Friday Face-Off: From Page to Screen to Page

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It’s time again for the Friday Face-Off meme, created by Books by Proxy, with weekly topics hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog.  The idea is to put up different covers for one book, and select a favorite.

This week’s theme is: A cover that is a movie tie-in

I know I default to discussing The Phantom of the Opera, but it seems especially appropriate this week.  I decided to see how many tie-ins to different movies I could find, while limiting myself to Gaston Leroux’s Phantom.

Here we see the Lon Chaney Phantom, one of the more famous images of the Phantom.  I’ve also noticed that, unlike every other movie Phantom, he’s virtually never shown with his mask on.  (Here’s an image, which might suggest why!)

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Writing Wednesday: Trust and Arguments

I did heavy revisions on another scene for my Phantom novel today.  Like some I revised a few weeks ago, I wrote this one early in the process of writing the trilogy, although I’ve been able to keep most of it as it was.

Even after years of working with these characters, they still surprise me sometimes.  In this scene, Erik and Meg have the kind of argument that starts about one thing and turns into something else, and probably is really about a third thing entirely.  The funny part is, I don’t think I properly realized until I revised it this week that it’s actually about trust.  At least, that’s a bigger part of it than I realized–along with two or three other things!

As I reworked the scene, some of the original lines of dialogue just didn’t ring right anymore…and pretty soon Meg was coming out with new things I hadn’t quite known frustrated her.

Erik, obviously, was even more unaware than I was.

Here’s an excerpt. 🙂

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“Did you trust Christine?”  I demanded, a question I had never dared even think let alone ask, but that I had always, always wanted to know.  “More than you trust me?  Because you obviously don’t trust me.  Not enough to tell me your plan when the mob was coming, or to tell me you were still alive, or to believe the best of me when you overheard something that sounded bad.  You’ve never even told me what happened when Christine left, and I trust you enough to ignore all the stories saying you killed her!”

“Stop saying her name!”

That was the important part in what I had said?  That was the only part he heard?  Anger that had started red hot had turned into a cold fury that was even harder to control.  “I am not Christine,” I said, my voice seeming to come from outside of myself, even and steady.  “I don’t sing like Christine, and I’m not as beautiful as Christine, and I would never betray you like Christine.”

Writing Wednesday: Expanding the Story

After some short story work recently, I’ve gone back to expanding the opening of my third Guardian of the Opera book.  Things have been cut up and moved around and I set the opening of the book a week earlier than I originally planned, putting four new chapters in at the beginning.

Revisions.  They’re unpredictable!  I actually thought Book II would need far more structural revisions than it ended up needing; apparently Book III is balancing that out.

Adding more to the beginning gives me space to reintroduce a lot of characters and concepts, plus both Meg and the reader have to wallow in the Book II cliffhanger a little bit longer.  I also started Meg counting days, something we’ve more often seen from Erik!

Here’s a piece opening my new Chapter Two.

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I began counting the days since the day of the mob, since I had last seen Erik, since he might have died.  I counted even though I had no idea when it would be time to give up hope.  I had found the daffodil on the second day.  The Phantom’s body—supposedly—had been found on the third, and I had gone to Erik’s rooms that same afternoon.

On the fourth day I was sitting with several other ballet girls on the Opera’s front steps, dallying before it was time to go in for the morning rehearsal, when I saw Commissaire Mifroid crossing the plaza, walking towards the Opera.

A chill went over me as I looked at the policeman, in his dark coat, with the shiny buttons down the front.  It had been him, all along.  He had kept pushing, kept trying to find Erik, for months and months.  If it hadn’t been for him, Jammes never would have gone looking for information, for whatever favor she thought she could curry with the managers or Carlotta, the lead soprano, or with Mifroid himself.  Without Mifroid, my stupid mistake leaving the directions in reach wouldn’t have mattered.

With Mifroid, Erik might be dead.

And Mifroid might be the only one who really knew.

 

Writing Wednesday: Differing Perspectives

I’ve spent the last several days reworking one scene in my Phantom novel.  It’s a pivotal scene near the end of Book Three, and because of the way I wrote this whole trilogy, I initially wrote it…three years ago?  Four years ago?  The point is, it was actually pretty early on in the writing of the whole project, because I was writing out of order at that point.

Well, coming up to today, I found that my writing has grown since then, and much of that original scene didn’t feel right anymore.  I decided it would be better to just rewrite it than to try to revise, so I sat down and wrote through it again–in Meg’s point of view, as was the original.

Then I went to meet with a writing friend, we talked about our latest writing…and she wanted to see the scene from Erik’s point of view.  And the more I thought about it…she was right.  So I wrote it again–and now I’m working on a later bit of the same chapter that also needs to switch to Erik’s point of view.  So it’s been an interesting few days, building a scene from different angles.

For fun, here’s two versions of the same moment–first from Meg, then from Erik.

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The melody faded away in another bar, and it was good I was sitting down, it was good he had told me to sit down, because he had said—he had actually said…  My eyes were hot and my throat was tight and I had to say something but I suddenly didn’t know…

He looked up at last, but he still didn’t look at me.  He was staring very fixedly down the length of the room, gaze on his pipe organ but from the tightness in his face I didn’t think he was seeing it.

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Writing Wednesday: Back to Revisions

After a month of short story writing, I plunged back into Guardian of the Opera revisions at the beginning of June.  I’m working now on Book Three, and once I finish at least an initial round of revisions, I’m hoping to be in a place to start setting a (more specific) timeline for publication.  We’ll see!

In the meantime, lots to do here.  I did a very fast skim through the book already, just to try to get a sense of the shape of it as Book 3, rather than the second-half of Book 2 (when I thought this was two books) or the last section of the whole story (when I thought, long ago now, that it was just one book!)  What I realized is that this book is definitely more emotionally intense than the previous two–because it was supposed to be the climactic section!  Which somehow stretched to 70,000 words…

That still puts it about 40,000 words shorter than the other two books, but it’s also the least revised, and I always lengthen when I revise.  So I expect the lengths to get closer together.  And hopefully it will be an exciting conclusion to the trilogy!

For today, here’s a bit I’m adding into Chapter Two, because I decided I needed at least one more emotional upheaval, here at the beginning…

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Nothing had to change.  Everything had been fine before.  Before, when I knew I loved Erik and had resolved not to tell him about it.  He wouldn’t understand.  I had been so sure he wouldn’t understand, and that he wouldn’t ever feel the same about me.  Not when he was so in love with Christine.

I had told myself that not telling him, to continue being his friend and not tell him, was the only option.

But that had never been a comfortable option.  Not even before I kissed his cheek when a mob was coming for him, before I watched him (apparently) drown, before I had lived six days with the possibility that he was dead and I would never again have the chance to tell him anything.

That had been before I saw him step alive out of the shadows, before everything in me had taken wing at the sight of him, before I had impulsively reached out to hold onto him and been embraced in return.

I lay on my back in bed and played with my gold necklace, the little disk with a G on it that would always belong to my sister Gabrielle.  Even though she had died seven years ago, when she was only nine, and I had worn it longer now than she had.

Sometimes people went away forever.  And knowing how possible that was, did I really want to leave important things unsaid?

Writing Wednesday: Dancing into the Opera

I wrote last week about the Peter Pan story I’m writing for a planned anthology, involving people entering into books.  I’m planning to write at least two stories for the collection, and have started playing with the second one.  I’m not straying far from familiar territory, as I decided to send a character into The Phantom of the Opera.  But the trip will be out of familiar territory for her–Michelle has seen Webber’s Phantom, and has no idea how different Gaston Leroux’s version is!

Here’s a bit from near the beginning.

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I walked along the wall and stopped at random at another shelf.  Nothing was grabbing me.  It all looked boring, boring, boring…

And then I stopped on a black book with silver lettering.  No dust jacket.  But there was the key information on the spine: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.

I found myself smiling involuntarily.  Now that had been a good Saturday night.  Kim and I went to see the Webber play, because her husband hates musicals and thinks only tourists go to see Webber.  Whatever, it means I get to be Kim’s theater buddy.  So we went to the play and of course I rolled my eyes for the first scene, the “rehearsal of Hannibal.”  They were trying, and it wasn’t bad dancing, but it wasn’t professional ballet either.

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Writing Wednesday: Notre Dame Cathedral

I and many, many people were rocked this week by the fire that broke out at Notre Dame Cathedral Monday night.  I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled series of posts on recent short stories to share how Notre Dame Cathedral has figured in my writing, which points in many ways to my feelings about the cathedral.  A beautiful architectural treasure, it’s also a touchpoint with history.  I visited the cathedral in 2012 and 2016, and characters in my Phantom trilogy visited in 1881.  The ability to visit the same place that was standing centuries ago is breathtaking.

More than that, Notre Dame is a constant.  I’m so relieved that the most recent news suggests Monday’s fire marks a new chapter in Notre Dame’s long but continuing story.  For a few hours, it looked like it could be the end of the story, and I found it impossible to imagine a world without Notre Dame Cathedral by the Seine.

Which is exactly how it appears in my Phantom trilogy as well–Meg in particular views it as a reliable source of constancy.  Outside of the Opera Garnier (which is the setting for probably 90% of the trilogy), Notre Dame is the number one setting, woven into some of the most meaningful scenes, and a symbol of stability in an unstable world.  Some passages were seeming painfully ironic on Monday–now, perhaps, they’re just a little more poignant?

Here are a few Notre Dame passages from my novels.

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In Book One, Meg believes she may have to leave Paris soon, and looks for some comfort in the face of those worries.

I kept walking forward because it was the easiest direction, gazing into the distance without paying attention to the view.  I had been staring at Notre Dame’s towers for at least a block before I properly realized it.

I could go there.  I didn’t know anywhere more serene, stable and unmoving than Notre Dame Cathedral.  Where better to go when my world had fallen out of balance?  And it couldn’t be anything worse than the last visit for now.  Beignets and booksellers’ stalls were fleeting, the Opera Garnier might close its doors to me, but I could always go back to Notre Dame.  Maybe not soon, not if we moved away, but Notre Dame would never be gone.  I’d be back someday.

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