Women in Horror Spotlight: Teresa Bergen



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: Melodie Romeo



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



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



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!


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.