THE WOMAN IN THE DOLLHOUSE
My new thriller is NOW ON SALE at Amazon
in a Kindle e-book edition and as a trade paperback,
both published by Lethal Black Dress Press. Best Thrillers
says it "bewitches on page one and continues to mesmerize until its shocking
The Woman in the Dollhouse is a brand-new adventure for me. Tennyson Claxton is a damaged
young woman whose mind holds the fragmentary memories of two very different women. Her past is full of questions, her present
is filled with deception and danger, and her future is a blank page -- unless she can discover who she really is.
Please join me on this new journey. Read the first chapter right here, and listen to the audio trailer. (My very first!) You'll
hear my voice and that of a veteran voice actor, my friend Bruce Schorr, reading the first chapter, assisted by our producer,
Luis Sandoval. Click on the microphone icon below to listen.
Welcome to the world of The Woman in the Dollhouse.
IN MY MEMORIES, MY EYES are always green.
As green as the dark and dangerous sea, my
grandfather used to say. Mermaid’s eyes, he called them. Eyes that changed, from the color of seaweed, to sea glass, to the green
of troubled water. Yet I was never troubled, when my eyes were green.
There are huge gaps of time, years,
when I don’t remember anything about my life. Still, I am quite convinced that my eyes were always green.
Even in my double memories, they are green. Even though I seem to remember being two people, they are green. It doesn’t matter if
I recall being a child with blond streaks in my braids, collecting shells with my grandfather at the stony edge of the sea, or if
I think I was a dark-haired child riding a new pony, under the watchful eye of my pretty mother. My eyes are always green.
These days the mirror tells me my eyes are not green. They are brown. As brown as leaves that die in the fall.
I’m writing down these words because I don’t know if tomorrow I will remember what I know today. I have too many memories. Like the
memory of my eyes. But I also have memory losses. Great chunks of time are missing. Frankly, I’m terrified of losing more pieces of
myself, no matter how small.
“Green eyes are a false memory, Tennyson,” according to Dr. Embry. “You never
had green eyes.”
His words interrupted my mental rambling. His specialty is memory loss and recovery. And
apparently—me. Giles Embry is the head of “the Campus,” the facility where I am lodged. He is both a scientist and a medical doctor.
He studies disorders of the brain.
It seems I possess one of those pesky disordered brains. But why would
I have false memories? How could they have taken root?
The first time I saw a stranger with brown eyes staring
back at me in the mirror, I shrieked. It was the wrong reaction. Dr. Embry took away all the mirrors for a week. I learned not to
react. I learned to stop flinching at the unfamiliar eyes reflected there.
But my eyes are not all that’s
changed. Something happened to my hair.
When did it become so dark, so brown, so short? I often reach for
my hair, my blond hair, to braid it, to put it up, to brush it. My locks barely reach below my ears. Someone cut it. I don’t know
When I steel myself to look in the mirror, my facial features are similar to the ones I remember, but
I can’t be positive, because of the brown eyes and the short dark hair. I try not to look into mirrors for very long anymore.
Men used to call me beautiful. Or did they? I suppose that could be a false memory too.
Dr. Embry tells me
certain memories have been implanted, changed, and distorted. Perhaps an aftereffect of the accident.
what he has told me, even if I could be sure of who I am, I could never trust my memory. Our memories are fluid. They change. We start
editing them as soon as they are completed. We make them better, more interesting. We lace things together so they make a story out
of the puzzle of our lives. We crave stories that have meaning.
But my memory is a hopeless liar and I am
broken into pieces.
When I’m awake, people call me Tennyson.
In my dreams, I hear
voices calling me Marissa.
When I start writing a book, I always know certain things.
For example, I can’t start writing without knowing
the title and the main characters' names. Those might eventually change, but I always begin with at least that much. And I thought
I knew The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace was the right title for this book years before I wrote it. After all, that image of a dollhouse
in a crawlspace is central to the story. My own mental image of that came from the home of my aunt and uncle and cousins. When they
moved in, they discovered a dollhouse full of exquisite miniature furniture, abandoned in the crawlspace by the previous owners. It
seemed like a very strange thing for someone to leave behind. I was a teenager at the time, and the image stayed with me. It suggested
so much to me: hidden spaces, secrets, discoveries, memories, a lost childhood.
But this story is about much
more than a lost object in a strange place, it's about a woman. A young woman named Tennyson Claxton who seems to be trapped
in an identity and a world that may or may not be her own. Is that dollhouse a childhood memory that's now forever lost to her? Or
is it the threatening world she now seems to be lost in? Whatever the dollhouse really is, past or future, memory or metaphor, the
story and the journey are hers and hers alone. And so in Tennyson's honor, I've changed the title to The Woman in the Dollhouse.
The story hasn't changed, however, and neither has the cover image. I knew I didn’t want anything frilly or soft, or a kooky
Addams Family dollhouse. Perhaps I could get away without a dollhouse, or with the mere suggestion of one? But no. This cover needed
a dollhouse in a crawlspace, and this dollhouse had to suggest the "real" house in the story. My cover designer for Dollhouse is the
talented Robert Williams, who edits my manuscripts, designs my books, and webmasters my website. He's also my husband and partner
in Lethal Black Dress Press, our publishing endeavor, and he's designed many covers for me. We already had a crawlspace in our house,
so all we needed was the right picture of the right dollhouse. No problem. Right?
Sigh. Stock photos of generic
dollhouses weren't working for us. Neither did eBay or antique stores. Our best find on Craigslist was too big to fit in our car,
which the dollhouse's owner proceeded to insult. (“Is that your ONLY car?!”) Only one option was left: Build the #$*%+&! dollhouse
ourselves! For three solid weeks it tested our patience, our dining room table, and the very fiber of our beings, leaving in its wake
sawdust, paint smears, hot glue glop, and frayed nerves. But that was just the beginning. Grabbing our hardhats and our new dollhouse,
as well as lights, cameras, dolls, and tripods, we crawled into our gloomy crawlspace to set the scene. We dressed and lit the dollhouse,
got covered in cobwebs, and took hundreds of photos amid the dirt and dust. Then all Bob had to do was to choose the one best frame
out of 498 (or so), perform a little digital image magic, and match the right dollhouse image to the right composition, fonts, layout,
and color palette to create just the right look for the book: Cool but hot, shadowy but eye-popping, gloomy yet glowing, as if lit
from within. No problem.
All things considered, it was easy! No, not really, but compared to writing the
book, it was. And we think it was worth it.
All website contents © Ellen Byerrum, except as specified. All rights reserved.
BUYING MY BOOKS
My books and plays are available from online booksellers and traditional bookstores. Click on the stack of books at
the right to go to my Book Shopping page. Most of the links there take you directly to my books. Thanks for shopping!
Setting up a photo shoot for the Dollhouse cover art.
We're down in the dark, dusty crawlspace underneath our house,
and those hands that are adjusting the dollhouse belong to the author, Ellen Byerrum.
Photo by Bob Williams
Click on the microphone to play the audio trailer for
The Woman in the Dollhouse.
Cast: Ellen Byerrum, Bruce Schorr
Luis Sandoval, Oneiro Media
Time: 14 minutes, 21 seconds File type: MP3