The clock has struck NOON in Paris and we meet E. Van Lowe along the Champs-Élysées.
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is a street in Paris, France. With its cinemas, cafés, luxury specialty shops and clipped horse-chestnut trees, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous streets and one of the most expensive strips of real estate in the world. Several French monuments are also on the street, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde. The name is French for Elysian Fields, the place of the blessed dead in Greek mythology. The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is known as "The most beautiful avenue in the world", La plus belle avenue du monde in French.
by E. Van Lowe
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VVB is off to Paris and she has turned the asylum over to the inmates. WHOO HOO! Par-tay! When Velvet asked me to guest blog while she was away, I told her I had the perfect project to share with you. It’s zombie themed—and we all love zombies—but more importantly, it takes place in Paris. That’s right; Paris and zombies—Ooh, la, la!
A few years ago I decided to write an illustrated novel. I wanted it to be like the novels of Kate Dicamillo but for an adult audience. I also wanted the story to be humorous and dark. I settled upon a satire, an indictment of the fashion industry, an industry whose standards for beauty are ridiculous and unachievable by most women. Oh, and I wanted it to be a period novel from the 20s or 30s. Out of this mish mosh of ideas The Fashion Zombie of Marseilles was born.
I was very excited about the novel and began writing. While I wrote I searched for an illustrator to help bring the fashion zombies to life. A prominent illustrator loved the idea, offered some suggestions and did a preliminary drawing. Things were moving quickly… And then they stopped. The illustrator became more and more difficult to reach by phone, and emails rarely got a response. When we did speak, he waxed on about his love of the project, but nothing was happening on his end. After almost a year of nothing happening, I told him to forget about it. I was moving on. Once that happened, I put the project on the shelf. I pull it out from time-to-time and write a few pages only stash it away again.
I tell myself I am too busy with other projects: The Falling Angels Saga novels—Heaven Sent is due out in December, and the Hollyweird novels—The Zombie Always Knocks Twice is completing editorial and will be out at the end of the summer. But the truth it, it’s not the other books that keep me from completing my fashion zombie project; I’ve lost my motivation.
And so while Velvet visits the Louvre and dines on the Champs Elysees, I am taking the time to share a sneak peek of my Parisian project with you—her friends and followers. I need some motivation, people! If you like what you read here please leave a comment. It will help motivate me to find an illustrator and finish the damn thing. If you don’t, oh well, back on the shelf it goes. Ready? Below is the opening chapter of my illustrated novel The Fashion Zombie of Marseilles. Enjoy:
On a dull, dark and soundless day, in the autumn of a year far removed from our own, Henri Ledeaux stepped from his cutting room and unveiled his latest creation, a gown made of silk and organdy. Upon seeing the gown, Ledeaux’s wife, Coco, oohed and aahed. The long awaited dress was magnificent to behold, and the mere sight of it brought a tear to her eye.
“You have outdone yourself, my love,” she declared with reverence for her husband’s new creation.
“I know,” replied Henri. For in fact he did know that this was his most beautiful creation ever. “Try it on,” he said, offering her the dress.
These were words Coco had been longing to hear. For nearly two decades Henri Ledeaux had been one of the most celebrated designers in all of Paris. And for all those years Coco had been his most celebrated model. But recent collections from the House of Ledeaux had been met with indifference by the fashion establishment. They labeled the 1925 spring collection uninteresting. The 1926 fall collection was simply called boring. Rumblings that the House of Ledeaux’s best years were behind them could be heard in the cafes and couture houses up and down the Champs Elysees.
Coco had feared Henri might blame her for the lack of enthusiasm over his recent designs, and that he might procure a newer, younger model to display his creations. Hearing the words try it on filled Coco with more than delight, she was flooded with relief.
“Thank you, my precious. I cannot wait,” she uttered, as she headed for the dressing parlor to slip into the magnificent gown.
“Henri,” she called a short time later. “I fear this gown, while endlessly beautiful, may be a little… snug. I cannot seem to zip it.” Coco braced herself. Her husband was renowned throughout the fashion world for his violent temper and lack of tolerance for those who did not appreciate his creations.
“Snug!” Henri called back through tight lips. “Perhaps it is the model who is a little… fat.”
Coco gasped audibly. She was not fat. She had not gained one ounce of weight in the twenty years she had modeled for the House of Ledeaux. A knot the size of a goose egg formed in her throat as she choked back a tear. “That is not true, my dearest,” she replied. “I am the same size zero I have been since I was sixteen.”
“Zero!” Henri exploded. “No wonder the world has soured on my designs. No one can appreciate the finest of fashion when it is worn by pigs.”
The new insult brimmed Coco’s eyes with tears. “I assure you I am no pig, my sweetest. I have not eaten a stitch of solid food since last Friday. And then, it was just five strands of pasta—no sauce.”
Henri shook his head in disgust. “This slovenly behavior only goes to demonstrate your lack of commitment to your career. The twentieth century woman is more slender than the zaftig female of your bygone era. Today’s model must be able to wear a size minus two if she wants to be beautiful. If you cannot do that, my little bacon bit, I am afraid you are out.”
For the next two weeks Coco monitored every morsel of food that crossed her lips. This proved to be a simple challenge since she already consumed next to nothing. Coco augmented her foodless regimen with hours in the sweat box. And while the task was daunting, by the day of the show, she was finally able to zip herself into the magnificent gown.
The unveiling of Henri’s fall collection went off without a hitch. The show was fast-moving, flawless and utterly boring. By the time Coco strutted the magnificent gown onto the catwalk, the guests had all fallen asleep.
What were once rumblings of the demise of the House of Ledeaux grew to a fever pitch. Henri was known to be a bully. Paris’ top designers and fashion critics were eager to see him fall. Even Henri’s bankers could not wait to pull the plug on his financing.
Coco grieved as much for the House of Ledeux as she did for her once magnificent career. Her beauty and slender figure were at one time the toast of the town. Everywhere that Henri went, Coco was on his arm. Their wedding was attended by heads of state and famous designers from around the world. But that was twenty years ago.
Coco did what she could to retain her youth. With the help of a little beauty parlour magic, her hair was the same shade of auburn as when she arrived in Paris. She had staved off wrinkles by using the finest skin creams and oils money could buy. She exercised regularly and ate very little. But Coco was wise enough to realize there is no way a person can stop the hands of time. You might delay it a bit, but in the race against time, time always wins.
Henri sat in his workshop on a rainy Saturday night, sipping cognac with his trusted assistant, Robespierre. He muttered darkly. “The House of Ledeaux, she is doomed.”
Meanwhile, six hundred and sixty-two kilometers from Paris, the coastal city of Marseilles was having a problem of its own—zombies. A zombie infestation that had started in the hills of the Seventh Arrondissement spread into the city proper. Zombie hordes could be seen roaming up and down the Canebière, terrorizing tourists and shop keepers alike. The government had declared Martial law on the city of Marseilles. Zombies were to be shot on sight, and then beheaded.
To keep from being shot and beheaded by the military, most of the city’s residents took refuge elsewhere, away from Marseilles, waiting for the day it was safe to return. Only a few dozen stubborn citizens remained in the city by the sea.
That one city’s nightmare could be the answer a man’s prayers may seem strange, but that is how it is with serendipity. Serendipity is always serendipitous. It was indeed serendipity that Robespierre suggested he and Henri attend the cinema to forget their troubles.
The cinema generally annoyed Henri, but Robespierre felt the old designer needed something to take his mind off his crumbling empire. Henri agreed, and so he went along willingly. It was even more fortuitous that news of the zombie uprising was featured on the evening newsreel as they sat waiting in the darkened theater for the start of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
“Those poor, poor people of Marseilles,” lamented Robespierre, staring up at the flickering images on screen. “Losing loved ones, and then having to leave their homes for who knows how long.”
“Who cares about them,” muttered Henri through the darkness. “I have my own troubles.”
The shaky news camera was focused on rag-tag bands of zombies slogging through the streets of Marseilles, attacking anyone who got in their way. For a few seconds the camera settled on a particular zombie, a young woman of sixteen or seventeen. Her skin was the color of parchment paper, her lifeless eyes, black coals sunken deep into their sockets. She was so terribly thin her joints bulged as if she had rickets.
At the sight of the girl, Henri sat bolt upright, eyes transfixed to the screen. Her clothing had been ripped to shreds, and yet the tatters hung on her bony frame with an amazing grace. The rags flowed like a majestic sail in the breeze as she shambled down the Canebière. She was a sight to behold.
Henri’s breath caught in his throat. “She is sublime,” he rasped.
“The girl,” he breathed in raptured response. But the camera had rested on her for mere seconds, and by the time Robespierre focused, the girl was gone.
“All I see are zombies,” said Robespierre.
“Yes,” Henri replied. His mind was a dither. For he had seen a vision, the most breath-taking creature he had laid eyes upon in many years. It was as if he’d witnessed the coming of Our Lady of Lourdes, for he knew in that moment, the vision he beheld just a few moments earlier—the girl, the zombie—would change their lives forever.
If you’d like to know more about me and my books visit me at http://evanlowe.com/ And head on over to The Bookish Brunette for a Sneak Peek of my summer release The Zombie Always Knocks Twice.
Guest post created by E. Van Lowe of The Zombie Always Knocks Twice
© 2012. All rights reserved.
by E. Van Lowe
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* leave a comment to be eligible to win E's latest book - The Zombie Always Knocks Twice - along with your email if I don't already have it. -offer ends July 15, 2012.
* image source Paris, Les Champs Élysées by Antoine Blanchard, zombie models