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ImageOur path through life, right from the beginning is composed of a series of small events. These, sometimes imperceptibly, cause change and each of these seemingly insignificant junctions cause a ripple effect, the results of which shape our lives. Sometimes, these junctions are hidden innocently, impossible for foresee and with no apparent ability to affect our future.
 
The story, which Elodie Arnaud recounts, starts innocently enough with her sister Monique’s fascination with the quaint English bridal tradition of something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Soon to be married to Gerard Thiebaud, the determined Monique convinces her sister Elodie to go with her into the attic and find their grandmother’s trunk. Monique reasoned that surely, there must be something, which she could use; however, nothing could have prepared them for the repercussions that simple action caused.  
 
Their grandmother, Marie Lafond had lived in Montauban, a large town in the Tarn-et-Garonne region of France during WW2, and during the war, she had been only a teenager, with a teenager’s perspective on life. The decisions she made and events in Oradour-sur-Glane, a village in the department of Haute-Vienne, are the substance of this book.
 
The Oradour-sur-Glane lived in today, is new, and built on the orders of Charles de Gaulle after WW2. The original village, which Marie would have known, stands as a permanent memorial and museum to the 642 men, women and children, slaughtered by the 2nd Panzer Division of the German SS on the 10th June 1944.
 
If you live in a rural community anywhere in the world, you accept that they are very close knit, with memories which are carried down through the generations. I live in rural France where the war is still so apparent both in monuments and remembrance days in every village; the horror of their lives through occupation and the work of the resistance, are very plain to see, even now.
 
This book is a beautifully written chronicle of the life of one family through three generations. The author, through meticulous research has given the reader a wonderful insight into what it would have been like to grow up and live in France under occupation.
 
Through Elodie and Monique’s discoveries and reflections, we learn how the outlook of modern generations has changed, on the surface, but then memories for some people, run deep.
 
Lest We Forget…  
 
Reviewed by Susan Keefe 
 
 Available in Paperback from Amazon

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Pic_8_-_Die_in_Paris_ebook_cover (1)Full Name: Marylin Z Tomlins
Title: Die in Paris: the true story of France’s most notorious serial killer
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN-10:
 1482752808
Genre: Serial Killer/War/France

Review by guest reviewer Susan Keefe

Wartime Paris and the life of a serial killer.
When we think of the war years, our focus tends to be with the horrors of wartime battles, and it is easy to forget that for ordinary people in occupied lands other crimes still happened.
In Paris, under occupation, the French people remained strong. Their ability to keep quiet and forget incidents when convenient was very necessary, and the resistance managed to save many thousands of people because of this. However, under this cloak of secrecy, other crimes were committed, but none as horrendous as the mass murders committed by Dr. Marcel Petiot even now France’s most notorious serial killer.
This book is a thoroughly researched and an interesting study into the life of this serial killer. In its pages, we discover the making of the man, his relationships, and how he evolved into the cold, callous monster he became.
The detailed descriptions of life in Paris at this time and the thoughts and lives of its people make it a fascinating read for anyone with a love of wartime history.
In conclusion, this book makes you yearn to be able to wander down those same streets now, look at the locations and imagine being there then, stepping into the scenes which the author has so clearly laid before you.
 

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The Book:

In 1815 England, an exiled Frenchwoman, Gabrielle de Monserrat, begins a memoir of her days before and during the French Revolution. Gabrielle, the youngest daughter of a family of the impoverished nobility, recalls her journey through hardships and betrayals by three men in her life.

A girl of quiet strength and startling beauty, a widow at seventeen with a young daughter, Gabrielle is released into the world of Paris nobility. Determined and inquisitive, with little money and few prospects, she strives to find her own freedom. Around her, the French people attempt to build a utopia based on the ideals of liberty and equality. Differing currents of thought clash over the fate of a nation as the Revolution takes an ever more violent turn. Yet Gabrielle survives, maintaining her humanity and sense of decency. On occasion, she glimpses her first love as he ascends from obscure patriot to one of the most passionate architects of the new order. At last she reaches for him and an impossible happiness.

As Gabrielle writes on, twenty years later, political events again overtake her and she realizes that her tale is far more than an evocation of the past. It is the truth she owes her children.

Watch the promotional book video for Catherine Delors’ new historical fiction novel, MISTRESS OF THE REVOLUTION

The Author:

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Catherine Delors was born and raised in France. She graduated from the University of Paris-Sorbonne School of Law and became a member of the Bar of Paris at the age of twenty-one.

She moved to the United States after her marriage and passed the California Bar. She worked at a few large law firms, then, after the birth of her son, set up a solo practice. She now splits her time between Los Angeles and Paris.

She is currently working on a second novel, a historical thriller about a terrorist attack in 1800 Paris, at the beginning of Bonaparte’s reign.

Visit her website.

The Excerpt:

London, this 25th of January 1815.

I read this morning in the papers that the corpses of the late King and Queen of France, by order of their brother, the restored Louis the Eighteenth, were exhumed from their grave in the former graveyard of La Madeleine, which has since become a private garden. The remains were removed with royal honours to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, the resting place of the Kings and Queens of France for twelve centuries.

Queen Marie-Antoinette was found soon after the workmen began digging, and the remains of King Louis the Sixteenth were located the next day. A search for the bones of the King’s youngest sister, Madame Elisabeth, was also conducted at the cemetery of Les Errancis. The guillotine had filled La Madeleine by the spring of 1794, and the authorities had opened the new graveyard to accommodate its increasing output. That second investigation was unsuccessful. While the King and Queen had each been granted an individual execution and a coffin, Madame Elisabeth had been guillotined towards the end of the Terror as one in a cart of twenty-five prisoners. The remains had been thrown together into a common grave. The bodies, as required by law, had been stripped of all clothing, which, along with their other property, was forfeited to the Nation upon the imposition of the death sentence. Any identification would have become impossible very soon after the burial. Nevertheless, I trust that God will overlook the lack of proper funeral rites, which were denied to many in those days.

Other victims of the guillotine, some of whom I knew and loved, also remain buried at La Madeleine and Les Errancis, royalists and revolutionaries alike, commingled for all eternity in their unmarked graves.

These tidings from Paris have affected my spirits today. I never cry any more, yet feel tears choking me. I know that I must not allow myself this indulgence, for it is far easier to keep from crying than to quit. Nevertheless, over twenty years have passed since the great Revolution, and it is time for me at last to exhume my own dead and attempt to revive them, however feebly, under my pen.

Some of the events related here are now known only to me, and possibly my daughter. I am not aware of the extent of her recollection, because, out of shyness or shame, or a desire not to acknowledge to each other the shared sorrows of the past, we have never talked about those things since our arrival in England in 1794. She was a child then, and may not have understood or remembered much of what she saw or heard. It causes me pain to recall those events, and still more to write about them, but secrecy has been a heavy burden.

Mistress of the Revolution is available from Amazon, B&N, and from all brick and mortar bookstores.

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To promote the release of her first book, Mistress of the Revolution, historical novelist Catherine Delors is touring the blogosphere this month. She was kind enough to give me some of her time and answer my questions. It's a pleasure to have her here on The Dark Phantom today.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author? Do you have another job besides writing?

I didn’t really “decide” to become an author. That would have been too intimidating. But, after much hesitation, I tried my hand at a few chapters. I had friends read them to see if my English was good enough. They said it was, so I began stitching those chapters into a narrative.

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Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I was a voracious reader. I remember going to the library as a kid and panicking at the idea that soon I would have read everything in there, and would be left with nothing to do!

There were books I used to read many, many times as a child. The Odyssey, Don Quixote, the Arabian Nights, Perrault’s Fairytales, Balzac’s Eugenie Grandet. The wonderful thing about these books is that they can be read by adults and children alike. They delve so deep into the human soul that their appeal is universal.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

The idea came from a conversation I had with my late father about the name of a street in Vic, the little mountain town where I had spent all of my summers as a child. It was named, my father said, after Pierre-André Coffinhal, Vice President of the Revolutionary Tribunal. I knew nothing of that character, though the street itself had always been familiar to me.

So I began to look into Coffinhal’s life, and I found a perfect novel character.

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How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

I am not an outline type of person. For Mistress of the Revolution, I didn’t even know what the story would be like when I started. I knew that Coffinhal would appear in the novel. I also knew that the narrator would be a noblewoman and she would write from exile in England. That was it. The rest came along the way. So I guess I fall into the “stream of consciousness” category.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

The idea for Mistress of the Revolution came in late 2004. I was mostly done writing by the summer of 2005, but events in my personal life overtook me. I completely quit writing for six months and did not resume work on the novel until early 2006. I completed the first draft of my manuscript by the spring of 2006, edited it until July, found my agent in August, edited again at her request until November. The deal was done by Thanksgiving 2006.

So let’s say that it took me about two years from first idea to finding a publisher, minus a six month hiatus.

Describe your working environment.

As a writer? That’s easy. Picture my bed, me sitting up in it with a laptop.

Are you a disciplined writer?

Discipline sounds scary. Fortunately I don’t need discipline to write. It comes to me, and I don’t have much of a choice.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

No, I have never experienced writer’s block. As I was telling you, I quit writing for six months, simply because for a while I had lost any sense of hope or purpose. It all came back by itself as soon as I regained control. Living, watching other people live is enough to prompt me to write.

Technically speaking, what do you have to struggle the most when writing? How do you tackle it?

Sometimes dialog doesn’t sound right. I write it anyway and let it sit until the next day. Then I take a fresh look at it and edit it. And it repeat a few times until it flows naturally.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

The tough part was finding an agent. I faced a lot of rejection at that stage. Once I began working with Stephanie Cabot, my agent, everything became very fast and easy. She managed to get competing bids from three major publishers in a matter of days after submitting. She is great, and I am lucky.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

It is still too early to tell what works best, but I am a firm believer in the power of the internet. Much of my book promotion is focused on blogs and social networks geared towards book lovers.

Who are your favorite authors? Why?

In addition to the authors I loved as a child, and still love today, I am a great admirer of Jane Austen, and also the Victorians: Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Trollope. And the great Americans: Poe, Edith Wharton, Henry James, Styron.
On the French side, my favorite authors are Flaubert, Maupassant (especially Bel Ami), Balzac. On the Russian side, I favor Dostoevsky, Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn.
What attracts me to these writers? They make me laugh, cry, think. I am heartbroken when I finish one of their books, because I would want it to go on forever.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I didn’t receive any advice until while I was writing. I didn’t know anyone in the publishing business, and didn’t visit websites for writers until after the book was completed. I was such an innocent that I didn’t even know that there were any such places.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

I would love your readers to visit my website and my blog.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

I just completed my second novel, also a historical set in Paris. It is now in the capable hands of Julie Doughty, my editor at Dutton.

I have plans for a third novel, of course, but they are so ambitious that I am a bit too shy to talk about them yet. And I also have a prequel to Mistress of the Revolution in mind.

Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?

I was able to complete something I love, something that has brought me great joys, and now I am going to share it with others! It is almost too good to be true.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

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