NEW RELEASE: Erotic Takeover by Tina Donahue

CLICK ME to BUY!
CLICK ME to BUY!

Hey kids!  I haven’t featured a new release on The Belle in quite a while, so I thought– what the hell.  And boy did I pick a scorcher this time.  My friend and colleague at Ellora’s Cave, Tina Donahue, has just released her latest, Erotic Takeover.  It’s a story about the curvaceous and beautiful Jodi who is longing for the attention of her boss, sexy photographer Mac.  Take a look at this smoldering excerpt and I promise you’ll want to read more…

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True to his word, Mac didn’t touch her in any inappropriate places while he strolled the aisles, pulling boxes and cans off the shelves, reading the ingredients as if he’d never done anything like this before.

Jodi suspected he hadn’t, finding her life an adventure he’d never had to face. For someone like him, it was a fun challenge to budget money, clip coupons, search for all the specials. At least until it became a bore, which would happen eventually.

Her heart cramped at the thought that this would be their first and last grocery trip together. Never had she wanted him more. He was so damn hot and adorable. Like a little boy with his first puzzle, trying to put all the pieces together.

Bent at the waist, Mac studied the store labels beneath the spaghetti sauces. Each showed the cost-per-ounce comparison between the brands.

Two middle-aged women reached past him for their choices. He apparently didn’t notice.

They stared at his luscious profile then gave Jodi the once over, dismissing her as though she had nothing to do with him. She could read their thoughts in their expressions—a hottie like him surely wouldn’t be with someone like her.

Sighing, Jodi checked the time. They’d been here forty minutes already. Mac looked as though he could go all night at this.

“This one,” he said, tapping the bottle of Prego. “It’s three cents cheaper than the other—wait, I think we have a coupon.” He checked his iPhone and beamed as if he’d just inherited Garner’s. “Fifty cents off. Awesome. I’m adding it to your shopping cart.” He put the Prego in her basket. “Where’s the cheap wine?”

“Why?”

“We can’t have spaghetti without booze. What kind of cook are you?”

Jodi lifted her shoulders, her mind stuck on how he’d said “we”, as though they were a couple…or maybe just friends. That had to be it. Mac had fun when he was with her, just as he would with a guy, with the added bonus of sex.

“You can’t cook?” he finally said then sighed. “Looks as if tonight’s on my shoulders.”

“You’re going to make a meal for us?”

“Sure. How hard can it be? If I hit a problem, I’ll Google it on my phone or call Joe.”

She frowned. “Who’s Joe?”

“The chef at Garner’s. Great guy. He can talk me through anything.”

Jodi laughed. “You do know there are cooking instructions on the packages.”

Mac picked up the box of spaghetti. His eyebrows lifted as he read the directions.

God, he was beautiful when he was clueless. “Do you eat out for every meal?”

“Nope.” He tossed the box back in her cart. “I get delivery or takeout sometimes.”

“You don’t even have coffee at your place?”

“There’s a Starbucks less than a mile away.” He leaned into her and murmured, “That’s why God made them, for guys like me.”

Wow, he really was a virgin at this. Tonight was going to be something.

***********************

Whew… I think I need a Mac in my life.  Here’s a bit more about Tina…

I’m an award-winning, bestselling novelist in erotic, paranormal, contemporary and historical romance for Kensington, Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, Siren Publishing, Booktrope, and indie. Yay! Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Romantic Times and numerous online sites have praised my work, and trust me, I’m forever grateful for that. I’ve had my books reach finals in the EPIC competition, one title was named Book of the Year at a review site, and others have won awards in RWA-sponsored contests. I’m actually featured in the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. Talk about feeling like a freaking star. Before my writing career, I was the editor of an award–winning Midwestern newspaper and worked in Story Direction for a Hollywood production company. Outside of being an admitted and unrepentant chocoholic, I’ve flown a single-engine plane (scary stuff), rewired an old house using an electricity for dummies book, and have been known to moan like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally whenever I’m eating anything Mexican or Italian. Yeah, I like to eat (burp).

You can check me out here – yes, I am everywhere!  J

 FB Fanpage: http://on.fb.me/1ChWdD7

Email: tina@tinadonahue.com Website: http://bit.ly/15Xy6LI

Blog: http://bit.ly/1yRB9k9

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1wFmIu6

Twitter: http://bit.ly/1ziy4IU

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1Dl8DHy

Triberr: http://bit.ly/1CE2ec7

Pinterest: http://bit.ly/1yFLeMx

Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/1ChWFkO

My page at TRR: http://bit.ly/1vb7eEc

EC Author Page: http://bit.ly/1Dh9wor

Samhain Author Page: http://bit.ly/1Bvw6mL

Sweet ‘n Sexy Divas: http://bit.ly/1ChWN3K

Romance Books 4 US: http://bit.ly/1JPtfeS

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Now, down to brass tacks— Tina’s also hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway.  You can enter to win a whole slew of eBooks (40 eBooks by 30 different authors)!  Just go on over to Tina’s site and enter to win!  http://www.tinadonahue.com/massive-e-book-giveaway-contest/ 

 

Amazon Reviews: Proceed With Caution

beautykingdomGood morning, Dear Readers!  It’s a beautiful day here in sunny South Carolina.  I do hope it’s sunny and warm where you are.  I thought I’d begin this latest rant (yes, brace yourself.  it’s going to be a rant.) with an exclamation of how excited I am to see the newest chapter in A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice for those that might not know)’s Beauty series.  If you know anything about me at all you know that part of the reason I do what I do is because of the original Beauty trilogy (don’t worry, I’m going to put a link up later so you can get them for yourself). If you’ve read my novel Beast of Burden, you probably recognize that I was very much influenced by Rice.

I read the original Beauty Trilogy for the first time at probably twelve or thirteen years old.  I smuggled them out of my sister’s room (sorry, Lucy Blue) and read all three in a weekend.  They opened my eyes to a world of not just kinky sex (I already had a rudimentary knowledge of sexy stuff at that point) but to a world where the act of reading was actually a sensual experience.  With every word in those books I was shocked, delighted, aroused and utterly intoxicated.  By words.  The descriptions of the people and places and experiences are so visceral and those images have stayed with me all these years.  I owe Ms. Rice a tremendous debt of gratitude.  She made me a reader, a writer and a woman in that single weekend with just under a thousand pages of text.  Since then I’ve read those books all the way through at least a dozen times.  I had to purchase a new set a few years ago because the ones I had were missing pages and the covers were torn.  I consider them to be my personal reference.  When I’m writing an erotic book and I get lost, I read Beauty’s Punishment (my favorite of the trilogy) so that I can remember that erotic stories are not just about sex, but about the people and the story.  The words. Nowhere in those books does anyone talk about dripping wet love holes. Nor does the dialogue make you cringe.  (“I fuck.  Hard.”  What?!!)  The world in which Beauty and her companions exist is a world where sexual slavery is not only accepted, but longed for.  It’s a symbol of status.  Therefore, there are no silly contracts or instructions on how to properly flog your sub. Rice has no interest writing a BDSM instruction manual or a treatise on how to properly engage in an abusive relationship.  It’s a FANTASY.  It seems with all the erotic fiction out there, we’ve forgotten that these are FANTASIES that are supposed to entertain and titillate.  Not inspire a lifestyle.  But I digress…

Now comes the rant.

I was reading the Amazon reviews of the new book, Beauty’s Kingdom, this morning when I got to work.  I plan to go and get my copy this weekend, but I was curious as to what others were saying.  They were all pretty positive, but I’m having a hard time believing any of them.  NONE of the reviewers on that first page had ever read the first books.  NONE.  One of them claimed that “The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty” came out in 1999.  Another said that she hadn’t read the originals because she didn’t think that they would be her cup of tea, but she got an ARC of this and thought what the hell. I get the distinct impression that all of these folks picked it up and thought, “I wonder if this is as good as 50 Shades?”  Which just cuts me to the core for a number of reasons that I’m sure you can guess based on past posts.  The reason why this is annoying to me is because what I really want to know is— will Beauty’s Kingdom stand up alongside the original trilogy?  Is it edgy and sexy and dripping with raw sensuality like the originals?  None of these folks who I’m sure are very intelligent people could tell me because they hadn’t done their research.  And if they’re getting ARCs, then they aren’t just the “average reader” anymore.  They’re a pro reviewer, for lack of a better term.  The “average reader” is looking to them for guidance before they spend the money.  They have a responsibility, in my opinion.  It would be like Roger Ebert reviewing Star Wars after only having watched the last fifteen minutes.

At any rate, despite the purist rage, I’m really excited to get my copy of Beauty’s Kingdom in a couple of days.  I’ll be sure to post my review here when I’m done AND on Amazon.  If for no other reason, then I believe in supporting authors– even superstars like Anne Rice.  And I wouldn’t be a true indie author if I didn’t remind you…

HEY!  If you like erotic retellings of fairy tales, try Beast of Burden by Alexandra Christian!  Don’t believe me?  Try an excerpt…

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His words were cut short by another booming of thunder so loud it echoed off the stone walls, throwing the oil lamp tobeastofburden_original the floor at his feet. Without care for who he was or how he frightened her, Sascha leapt from the bed and threw herself into his arms. At first he was paralyzed with shock, having no idea how to react to this sudden change. After a few moments of her sobbing into his shoulder, he found himself wrapping his arms around her protectively.

“It’s alright,” he soothed. “You’re safe.”

“No I’m not,” she cried. “I’m as unsafe as any one girl could possibly be. Locked up in this castle without a soul that I know. A slave that has no idea what to do or say!” She burst into another torrent of sobs that left her shuddering against him. In a swift movement, he lifted her into his arms and carried her to the chaise by the fire.

The embers had burned low, but still offered some illumination and warmth. He cradled her body against his, tucking her head under his chin. “You’ve nothing to fear, little one,” he purred into her ear softly. “No harm will come to you here.”

“I wish I could believe you, My Lord,” she sniffled.

“Why can’t you?”

She hesitated, the words catching in her throat. How could she tell him how he frightened her? How the slightest glance from him brought terror and arousal in one crushing wave. It was too humiliating and shameful to admit. “I just…I mean…you…”

“Are you afraid of me, Sascha?” He asked this question so matter-of-factly that she nodded before she could stop herself. She blushed deeply and he chuckled. “Put your mind at ease, girl. I promise that it’s not my intention to hurt you.”

They sat on the chaise for several minutes, neither one speaking. The only sounds were the crackling of the fire and the storm raging beyond the walls. Finally, Sascha stared up at her new Master and realized the absurdity of their situation. “My Lord?”

“Cianan.”

“What?” She looked up at him, clearly confused.

“My name. Cianan. Anyone who awakens me in the middle of the night should call me by my given name.” He smiled warmly then tensed again. “But only here.”

Sascha nodded. “Cianan,” she began, her voice still trembling. “Why are you suddenly being so kind to me?”

“You thought me unkind before?” She could only stare at him. “Perhaps I can be a little rough around the edges,” he admitted. “I never meant to be unkind. I beg your pardon if it seemed so.” She seemed to accept this and their silence resumed. She relaxed into his embrace and he sighed, relieved she wasn’t going to run. He inhaled deeply, taking in the scent of her, committing it to memory. Every breath made him believe in her more and more. She was his mate and he would do everything he could to convince her of that fact. “I can feel more questions burning on your tongue, little one.”

Sascha blushed again. “Well…I was wondering…the library…”

“What about it?” His jaw tensed.

“Might I borrow a book? I like to read,” she asked nervously. She kept her eyes trained on the flames before her, not wanting to see any anger on his face. “And I noticed you had a beautiful library.”

“As I’ve told you, you may go anywhere within the castle grounds you like…”

“Except for the cellar,” she finished. “But why not there?” This was the real question that burned on her tongue. The greatest mystery that had grown in her mind.

“It is none of your affair,” he answered stiffly, moving her carefully aside and standing by the fireplace. “It’s my place and you are never to enter. Do you understand?” His eyes flashed with a sudden fury and Sascha cowered.

“Of course, My Lord,” she replied, her eyes cast downward. “I will respect your wishes.”

He looked down at her, trying to smile reassuringly. “Of course you will.” The clock on the other side of the room struck the hour and Sascha yawned. “We should get you into bed lest you be exhausted in the morning.”

“And what should I expect in the morning?” she asked, allowing him to help her to her feet and lead her toward the bed. “Shall I report to the kitchens or the stables?”

He looked puzzled. “Neither.” He pulled back the covers and gestured for her to climb into the bed.

She obeyed and continued. “Well… I was sent here as your slave. But looking around me and the clothes given for me to wear, I just can’t figure what my duties should be.”

“To do whatever I require,” he answered simply, tucking the coverlet around her body. “And right now I require that you sleep.” He turned to leave, but was stopped with her hand on his arm.

“Couldn’t you just stay with me, My Lord?”

He raised his eyebrow. “Of course not. It wouldn’t be appropriate…”

“Please,” she pleaded. “Just until I’ve gone to sleep.” Her eyes looked past him to the window where the wind and rain still pounded at the stone walls. “Storms frighten me so.”

He sighed, defeated by her eyes again. He looked around and pulled a chair from the other side of the room to her bedside and sat down. “It seems that of the two of us, I am more slave to you.”

Because life is too short to read crap

Lexxx Christian:

A new project from Lucy Blue and YOURS truly! Take a look at what’s going on in the Hen House…

Originally posted on lucybluecastle:

the king's tutor coverLike more than 20 million other people, I read e-books on a Kindle, and my favorite genre is romance. A quick search on Amazon for romance titles this morning yielded me 365,065 options to choose from. I know from experience that there are treasures to be found all the way up and down the charts. But the vast majority of these 365,065 e-books calling themselves romances are total, unmitigated, stinky, slimy, sloppy crap. The Wild West world of e-publishing combined with a media that continually broadcasts romance as that world’s most popular and therefore most potentially profitable genre have shaken stuff out of the bushes that would make Grace Livingston Hill say “Fuck this noise” and switch to thrillers. Well-meaning amateurs who couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper sack with a box cutter and a blowtorch have unwittingly conspired with cynical assholes who say flat out they…

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Reblog: Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work

Lexxx Christian:

*shouting*

Originally posted on Armand Rosamilia:

This post pretty much sums it all up… and makes me want to buy the author’s book(s) now… so there!

http://www.whimsydark.com/blog/2015/4/13/please-shut-up-why-self-promotion-as-an-author-doesnt-work

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Introducing Diverse Sword & Sorcery Series-Minister Knights of Souls

Lexxx Christian:

I’m already in love with these books. We need more diversity in fiction, kittens and Nicole Kurtz is doing it so freaking well. Go grab her Minister Knights series!

Originally posted on Other Worlds Pulp:

Soul Cages c (2)

Available in Ebook: $3.99 | Print $12.00

Enjoy elves? Magic? Sorcerers? Swords? Allow me to introduce my series, The Soul Cages: A Minister Knight Novel. The series’ first installment is The Soul Cages: A Minister Knight Novel. The second short story, Marshall, the Minister of Souls, is set to be published by Mocha Memoirs Press in May.  The other stories in the series have been written and will be published bi-monthly over the next three months.

The novel has received 5 Star-Reviews from Amazon.com. Here are some excerpts:

“Nicole Givens Kurtz has written an awesome tale of valor, love, greed and sibling rivalry around a brilliant story about good versus evil. She does a good job with a host of characters and lots of suspense and drama. She made each character in this saga seem very human although you are aware that they have some superhuman tendencies. Each page seems…

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OPEN SUBMISSION CALL: AN IMPROBABLE TRUTH, THE PARANORMAL ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

SUBMISSION CALL!
SUBMISSION CALL!

It’s been a busy spring so far and I hope that continues.  Not because I particularly like not having any time to myself, but because busy means that good work is being produced.  I’ve finished a novel and thrown three different shorts out there for publication in the very near future.  Stay tuned on that front.  But today, kids, I’m not going to talk about me and my exciting projects.  I know– shocker!  Well, I suppose this one IS one of my exciting projects.  Probably the MOST exciting project that I’m working on right now because this one is near and dear to my heart.

Recently, I was working on a story for another anthology call when this idea hit me like a ton of bricks!  My husband and I were talking about said anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories and how the market is going to be so ripe for those right now.  Both of us are avid Sherlockians and are very excited about the upswing, due to the release of the copyrights.  We both expressed a desire to write a new and different sort of Sherlock story that hadn’t been seen before.  Something horrific and bloody and paranormal.  And then it hit me– do your own, Lexxx!  So I managed to sweet talk my amazing publisher at Mocha Memoirs Press to let me put together an anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories that were specifically horror.  The mystery should be paranormal and should NOT have the Scooby Doo moment.  You know the one.  The one where Holmes solves the mystery and pulls the mask off the ghoul only to find Old Mr. Frederickson underneath.  No masked men, but actual vampires, ghosts, demons or elder gods.

So if you think that this might be something you’re interested in, CLICK on the tab marked “An Improbable Truth” to see the specifics on submissions.  The short version is this:

Submission Window:  April 1- July 1, 2015

Payment:  Split Royalties + 1 contributor copy

Word Count:  3,000- 8,000 words

An Improbable Truth is looking for stories that set Holmes on a paranormal adventure.  The settings may be any place and time from the original Victorian England all the way to modern day, future and any fantasy world in between (weird west, cyberpunk, steampunk, noir, Lovecraftian, dystopia).  The only catch is that the stories must have a distinctly dark and paranormal edge.  Push the envelope and let the mystery run wild.  Ghosts, serial killers, vampires, zombies, monsters of all types are welcome.  Keep in mind:  if this book were on the shelf at your local bookshop, it would be in the HORROR section (sci-fi is great as long as it’s Aliens-type sci-fi and not Star Trek-type sci-fi).

…oh, and we are NOT looking for erotica.  I don’t know why I felt I had to mention that, but well… there it is.

So that’s it!  Get those creative juices flowing and pen me a story, Authors.  Don’t worry– it can be your first time. We’ll be gentle.  If you have any questions, you can contact me at animprobabletruth.mmp@gmail.com and I’ll be glad to take a crack at it.

And ladies of the club . . .

Lexxx Christian:

Just in case you guys don’t have a big sister to give you that kick in the butt, I thought I’d reblog this for your consideration.

Originally posted on lucybluecastle:

librarianMy mama was always my first reader and main support system as a writer. And whenever I would get discouraged and start complaining that this whole becoming a New York Times bestselling author thing was taking too damned long, she would remind me that Helen Hooven Santmyer was 89 years old when her third novel, And Ladies of the Club, finally hit it big. “And she wrote that book for fifty years!” she would finish with an air of triumph suggesting she had solved my problem entirely. God rest her soul and seat her next to Patrick Swayze, she couldn’t understand why she hadn’t helped.

I was reminded of this earlier today when I heard that a talented writer and publisher of my acquaintance was desperately discouraged. She’s been at this thing for a long time, too, and major success still eludes her. She writes great books, but she doesn’t…

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And so it begins…

MystiConWell, Con season is upon me once again.  That magical time when myself and author Tally Johnson take off to make our public appearances in the hopes of winning friends and influencing people.  Our convention year always begins with my personal favorite southeast convention– MystiCon in Roanoke, VA.  It started out as a reboot of a smaller convention the first year we went but has now grown to monumental proportions.  As in, if you don’t have your tickets yet– too bad.  They’re already sold out for the weekend.

MystiCon is pretty special to me.  The first time I applied, I was super-excited to get accepted because Roanoke, VA has familial connections for me.  My mother was from Salem which is about 15 miles outside of Roanoke.  We used to visit my grandmother there at least once a month when I was a child.  Whenever we went to the mall Christmas shopping or out to dinner– we usually drove into Roanoke.  In fact, the hotel where the convention is held– we drove past it countless times.  The mall where we would always go shopping with my gran is less than a block down the road.  Some of my best memories were made there in Roanoke.  So that’s why I’ll always be faithful to MystiCon.  It’s like going home.

Another reason to go is the people.  Tally and I have made so many amazing friends through the con circuit and we don’t get to see them too often.  So MystiCon is just this big party where we get to hang with our friends we never see.  Mark Davis, Gail Z. Martin, Christina Stiles, Andy Deane and the Bella Morte gang, and countless others will be on hand not just to share their knowledge on panels or sell their wares– they’ll be there to reconnect with friends and make new ones.  That’s the best part of convention season.

So, if you’re in the area and are planning on coming to MystiCon this year, stop over and see me.  I’d love to say hi, hang out and have a write-in or just have a drink.  And of course, I will have books for sale.  Here is my schedule:

Friday, 2/27:     10pm:  Iron Author

Saturday, 2/28:   10am: The Weird South

                             7pm: Author Readings (sexy edition)

10pm: Broad Universe Rapid Fire Readings (horror edition)

Sunday, 3/1:        11am: How to Get Rejected (I’m expert at this one.)

                              1pm: Say What???

Women in Horror Spotlight: Teresa Bergen

CLICK ME TO LEARN MORE!
CLICK ME TO LEARN MORE!

My final installment in the Women in Horror Spotlight series is a writer whose work is featured in the upcoming State of Horror: Louisianna anthology from Charon Coin Press.  Teresa Bergen will be sharing with us some of her influences, difficulties and triumphs on her writing journey.  Stay tuned for tomorrow:  I’ll be giving an update about this week’s appearances at MystiCon.  I know, it’s that time of year once more!!!

What influences your stories? 

I generally like stories with lots of basis in my personal reality, and horror that somehow involves my own fears. And I like humor mixed in. At least something that is funny to me. For example, in my story “Binky,” I draw on the idea of not knowing how to raise someone else’s child – a situation I was partially engaged in when I wrote it — and also my experience being initiated into transcendental meditation at an early age and being warned to never tell my mantra to anybody. Do I believe that sharing my mantra will really result in disaster? No. But have I ever told anybody? No way! This is something I find funny about myself, that I simultaneously hold these two beliefs, and something I found entertaining about my character Gloria.

I’m currently working on a trilogy of novels about a girl whose mother forces her to go on a yoga retreat in India. While there, the girl gets bitten by a snake and develops latent cobra powers. Since I’m a yoga teacher as well as a writer it gave me a chance to draw out many of the funny and weird things about American yoga practitioners through the eyes of my reluctant young yogi protagonist.

How do you balance writing and the realities of life? 

Time is the biggest problem. I do lots of freelance writing, editing and transcription, and there are only so many hours in a day. And only so many hours I can sit and look at a computer screen. Unfortunately, writing online slideshows and ghostwriting company blogs pays a lot better than fiction. So fiction only gets a little piece of the writing day.  

There’s also the problem of doing a bunch of different things to support my fiction writing habit. I always thought I’d be a semi-financially successful fiction writer by this point in my life. (What gave me that conviction? I don’t know). Instead, I amassed a variety of ways to make money. Which, when I list them all off, makes me sound like a dilettante or a lunatic. So when people ask me what I do for a living, I generally just tell them the most relevant thing.

 Also, cleaning gets short shrift. Dust bunnies crouch in corners of my house. Moss grows on my car. And the yard has devolved into survival of the fittest.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing or what was the hardest part about writing your story?

One of the harder things for me about writing horror is making it convincing and believable enough without spelling out every detail. Unlike sci fi, horror doesn’t always give you the whole explanation of why weird things are happening in the story. Then again, I want some sort of remotely plausible foundation to anchor my characters and their macabre crises. As a reader, I hate to be completely lost and unsure what the writer was trying to say.

The ending of “Binky” was hard for me because I wanted it to be clear without pounding the reader over the head. Nor did I want the end to be predictable. Also, there’s the why of the story, which is like the why of raising children. Why was the stepdaughter so awful to Gloria? Was it deliberate? Was she just a bad seed? Would she have outgrown the phase and come to like/tolerate/love Gloria if things had ended differently? Some things can’t be known or explained.

Women in Horror Spotlight: Pamela Troy

CLICK ME TO LEARN MORE!
CLICK ME TO LEARN MORE!

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…. Why yes, it’s another consecutive post on The Belle!  I know, I’m excited too.  But not nearly as excited as I am to tell you about our latest author, Pamela Troy.  She is featured in State of Horror: Louisianna, coming soon from Charon Coin Press.

What influences your stories?

Nobody could tell a ghost story (or a joke) like my parents. My childhood home in Louisiana was full of short fiction anthologies, and outside was an environment dark with bayous, Spanish moss, and racial guilt. All of that was certainly an influence, but what truly started me on the road to writing horror fiction was an Alfred Hitchcock anthology – Stories that Scared Even Me. Several of its stories have remained with me after forty years, including Margaret St. Clair’s “The Estuary,” Theodore Sturgeon’s “It,” and William Wood’s “One of the Dead,” a truly great haunted house story. It has a final line that still trickles down my back like melting ice when I read it.

I discovered  Elizabeth Bowen after I knew I wanted to write. Her stories showed me the most effective chills are inspired, not by graphic descriptions, but by sparking the reader’s imagination. “The Cat Jumps,” the story of party in a house where a husband had murdered his wife, is frightening because it’s less a haunted house story than a fable about everyday misogyny and the violence lurking just beneath its surface. I remember reading it in college and thinking “If only I could write something like that!”

How do you balance writing and the realities of life?

I am lucky. My husband is a writer, so he understands what’s involved, and I work in the Events Department at a cultural treasure here in San Francisco – The Mechanics’ Institute, a very old membership library. Every day I come into contact with both professional and aspiring writers, and that definitely lessens the inherent loneliness of writing. My job doesn’t require me to go in until the afternoon, so I can go to my desk first thing in the morning, drink a cup of coffee, and spend at least two hours writing or editing or sending stories out.

One reality writers have to confront is rejection, so it helps to have a diamond-hard ego and an obsession with storytelling. While I enjoy good fiction and admire other writers, the most fascinating stories for me are based on what I see and hear around me at home, at work, at parties, at family gatherings, in dreams, or in pictures and photographs. Those are the stories I want to embellish and tell, the stories I’m convinced only I can do right.  “Doing it right” is never out of reach. You just have to do it wrong a few times in as many drafts as it takes.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

The long slog towards a good, finished story is my biggest challenge. My stories always go through several very different incarnations, with additions, subtractions, shifts in emphasis, etc. If I feel my attention flagging, I set the story aside and move on to another one. Otherwise, I’ll get to the point where I despise every word. Later, when I look at it with fresh eyes, it’s often clear exactly what needs to be taken out, rejiggered, and rewritten.

“Risen” had to go through that process longer than many of my other stories. Any writing based heavily on childhood memories runs the risk of including too much and going on for too long. You want to invite everyone to the party.  I found myself thinking “I must include him,” or “that incident was so interesting I’ve got to figure out a way to fold it in” or “that image is unforgettable. Surely there’s a place for it!”

The result was a vast, meandering splat of words on the screen in front of me, none of which had any real meaning any more. So, I put it aside and went back to it a year later. Then I was able to tell my year-ago-self “oh, that’s good, but for pity’s sake what are you going on about here? And what is he doing in this story? Can’t you see the poor man is lost? Find some other story for him. Yes, yes,” (ruthlessly scratching with my pencil) “I’m sure you found that very interesting, but it’s not interesting, Cupcake. Out it goes. The interesting part is in the next paragraph, and you need to build a bit on that.”

That’s the part that makes the “slog” worthwhile — the moment when the branches part and you can see exactly where you’re going.

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