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

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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

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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.

Women in Horror Spotlight: Melodie Romeo

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CLICK ME TO LEARN MORE!

With a last name like Romeo, you’d think that today’s guest was a romance author.  But she’s our next spotlight on women who write horror.  Melodie Romeo is featured in State of Horror:  Louisianna and Paying the Ferryman, both coming soon from Charon Coin Press.  Today she’s going to share some of her thoughts on inspiration and how she manages to balance her writer life with her “real life.”  I hope she can give me a few pointers in that arena…

What influences your stories? 

A writer can find settings, characters, plot, action, and themes for her stories all around her. I have had the opportunity to travel a great deal within the US and spent much time in many locales that have provided me with rich settings and interesting people. But I am an historian and find that I am probably most influenced by history. To me, the most frightening tales, the most horrifying monsters, the vilest villains, are those that were – or are – real. When I set out to write my first work of horror, I looked at history’s antagonists for the most evil sadist I could find. A lot has been written about Hitler, and I wanted to go farther back in time. That is when I came upon Vlad the Impaler, the original Prince Dracula. There is no comparison between Bram Stoker’s fictional vampire and the real life mass-murdering tyrant, so I settled on him as my bad guy. Admittedly, the title Vlad, a Novel is not terribly original, but I wanted people to immediately recognize who the book was about.  I also include a part of myself in many of my stories’ heroes, as well as drawing on physical or personality traits of people I know.  Sometimes I am influenced by qualities I spy in the works of other writers.  I find that the sum of my accumulated knowledge and life experiences influences my stories.

How do you balance writing and the realities of life? 

Balancing a writing career with the realities of everyday life can be quite challenging, but you can usually find time to do the things you are most strongly motivated to do. When I was teaching high school, I would always carry the notebook with my current project to take advantage of before and after school as well as planning periods. In those days I never went anywhere without my notebook and pencil (but today I admit have come to depend on the conveniences of a laptop.)  Some of my best work was done at the lake where I would go fishing with my partner on Saturdays. Well, I wouldn’t actually be fishing – I would be sitting nearby enjoying the atmosphere, writing away, a pile of reference books within reach.  My children always came first, but I quickly learned to incorporate them into the process. Often the “bedtime story” would be a chapter out of one of my novels and as they got older they became a source of inspiration. When working on historical fiction or fantasy, my son would be a creative sounding board, suggesting something more exciting. My daughter is a connoisseur of horror who has been a real inspiration to me in this genre. She says, “You need something exciting or intriguing on the very first page – then later you can add in all that historical background of yours. If a story doesn’t catch my attention on the first page, I don’t read it.” I am also blessed with a remarkable partner who spent many years as a professor’s assistant. She gets in on the action, lending her superb proof reading skills and word choice suggestions as she is the most well-read person on the planet.  By always taking advantage of spare time to write and including my family in the process, I have been fairly successful balancing my writing with my professional and family responsibilities.

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

Every composer knows that there are only 12 notes in the chromatic scale and a finite number of ways to arrange them. Likewise, with so many millions of stories that have already been told, the most challenging aspect of writing for me is to come up with something original. One of my college professors said, “To be successful you need to say something that hasn’t been said yet, or say it in a different way.”  When jotting down various plot outlines for Paying the Ferryman, everything seemed a bit too familiar. So I said to myself, “What can I do that is different?” That’s when the thought crossed my mind that the main character, the dead person, be the villain instead of the hero. I also suffer from being a perfectionist. I have book shelves full of unfinished manuscripts because once I got to a certain point I decided, “This story is so lame.”  In short, I find that the most challenging aspect of my writing is creating a finished product in which I can be satisfied.

About Melodie Romeo is a native of Vicksburg, Mississippi. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Southern Mississippi and a master’s degree in History from the University of West Florida. Ms Romeo is a retired school teacher who currently travels the country as an over the road trucker with Prime, Inc. Her first book, Vlad, a Novel, was published in 2002. She has short stories published in anthologies by Seventh Star Press and Charon Press. The mother of two, she resides in Utica, MS with her partner of 18 years.

Women in Horror Spotlight: Margaret L. Colton

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Today’s Women in Horror Month Spotlight is none other than Margaret L. Colton!  I’ve known Margie for a short while, but in that time I’ve determined two things:  that she’s just awesome in general and that her writing reflects the twisted yet fun-loving voice that we’ve all grown to love.  She’s written stories for the State of Horror series as well as the upcoming anthology from Charon Coin Press, Paying the Ferryman.  She’s also pretty near and dear to my heart because she’s bringing edgy paranormal romance to CCP by co-editing the long-awaited Carpe Noctem: Truly, Madly, Deeply.

What influences your stories?

Story influences are all around me every day.  They manifest themselves usually at the exact wrong time, but then worm their way into my psyche and grow into something that must then come out.  Usually the biggest influences are emotions—the stronger the emotion, the better the story idea.  Often times people who have irritated me or down right angered me make appearances in some form in the stories.  I will see a news story and think wow that person really deserves badness, and then fictional justice is served in a heinous way.  It is great to write horror sometimes!  On the other hand, sometimes the setting is the influence.  Traveling around, seeing amazing places, even tourist traps, really get my creativity going.  What happened in that 100-year-old farmhouse or abandoned hotel?  What is going on behind the scenes of the swanky resort?  I love stories that combine the actual history of a place and twist it into a dark story—just on the edge enough to be plausible, yet fictitious and creative as possible.  Sometimes I really enjoy taking a true history from somewhere and twisting it, placing it somewhere else.

I truly believe that if people just keep an open mind they find inspiration, a plethora of story ideas everywhere in people, places, just everywhere.  Even just talking to people and joking around could lead to a great story idea.  For me, once the inspiration hits, I usually have a scene or character in my head and then just have to let the characters take me where they want to go.  It is like a brain dump obsession.  Of course later editing becomes a nightmare, but once the idea strikes it needs to be lived with, developed and gotten out of my head.

How do you balance writing and the realities of life?

If I had the perfect answer to balancing writing and real life, I would write it, sell it, go on a speaking tour and be fabulously rich! There is no easy answer nor is there an answer that will work for everyone, and I would go as far as to say there is not an answer writers want to hear.  The reality is that people have to eat, have shelter and all those necessities and creature comforts to do that we have to have income and therefore real jobs. It is a myth or dream people have of quitting their jobs, writing the best-selling novel and living off of royalties sipping cocktails in the sun—and really has anyone actually done that ever? Like so many other writers I get obsessed to write and complain constantly there is no time to write, while every day I get up and go to work, come home and make dinner and be a person.  I love my family and friends and they are so important to me, they have to come first.  I will stop writing to play with the baby or listen to the day my daughter had, or lend an ear to a friend in need.  I’m a writer, but I’m a mom, grandma, and friend first.  That being said, I cut out time nearly every day for writing or writing-related activities.  I don’t know how balanced it is but I have to do both the family thing and the writing thing. I feel like it is important to take care of yourself so you can take care of others, which sounds great, but in reality I sacrifice myself more for others, and usually the sacrifice is sleep.  No magic formula for balance, I just try to do the best I can every day.

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

The biggest challenge to my writing besides having time—which is a constant—is finding and keeping the voice of the characters. I am not really a plotter, so when the voices are there I have to get them down as soon as I can so I don’t lose them.  I can write out of order, because usually there is a particular scene that calls to me.  Once I have that the rest of the story fits around it—well that sounds much smoother than it is.  Because of the way I write, editing is a must, and of course self-editing is a particular challenge.  It is ironic that as an editor I always dread the editing process.  Don’t we all just want someone to say “Perfection! Don’t change one marvelous word in your masterpiece!” Loll! I’m still waiting to hear that…

About Margaret L. Colton

Margaret L. Colton is an avid history buff, especially in the areas of Medieval Europe, Ancient Greece and American History, she loves all things history. She has been imparting her historical knowledge on her students for the past 12 years, teaching not only historical subjects but psychology as well. She teaches in the same district she graduated from. Even though she has two Master’s degrees in education, the writing community called to her.

Before beginning to write again after many years, she began editing and recently started ML Colton Editorial Services. Currently, she has a short story in State of Horror: New Jersey, North Carolina, Louisiana and others set to be published early next year. Besides dabbling with some short stories, she is the Editor-in-Chief at Charon Coin Press and has anthologies coming out early this year entitled Paying the Ferryman, and Carpe Noctem: Truly, Madly, Deeply.

She has two beautiful daughters and a granddaughter who share her love of books and fun and some amazing friends around her. Even though she lives in Missouri and is a rabid Cardinals fan, she loves to travel to some of her favorite places like New Orleans, Florida and Hawaii.

Margaret L Colton can be reached at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MLColtoneditservice

Email: MLColtoneditsvc@gmail.com

Women in Horror Spotlight: J.C. O’Brien

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In my neverending quest for good content on The Belle, I’ve decided to feature some amazing new female writers.  In case you’ve been living under a rock, February is Women in Horror Month.  That might not seem so special until you consider that the horror genre is still largely a man’s world.  In fact, some loathsome internet troll published a rant last week calling female horror writers “hags.”  I don’t think it was intended as a compliment.  As for me, I’ve always seen these types of things as a bit of a double-edged sword.  In the future, I hope to be a “person” who writes horror, not a “woman” who writes horror.  But until then, raising awareness is never a bad idea.  So in that spirit, I’m spotlighting some amazing female horror writers whose work is currently up for grabs in the new State of Horror Series from Charon Coin Press.  Today’s victim:  SoH: Tennessee contributor, J.C. O’Brien!

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What influences your stories?

When I switched to genre fiction, I thought I was leaving the PC crap to write exciting stories. Ironically, shifting my focus to blood and action freed me to create situations that explore how woman are in the world, not how we’d like them to be and what happens when we face the real fears and struggles that come with being born into a particular body.

I want to create a visceral experience for the reader so they feel what my characters are feeling. That means I’ll grab anything — bits of overheard conversation, a smell that only comes out at night, the possibility of loss as my son goes into surgery — and mix it into a story.

Back in the ’80s there was a push to “clean up fairy tales” by stripping out their darker elements (but not the way women were treated). Kids ended up having nightmares. We need the darker side to find our way to balance and stories are a very safe place to explore things we might never do. On the other hand, if someone wants to take me to a bomb range and let me blow stuff up, I’m in.

How do you balance writing and the realities of life?

By getting very no-bullshit about my priorities.  If I don’t write, I’m weird. If I write after a long day of other work, my writing sucks. So I take care of my writing after taking care of the dog.  When I worked a day gig, I wrote on my lunch hour with ear buds in my ears. I wrote a novel in a year that way — lunch hours plus some weekends editing. Train yourself to write when you touch your keyboard. Save Facebook (or other social) for your phone. Once your writing is protected you need to train yourself to turn off and be present for your loved ones and your body. Writing challenges us mentally and physically. Finding exercise that takes me to another place works for me. I’ve belly danced for 18 years. Taking time to move my body to different rhythms has taught me a lot about pacing and structure. In other words however your need to spend your time, you can use it to inform your writing. You can also use your writing as an excuse to interview people, visit dive bars and discuss impolite topics.

Paying attention to loved ones is easier now that my son is a teenager. When he was a toddler, I could blast Middle Eastern music, but a putting a pen to paper or my fingers on a keyboard drove him wild. He’s much happier now that he can bounce story ideas with me. In fact, he’s the one who came up with the title to my story for “State of Horror: Tennessee.”

My husband’s a jazz musician. He gets the need to tend to your art, but the family schedule can be a nightmare since we share a single car. I’d love to tell you there’s a great solution for that one, but I haven’t found it yet.

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

Since I like writing violent scenes, I was surprised to find my first draft of “From Love to Dust” was too sweet. I rewrote large sections of it until it creeped my husband out. Then I sent it off.

There’s a fine line between caring enough about a project to take it through the necessary edits and loving it so much that it hides in your computer without ever meeting a reader.

I have two projects waiting for me to get over myself and approach them with the respect, care and expectation I use when editing anyone else’s work. I can be alternately easier and harder on myself than necessary.

A great deal can be learned by reading other people’s work and trying their approach yourself until you get a story you like, but the real game is trusting yourself. You have to believe you can write a story and then you have to believe you can finish it and that strangers will like it and so on. Or you have to find a story that you want to tell so much that the rest of that stuff doesn’t matter and I think that’s the clearer way. That doesn’t mean that the writing and editing will be easier, it just means that you’ll have a guide telling you what to leave in and what to leave out. I still believe the best advice is to write the story you want to read.

Spotlight: Suz deMello’s “Perilous Play: The Real Fifty Shades”

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CLICK ME TO BUY!

One of my favorites is stopping by The Belle today.  And she’s bringing news of her newest piece, “Perilous Play.”  It’s a memoir of one woman’s journey into the real BDSM experience.  Through her exceptionally honest and intriguing first-hand memoir, she gives her readers a glimpse into a world far more erotic than anything conjured up in Fifty Shades.  Enjoy!

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The cover of Perilous Play states: based on a true story. The fact is, very little in this memoir is fiction.

Places and names have been changed. The time in my life when these events occurred is altered. One scene was added, to wrap up the story and tie it in a tidy bow.

But otherwise, it’s all true.

Check it out:

One woman’s journey into the contemporary kink underworld, Perilous Play is Suz deMello’s explosive personal account of her experiences with BDSM. Engaging and honest, this groundbreaking memoir will grab you and never let you go.

 Here’s an excerpt about one of my first BDSM experiences, with a man I call Trapper Hart. Trapper is a real person. That’s not his true name of course, but I gave my word that I wouldn’t reveal his secret life. I don’t owe him anything—not after the way he treated me—but I do keep my word.

We explored the dungeon and the equipment. The play space was clean and nicely decorated, with the usual emphasis on chains and black leather. There were Saint Andrew’s crosses, racks and slings, all of which intrigued me. The old-fashioned dentist’s chair startled me. I’ve been with a dentist, and little about him had been sexy.

Upstairs was a huge, romantically draped bed with sturdy-looking bedposts. A few feet away was a contraption that looked as though it had been designed with bondage and discipline in mind. It had a horizontal ring to hold the face and head attached to a surface, perhaps three feet long, for one’s torso to rest upon. Arm and leg supports, and every inch of it was padded. Every part of it had rings for the attachment of ropes or chains.

I looked at him and then this…bondage device…and then back at him. He smiled.

I said, “I want you to know that when we do this, I’m going to develop some deep feelings for you. I’m falling for you.” I know myself fairly well, and am aware that for me, sex and intimacy are intertwined. I wish I didn’t feel that way, but I tend to become emotionally involved with the men I’m fucking. The weekend had already been very intimate, and deeper intimacy was coming. I asked Trapper, “Can you deal with that?”

I needed to know that I would be taken care of. Not just my body but my mind and heart as well.

He told me, “Yes, there will be a role for you.”

A niggle of doubt itched me briefly, but at the time, that was enough for me to hear. I was eager to advance into this new experience, one I had craved for so long.

He directed me to remove some of my outerwear before hooding and gagging me. Then he guided me to the whatever-it-was and eased me onto it face down. He secured wrist and ankle restraints around me, then tied them to it. Lifting my skirt, he cut off my black lace panties.

I told myself never to wear panties around Trapper again. What for?

So I was bound to immobility and completely available. I was gagged, which meant that I could maybe grunt out my “safe word” if necessary. Or not.

Again, I don’t recall exactly what happened…the amnesiac effect of the oxytocin, I suppose. I remember being spanked, flogged and thoroughly fucked. I remember being smacked repeatedly with something—I didn’t know what, but I suspected it was made of leather—that hurt like a motherfucker. I recall begging him, “Please, sir, please sir, please sir…” through the gag.

I remember coming a lot.

I remember Trapper bending over me, covering me with his body and heat, hissing into my ear, “Whose are you?”

To which I promptly responded, “I’m yours.”

And I meant it.

 If what you have read intrigues you, here’s where you can get it:

http://tinyurl.com/MemoirDeMello (Amazon)

 About me:

suz w name venice maskBest-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written nineteen books in several genres, including memoir, nonfiction, erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms as Totally Bound and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

 Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

 A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

–Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com

–For editing services, email her at suzdemello@gmail.com

–Befriend her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SuzDeMello

–She tweets @Suzdemello

–Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/suzdemello/

–Goodreads: http://bit.ly/SuzATGoodreads

–Her current blog is http://www.TheVelvetLair.com

Querying Author’s Lament: Stop Being Lazy and Triflin’

me and amy (2)So kids, its been some time since we’ve gotten in touch.  I would give some excuse about the holidays and making resolutions and all that crap.  But that’s what it would be– crap.  The truth is, I’ve been balls deep (I’ve ALWAYS wanted to say that even though I don’t have balls) in #querying for #agents.  It’s a long, arduous journey, but it hasn’t been unsatisfying.  I’ve gotten some nice feedback, and met some amazing folks.  If you’re ready to start this process, go to Twitter and meet some others!  There’s an amazingly supportive writing community out there ready to give you a boost when you need one.  Use those #amwriting #query #agenting #pubtips #writetips hashtags to help you on the way.  Probably the most important thing to remember on the path to finding the elusive “traditional publishing success” is to persevere.  This will not happen over night.  Prepare to get rejected.  A lot.  Usually nicely, but not always.  Prepare to do your homework and research folks.  Don’t say yes to the first person who asks without looking them up and seeing what CREDENTIALS they have.  Remember, anybody can call themselves an agent or an editor on the internet.

So on to the things that have annoyed me today.  The first was someone complaining that a writer’s advice to stop talking about writing and just do it was condescending.  Uhm.. no. That’s not condescending.  That’s the truth.  There are tons– literally, tons of “writers” that are more in love with the idea of writing than actually doing it.  They’d rather sit around with their critique groups, re-writing the same draft over and over again while talking about their brilliance at a single sentence. BTW– if you’ve been writing that first draft for 5+ years, move on with your your life.  That story isn’t ready.  Anyway, these folks read blogs and articles and god knows what else all at the expense of actually writing. I hate to break it to you, kids, but writing is more than having that great idea.  You have to have the great idea, be disciplined enough to write it down, and talented enough to write it artfully.  Oh and then be brave enough to show it to others.  And when I say “others,” I don’t mean ya mama, ya girlfriend, the kids in your writer group who have known you for years, or your friends.  I mean people that are not invested in you personally.  I’ve spoken to a lot of writers who say “oh I don’t need an agent.  They just take all your money.”  What that almost always translates to is “I’m too scared that they’ll say no.”  And you know what– they probably will.  Repeatedly.  But if you’re talented and committed, the right person will see you for the brilliant little author person you are.  In the words of Lana del Rey, “Be young.  Be dope.  Be proud.”

internal screaming

Another thing that annoyed me so much was a post where someone took the attitude that they basically were hot shit and wouldn’t any agent just be pleased as a parsnip to represent them?  Now.. they weren’t interested in waiting (btw– the waiting is part of it. Some agents have 3 month + query response times) or having a brand new, polished work to send.  The feeling I got from this person was that they had already proven how wonderful they were and why wasn’t someone already falling all over themselves to represent him.  WTF?!  No.  You need to write a billion query letters and another billion versions of your synopsis of your NEW UNPUBLISHED work and then jump on the burning train to Hell that is querying.  There are too many great writers struggling right now for anybody to start shirking.  Or thinking they can get off easy and not do the work.

Anyhow– I hope I didn’t tick you off with this new and refreshing dose of truth telling, but it needed to be said.  Making art is hard.  If it wasn’t, Justin Bieber could do it.  Be encouraged that you are not alone and that others are glad to help when they can.  Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re going to carry you or your stuff.

Some great resources for the querying writer:

Literary Rejections:  http://www.literaryrejections.com/

Manuscript Wish List:  http://www.mswishlist.com/

Various Twitter pitch sessions:  #adpit #pitchmas, etc.  There’s one coming up on 2/5/15.  More info here:  https://heidinorrod.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/its-coming-adult-pitch-5-feb-2014-adpit/

And don’t forget those Twitter hashtags:  #querytip #agent #amwriting #writetip #pubtip

Too Many Feels This Week

me and amy (2)First of all, let me apologize about the title.  I HATE that expression.  It doesn’t make sense at all and is grammatically incorrect.  But it seemed appropriate for this post.  See, I had decided to write a short, snarky blog post about the engagement of Benedict Cumberbatch and my reaction not to that event, but to the fangirl implosion.  And then yesterday, something happened that made me think that it would be stupid and insensitive to write about such a trivial thing.  Then I realized that my feelings about both issues were pretty similar and rooted in the same underlying ugliness.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock all week, you’ve probably heard that sapiosexual heartthrob and favorite Lexxx muse Benedict Cumberbatch, announced his upcoming nuptials to his girlfriend Sophie Hunter.  There was speculation that the internet might actually shut down, but it didn’t.  In fact, most fangirls have expressed nothing but happy thoughts and congratulations.  As for myself, I couldn’t be happier.  I’m extremely happy in my marriage and believe that I’ve found my soulmate.  It’s the most wonderful thing in the world and I’m so overjoyed that a person I respect and admire so much has found that for himself.  But I did see one comment that really took me aback.  Someone expressed that while they were happy for Ben and his future bride that they were really upset by how he announced this to his fans.  The implication being that the news should have been broken to them gently.  It was too sudden and he didn’t give them time to get used to the idea.  WTF?!  I wanted to scream at this person, “THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU!  THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU!”  An engagement announcement in the newspaper isn’t for strangers (and yes, I hate to break it to you, ladies– we’re strangers).  It’s for family and friends to be notified that their loved one has an important life event coming up.  That comment summed up my whole problem with “fandom culture.”   Often times we tend to see celebrities as objects or products to be sold rather than people.  But they ARE people.  People with problems just like you.  People with moms and dads and siblings just like you.  People with mortgages and spoiled milk in their refrigerator and bad hair days and laundry piled up to their eyeballs and dirty socks in the bathroom just like you.  With people they don’t like and people they do.  And people they love.  The fact that fans saw that engagement announcement was just a side effect.  It wasn’t intended for you.  It was intended for one person to declare his love for another and to announce his intentions to his friends and family.  Just like people have been doing in their local newspapers since newspapers were invented.  Mr. Cumberbatch shouldn’t be under any obligation to announce anything to you about his personal life.  If he chooses to, then good on him.  But the fact that someone should be offended or upset that they weren’t told “properly” about a stranger’s engagement is ridiculous.  And SELFISH.  Get over yourself!

The other thing that happened this week is another, more extreme example of one person being selfish and seeing another person as an object to be possessed.  I got a call yesterday at work from a co-worker asking if I knew what was going on at an office building down the street.  There were all sorts of emergency vehicles and people milling around.  Knowing that my best friend works in said office building, I immediately panicked, worried that something terrible had happened to her.  Naturally I called her cell phone and to my great relief she picked up.  She informed me that a co-worker and mutual friend had been shot by her husband in the parking lot of their office.  He came to her work and asked if he could talk to her outside.  They argued and he shot her four times before turning the gun on himself.  The two of them had been separated for a few weeks.  It’s my understanding that the reason for the estrangement was that he was very abusive and she’d finally had enough.  Because he saw her as an object to be controlled and possessed, he couldn’t live with the fact that she was leaving him.  In an ultimate show of selfishness, he took her life and his own, leaving behind two children.  Two.  Whose lives will be ruined because of this extreme selfishness and objectification.

You might be thinking, “Okay Lexxx… please tell us what one thing has to do with another.”  But I’m getting there, just bear with me.  I’m very concerned about our culture.  I’m disturbed that we live in a world where people are so self-absorbed that they only worry about themselves and what they want.  My mother always told me that the definition of love was desiring to put someone else’s needs above your own.  In this world where everything is “all about me,” how can there be any love?  We’re so selfishly “looking out for number one” that its becoming this virus that creates evil and hatred.

Now, please do not think that I’m equating fangirl wailing with murder.  The common thread that I’m getting at here is:  it is not all about you.  If you love someone (in whatever sense), be happy for their successes.  Put others’ needs ahead of your own when it’s healthy to do so.  Remember that people, whether they’re behind a computer screen, the silver screen or the screen door on your mama’s porch– are people. Love them accordingly.  Have the grace and wisdom to know when it’s time to step back and when it’s time to hold on.  I promise– promise promise promise– that it will come back to you.

 

How to Survive A Dark and Stormy Night

2c7281c655a8071f146d3a551507ae078747a4336b00d1948e369b094e048115If you’ve ever read any of my books, you’ve probably noticed that they have a particularly gothic flair.  Usually Southern Gothic, but not always.  I’m a lover of the macabre which can sometimes make my romances a little less than romantic for some.  But I can’t help it.  I’ve always been a creature of the night. So when ManCrates.com (more about them later) asked me to put up a blog post about a Horror Movie Survival Kit, how could I refuse?

Picture it.  It’s a dark and stormy night.  Your car has broken down on a lonely country road.  There’s no one around and the rain is beating down so hard you can barely see a couple of inches in front of you. Ahead you can see an enormous, run down old mansion rising from the flat landscape.  Perhaps there’s a nice old lady there with a phone you can use.  So, in blissful ignorance, you fight your way up the mucky drive and immediately find yourself in the middle of a horror movie.  What do you do?  How will you survive? What are the essentials of maneuvering your way through the horror tropes until daylight breaks the spell?  Well, I’ve compiled a little list to help…

#1  Clean underwear.  My sainted Mama always reminded us to wear clean underwear whenever we went out.  “You never know when you might be in a car accident,” she’d scold.  Turns out that this savvy bit of street smarts is in fact essential.  Chicks in horror movies always manage to show us their underwear while they’re outrunning the psycho killer.  Think how embarrassing it would be if she had holes in there or mysterious stains!  Talk about adding insult to injury!

#2  A car charger for your mobile phone.  Everyone in horror movies these days has a cell phone.  You see them use it several times to call home to Mom, sext their boyfriends or even use the GPS app to find their way down the lonely country road.  The one thing they never have is a car charger!  In the most tense moments of the movie, you always see the hero/ heroine look down at their phone only to find that their battery is dead.  Moral of this story:  always keep a spare charger in the dash of your car.

#3  A good pair of sneakers.  Have you ever noticed that women in horror movies are never wearing the right shoes?  I mean, I have this problem myself.  I’m a firm believer in “if I can’t wear flip-flops, I’m not going.”  But come on, people.  Nine times out of ten, the damsel in distress is running from Freddy Krueger in a pair of Gucci pumps.  She trips on a gum wrapper, breaks her ankle and is devoured by the baddie.  So please, for the love of all things holy– throw some well-worn Nikes in the trunk.

#4 An IQ.  I think this one’s pretty self-explanatory.  The people in horror movies often times leave their homes with no brains at all.  They stop in the creepy old house to use the phone.  They pick up a hitchhiker.  They leave their windows open for the first available vampire.  They decide to lose their virginity in the woods out behind the old shack.  What the hell is wrong with you people?  We actually start to root for these people to die because they’re such morons.  So please— don’t leave home without your brain.

brilliant

I could go on and on about this subject, but I fear that my horror movie survival kit would no longer fit in a small crate in your car.  And speaking of crates, I’d like to thank the folks over at ManCrate.com for inviting me to share my thoughts.  They’re an online company that specializes in amazing gifts for men.  Especially those that are hardest to buy for.  You can order a crate full of themed gifts for the man in your life and the best part is– he has to open it with a crowbar!  Anywhoo… thanks for the challenge!

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