The Best Kind of Prize is a Surprise …

I think I have my Cranky Pants(TM) on as I write this post. It’s Frequently Asked Question time and, as is so often the case, this one comes from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

Here is the question, verbatim:

Has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn’t expect? If so, did it surprise you?

Now, like I said, maybe I’m just cranky. The subject/verb agreement issue in the first sentence isn’t the end of the world. But I can’t help thinking, If I didn’t expect it, isn’t it automatically a surprise? I mean, that’s the literal definition of the word.

I guess the one example that comes to mind was a reviewer who wrote that a certain scene in In The Eye of The Storm left her in tears. Honestly, I felt like I’d done my job: I moved someone. Isn’t that what art is supposed to do? I certainly think so.

Embers of a Lesser-Known French Revolution

Embers of a Lesser-Known French Revolution

If you read In The Eye of The Beholder you may remember a reference to the Communard Road that goes through one of the Opera Garnier basements. Check out this blog concerning new events related to the Paris Commune.

All about historical fiction

The New York Times posted an interesting article about the Paris Commune last Thursday. Those of you who know that my novel Paris In Ruins is set in that time period – how could you miss that bit of information? – will know that 1871 was a tumultuous time pitting citizen against citizen on the streets of Paris. Apparently, there are Parisians who think that particular revolution should never have been quashed.

A couple of quotes to entice you to read the article. France has been rocked by a series of social movements in recent years, the story of the Paris Commune has made a comeback, with protesters making connections between today’s struggles and those of a century and a half ago.

New York Times April 29, 2021

Announcing a funeral for communards killed by the French army

It is a historical event that backs up new grass-roots demands…

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The World of 1870 Paris

The World of 1870 Paris

Paris is one of my favorite cities and, as a result, a favorite setting for my stories. I a good deal of time researching Paris and what it was like from the 1830s through the 1890s for various projects, including my Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes series. Check out what some of my fellow historical fiction authors studied for their own works.

All about historical fiction

While launching Paris In Ruins, a number of authors and bloggers hosted guest articles featuring the world of 1870 Paris.

On the Washington Independent Review of Books, editor-in-chief Holly Smith invited me to write about The Enduring Allure of Paris.

Paris—a city ingrained in our imaginations. A city that is both grand and lived in, a city of massive cathedrals and quiet neighborhoods, a city full of mystery and romance. The city of love, the city of light.Why have writers flocked to Paris for hundreds of years? A brief dip into history sets the stage. In the middle ages, the Catholic church established schools attached to major monasteries to train scholars not only for the church, but also to serve in government. Read more …

On Sarah Johnson’s well-known blog Reading the Past, I wrote about the Delights of a Research Trip to Paris.

Paris In…

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Sample Saturday: “Through the Opera Glass”

Hello, everyone. Today’s sample is from my award-winning short fiction collection, Through the Opera Glass. Enjoy!

From Persia to Paris
Written June 25, 2012
Clever Fiction writing prompt: Winner/Leaving/Alone

Somewhere in the Persian Desert

Erik reined his horse around to look, for one last time, in the direction of the Rosy Hours of Mazandaran. What an odd thing to call a palace of murder, torture – and yet the Shah and his Khanoum named it as such. Erik was glad to be leaving.

“Build me a torture chamber,” the Shah had demanded. Erik had done just that; he created a mirrored room that constantly reflected a tree with a noose hanging from it. This was not torture in and of itself; the room had no apparent exit, though, and could be heated to an unbearable temperature. Eventually, the Shah’s victims would see the noose as their only escape … which allowed the Shah to declare himself the winner in many a battle.

Soon enough, the Shah turned a suspicious eye on Erik. Perhaps he had been too trusting of the disfigured man, assuming his face would keep the women away from him. He’d treated Erik as though he were a eunuch; that was the real error, Erik thought wryly. Soon enough, the women of the seraglio had discovered Erik’s voice. Soon enough, some of them were far more entranced with him than they were with their over-fed husband.

And so, Erik must go. But where? Russia and Italy held no more appeal; only painful memories lived in those places.

Rouen? What would he say to his stonecutter father? Or to the mother who turned him out? No, going to the place of his birth was madness itself.

Paris. A man could hide in Paris. He could live alone there and no one would know, so long as he kept to the shadows. Paris it would be.

Author Sharon E. Cathcart took up a challenge in 2012: to write flash fiction and full length short stories based on various prompts. Each story features one or more characters from In The Eye of The Beholder: A Novel of the Phantom of the Opera or its sequel, In The Eye of The Storm.

Brimming with historical detail, the stories in this collection range in place and time from 19th Century Persia to post-World War II San Francisco.

Through the Opera Glass is the 2014 runner-up for “Best Short Story Collection” in the eFestival of Words Independent Book Awards.

Angus & Robertson (Australia); Amazon (click on this link to be taken automatically to the site for your country); Apple Books; Barnes & Noble; BOL (Belgium & Netherlands); Booktopia (Australia); Chapters Indigo (Canada); FNAC (France); Kobobooks (available for 2400 SuperPoints if you are part of the program); La Feltrinelli (Italy); Librerias Gandhi (Mexico); Livraria Cultura (Brazil);  Love’s Sweet ArrowMondadori (Italy); Overdrive (via your local library); Porrua (Mexico); Rakuten Japan; Scribd; Smashwords.

Frequently Asked Question: Are You a Risk Taker?

Hi, everyone. It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for a question from the Insecure Writers Support Group.

Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

I guess the answer is: it depends on what you mean by risk.

I wrote The Rock Star in the Mirror in second person present POV. Honestly, it was an experiment. However, I wound up loving both the immediacy and the conversational tone it gave to Joe the Lion.

Several  of my books (the Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes series and Down on the Corner of Love, just to name a couple of examples) deal with racism and prejudice — which has somehow become controversial to call out, but not to perform. Bayou Fire‘s female protagonist, Diana, lives with an invisible illness.

Some people might say that by writing about these issues, I’m doing something risky. I don’t think so. All art is intended to be thought-provoking.

Honestly, I think I took a bigger risk when I took a sternwheeler ride on the Mississippi River when researching Bayou Fire than in anything I’ve ever written. I’m a lousy sailor, but I got on that boat anyway so that I could see what it was like to ride one and understand how it worked.

At the end of the day, shouldn’t we all be extending ourselves just a little bit for our art?