathy for, and empathy with, the MC. I went from seeing all his irresponsible behavior that day as Marci’s fault to having suspicion and distrust of him.

        Plagiarism is a sore spot with me. You can’t be in academia for 35 years, ten of them spent as the chair of the faculty committee that evaluates students, without coming up against plagiarism.

        When students who plagiarize are exposed, in my experience, they fight so unfairly that other people are damaged. They lie, distort, threaten, accuse, call in lawyers, sue. Fortunately, they are usually as incompetent at those activities as they are at writing their own assignments. But you certainly do get to dislike them.

        If I had factored in that Noel, the MC, did not actually submit the plagiarized novel then I might have given the story a 4 instead of a 3.
        Then again, I might not have.

        Ah. I see you asked another two questions, MPmcgurty.

        For the first one, I don’t believe Noel. You might copy down another writer’s work to study it or use it as an inspiration but you do not insert it into your own work and get the right to be innocent. And, come on now, his mind no longer so sharp, his hands shaking sometimes? Surprise! The guy drinks all day.

        Would the MC eventually submit that novel for publication? Probably not. He’d be drinking so much gearing up for the arduous process of submission that he probably wouldn’t even be able to start it. But he wouldn’t not do it because the work was plagiarized.

        Oh God. What a tangled web but I appreciate your asking, MP.

        • MPmcgurty

          Believe me, I share your contempt of those who plagiarize and I don’t believe him either, but because he never completes the act, it allowed me a window of emotions. I think that was one reason I so liked the one revealing paragraph, because it took me full circle in emotions. I became angry about the plagiarism, then had a moment where my indignation faltered (well, he didn’t submit it, right?), then a true sympathy as it’s revealed that he drinks too much (maybe an alcoholic) and has to live with the knowledge that he has no talent and is going to lose everything.

          Thanks for the reply, J.

  • joanna b.

    Snappy dialogue, first paragraph drew me in. i enjoyed reading this. The twist was surprising. I saw something coming but didn’t think of plagiarism.

    The plagiarism, however, turned the story 180 degrees into something serious. And, in my mind, it needed more. Only when it appeared on the scene did I realize how much of the story was not credible: so much drinking, so much texting, such an abrupt offer of publication.

    I think it’s terrific to tackle the issue of plagiarism but this attempt at it made me back off from the story. The MC, at least this is the way I read the plagiarism paragraph, is going to accept the deal. He really is a cheat. Yet until the “reveal” I liked him, or at least, was on his side. So I felt cheated too.

    I wanted more about the MC’s process of stealing other authors’ work and what it did to him and less running around the streets of Paris in the rain.

    Excellent writing, but, for me, 3 stars.

    • MPmcgurty

      I don’t think the writer meant to tackle plagiarism. The main character didn’t submit it for publication, so I took the plagiarism as something, now possibly exposed, that brings the writer’s failure and cognizance of his own lack of talent to the forefront.

      Curious…when the “reveal” came, did you actually move from liking him to disliking him? He gives a reason for using the plagiarized bits. Did you not believe him, or did you think he would actually have published it at some point with the plagiarized lines?

      • joanna b.

        Thanks, MPmcgurty. I didn’t factor in that important point that the MC didn’t submit the novel for publication, Marci did.

        The MC did reap many benefits, however, by presenting himself to the world as a writer who had an almost complete novel that he was just putting the finishing touches to.

        Wallowing in the middle of my 4th unfinished novel, I have such respect for writers who have completed a novel.

        So you could say i felt a little ripped off by the MC. When the “reveal” came, I was shocked. In answer to your question, however, almost immediately the shock settled into my losing sympathy for, and empathy with, the MC. I went from seeing all his irresponsible behavior that day as Marci’s fault to having suspicion and distrust of him.

        Plagiarism is a sore spot with me. You can’t be in academia for 35 years, ten of them spent as the chair of the faculty committee that evaluates students, without coming up against plagiarism.

        When students who plagiarize are exposed, in my experience, they fight so unfairly that other people are damaged. They lie, distort, threaten, accuse, call in lawyers, sue. Fortunately, they are usually as incompetent at those activities as they are at writing their own assignments. But you certainly do get to dislike them.

        If I had factored in that Noel, the MC, did not actually submit the plagiarized novel then I might have given the story a 4 instead of a 3.
        Then again, I might not have.

        Ah. I see you asked another two questions, MPmcgurty.

        For the first one, I don’t believe Noel. You might copy down another writer’s work to study it or use it as an inspiration but you do not insert it into your own work and get the right to be innocent. And, come on now, his mind no longer so sharp, his hands shaking sometimes? Surprise! The guy drinks all day.

        Would the MC eventually submit that novel for publication? Probably not. He’d be drinking so much gearing up for the arduous process of submission that he probably wouldn’t even be able to start it. But he wouldn’t not do it because the work was plagiarized.

        Oh God. What a tangled web but I appreciate your asking, MP.

        • MPmcgurty

          Believe me, I share your contempt of those who plagiarize and I don’t believe him either, but because he never completes the act, it allowed me a window of reactions. I think that was one reason I so liked the one revealing paragraph, because it took me full circle in emotions. I became angry about the plagiarism, then had a moment where my indignation faltered (well, he didn’t submit it, right?), then a true sympathy as it’s revealed that he drinks too much (maybe an alcoholic) and has to live with the knowledge that he has no talent and is going to lose everything.

          Thanks for the reply, J.

  • Michael Ampersant

    Sort of nice…
    …boring fellow writers (drop boring)…
    …brasseries or pubs…(what’s the difference?)…
    …Marci’s eyes brighten…(better: react)…
    …Ouch that stung…(drop)…

    …how do you create a coherent text by taking “freely the words and sentences of long dead writers languishing in obscure novels…(?)…(languishing….there isn’t an easier word?)….

    …all writers appear to live with two cats….

    • lying languished? 🙂

      • Michael Ampersant

        …dunno…thought about this…just trying to find a less-precious word…
        …I think the main problem with EDF-stories, the main problem is that they are a bit too precious in their wording, and a bit too rich adjective- and adverb-wise. Just a bit (else they wouldn’t get published). But still.

        • I meant it as an example of my endearing humor 🙂

    • MPmcgurty

      If an author wants to convey that his fellow writers were boring, he ought to be able to say so.

      I think of pubs as drinking establishments, and brasseries as cafes or casual restaurants.

      • Carl Steiger

        Certainly he should be free to say his fellow writers are boring. Perhaps Michael just meant that “boring” is redundant here.
        I didn’t know “brasserie” was even an English word, but according to Wikipedia, it’s commonly used in the UK to mean a “small metropolitan restaurant.”

        • Michael Ampersant

          Yes, well, we’re in France…technically there is no difference between a Brasserie and a Pub (in France) except that Pub, if labeled as such, are typically Irish Brasseries.

        • Michael Ampersant

          Yes, redundant in a plot-sense. Te plot wouldn’t be different without the adjective, and the adjective, well, it’s one more adjective. Unless the plot needs them or they are funny, or any alternative solution creates more stylistic complications…unless such conditions obtain, modifiers should be avoided.

        • MPmcgurty

          I’m not arguing that it’s not redundant. 🙂 But it is the main character’s voice, and he uses the word “boring” to describe his fellow writers. He further called them all “Hemingways”. Especially in light of what we see at the end, I’m willing to allow him that luxury.

      • Michael Ampersant

        …sorry, I didn’t mean to to censor Christopher, so I didn’t intend to imply that he shouldn’t says writer are (could be) boring, or, perhaps, worse, that writers cannot be boring because we’re all writers, I just think the text is stronger without the adjective boring.

    • MPmcgurty

      Re the cats, an author here a few weeks ago made up two cats to go with his bio. 🙂

      • Michael Ampersant

        Yes, sure. I maintain my point though—in full awareness that not all writers live with two cats—: “All writers live with too cats.” We’ve become so cute, perhaps too cute.

        • I stand firmly by the cats in my bio. All else is of course open to (welcome) debate.

          • Michael Ampersant

            Yes, please do. Chris, if that’s okay with you, I’ll put this on my blog, as “mot du jour”…

          • Yes, certainly, Michael. And thanks for all your comments!

          • Michael Ampersant

            Chris, I finally have an idea regarding your story. My main problem had been that plagiarism as committed by your hero is somehow unlikely…you won’t get a coherent whole out of it…so…how about

            (a) he doesn’t steal in the way you describe, but he steals only a few passages from keynote novels…
            [I got the idea today reading about Truman Capote who never thought that “La Cote Basque” would end his career as a socialite — “They are too dumb to recognize themselves,” he said to a friend]
            (b) Marci hasn’t actually read the novel
            (c) Blake is smitten with the novel, and quotes one of the keynote paragraphs
            (d) Marci recognizes the keynote paragraph for what it is…

            (plus, Noel doesn’t drink quite as much as he does in your piece, it’s not necessary)…

            …in this spirit…I actually know a successful German author who got caught stealing a silly little paragraph from a silly little book…it didn’t his career any good, although he still managed to get a gig at Harvard…

          • Interesting thoughts.
            Brings to mind the oft quoted chestnut “A book is never finished, only
            abandoned.” As I write this, other
            possibilities come to mind. What if Noel
            had written a Roman A Clef with thinly-veiled caricatures of Marci’s family
            that would potentially embarrass them and cause his support to dry up? He would be in a similar, yet perhaps even
            worse predicament, and the story would have another level of reference to
            Hemingway, who wrote Romans a Clef with thinly-veiled caricatures of his
            friends. Always room for improvement,
            alas.

          • Michael Ampersant

            Yes, cool…

          • Michael Ampersant

            You could use Hemingway fragments…

          • Michael Ampersant

            Reading Truman Capote short stories at the moment, very instructive…

      • I had to go searching for that one, MP. Brilliant!

  • Michael Ampersant

    Sort of nice…
    …boring fellow writers (drop boring)…
    …brasseries or pubs…(what’s the difference?)…
    …Marci’s eyes brighten…(better: react)…
    …Ouch that stung…(drop)…

    …how do you create a coherent text by taking “freely the words and sentences of long dead writers languishing in obscure novels…(?)…(languishing….there isn’t an easier word?)….

    …all writers appear to live with two cats….

    • lying languished? 🙂

      • Michael Ampersant

        …dunno…thought about this…just trying to find a less-precious word…
        …I think the main problem with EDF-stories, the main problem is that they are a bit too precious in their wording, and a bit too rich adjective- and adverb-wise. Just a bit (else they wouldn’t get published). But still.

        • I meant it as an example of my endearing humor 🙂

    • MPmcgurty

      If an author wants to convey that his fellow writers were boring, he ought to be able to say so.

      I think of pubs as drinking establishments, and brasseries as cafes or casual restaurants.

      • Carl Steiger

        Certainly he should be free to say his fellow writers are boring. Perhaps Michael just meant that “boring” is redundant here.
        I didn’t know “brasserie” was even an English word, but according to Wikipedia, it’s commonly used in the UK to mean a “small metropolitan restaurant.”

        • Michael Ampersant

          Yes, well, we’re in France…technically there is no difference between a Brasserie and a Pub (in France), except that Pubs, if labeled as such, are typically Irish Brasseries.

        • Michael Ampersant

          Yes, redundant in a plot-sense. The plot wouldn’t be different without the adjective, and the adjective, well, it’s one more adjective. Unless the plot needs them or they are funny, or they create a double-entendre between us and the ready (using a cliché that the reader understands to be a cliché), or any alternative solution creates more stylistic complications…unless such conditions obtain, modifiers should be avoided.

        • MPmcgurty

          I’m not arguing that it’s not redundant. 🙂 But it is the main character’s voice, and he uses the word “boring” to describe his fellow writers. He further called them all “Hemingways”. Especially in light of what we see at the end, I’m willing to allow him that luxury.

      • Michael Ampersant

        …sorry, I didn’t mean to to censor Christopher, so I didn’t intend to imply that he shouldn’t says writers are (could be) “boring,” or, perhaps, worse, that writers cannot be boring because we’re all writers, I just think the text is stronger without the adjective “boring.”

        My main problem though (I’m repeating myself) is with the notion of a text patched together by means of fragments from other texts, especially obscure ones. How do you get a plot going, then? How do you maintain some sense of stylistic coherence? I don’t get it. Yes, I know, we steal. I stole a sentence from David Foster Wallace yesterday, for example…and then have Avril Mondragon make an appearance (don’t ask). But an entire novel? You write 15k words and then you open a book and start copying? And then you open another book? Or you remember what an obscure writer said on page XX of her obscure novel (even though you wouldn’t remember because it’s an obscure writer?) Would take more time than to think up the text yourself…

    • MPmcgurty

      Re the cats, an author here a few weeks ago made up two cats to go with his bio. 🙂

      • Michael Ampersant

        Yes, sure. I maintain my point though—in full awareness that not all writers live with two cats—: “All writers live with too cats.” We’ve become so cute, perhaps too cute.

        • I stand firmly by the cats in my bio. All else is of course open to (welcome) debate.

          • Michael Ampersant

            Yes, please do. Chris, if that’s okay with you, I’ll put this on my blog, as “mot du jour”…

          • Yes, certainly, Michael. And thanks for all your comments!

          • Michael Ampersant

            Chris, I finally have an idea regarding your story. My main problem had been that plagiarism as committed by your hero is somehow unlikely…you won’t get a coherent whole out of it…so…how about

            (a) he doesn’t steal in the way you describe, but he steals only a few passages from keynote novels…
            [I got the idea today reading about Truman Capote who never thought that “La Cote Basque” would end his career as a socialite — “They are too dumb to recognize themselves,” he said to a friend]
            (b) Marci hasn’t actually read the novel
            (c) Blake is smitten with the novel, and quotes one of the keynote paragraphs
            (d) Marci recognizes the keynote paragraph for what it is…

            (plus, Noel doesn’t drink quite as much as he does in your piece, it’s not necessary)…

            …in this spirit…I actually know a successful German author who got caught stealing a silly little paragraph from a silly little book…it didn’t his career any good, although he still managed to get a gig at Harvard…

          • Interesting thoughts.
            Brings to mind the oft quoted chestnut “A book is never finished, only
            abandoned.” As I write this, other
            possibilities come to mind. What if Noel
            had written a Roman A Clef with thinly-veiled caricatures of Marci’s family
            that would potentially embarrass them and cause his support to dry up? He would be in a similar, yet perhaps even
            worse predicament, and the story would have another level of reference to
            Hemingway, who wrote Romans a Clef with thinly-veiled caricatures of his
            friends. Always room for improvement,
            alas.

          • Michael Ampersant

            Yes, cool…

          • Michael Ampersant

            You could use Hemingway fragments…

          • Michael Ampersant

            Reading Truman Capote short stories at the moment, very instructive…

      • I had to go searching for that one, MP. Brilliant!

  • Paul A. Freeman

    A writer’s story, for writers, about a rogue muse. Interesting.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    A writer’s story, for writers, about a rogue muse. Interesting.

  • Tina Wayland

    This one blasted out of the gate–solid writing, great flow, fun story. But it kind of petered out at the end. I got distracted by the “and well”s and then the twist felt like it took the air out of the whole thing.

    I must say, though, that’s some mighty fine writing. I love words that flow like poetry and create images I love to follow along.

  • Tina Wayland

    This one blasted out of the gate–solid writing, great flow, fun story. But it kind of petered out at the end. I got distracted by the “and well”s and then the twist felt like it took the air out of the whole thing.

    I must say, though, that’s some mighty fine writing. I love words that flow like poetry and create images I love to follow along.

  • Diane Cresswell

    Party in Paris – oh yeah… writing in Paris – would be hard for me to do – too many things to see and do… don’t blame the writer taking from others… but then… there is always the process of being found out you’re not what you seem. However, great writing – good dialog back and forth with characters that I could picture and here. Like this one.

  • Diane Cresswell

    Party in Paris – oh yeah… writing in Paris – would be hard for me to do – too many things to see and do… don’t blame the writer taking from others… but then… there is always the process of being found out you’re not what you seem. However, great writing – good dialog back and forth with characters that I could picture and here. Like this one.

  • Thanks for all the comments. Always interesting to read.

  • Thanks for all the comments. Always interesting to read.

  • debbi

    Wonderful unexpected ending, love how you borrowed some of Hemingway’s style when your protagonist was behaving as same and thinking of all the “borrowing” place holders he used! Fun story for writers and others to read. Thanks.

    • Thanks debbi. If my style is at all reminiscent of Hemingway for you then that is high praise indeed. This story started out as something of a paean to Hemingway, and there were a lot more Hemingway references in the original version. I even had Noel quoting from The Sun Also Rises. But I later decided that it might be a bit much to quote another writer’s work in my own, and deleted it.

      However, when EDF’s editors asked me for a rewrite of this piece to strengthen the story arc, I remembered this bit and thus was born the plagiarism element (which some people disliked, alas).

      • Carl Steiger

        Despite what I wrote about not caring for stories about writers, the plagiarism element is one thing I did like.

      • debbi

        Yes, the plagiarism part was wonderful!

        • Carl and debbi, glad to see that it worked for some readers. I felt it worked for me as a plot device when I was trying to sharpen up the story’s arc. Always interesting to see what other readers’ takes are when the piece goes live. The things different readers see or don’t see, or like/dislike always fascinates me.

  • debbi

    Wonderful unexpected ending, love how you borrowed some of Hemingway’s style when your protagonist was behaving as same and thinking of all the “borrowing” place holders he used! Fun story for writers and others to read. Thanks.

    • Thanks debbi. If my style is at all reminiscent of Hemingway for you then that is high praise indeed. This story started out as something of a paean to Hemingway, and there were a lot more Hemingway references in the original version. I even had Noel quoting from The Sun Also Rises. But I later decided that it might be a bit much to quote another writer’s work in my own, and deleted it.

      However, when EDF’s editors asked me for a rewrite of this piece to strengthen the story arc, I remembered this bit and thus was born the plagiarism element (which some people disliked, alas).

      • Carl Steiger

        Despite what I wrote about not caring for stories about writers, the plagiarism element is one thing I did like.

      • debbi

        Yes, the plagiarism part was wonderful!

        • Carl and debbi, glad to see that it worked for some readers. I felt it worked for me as a plot device when I was trying to sharpen up the story’s arc. Always interesting to see what other readers’ takes are when the piece goes live. The things different readers see or don’t see, or like/dislike always fascinates me.

  • macdabhaid

    A simple and delightfully ironic episode reflecting the dream of all writers and the vagaries of publishing. Not epic. I would have liked to see the cat theme developed more. The anticlimactic ending lends itself to the satire.

  • macdabhaid

    A simple and delightfully ironic episode reflecting the dream of all writers and the vagaries of publishing. Not epic. I would have liked to see the cat theme developed more. The anticlimactic ending lends itself to the satire.

  • Gerald_Warfield

    Beautifully written, and the story had subtle layers. I liked especially the “real” cat as metaphor for Blake’s alcoholism and his plagiarism. He could have just walked into the nearest bar at the end and admitted (to the reader) his problems, but the cat helped tie it nicely to the life he had adopted in Paris. Yes, the struggling writer is a worn trope. You’ve got to bring something new to it–and this story did.

  • Gerald_Warfield

    Beautifully written, and the story had subtle layers. I liked especially the “real” cat as metaphor for Blake’s alcoholism and his plagiarism. He could have just walked into the nearest bar at the end and admitted (to the reader) his problems, but the cat helped tie it nicely to the life he had adopted in Paris. Yes, the struggling writer is a worn trope. You’ve got to bring something new to it–and this story did.

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