Story Hop: The Character’s Cafeteria

In celebration of the 2016 Brain to Books Cybercon on Goodreads, I’ve decided to participate in the story hop!  Today’s short story revolves around my book characters gathering in the “Character’s Cafeteria” to discuss just how easy (or difficult) it is being an Erin Cruey book character!

To check out the story hop at the Cybercon, click here.  To check out my booth at the Cybercon, click here.  To check out the rest of the Cybercon, click here.  The event is April 8-April 10th.  Check out the Latest News section for more detailed information!

And now, here’s the story…

The Character’s Cafeteria

Once upon a time, in a land far away
Book characters gathered to discuss the day.
While the author slept and planned the next scene,
Her characters pondered what her writing would bring…

“I…am exhausted.”

The Boston Buccaneer plopped heavily onto his seat, a tray of pizza and cottage cheese being set on the table before him. The other characters at the table gave a familiar nod. They knew that post-book fatigue well.

“She wrote more than she planned, huh?” Princess Bernie asked after taking a bite of pudding.

“Near a hundred pages worth,” the buccaneer muttered. “She didn’t follow the outline again.”

“How bad was it?”

“Bad enough to make me never want to get on a boat again.” He sighed, putting a spoon into his cup of cottage cheese and swirling it around. “Honestly, how difficult is it to follow an outline? You plan a story, type it up, and poof! You’re done. Easy as pie.”

“Did someone say pie?” Sir Ichabod looked up, eyeing the table hungrily.

“Relax,” King Edward said, sliding him over a slice of pumpkin pie. He took it happily, munching away. Edward turned back to the buccaneer with a warm expression. “Look, kid. You’re new. Erin’s one of those authors that plans things and then changes her mind last minute. Best get used to working on a spur of the moment type of thing.”

The buccaneer groaned. “Seriously?” He paused, rubbing his face as he looked up to the ceiling. “I just had to work for a novelist. Mother always said I should’ve went into poetry or short stories.”

“A few extra pages are nothing,” Bernie added. “Wait until she calls you into work at four in the morning because ‘inspiration struck’.”

“Or makes you spend a week complaining like a whiny brat,” Edward scoffed. “I get it that I’m supposed to be angsty, but man…if I wanted to work on a soap opera, I would’ve went into another line of work!”

“At least you get scenes,” Bernie continued. “It took four books for me to finally get some star time. Four books.”

“Poor Marcus…” Edward muttered with a shake of his head. “He’s still sore from when she made him jump out a window for that one scene. I told him not to do his own stunts.”

“It’s not all bad,” Captain Patty chimed in as she joined the table, carrying a salad. “At least our stories are exciting and full of surprises! There’s adventure and mystery and romance…”

“You’re just glad she’s planning a kissing scene for you,” the buccaneer said with a snicker. “Don’t think I didn’t notice you eyeing Charles during our last scene and OW!” There was a loud bang under the table and the buccaneer lowered his hand to his leg, rubbing the new ache away. Captain Patty gave a grin, turning back to her salad.

“Oops. Was that your leg? Sorry. I thought it was the table.”

The buccaneer shook his head, turning back to the others. “All I’m saying is man, this is exhausting. I don’t know how you all handle it.”

“Once you get past the first few books, it isn’t so bad,” Edward replied. “Besides, it gives us a chance to live exciting lives that provide meaning and purpose.”

A loud voice was heard as a little girl ran towards the front of the cafeteria, trailed closely by a little boy. The buccaneer recognized them as Samantha and Reuben, his co-stars. “Franky!” Samantha yelled as she hurriedly scooped up her hamster out of the water. “That pot is not a jacuzzi!”

“Oh bless it all,” Reuben scoffed as he put his hands on his hips. “If it’s not the hamster, it’s the parrot!”

“Or the horse,” Samantha said, looking to the side and giving a huff. “Waffles! Get out of the applesauce!”

The horse lifted his head for a second to neigh before going back to his lunch.

“Oh great,” Bernie said. “Looks like the animal trainer called in sick again.”

“I heard he quit,” Edward said.

“Wouldn’t be the first one.”

Edward chuckled. “Or the last.” He turned as he watched Samantha and Reuben chase Waffles the horse out of the cafeteria as Franky the hamster wobbled back towards the counter, jumping into the tray of coleslaw. Edward looked down at his own food tray, pushing the cup of coleslaw towards the center of the table, feeling a sour taste in his mouth.

“Wow,” the buccaneer said with a shake of his head. “Is it always this maddening here?”

Captain Patty was about to answer when all of a sudden a pair of unfamiliar faces approached. One was clearly human while the other was…

Well, to be honest…no one could really tell what he (or she?) was, other than the fact it was round, floating, and made of metal.

“May I help you?” Patty asked, cocking her brow up in curiosity.

“Greetings,” the metallic thing chimed as the human beside…it…gave a smile, holding up a plate of sandwiches. “We were hoping my partner and I could sit here at this lovely table and join you in conversing.”

The others gave a look to the machine first and then the human, noticing he was a tad…rough looking. Wild hair, pilot shades, a wrinkled explorer’s uniform, and a face full of sarcasm that was just waiting to show off.

“There’s, uh…not many seats here,” Bernie said slowly.

“Do you even eat?” Edward asked the floating machine, to which it beeped and twirled.

“I’m sure he only eats a little bit,” Patty said, the table suddenly going quiet as she let out a laugh. “Get it? Bit?”

Everyone stared at her, their faces blank with confusion.

Patty blinked, playing with her salad. “It’s a joke. You know, cause he’s a machine and machines use bits of information and…”

The buccaneer sighed, smacking himself in the forehead. “And this is why our books don’t do well in the comedy section…”

“Well I thought it was funny,” Patty mumbled as she took a bite of lettuce.

“Look,” Sir Ichabod piped up as he turned to see another young man coming towards the table, carrying a large coffee. “It’s not that we don’t like you, it’s just that…well, this table is for employees. Interns sit in the back.”

“But…we are not interns,” the machine beeped.

“Yeah,” the young man said with a gruff. “We’re characters in stories too, you know.”

“No book? No pay,” Ichabod said as he pulled the last seat towards him. “You work hard like the rest of us and get published, then you can sit with the big kids. Until then, go back to the…uhm…back.”

The machine beeped sadly and turned around, followed by the shuffling young man.

“Published characters,” he scoffed to the machine as they headed towards the intern table. “Think they’re so high and mighty because they’re in print. Guarantee our story’s going to be more popular than their’s. Science fiction’s better anyways. Who reads all that melodramatic…”

“Your language, Engineer,” the machine interrupted. “You know Miss Cruey’s already had a talk with you about cleaning up your toilet talk.”

The others laughed as Emmerich finally reached the table, plopping down besides Ichabod and the buccaneer while taking another swig of his coffee.

“Oh boy…”Edward sighed as he looked away, cringing as Emmerich gave a grin to the group. The buccaneer looked to him with a curious glance, noticing the young Hugellian wasn’t dressed like the other characters. Instead of being in costume, he was…

Well, he was looking like an advertising billboard.

Erin Cruey hat. Erin Cruey t-shirt. Erin Cruey coffee mug (BPA free, of course) and Erin Cruey bracelet. On his belt buckle was the cover of “The Ripple Affair” and on his locket was a heart cut-out of Erin Cruey’s author picture.

“Uh…” the buccaneer began as he eyed Emmerich in surprise. Emmerich looked to him with a grin. “So…you…uh….work in advertising?”

Emmerich shook his head. “Nope.”

The buccaneer was about to ask him why not when Edward interrupted, “He’s a fellow character in our series.”

“He’s also the president of the Erin Cruey fan club,” Ichabod mumbled with a roll of his eyes.

“For good reason,” Emmerich added. “What other woman writes in multiple genres full of twists and turns?”

“Just about every other female author,” Bernie muttered.

Emmerich paused, pursing his lips. “Yes, well…she’s…uh…beautiful and educated and charming and…”

“It’ll be a while before we get a word in,” Edward whispered to the buccaneer as Emmerich rambled on about his “true love”, “but play your cards right, and you’ll get your own spin-off series like brown-noser here. Otherwise, just enjoy the moment.”

“But it’s so tiring,” the buccaneer said.

“All good stories are,” Edward replied with a grin. “Bored characters make boring books, right? Just like unique characters make unique books.  That’s what makes us stand out, kid.  We’re different and silly and fun and we’re proud of it.  And that’s what makes all of this the best job in the world.”

The buccaneer grinned, giving a nod as he took a bite of pizza and ate.

 

I hope you enjoyed the story!  To return to the Story Hop, click here.

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