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A New Excerpt from ‘About-Face’, the second book in the ‘Disfigured’ Series!
I’ve been thinking for a long time about this – I was absolutely certain in my mind that Erik would not have left this issue unaddressed. I just wasn’t sure how it would work out. But now I know, so here is a little teaser from Book 2. One caveat: to appreciate this excerpt fully, it helps to have already read the first book in the series, ‘Disfigured’.
Excerpt from ‘About-Face’:
Something about the unfamiliar motion of the steamer at night as it plowed through unrelenting waves, the faint but ever-present vibration of the engines, and the scent of the sea propelled Erik into strange dreams almost every night of the voyage. Some were the old, evil nightmares, but others were just peculiar dreams.
This night he came awake in the dark of his berth with the image of a man’s terrified face staring wide-eyed into his. It took a moment of cogitation to remember who the face belonged to; once… Read More
Sylvie Bessette, Flawed Heroine of ‘Disfigured’
I am deep into the writing of the second book in my Phantom of the Opera series, ‘Disfigured’, and my heroine, Sylvie Bessette, is in hot water as usual. Even I have to admit that she can be irritating at times. But it isn’t her fault, really; because she is a Flawed Character. Where would literature be without Flawed Characters? I remember Agatha Christie was a master at creating this sort of character – except that often in her case, the imperfect narrator telling the story turns out to be the Murderer. And you never see it coming!
Sylvie is a good person, by any measure. But she does have her faults. I have to say she seems real to me sometimes, even though she sprang from my imagination. It is a commonplace thing that oftentimes the characters we writers invent take on lives of their own, so to speak. We write them, but they seem to be… Read More
It is raining here today – as it has been for some time, and will do for some time into the future. We need the rain, without a doubt, but I confess I’m growing a bit tired of staying indoors. Yesterday morning we had to run down to the corner of our property with pitchforks and shovels and clear the drainage pipe that goes under the road. Water was gushing across the road like a river. I am grateful that we do not live where there are mudslides that can carry away your house, or tornadoes that destroy all in their path, or avalanches that ditto.
I suppose to compensate for the weather, I am rereading an old, beloved favorite book, ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ by Frances Mayes. Hard to believe this book is over 20 years old now! Reading about sunny Italy and all the interesting cooking and planting of basil and tomatoes cheers me up no end. Frances… Read More
The Yin and Yang of the Phantom of the Opera
When I first started writing my first book in my Phantom of the Opera series, Disfigured, I wanted to design the book to look as though it had been published in the 1880s. I’ve always appreciated the style and fonts, the little graphics and the ornate dropped caps found in old books. I’m no modernist, obviously! Give me serifs, lots of serifs!
So I wanted to find some symbol or graphic to close each chapter, and when I was looking through what was available in Word, I came across a yin-yang symbol. And it suddenly dawned on me: that would be perfect! What better symbol could I choose to represent Erik, the mysterious Phantom of the Opera?
I promptly went to Wikipedia, fount of all knowledge, to research the yin-yang symbol. And I learned an interesting thing: “In Taoist metaphysics, distinctions between good and bad, along with other dichotomous moral judgments, are perceptual, not real; so, the duality of yin… Read More
A Tribute to Alan Rickman
I find my very first blog article must be a tribute to the late, wonderful Alan Rickman. How I will miss him. A posthumous tribute wasn’t what I had planned for my first blog post, but his unexpected death makes it absolutely necessary. As anyone who has read my gothic romance, ‘Disfigured’ or visited my website probably knows, I modeled my handsome and sadistic bad guy, Chief-Inspector Victor Gaston, on Alan Rickman. There was never anyone else in my mind, only Alan. It would be Alan Rickman in his early 50s, with his hair that windblown, russet-brown, and a neat beard. Nothing too messy or Sheriff-of-Nottingham, but still….think how lovely he would look in riding breeches and tall leather boots. I certainly did.
When I was writing my book, I knew I had to come up with a villain who would be exponentially much badder than Erik. Erik is not exactly a sympathetic character, what with his tendency… Read More
Discovering Alexandre Dumas
First let me make a confession: I have absolutely no recollection of ever picking up a book by Dumas in my entire life, not even back in my school days. I didn’t know what I was missing! I knew the titles, of course, and most of his novels were made into movies here and there. But it was not until I wrote ‘Disfigured’ that I discovered this great author and very interesting Frenchman. I was on the hunt for a favorite author for Sylvie, my heroine, who loves to read. She lives a rather sedate life (at the beginning anyway!), and books are her escape into a life of adventure.
When I found that Dumas lived during that time period (he died in 1870), I settled on him as my choice for Sylvie’s favorite writer. I bought ‘The Three Musketeers’ to read first – it really is the proper place… Read More
Working Titles – How ‘Disfigured’ Got it’s Name
I know I’ve said elsewhere that the idea for my book arrived after watching the movie, Phantom of the Opera. And also how truly terrible my first efforts were, but practice makes, if not perfect, at least better! There were many little improvements along the way, starting with the title. I imagine I am not alone as a writer, in the elusive search for the perfect title. So here is how I arrived at mine.
I had read ‘Twilight’ when it came out, and I knew that title was not Stephenie Meyers’ first choice for her book – I think her first choice was ‘Forks’, if I remember correctly. Somehow that makes me think of the silverware drawer. An editor came up with the name, ‘Twilight’, simply by picking out an evocative word from the text of the book. I really could not imagine a more perfect name for a book, even though the title has little to… Read More
The Joy of Being a Writer or: Fun with the Facts!
There is a fun little exchange between Dr. McCoy and Scotty in Star Trek IV that I am reminded of when contemplating the leper hospital idea in my book. Having gone back in time to the 20th Century, they have just given a manufacturer the formula for transparent aluminum, which has not been invented yet. Dr. McCoy expresses some concern that they might be altering the future, but Scotty looks at him sideways and says, “How do we know he didn’t invent the thing?”
That is rather how I feel about placing a secret Leprosarium in the heart of 1870s Paris. I did some research about Leprosy and leper colonies when I was working on my book, ‘Disfigured’, and I am pretty certain that there was no such place there. But the writer in me says, “But it was secret, so how do we know it wasn’t there?” And so I took a little liberty with the truth, which… Read More
Gerard Butler’s Phantom
To be perfectly honest, when I was writing ‘Disfigured’ I became a little obsessed with the actor Gerard Butler. I expect I am not alone! I had to complete a 12-step program to stop googling him 10 times a day. I’m over the worst of it now; I only Google him about once a year. Much better. I know I have said, in a couple of different places, that I based my Phantom on his portrayal in the 2004 movie. His hunky, sexy Phantom was all but irresistible to me, and made me wish to give Erik a happy ending, regardless of how deserving of it he might or might not be.
At the time of making Phantom of the Opera, Mr. Butler was still a relative unknown, for this was pre-‘300’, the movie that truly shot him into the stratosphere. Over the years since that time, Mr. Butler has made many movies, and he is a… Read More
One of My Favorite Scenes from ‘Disfigured’ – When Sylvie and Erik Meet for the First Time
I thought it would be fun to share with readers one of my favorite scenes from ‘Disfigured‘ – the scene where Sylvie confronts the “O.G.” for the first time. I worked on this important and pivotal scene quite a bit, rewriting it several times. It is the scene that introduces Erik to readers for the first time, and I wanted to get him right. I thought a lot about how he would behave, upon discovering this young woman waiting there for him.
Having delivered his nightly dinner (she is his cook), brave but impetuous Sylvie lies in wait for him, her insatiable curiosity making it impossible to resist trying to make his acquaintance. This goes expressly against his orders (for the Phantom is fond of giving orders), and she knows this perfectly well, but she does it anyway. Things do not go quite as she hopes they will! I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I… Read More
The Phantom of the Opera – a New Look at an Old Story
When I arrived at the idea of writing ‘Disfigured’, my book about the relationship between Sylvie, a private cook, and Erik, AKA the Phantom, I had three important premises that I felt strongly about. First, I knew I did not want to write about any male character that was, shall we say, not exactly human. So no vampires, no werewolves, no time-traveling from the past or future, no ghosts, no superpowers. I just wanted my good bad guy (or bad good guy) to be a man. Albeit a very clever, even brilliant, man.
At the time I was writing my book, I happened to stop in to a large bookstore, and while browsing the aisles, was startled to see that an entire long row of book shelves, hundreds of books, in fact, were dedicated to what the store called “Supernatural Romance”. I’m certain she had no idea what Pandora’s Box she was opening when Stephenie Meyer wrote ‘Twilight’, but… Read More
A Brief Excerpt from ‘About-Face’, the Next Book in the Disfigured Series
I hope you will enjoy this little teaser from the second book in my series featuring the Phantom of the Opera (former Phantom, now) and Sylvie Bessette. Wendy
In an elegant, paneled library a fire burned low in the grate, and an ornate marble and gilt ormolu clock on the mantel ticked softly toward midnight. On a small table a glass of claret glowed red by lamp light. Books lined the walls, but the single occupant of the room had not read any of them, for he was renting this elegant apartment and not staying long. At the moment, he dozed in a plump chair near the table, with the claret in easy reach.
There was a small noise heard in the room, a breath of night air soft as a sigh. And suddenly a man was standing there, just inside the open window. He was tall, broad, dressed in dark clothes and with a hat pulled low over his… Read More
Where the Phantom was born: the Palais Garnier
While hunting around on the internet (as one does) ostensibly doing research for Book II in my ‘Disfigured’ series, I came across this fascinating story by Lucinda Everett. It details the history of the Palais Garnier, Gaston Leroux’s inspiration for his book, ‘Phantom of the Opera‘. I did not know anything about the building, really, other than the fact that there really is water underneath it. I thought it might be a fun thing to share with other Phantom fans, so here it is. Enjoy!
‘It began with the water. In 1861, Parisian workers attempting to lay the concrete foundations for a grand, 2,200-seat opera house in the center of the city were baffled. The theater had been commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III as part of his sweeping reconstruction of Paris, and 12,000 square meters of ground had been cleared. Yet a seemingly endless flow of water bubbled up… Read More
There but not there: the Franco-Prussian War and the Phantom of the Opera
I began doing some on-line research into the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) somewhat by accident. While writing my book, ‘Disfigured’, I was researching Paris and what it would have been like in 1870-1871, when my story takes place. Thus I discovered that this war, of incredible historic significance, was taking place right in the middle of my tale. Or perhaps I should say, my story was taking place right in the middle of the war. You see, my book involves the Phantom of the Opera story, and follows the events of the musical/movie in a way that is almost third-hand.
As anyone familiar with either the movie or the musical will know, there is absolutely no mention of this war (which the French preferred to call the War of 1870) anywhere in it. The only small clue of its existence is during the Masked Ball, when Raoul is seen wearing a dress uniform. Really, the war itself has nothing to… Read More
The Fascinating Phantom: His Power Over Us Grows Stronger Yet
Have you ever noticed that no one wants to write about Raoul, the Vicomte deChagny? We can find a plethora of websites, fan fiction and information about the notorious ‘Opera Ghost’ of Phantom of the Opera fame, if we Google him. But Raoul? Not so much. And it isn’t hard to see why. Young, blond, white-bread handsome Raoul is a one-dimensional character. He can beat Erik in a sword fight, but he could never out-maneuver him, and he certainly cannot hold our interest in the way Erik can, and always has.
What is it about him, anyway? Most of his devoted fans are female, which makes sense because we all have a soft spot for a good anti-hero. I have to admit to finding him endlessly fascinating once I had seen the 2004 movie, featuring Gerard Butler as the Phantom. And how could you not?
In truth, the Phantom is… Read More
Warming the Heart of a Phantom: French Cuisine in ‘Disfigured’
The heroine of my Gothic romance, ‘Disfigured’, is a French cook circa 1870. Sylvie Bessette is a home cook, not a chef, as she herself explains. Fiercely independent, she decides to set herself up as a professional cook for the home-bound and invalids. It is a profession that suits her admirably, for one of her driving characteristics is a need to nurture others.
I had a lot of fun with Sylvie and her very French pride and sensibility. She likes to disparage English food and when she is cross with Erik, her client, she thinks of punishing him by making him boiled beef and cabbage. This is because in her mind, it is all the English eat. Les rosbif was and is one of the kinder nicknames the French have for the English. Sylvie has never been to England but that does not stop her from forming an opinion.
Research is one of the pleasures of writing fiction, and it… Read More
The French Have a Word for It
Growing up in California, it seemed logical to me to choose Spanish for my required language courses in high school and college. I thought that it was far more likely I would visit Mexico than venture as far away as France (I grew up in a very rural area, and joining 4H was the height of excitement in those halcyon days).
I have always been an avid reader, but it was always a puzzle to me when I came across French words sprinkled around in an English novel. Rather like a bit of spice, always seeming exotic and romantic, but a closed book to me. I would try and guess what the words meant (this was before, you understand, you could just look it up on your whatever). Some writers used quite a bit of French in their novels, one in particular being Dorothy Sayers. In ‘Busman’s Honeymoon’, a Peter Wimsey story, there is an entire letter written in French,… Read More
The Joy of Words and the Worlds Within Them
‘The last motive in the world for acquiring vocabulary should be to impress. Words should be acquired because we urgently need them — to convey, to reach, to express something within us, and to understand others.’ Vanna Bonta
When I was a child, my father worked as a custodian at the grade school I attended. We lived only about a mile away. My mother worked also, so in the summer when school was out, my father would take me to work with him – to school, in other words.
He would unlock one or two of the classrooms, or the small library, and I would spend hours alone there, happily absorbed in the books. Meanwhile, my father would carry on with his summertime tasks of painting the walls, restriping the sports field, and so forth. We would have lunch together, and then part ways again.
It may sound lonely, but I was never lonely. How could I be, surrounded by friends as… Read More
My Latest Discovery: One Beautiful Phantom of the Opera Book!
I was thinking the other day that I wanted to reward myself in some tangible way for getting my first novel, ‘Disfigured’, finished and published as an eBook on Kindle. I had an old, cheapo paperback copy of Gaston Leroux’s ‘Phantom of the Opera’ that I referred to extensively for background info on Erik’s life. I decided I would treat myself to a collectible hardcover version, perhaps with some illustrations. I was hoping I might find a book with the original Andre Castaigne illustrations, which were included in the 1911 book.
I researched the various translations and versions on a POTO website I found called Erik’s Dominion, so I knew there were some good ones out there to be discovered. That is a good site, by the way; I’ve mentioned it in my blog before. She has information about the collectible books and about the artist Castaigne as well.
I started my search for a book on EBay… Read More
And be a Villain – Remembering Alan Rickman
I’ve been thinking about Alan Rickman lately, because I realized it has been just a little over six months since he left us behind. I have harbored a crush on him for many years, ever since I saw him in ‘Sense and Sensibility’ to be exact. When I come across pictures of him on the internet I am reminded all over again why he was so crush-worthy. He was genuinely sexy, in my opinion, but he seemed like someone who didn’t know he was sexy. Or if he did know, he didn’t care.
As he aged, Alan got a bit thicker, his beautiful hair turned silvery and got thinner, but he always had that astonishing silky voice. I adored him, is all. And when I adore someone, they stay adored. I’ve always been like that – loyal to my crushes, whether living or dead. I still love John Lennon (my first love, at age 11), Mr. Spock (not… Read More
Just Added a New Recipe to the Collection – Check it out!
Greetings! With autumn on it’s way and the promise of cooler weather, I decided to post an additional recipe to my collection. As readers of ‘Disfigured‘ know, these are the recipes that are mentioned in the book. Sylvie, my heroine, is a cook, and in the 1870s, seasonal cooking was all normal cooking. Gone would be the summer fruits, tomatoes and lettuces, in would come mushrooms, celeriac, chestnuts, figs, and game.
The new recipe is for a Fresh Fig Tart. Figs come into their own in the fall, and are much appreciated by home cooks in France. Tarts like these are delicious and fun to make, so I hope you will give it a try.
In the book, this recipe happens to be one that Sylvie makes for St. Giles Hospital, along with a number of other autumnal dishes. I don’t think she ended up bringing any to Erik, because I suspect the patients at the hospital (and Dr. Gaudet)… Read More
Phantom Movie Musings
Have you ever watched the original Phantom of the Opera, starring that amazing man of a thousand faces, Lon Chaney? It was made in 1925, a silent film. I watched it once on YouTube – you can see it in its entirety there. Lon Chaney himself was co-director of that film. They made a real effort to follow the book by Gaston Leroux, but the ending, to put it bluntly, sucks. I suppose that in those days, it was necessary for the bad guy to die violently at the end, rather than allowing Erik the Phantom die of a broken heart as in the book. Bad guys had to get their comeuppance. So it was contrived that the Phantom would be beaten to death by an angry mob and then tossed in the river. It’s truly a horrific scene, even in black and white silence.
In the 1925 version, Lon Chaney’s makeup (developed by himself I’m certain) sticks pretty… Read More
Sympathy for the Writer (or, Proofreading is Hell)
As an avid reader and also a college English major, one of my biggest irritations when reading a book was always the errors I ran across. You know: a misspelled word, the wrong word used instead of the right one (‘mantle’, say, when it should be ‘mantel’). Or when reading a series and from one book to the next a character’s name changes, or their eye color changes, or some other glaring mistake of that nature. This stuff used to drive me to distraction, and would throw me right out of the story when it happened. I am pretty sure many other readers feel the same.
I used to wonder why on earth the author did not get someone to proofread the book, or have an assistant to do that for him or her. Mistakes like this happen even in the books of well-known, best-selling authors, and I always wondered why. Was it just carelessness?
Well, now I know why. It’s… Read More
Breast Cancer Awareness Month – It’s Personal
This particular blog article is a detour from my usual topics (anything Phantom of the Opera). Bear with me; I’ll be back to my usual after this. As everyone probably knows by now, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It isn’t as if everyone ‘forgets’ about breast cancer for the other eleven months of the year – it’s that October is when outreach, information and fund-raising happens. It’s a focused campaign, and during October a number of companies and research foundations (like BCRF) sell various items. Percentages of the proceeds go toward funding research as well as helping lower income women get free or affordable mammograms. Runs and walkathons are held, and it’s all about getting the word out.
I will tell you this: we women are really tired of losing our breasts and in many cases our lives to breast cancer. A small percentage of men get breast cancer too. But in general, women have the… Read More
For the Love of a Good Book!
Even though National Reading Month is in March, I wanted to share with my readers the birth of my life-long love of reading books. Whether you prefer an ‘old-school’ proper book you can hold in your hands and turn the pages, or you prefer to use an e-reader, book-lovers the world over share a bond in the love of reading.
As long as I can remember, I’ve always loved to read. I was one of those kids (and adults) who can tune out everything when my nose is buried in a book. Reading a book I am really enjoying is an escape of sorts, I can’t even explain where I go to at those times.
When I was a child, we lived in Sacramento and my dad was a maintenance/custodial worker at the local elementary school district. It was a fairly poor, downtrodden part of the city, and we were poor as well. We… Read More
Into Thin Air (figuratively speaking)
I remember thinking, naively, when I was writing ‘Disfigured’, how freeing it would be for me when I finished and could move ahead, into uncharted territory. I had always planned on it being a series, and there were all sorts of ideas running around in my head. Ha! Easier said than done, as it turns out.
As anyone who has read it knows, ‘Disfigured’ begins prior to the events that take place in Phantom of the Opera, and ends some time after. The story is narrated by my heroine, Sylvie Bessette, and it is her story that we read and discover. Of course, her life becomes dangerously intertwined with that of Erik, the Phantom, but the story is always told from Sylvie’s point of view.
Since I always knew it would be the first in a series, I was looking forward to taking Erik and Sylvie on to new adventures and adversities together. I began to piece together a… Read More
Here’s an Excerpt from ‘About-Face’, the second book in my ‘Disfigured’ Series
This excerpt is from near the beginning of the book, and it is a telling, from Erik the Phantom’s point of view, of meeting Sylvie Bessette for the first time. I have to be careful what I show my readers from the second book, because of spoilers! But since these interactions are already told in the first book, ‘Disfigured’, I’m not giving any secrets away. In the second book, the story is being told from both Sylvie and Erik’s points of view, not just hers as in the first book. In this way, I have a chance to revisit parts of the first book but from his point of view, so that the reader knows what he was thinking at the time.
In Book Two, they have to spend quite a lot of time apart, and writing the story as letters to each other was a technique I did not want to undertake! So I hope readers don’t mind… Read More