The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace
by Ellen Byerrum
If you lost your memories, would you lose your soul?
“In my memories, my eyes are always green.”
“In my memories, my eyes are always green.”
After a devastating accident, a young woman finds herself recovering in a memory research facility. Her eyes are brown; her memories are broken. Years of her life are blank, yet she remembers being two very different women, one called Tennyson, the other Marissa. If she can’t trust her memories or her own eyes, who can she trust? To save her sanity and her life, she begins a secret journal between the lines of Homer’s Odyssey—and her own harrowing odyssey into madness and murder. Lost among her shattered memories, can she find her true self?
The nightmare came again last night.
The cast-off thoughts of an incubus haunt me and press me and smother me while I sleep. Recurring and mutating, but always returning to taunt me. It calls me out of the Fog.
In the dream, I am running. It is very dark and the only thing I can see is the dim outline of a house. It resembles the home I lived in growing up. The home of one of me, anyway. It’s a little two-story white Victorian cottage with green shutters and trim, only three feet tall. There are lights on inside and the tiny door swings open for me. With every step I take I shrink, until I am almost small enough to fit through the front door. Something is hard upon my heels. Someone calls my name. This time, I can’t quite remember if the voice calls for Tennyson or Marissa. I’m almost home, almost up the front steps and through the door. But I never quite make it.
My face was wet with tears when I woke up, my heart beating like a drum in my chest, a sour taste in my mouth. Despite feeling like someone was in the room watching me, I was alone. I was conscious of the ever-present camera, but it was dark. I put my hand on my chest and willed my heart to slow down.
The first time I had the dream, weeks ago now, Giles was there beside me, suddenly turning on the bedside lamp. The glare hurt my eyes. “Tennyson, are you all right?” He reached for my wrist to take my pulse. He wore a T-shirt and silk boxer shorts. “What is it?”
The Importance of the Author’s Voice
What makes a book stand out? What makes you turn to those old favorites when nothing new appeals to you? Is it the characters, the plot, the setting? Chances are, you’re responding to the author’s unique storytelling sensibility, his or her voice. For me, an example is Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody series. Distinctive from the first page.
We’ve all read books that are okay: the story works and the action clicks along. They meet a basic level of quality. They’re good enough to be published, but they are like popcorn. They are interchangeable with any number of other books. But unlike oatmeal, they don’t “stick to your ribs.” You’ve forgotten them, or maybe you remember them as those books with the blue covers. Maybe the cover is what you remember most. Perhaps the problem is the voice.
Voice. Everyone talks about it. What is it?
Voice is the special thing that makes a book your own. Voice is the thing that makes a collection of words unique. Sometimes it’s a whisper, a shout, or a lovely aria.
People can confuse voice with the main character and how she or he speaks. Some writers imbue all the wit and sparkle and smarts in the main character. But voice is more than that. Yes, the main character should be unique and memorable, but the rest of the story should be as well, to make a distinct whole. It’s the combination of how an author puts words and stories and characters together.
Give two authors the same basic premise, plot, and characters, and they should still come up with two completely different works. They come from a different place, different background, different experiences. All of those things influence writing. One author may be an optimist who sees pratfalls in the most dismal situations, the other a pessimist who glories in the darkness of the human soul.
For all but the geniuses among us, I believe finding your voice takes time, patience, and perseverance.
The voice of my psychological thriller, The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace, is more somber than my Crime of Fashion mysteries, but I could not stop a certain cynical humor slipping into Tennyson, my main character. And believe me, she needs that sense of humor, that particular worldview. I’m still working on allowing my voice to come through.
One of the nicest compliments I’ve received about my writing was this: “If I didn’t know who wrote that, I’d still know it was you. It’s unmistakable.” My voice may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s mine.
Ellen Byerrum will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Click HERE to enter - ends 9th October
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Ellen Byerrum is a novelist, playwright, reporter, former Washington D.C. journalist, and a graduate of private investigator school in Virginia. The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace is her first suspense thriller, which introduces Tennyson Claxton, a woman with two sets of memories from two very different women.
Ellen also writes the Crime of Fashion mysteries, which star a savvy, stylish female sleuth named Lacey Smithsonian, a reluctant fashion reporter in Washington D.C. ("The City Fashion Forgot").Two of the COF books,Killer Hair and Hostile Makeover, were filmed for the Lifetime Movie Network and can occasionally be seen on odd dates and odd times in the middle of the night. The latest book in that series is Lethal Black Dress, but there will be more to come.
She has also penned a middle grade mystery, The Children Didn’t See Anything. She occasionally writes a newsletter that contains her latest publishing information.
You can find more about Ellen on her website at www.ellenbyerrum.com
Facebook Author Page https://www.facebook.com/EllenByerrumBooks