Today I am thrilled to welcome Julia Hughes, author of the Celtic Cousins series and of the sweet romance, ‘The Bridle Path’.
Julia has been hard at work producing her latest creation, ‘The Griffin Cryer’ and shares with us here a musical extract from this enthralling and imaginative tale, giving us an insight into how she composed it.
Over to you Julia!
I’m ultra excited to be here on Jenny’s site, especially as music plays a crucial role in my latest title: “The Griffin Cryer“, which will be free to download from Saturday 12th January: Teenager Frankie is living a half life, ever since her brother Michael fell into a coma after a horrific accident. It takes the appearance of a stranger from another world, and the power of music to break down the emotional walls she has built around herself.
In the following extract, Frankie has been bullied and coaxed into taking part in the class play of “Romeo and Juliet”. As we all know art sometimes imitates life – Frankie’s music teacher is also called Miss Worstall!
Just as the fictional Miss Worstall helps a novice piano student appear more accomplished than she is; by generously sharing her musical expertise, Jenny enabled me compose the following extract, without striking too many wrong chords! See if you agree:
From “The Griffin Cryer” (Year 11 are about to perform “Romeo and Juliet“).
Around four hundred pupils crowded into the assembly hall, from Year 7’s to Year 10’s. Some sixth formers and a smattering of Year 11’s lurked at the back; most were taking part in the play. Frankie shuffled her sheet music on the piano stand, and readjusted the stool, as teachers guided Year 8’s into third and fourth row seats. The front two rows were already filled with Year 7’s, who giggled and chattered, dizzy with their freedom from lessons, and the nearness of Christmas.
Mr Sharky’s voice rang out ‘Waddle and Greenson! One more peep from either of you, and I’ll assume both of you would rather be in my classroom doing maths for the next two hours!’ In the absolute silence that followed he added ‘If there’s anyone else in the hall who’d rather be doing maths – speak up now!’
Frankie grinned. For once, Mr Sharky’s sarcasm was welcome. This’ll be an easy audience, they’ll applaud anything, rather than face old Sarky! The past two months had passed by in a whirl of rehearsals; Poppy and Chelsi had fallen out with each other a dozen times, Max Harley had transformed from class nerd into a hunk, and Paul Kastel had declared he was going to audition for a stage school. Frankie had spent the majority of her lunch hours learning how little she knew about music, and trying desperately to perfect her piano playing. She stifled a yawn. Poppy had insisted that everyone involved in the play should arrive at school by seven am. When Frankie had protested, ‘I’m not on stage, and I don’t need to “dress up”‘, Chelsi rounded on her. ‘You’re part of this play, and you are “dressing up” – or do you want Annette to have one of the prettier outfits?’
It was now nine twenty, and Frankie had been awake since five this morning. She stroked the silky folds of the gown she wore. Chelsi and Poppy’s gowns were tighter fitting, with medieval style bodices and long trailing sleeves. Frankie’s sapphire blue gown was more contemporary, with a sweet heart neckline, and puffy off the shoulder short sleeves. Perminda had styled Frankie’s hair, pulling it back with a tiara decorated with imitation flowers of blue, and she felt like a bridesmaid at a posh wedding.
The curtains billowed, and Poppy appeared on stage. Her peach coloured gown swept the floor, and chestnut ringlets bounced around her shoulders. A quiet murmuring broke out, and then lessened to the odd whisper. Poppy looked around the hall, waiting for complete quiet. Then, with a brief nod in Frankie’s direction, Poppy began her narration. As she spoke the now familiar lines, Frankie began to play, very softly. Although she’d learned the chords by heart, she kept her eyes on the musical score. Miss Worstall’s simple arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony Number Six flowed seamlessly; the bitter sweet melodies gave a foretaste of the impending doom awaiting. Poppy finished ‘What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend’ with a flourish, and Frankie eased her foot off the piano’s left pedal, allowing the exquisite notes to swell throughout the hall. The curtains swung open revealing the actors on stage at the precise moment Frankie finished playing. She grinned at Miss Worstall when a voice called out ‘that’s the music from one of Disney’s films!’
The play galloped along. Poppy stood at Frankie’s side to manage the stage directions and ready to prompt any forgetful actors. Once or twice she had to nudge Frankie into playing the incidental music. That wasn’t Max and Chelsi up on stage pretending to be Romeo and Juliet – a heart rendering love story was playing out in front of her eyes and Frankie sensed the entire audience willing the next scene to begin.
There were gasps of ‘No,’ and ‘she isn’t dead, she’s sleeping’ as Romeo sobbed over Juliet’s lifeless form. When he drew his dagger and raised it high in the air before plunging it into his chest, a deathly quiet smothered the hall. Seconds later Juliet sat up, stretched, and yawned. A voice called out ‘You stupid cow, why didn’t you wake up before?!’ followed by a scuffle and the main door creaking open as the heckler was thrown out. Juliet’s head bent way over Romeo’s chest, her long blonde hair shielding both their faces. Somehow Frankie knew that Chelsi’s shoulders shook with giggles, rather than sobs. She stroked the piano keys beneath her fingers and cringed, as she waited for the whole school to latch on and explode with laughter. Then with a flash of inspiration, Frankie played a sequence of chords. She sensed her audience listening as they struggled to recognise the familiar intro; so she played them again, and after a moment’s pause, swept into a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. This time she carried the audience with her, as she poured her heart into her music.
Poppy, who had been nibbling her lip, beamed at Frankie. When she judged the audience had once more been lured back into the moment, Frankie allowed the notes to die away. Juliet snatched up Romeo’s dagger, and angling it towards her own chest, spoke, shattering the renewed silence.
With the help of her friends, Frankie has broken free of her self-imposed prison. But her problems aren’t over yet – she discovers that an evil professor is exploiting her brother’s comatose condition. If she can rescue the Rider, and help both him and his griffin return to their own world, the impossible becomes possible. Like for example, helping Michael find a way out of his coma, and back into this world.
Julia Hughes is the London based author of “The Celtic Cousins’ Adventures” and the stand alone romance, “The Bridle Path“. Discover more about the author and her books at JuliaHughes.co.uk or catch her tweeting @tinksaid.
Thank you Julia, for sharing this with us. I thoroughly recommend “The Griffin Cryer” for a magical, timeless read – a veritable modern day fairytale. Don’t forget to download it FREE from tomorrow, Friday 12th January!