Blogging from A to Z: P is for Pierre

AtoZ2019tenthAnnOutside the fishmonger’s, some young boys were throwing rocks at something and laughing. I saw that it was a frightened young gray and white tabby cat, no longer a kitten but not fully grown. The poor thing was very thin, and very scared. I handed the basket to Erik and strode up to the brats.

“Leave it alone!” I raised my voice in ire. “It’s done nothing to you. Leave it be!”

The urchins scattered, but not without calling a few oaths in their wake. I squatted down and called to the cat, wiggling my fingers enticingly. Eventually, it — he, as I soon noticed — came over to me. A bit more crooning on my part, and he rubbed his face on my hand and began to purr. I picked him up and cuddled him to me.

“You poor thing,” I murmured into the top of his head. “No one’s taking care of you, are they?”

I looked up at Erik; with a resigned expression, he went into the fishmonger’s to buy something to feed the cat who was obviously going home with us. A couple more stops saw me pointing out that we needed bread, butter, and a bucket of milk; Erik went in to make the purchases so that I could hold the creature.

We walked home, the cat content to be snuggled in my arms.

“Well, my dear, it appears we now have a pet,” Erik laughed. “What will you call him?”

“Pierre, I think. It just seems to fit him somehow.” — Excerpt from In The Eye of The Beholder


Paddy
Paddy Cathcart

Pierre, Claire’s cat, is based on my own pet. Paddy was six years old when In The Eye of The Beholder was released; he was two years old when I started writing it. He is now 16 and still plugging along. He usually sits next to the computer when I’m working and, in fact, is watching the letters pop up on the screen right this minute.

It was Paddy’s charming antics that inspired me to give Claire a cat. You may rest assured that, from the moment she rescues him outside the fishmonger’s, Pierre is loved and spoiled.

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Blogging from A to Z: O is for Opéra Garnier

I’m reblogging this 2017 post about the Opéra Garnier, which includes photographs from my visit. The opera house is the setting for most of In The Eye of The Beholder.

Sharon E. Cathcart

If you read any of my Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes series, the importance of the Palais Garnier, also known as the Opéra Garnier is obvious.

oConstruction on the Palais Garnier was begun in 1861 and opened in 1875.  The architect, Charles Garnier, was a young man who won a competition, from a field of 170; Napoleon III had a vision for redesigning the city by widening the streets and creating a new “look” for the City of Light, and this was part of it.  Garnier’s opulent design reflected the Second Empire Beaux-Arts style, and presented ample opportunities to see and be seen.  At this time in history, people did not go the the opera to look at the show, but to look at one another; the house lights were not even dimmed during the performance.  Until 1881, when electricity was installed, the theatre used gaslight.

The auditorium itself is…

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Blogging from A to Z: N is for Notes

AtoZ2019tenthAnnBefore I get into today’s post, I want to acknowledge the tragic fire at Notre Dame de Paris. Visiting Notre Dame was an amazing experience, and I was heartbroken during yesterday’s news coverage. If you wish, you may visit N is for Notre Dame as well as reading today’s post. I have not yet decided on how my readers and I might best help with the restoration efforts, but watch this space. Something is coming.


As I laved Josephine’s knees with cool water prior to preparing a poultice, I remembered the first note.

“Mademoiselle Delacroix, I have seen your kindness and expertise with the horses. I have a horse, Cesare, for whom your services are required. You will groom him promptly at five o’clock each evening, while the hands from the stables are caring for your own animals. You will provide his evening feed of the same treacle and grain formulation you provide to your own horses. You will find him in a stall on the fifth basement of the opera. Come alone, and do not dare to tell others of this mission. O.G.”

eyeLike so many involved in the Opera Garnier, I knew the legend of the so-called Opera Ghost and his linkage to the Vicomte and Comtesse de Chagny: how the Phantom had loved and trained Christine Daae, a soubrette. He saw to it that she came out of the chorus to become a prima donna. She then unmasked him onstage.

I had no idea that he still lived until I received that note. It had been almost a year since the incidents in question, after all. Nevertheless, I could not in good conscience fail to at least examine Cesare for myself, to see what his needs were — if, in fact, this horse existed and it was not another stable hand joke. — Excerpt from In The Eye of The Beholder


In both the original Leroux and just about every other version of The Phantom of the Opera, Erik sends a lot of notes. Most of the time, they carry some kind of threat or demand — up to and including blackmail. Even his first note to Claire contains his orders, and he always expects his orders to be obeyed.

Blogging from A to Z: M is for Merrick, Joseph

AtoZ2019tenthAnnAt London Hospital, in Whitechapel, Dr. Treves deposited me at what I presumed was his surgery office door.

“I’m wanted in the operating theatre, Madame LeMaître. Please make yourself at home,” he said. He bowed to me and left me alone.

I let myself into the suite, but saw no one. From a back room came a muffled “I shall be with you in a moment. Please have a seat.”

“Thank you, I shall,” I responded.

“Oh, my goodness. A lady caller? I wish I had known. I would have rung for tea.” From out of the back room came the man to whom the muffled voice belonged. The reason for his tone was immediately obvious: his mouth and head were grossly malformed, as was one side of his body. However, the hand he extended to me was as beautiful and graceful as a woman’s.

“Madame, please allow me to introduce myself. I am Joseph Merrick. Sir Frederick isn’t here just now. May I have the sisters bring you tea?” — Excerpt from In The Eye of The Beholder


 

joseph_merrick_carte_de_visite_photo2c_c-_1889
Joseph Merrick’s carte de visite photo, via Wikimedia commons

Joseph Carey Merrick lived in England during the Victorian era.  He suffered from what we now understand as Proteus syndrome, where parts of the body grow at different rates.

Merrick spent part of his life as a sideshow freak until he was taken in by Dr. Sir Frederick Treves.  Treves arranged a home for Merrick at the hospital where he worked and took care of him until his death at the age of 27.  Merrick was literate, and a devout Christian.  He often told visitors that his favorite book was the Bible.

I won’t go into Merrick’s entire biography in this brief post;  additional information is available here. He was also the subject of a play and film, both entitled The Elephant Man.

Blogging from A to Z: L is for Limehouse

AtoZ2019tenthAnn“What’s wrong with her?”

“I don’t know yet, my friend.”

“I don’t want to be apart from her when she’s unwell. She …” I sat down in a chair and dropped my face into my hands. “She loves me regardless, and I need to be with her. I’ll take her home.”

“What on earth do you mean by that, sir? ‘She loves me regardless’ is a strong statement.”

With that, I reached behind my head and undid the mask, revealing my face to the doctor. His eyes widened with interest as I tied the mask back in place.

“She loves me in spite of this hideous face. I would die for her, and every pain that she feels is my own.”

“I’ll call on her tomorrow at your home if you’ll give me an address. For now, she really must be kept quiet.”

I called for my carriage and delivered Claire to our home. Then, reverting to a pattern I had long thought behind me, I had Michael take me to the Chinatown at Limehouse, where I sought out the arms of Morpheus in an opium den. — Excerpt from In The Eye of The Beholder


Limehouse_basin_1
Limehouse Basin, 2006. Photo by Tarquin Binary CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)

Limehouse is a district of London near what is now referred to as the Docklands. It’s name comes from the lime oasts, or lime ovens, that were operated by pottery makers in the area during the 14th century.

Because it had better access to London by river (the land route was marshy), Limehouse was part of an active maritime center on the Thames. As such, it also had active rope-making, chandlery, and shipbuilding communities.  The wharves were a place where casual seafaring labor could be picked up, including sailors from China, the Arab world (the Lascars), and Africa’s Guinea Coast.

A large Chinese community sprung up in Limehouse during the late 19th Century, and the area became notorious for the number of opium dens there.


Are you enjoying this series so far? Intrigued enough that you would like your own copy of In The Eye of The Beholder? Here are the blurb and purchasing links.

ITEOTB Wrap Cover frtWhen French equestrian Claire Delacroix loses her fiancé in a tragic accident, she comes to live at the Paris Opera during its 1890s heyday. Life is not easy for a woman in fin de siècle France, where her rights are determined by a male guardian. Claire, both intelligent and independent, chafes under the strictures of her time.

Whilst working at the opera, she meets a mysterious, masked stranger: Erik. Is it possible that the two of them will heal the pain of each other’s past?

Updated for 2015 with glossaries of equestrian terms and French words used in the text.

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