The Horror of Women

I was ten or eleven the first time I read “Dracula”. Before that I was reading things like Nancy Drew. I may have delved into Stephen King at that young age, too. I’d certainly read “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson before I reached my teen years. The point is, mysteries and thrillers have been on my bookshelf and in my blood from a very early age. Up until quite recently I’ve never paid much attention to who did the writing. As long as the story was good and scared me, I was all for it. Didn’t matter if it was written by a man or a woman.

Quite recently Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name by Catherine Nichols came to my attention. As I read it, my dander became more and more riled. As I am a woman struggling to make her mark in the publishing world, you can probably figure out why. It took me two years to find a suitable publisher for my erotica titles, but when I gave that all up to follow my real love of writing horror, things have not gone so well. You’d think having five novels already out there would give you a little bit of credit regardless of genre. Apparently not.

Since 2011 I’ve completed three paranormal thriller manuscripts and am working on a forth. One was published in 2012. Unfortunately the publisher went out of business shortly after my book was released and I have been forced to start my quest over from square one. It’s been anything but fun. It’s been anger and frustration. It’s been hopelessness. It’s been tearful. What makes it worse is that I have been told by people who have read my books that I write a whole lot better than some of the other well-known authors they’ve read. Yeah, I know my writing is far from perfect. I make mistakes, especially in blog form.  It’s all free form-first draft style here, kids, but, I sure as hell write better than I did when that first erotica was unleashed on the world. On top of that, I’ve read some pretty lame horror myself over the past five years or so. I am normally very humble about my work, but sometimes you just know you’re just as good as this other person who sells by the millions, if not better, and yet what do you have to show for it? Anger. Frustration. Hopelessness. Tears.

The article by Catherine Nichols got the gears going. I began to question even further how to make my way in this industry that seems to favor the man, or who they perceive to be a man. And then I thought about my chosen genres, horror, murder-mysteries, thrillers and the paranormal. I began to consider some of my favorites in that genre. It dawned on me that the majority of them are men. Heck, even the Nancy Drew books were written by a man under the guise of a female name.

There are a variety of lists out there about the top ten or top twenty horror writers of all time. Men dominate that list. Why? I’ve seen it argued that maybe men just have a better sense of blood, violence, and gore. Maybe. I don’t need those things to make something horrific. I can watch the news if I want to see that sort of thing.

Truthfully, I don’t care for slasher books and films at all. I want nuance. I want depth. I want to see normal, everyday life turned inside out. I want the slow, psychological build up that keeps me awake at night not because I’m afraid a stranger is going to come into my bedroom and attack me with a butcher’s knife, but because I am wondering if that sweet, gentle man beside me in bed is somehow going to go nutso for no apparent reason. Or I’m going to wake up and discover one of my children is missing. That’s scary!! Woo me gently into that darkness with a trusting hand and a tender voice until I have no choice but to go deeper. Don’t shove me in at knife point. It all appears so normal, but it’s not.

That’s what I want to read. That’s what I strive to write. And, modesty aside, I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of it in the books I’ve written. That’s when I start getting angry again. That’s why Catherine’s article hit me so hard. Seeing those lists of great horror writers and so few women on those lists gave me another level of dismay. A writer’s mind is a very delicate thing. We are moody and we are fragile in some ways about what we’ve written. We’re full of doubts. We suffer a lot of rejection and for most of us, not writing isn’t an option. We are compelled at in inexplicable level to write.

As a female writer I now feel I have added two more battles in my war to win in the publishing world. It’s hard enough as it is. I read somewhere that of all the manuscripts submitted, only two percent are published. There’s battle one. Battle two, beating the odds because I’m a woman in what really appears to be a male-dominated business. Battle three, writing horror, a genre that has a far, far more masculine presence in the world than does the feminine. I must truly be insane because I keep on writing it despite all these rows of cannons aimed at me.

But, there is good news. We’re out here, honestly! And some of us are pretty damn good! I found a couple great lists of female horror writers: Top 25 Women Horror Writers You Probably Haven’t Heard Of and Horror and Women Who Write It to get you started.

I have no intentions of giving up on this, nor will I change my name to try and beat the odds. I am who I am. I write what I love to write. I am a woman and I love to write horror. Hopefully, one miraculous day, I’ll beat the odds stacked against me and win these battles.

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Hope In A Bowl Of Chicken Alfredo

We had company last night, my boyfriend’s Uncle Lloyd and his uncle’s wife, Betty. It was a very casual affair with a simple, homemade meal. Up for discussion were mainly travel adventures and life in the gated senior community they now call home in South Carolina. They were both dismayed that neither of them were able to make the senior citizen’s baseball team. Their attempts to do so were quite comical though.

Of course, considering the crowd, the topic of writing came up. Jim mentioned he’d just finished reading one of my books. I’m very modest about my writing efforts because I guess I just don’t feel my ‘successes’ are worth mentioning. They don’t live up to my expectations of where I’d hoped to be at this point in my life. I’m published, but pfft, I don’t even bring in $200 a year on what I have out there.

The banter turned to things like, “Some people who write never get ANYTHING published,” and “Sometimes luck plays just as big a role as talent.” Betty commented that sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the RIGHT reader, the person who loves your work and knows who’s who and what’s what in the business. I haven’t found that person. Sometimes I wonder if I ever will. When Jim and I last saw his cousin nearly a year ago, he said he wasn’t the best writer in the writing classes he took. To paraphrase part of the conversation, “There were a lot of people in those classes who were far better writers than I am. I, however, was the most persistent [in getting published].”

Persistence, as the saying goes, paid off for Jim’s cousin. I am doing my best to be persistent. I try to have queries out there at all times, always hoping that eventually one will come back with something other than the generic, “We’re sorry, but this isn’t what we’re looking for right now,” rejection form letter. If Queries are the Job Applications of the writing world then I am not finding any gainful employment here. If you’ve ever been desperately looking for a job and either never hear back or go to one interview after another only to be told, “Sorry, you’re not quite what we’re looking for,” you know the feeling well. It sucks, doesn’t it?

You can’t give up though, can you? No, not if you really care about getting a job. You’re driven to keep on filling out the forms, submitting the letters, and tweaking this or that to adjust the resume to fit the job you are applying for. What does it take to land that job? The right person to see it and realize, “Hey, this person’s got some potential. Let’s give him a shot and see.” That’s really all I’m asking for, a chance beyond the erotica.

To add insult to injury, over the past few years I’ve read a number of novels by quite famous female writers and I just shake my head wondering. They were alright, but as modest as I am, I write just as well, if not better, than they do. The plot to one was over the top predictable. Another told me the story instead of showing me. That was even more annoying. A third contained some of the most two-dimensional characters I’ve ever encountered. Yet, there they are, out there, known, loved, embraced, accepted and appreciated for their skills.

A few weeks back I finished writing my ninth novel. I have at least three more in me patiently waiting for their stories to be told. Where will these go? I’m not sure I want to know. If I knew they’d never be shared with anyone but a handful of family and friends, would I make the effort to write them? If I knew they’d bring me millions, would I put more effort into getting them done? Will that elusive Right Reader that Betty mentioned EVER enter my life? Is it any wonder so many writers are slightly insane? How do I up the odds of making it? What about my queries is not getting through to the right person?

The doubts creep in and tear me apart all too often. All the encouraging words sometimes don’t do much to lift the spirits of the jobless man standing in the soup line. He needs the job. He wants the job. He KNOWS he can do that job. His wife, family and friends are encouraging and supportive. They tell him to keep trying. In his mind, he remains an unrecognized and unwanted failure.

That’s the place I am standing now, bowl in hand. I’ve not given up. I’ll persist a while longer. I’ll write. I’ll edit, rewrite and submit again and again. I’ll try and look at Lloyd and Betty’s visit as another nudge in the right direction – that little glimmer of hope offered to me over a honking big serving bowl of Chicken Alfredo with broccoli and sweet red peppers on a hot and humid Tuesday night in July.

Links, And I’m Not Talking About Sausages Here.

The Story Link idea came about while I was working on “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” and was considering the back story of one of my murder suspects. Where was the character from? What was the character’s secret? Why did the character act the way they did in certain situations?

At first the Story Link was very minor and just something I tossed in there for fun, but once I got thinking about it, I realized how cool an idea it really was. Why not link ALL the stories I had in mind together in this way? Maybe the link would be really obvious, as with the first two murder mysteries. They take place in the same area of New York State. They have some of the same characters. The Greenbrier Trilogy is, of course, the same way. It’s a trilogy. They are all meant to go together. Maybe the link would appear to be just a minor scene or bit of dialog within the grand scheme of things.

Then along came “No Rest For The Wicked”, my first novel length ghost story. It takes place over 300 miles from the fictional town of Barnesville. What could these two locations possibly have in common? I already had an answer, of course. And so it was that the Story Link formed between my murder mysteries, the paranormal writings and my older, previously published erotica series. In the meantime, other links are being brought together in stories I’ve written only a chapter or two of.

How will “Dark Hollow Road”, which takes place in Eastern Pennsylvania, be story linked to any of the others already mentioned? “Ghost Town” starts and ends in Texas and the characters are Texas natives. What on earth could they have to do with a bunch of New Englanders or Virginians? Then there’s “When The Darkness Presses” which features a bunch of kids growing up in the mid-1970’s who face the unsavory (and possibly deadly) consequences of meeting up with the infamous Hag. Where will any of them fit into a Story Link?

As it stands now, only two of my completed novels are without links to anything written before or after them. This could change. I don’t know how or when, but it could happen. Stories are like that. Characters like to suddenly pipe up, “Hey! What about me? When do I get my turn?!”

So, yeah, Story Links have become my little writing quirk. I don’t claim it to be an original idea, but I am hard pressed to come up with any author I’ve read a lot of who I’ve seen do it. On the outside, the novels may appear to have absolutely nothing to do with each other. On the inside, well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out, won’t we?

Secret Agent Man.

As some of you may know, I’ve been actively seeking the services of a reputable literary agent since November mainly because of the advice of one Scott Westerfeld of YA fame. Before that, I was sending solely out query letters to publishers. I wasn’t having any luck with the publisher route so, hey, what harm could it do by listening to someone who actually has a clue!? Nada.

Almost immediately, the rejections started coming back. What a big ole ego boost that was, but those recent rejection letters got me to thinking, well, one of them in particular. In the reply was this remark, “It’s just not something I am comfortable representing.” Hm? An odd thing to say when the person in question clearly states they are interested in the horror/thriller genre on their website. It then dawned on me, maybe he was referring to the mention I made of having had some erotica published. It never occurred to me until that moment, but I’m glad it was mentioned.

Erotica, especially the sort I’ve done, is certainly not for everyone. That’s fine. Sci-Fi isn’t for everyone. Horror isn’t for everyone. Fantasy isn’t for everyone. Westerns aren’t for everyone. That’s why there are so many different writing genres to begin with. I don’t go around bragging about the erotica, but it’s part of my history as a writer. It’s where I started to see my dream become reality. Truth be told, it was never my first choice nor something I gave ANY thought to creating until it actually happened. But, I’m not going to hide it from an agent or publisher I think would be suitable for the paranormal thrillers I am far, far more interested in writing and seeing published.

I don’t want to work with an agent who isn’t okay with my past writing history. I’m not asking them to promote it in any way. It’s there. It is what it is. We move on and expand our horizons. Anne Rice did it for God’s sake and what’s good enough for Anne is certainly good enough for me.

So, I thank you, secret agent man (whose privacy I will respect) for the rejection and your comment. Even if you weren’t even talking about the erotica, it did open my eyes about it being included in my query letters. I will continue to include it because I refuse to hide it. I’m not ashamed of it and I certainly don’t want to work with anyone who would want me to keep it hidden.

I sent out another agent query letter yesterday.

Yes, I included a very brief mention of the erotica.

Behind The Bedroom Door

Ten years ago my writing career began. It wasn’t the sort I’d been dreaming of for as long as I could remember but we all have to start somewhere and I was willing to put my toe into the water in places I’d never trod before, let alone swam.

In 2004 I completed writing the manuscript that would eventually become my first published novel. Contrary to what most people out there think, it was not “Blood of the Scarecrow” which was released just over a year ago. No, this little gem was called “Love In Chains” and would eventually find a home in Michigan with established erotica publishers, Pink Flamingo Publications (NSFW) in 2006. As you can imagine, I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. What would people think? What would my parents think? Egads! What had I agreed to? At the time I was using a nom de plume and it seemed a godsend. Like Anne Rice with her Beauty Series, I could get published without anyone knowing it was me. Considering the genre that’s exactly what I wanted. One thing led to another and by 2010 I had five titles under Pink Flamingo’s wing.

The reactions of family and friends weren’t as horrified as I’d thought they would be but I have still kept it very quiet. I think the main reason is because I truly believe that what goes on in the bedrooms of consenting couples belongs there and is nobody’s business but those involved. I also kept thinking that because of the nature of the books, people would be under the impression I was an avid practitioner. On some level, I was, but certainly not to the extremes presented in the book. Everything I write involves an amount of research. It has to, to be believable to the readers.

I posted a disclaimer on my Facebook awhile back in regards to my writing, about the supernatural topics and strange research tangents I’ve gone on for the murder-mystery-thrillers. Yes, I read about serial killers. I’m well-versed in vampires, witchcraft and ancient alien theory. I enjoy reading about encounters with the various forms of Big Foot. It just so happens, crazy as it may sound, I enjoy sex, too. In fact, in high school I read A LOT of vampire novels – dozens and dozens of them. Why? Because I liked to be frightened? Hell, no! Those books were ripe with sexual encounters and I was a very healthy and curious teenager. Just because I learn about a topic does not mean I practice it to the full and sometimes outlandish extents others may enjoy. And ya know what… it’s true. Sex Sells. In fact, my fifth and final title with PF (Bound To Be Bitten) is a vampire-erotica based storyline.

I’ve not struck it rich like the author of “Shades of Gray”, though I’m told by people who have read my work as well as that one that mine is better. I wouldn’t know. I’ve not read “Shades of Gray” and have no plans to do so. As far as I am concerned my erotica writing days are over and I want to focus on my real passion and first true love – horror.

 So, why am I bringing this topic up at all? Well – Last fall I was contacted by one of Pink Flamingos editors and was asked if I’d be interested in doing a re-release of three books as a trilogy. I accepted. Over the past six months I have been re-writing and editing all three books, selecting new titles and choosing new cover art. They are historically-based stories set between the years 1859-1865 in Virginia and France. Not exactly a quiet time period for the United States.

Book #1 “The Virgin of Greenbrier”
Book #2 “The Mistress of Greenbrier”
Book #3 “Mistress For Sale”

These Are Erotica Titles. The situations and imagery in them are portrayed graphically and are not for the sexually timid or prudish. They are what they are, a phase of my writing where I learned to hone my craft in the ways that were made available to me. My pen-name will remain in place with them as a way to differentiate them from what I am currently working on and wish to do. There are no plans to write new erotica but I could not pass up the chance to re-release this set when asked.

There is no release date as of this writing, but I hope to have one soon. As far as I know, they will be available as singles, too, but a discount will be employed if the whole set is purchased at once. Both paperbacks and eBooks will be available.

If you want more immediate news on this venture and all my other Writerly Shenanigans, please visit and LIKE! me on my Pamela Morris Facebook page. As soon as the Greenbrier Trilogy is available my website will be updated as well.

The Fine Art of Censorship

It’s nice to know that Big Brother Amazon knows me so well that he has taken it upon himself to keep certain offensive books off my reading list. It makes it so much easier for me to have someone else pick and choose what I can and cannot read. Heaven forbid I should have to make up my own mind on this one. Ah, censorship.

Though it has been going on for years, I only recently learned of Amazon.com’s little foray into book banning and censorship and frankly, am not pleased. Makes me not want to do business with them at all. I will certainly think twice about ordering anything, books or not, from them in the future. Here’s part of the Policy that Amazon claims so many small, indie publishers of erotica are violating and thereby getting arbitrary books banned from sales through Comrade Amazon.

Pornography Pornography and hard-core material that depicts graphic sexual acts.
Offensive Material What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect. Amazon Digital Services, Inc. reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of Titles sold on our site.

I respect their right to pick and choose what they sell but I can still go there and buy the Beauty Series by Anne Rice. I can pick up a couple copies of novels written by Marquis de Sade and while I’m shopping for my porn/erotica – maybe I’ll grab a copy of Shades of Gray, too. Oh, and remember that V.C. Andrews ‘Flower’ Series (Petals on the Wind & etc…)? Talk about INCESTUOUS!!  Yet, a copy of “Bound To Be Bitten” by Victoria Morris published by a small indie company called Pink Flamingo out of Michigan is not to be mine. Pity, looked good – sexy, motorcycle riding, bdsm-practicing vampires, ya know? Matter of fact, seems there a whole SLEW of Pink Flamingo books Amazon says I will find offensive. Founder of Pink Flamingo, Lizbeth Dusseau has a few words to say about this on her blog of July 17th.

And she’s far from the only one. Self-Publishing Revolution posted some commentary on this subject back in 2010. Joni Rodgers, another Indie author and booksellers spoke up in 2012 as did Seela Conner. Business Insider also published an article on this topic as have a myriad of other writer, publishers and business people.  

From my understanding, this ban rule only applies to getting the books on Kindle. Someone correct me if I have that wrong, please. So, I can still get any of the banned books in a regular book form just not on an eReader. Maybe Amazon is just trying to sell more of the hard copies of these books because they make more money on them? Their policy makes no sense and their selection process for banned titles is so random it’s almost humorous, save for the fact censorship is censorship is censorship and the freedom of speech and choice is being taken away by a bunch of faceless people who think they know what I want to read (or write for that matter!). As an author, I want to be able to choose my writing topics without the fear that Big Brother Amazon is going to work against me when I seek publication.

If Amazon is going to ban books that contain pornographic, erotic, incestuous and violent materials then they should ban ALL of it and not just the titles being put out by the smaller Indie Publishing houses. Course, that would wipe out a HUGE selection. Sadly, it seems all about money anymore and not the creative, unique works being put out by these smaller houses. Still… maybe being on the Banned Book List is a good thing. Check out some of these Banned Books (ironically on Amazon) and you’ll see what I mean.

Gosh, I hope this little rant doesn’t get found by those Amazon execs in charge of throwing darts at random book covers to see who’s next on the ban list, “Blood of the Scarecrow” might find itself up there on the board. (Despite having very little violence and virtually no sex at all in it.)  And just because I’m not feeling too warm and fuzzy towards Big Brother right now, that last link is a NON-Amazon one!

READ ON!