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Happy 25th Anniversary to The Phantom of the Opera!!!

Dear readers, I apologize for a late post. As you must know, this year is the 25th anniversary of "The Phantom of the Opera" (POTO). Yes, you heard me right. The Andrew Lloyd Webber sensation inspired from the book by Gaston Leroux. I am a huge 'phan', and I'm not even a big theatre buff. Okay, maybe a little bit. Like every little girl in her high school chorus class, I've dreamed of playing Christine on Broadway. Of course, I traded singing lessons for rent money, and now I can't sing nearly as well as I did seven years ago, but it's the thought that counts, right?

Anyways, I inevitably owe my inspiration to start writing to this wonderful musical. My Nana first told me about the Phantom in the '90s. She took me to the downtown theatre house and we would watch plays together: Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde, Beauty and the Beast. But Phantom never came to Florida and my hope at ever getting to New York to see it dwindled. In 2004, the POTO movie came out and I got to see what my grandmother admired so much in a musical. In short, I became obsessed.

Opening night casting call: January 26th, 1988.
Steve Barton (Raoul), Harold Prince, Michael Crawford
(The Phantom), Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Sarah
Brightman (Christine). 
(In case you didn't know...The Phantom of the Opera is a Victorian romance set in the Paris Opera House where a young singer, Christine, is encourage to become a star with the help of an angel of music--The Phantom--who falls desperately in love with her. But she cannot return his affection, because she has feelings for another.)

If I could not see the Broadway play in New York or sing as Christine, then I would do the next best thing, writing a story inspired by POTO. :)

My friend encourage this behavior by lending me a book called, "A Rose In Winter" by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, which became my favorite book. Since it contained a masked, reclusive hero and a headstrong, talented heroine, I couldn't help but fall in love. My very first novel titled, "The Phantom of Fonthill Abbey" (with working title, "The Earl's Redemption" and Book #1 in the Victorian Redemption series) is a story of redemption, love, and betrayal. Sound familiar? William Kendall, the fourth Earl of Wiltshire, is the phantom of Fonthill Abbey. He is scarred from his past, and full of love just waiting to be given to someone worthy who comes along like his future wife, Elizabeth. In my novel, Christine ends up with the Phantom as I've always wished. :)

Here is a tribute to all the Phantoms who took every woman's heart year after year:

Michael Crawford
(The first Phantom.)
Howard McGillin
Hugh Panaro
(The current NYC Phantom.)
John Cudia

Cris Groenendaal
Mark Jacoby

Kevin Gray
Marcus Lovett
Davis Gaines
Steve Barton
Timothy Nolen

Brad Little
Jeff Keller
Ted Keegan
Gerard Butler
(From the 2004 film.)

Gary Mauer

A final note from the author:

Inside the Majestic Theatre, waiting for
The Phantom of the Opera to begin.
Now, if you've continued this far into my post (in which, I hope you have enjoyed the Phantoms), I would like to share with you my experience in 2010 at the Majestic Theatre in New York.

Pandora Gray (left) and her friend (right)
outside of the Majestic Theatre, NYC.
Nothing compared to seeing the show in person. I waited so many years to see it...and this is proof that dreams do come true...eventually. :)

Thank you for reading, sharing in my experience, and learning through my past.

Happy writing!
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Tales From Research Part #2

Today, we continue the immortal journey of the Fonthill Abbey through a historical incidence. We know the abbey's main tower collapsed in 1825 and the whole manse was demolished thereafter. In my reality, the west wing, where the Fourth Earl of Wiltshire's room resided, was burned down by an act of revenge.

The first pages of the Great
Reform Act 1832.
The Representation of the People Act 1832, or Great Reform Act of 1832, influenced by the French Revolution, was an Act of Parliament in England and Wales which introduced more seats into the House of Commons from large cities and took away seats from smaller cities called "rotten boroughs". It also increased the amount of voters from 400,000 to 650,000.

Charles Gray
The Whigs favored reform, constitutional monarchy, and parliamentary rule. The Duke of Wellington's opposition to reform forced his resignation from office and he was succeeded by Charles Gray who pushed parliamentary reform with the Whigs. After much debate, the House of Lords and its majority of Tories, who advocate monarchism, supported the Church of England, and opposed reform, consented to the Bill after a threat by King William IV of revolution as all as the Birmingham Political Union led by Thomas Attwood (Oliver and Rosalind Attwood's father) and 15,000 supporters who threatened to use violence, to desist their opposition.

Two years later, the modern-day Conservative Party was created with similar philosophies to conservatism (traditionalism) and British unionism.

House of Commons
Effects of the Act: Since 60% of the people, specifically "male persons", were allowed to vote, 95% of the population were left without the vote, including women. In addition to being the first statutory bar to women's suffrage, most of the pocket boroughs belonged to Tory members, and tenants-at-will were created to allow voting for whomever their landlord told them to, allowing the Tories to retake the House of Commons in 1841.

The Great Reform Act of 1832 was also proceeded by protests and riots. And this is where we come to quick of our story. During a time of political turmoil and possible revolution, the middle class radicals believed in threatening the government into change. They started writing letters to influences like the Duke of Wellington and then posted them in the newspaper, waiting for a positive response from the public. After receiving no response from the politicians they wrote, the radicals moved onto the more violent means of protest. They rioted, attacking the Duke of Wellington's and the bishops' houses in London. The castle at Nottingham was burned down, as well as several serious riots appeared in Derby, Worcester, Bath, and many more. All victims were anti-reformers, Tories, and wealthy landowners. The Bristol Riot, the most destructive, consisted of 500 to 600 young men and lasted for three days, where private homes and property were looted and destroyed. Almost 100 people involved in this attack were tried in January 1832 and four men were hanged.

The 3rd Dragoon Guards violently suppressing the Bristol Riots of 1831.
Queen's Square, 20 October, 1831.

Attacks that occurred after the Reform Bill passed in 1832.

I thought there was no reason why the Earl of Wiltshire, William Kendall's late father, who was an anti-former, Tory, and wealthy aristocrat, couldn't become a victim of these attacks. 

So, this is where the real story begins...

As always, thank you for reading.

Happy writing!
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Tales From Research

Today, I wanted to share a piece of history with everyone. When I first started my research on a perfect place for my Victorian series (over 5 years ago), I would never imagine finding the perfect setting for them all in a mysterious Gothic Revival building called the "Fonthill Abbey." I checked all over Google for a place as befitting a reclusive Earl as I could find in Wiltshire, England and found:

Fonthill Abbey
This wonderful manse is what started it all. My dreams about the Victorian Era and its many interesting facets. I could actually see people living in this place throughout the 19th Century. My aristocratic family, the Kendalls, began living here around 1832 when they bought the house from John Farquhar. They would continue to spend 40 years or more in the immortal abbey. Unfortunately, in real life, the building didn't last nearly as long as it did in everyone's memory.

So, this is where our story starts...at the beginning...

William Beckford in 1782 by George Romney
In 1760, William Thomas Beckford was born in London. Ten years later, he inherited 1,000,000 pounds (or 110 million pounds in 2012) from his father, as well as land at Fonthill in Wiltshire and sugar plantations in Jamaica. Later, he became a novelist and an art collector. After accusations of having homosexual relations,  he married Lady Margaret Gordon and exiled himself to the Continent where he traveled to Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and Portugal. Then his wife died of childbirth.

When he returned to England, he enclosed around Fonthill Estate a six-mile long wall to prevent poachers from entering his property. Due to his romantic nature, Beckford wanted a Gothic cathedral constructed as his home. In 1796, the architect, James Wyatt, began work on the building using timber stuccoed with cement. Francis Eginton, a glass painter, desgined thirty-two depictions of medieval knights, kings, etc. for the many windows. 950 laborers worked day and night to build the abbey. After the first 300 foot tower collapsed, the new one was finished six years later only to collapse as well. The final one, built in stone, was completed in seven years. In 1813, the abbey's construction was done.  
Abbey tower ruins.

Beckford lived alone in the 500-acre abbey until 1822 spending wealth without making it, only occupying one of the rooms. After losing two sugar plantations, he was forced to sell the the property and its entitlements for 330,000 pounds to an ammunition dealer named John Farquhar. In 1825, the main tower collapsed, and later the rest of the abbey was demolished. The gatehouse and part of the north wing remain to this day. Speculation arose that since Beckford rushed the construction of the Fonthill Abbey, with the absence of the architect many times during the project, and the enormous height of the tower spire, the building was doomed from the beginning. So, they labeled it "Beckford's Folly." William Beckford died in 1844 in Bath, England.

Highlights from the Fonthill Abbey:

Great Western Entrance Hall

Grand Drawing Room
The Great Octagon

King Edward's Gallery on the West wing

This tower spanned about 300 feet tall.
St. Michael's Gallery on the East wing

(Information about the Abbey courtesy of Wikipedia and a collection of maps and descriptions by John Rutter called Delineations of Fonthill and its Abbey.)

I guess you can say that research/history is an obsession of mine. I will continue to include this abbey in my series, because it deserves immortality. If I had the money, I would recreate this masterpiece (maybe not in England), and I would definitely make it much more sturdy than wood with stucco covering it. I will always dream about it. At least, the abbey's legacy lives with the Kendall family.

Thank you for reading and your ongoing support. :)

Happy writing!
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