To add to the roster of talented horror writers stopping in to celebrate Halloween with me, I’ve finally convinced the marvelous Pamela Turner to stop by my blog! Today, she’s talking about her influences and her work, Family Tradition.
Haunted Wells and Creepy Dolls
My love of the macabre began in elementary school. Our library collection included a number of horror and suspense anthologies. Filled with deliciously creepy illustrations, these were stories about murder and mayhem, malice and morbidity. One of my favorites was written by Robert Arthur, although the title escapes me. A detective knows a famous Hollywood actor has murdered his wife, and he enlists a magician to help him prove it. One line stays with me, “She’d been beautiful once. She was no longer beautiful.”
Okay, that may not be the exact line, but the impact is there. No description necessary.
I’ve always been a fan of the horror that creeps up on you, subtle yet unnerving. Hitchcock knew this well. Yes, there’s some gore in his films (The Birds and Psycho), but the authors in his anthologies knew how to keep one turning the page, and how to deliver that twist ending. Although I didn’t realize it then, these authors influenced my writing.
Another author who had a profound impact on me was Ida Chittum, author of Tales of Terror, a collection of macabre stories set in the Ozarks. Not only were these stories literally terrifying, what made them even more unnerving was some were said to be based on real life incidents.
While I don’t remember every story in detail, several scenes remain etched in my memory, despite not reading the book since my childhood. (That I no longer have it is one of my greatest regrets.)
“The Haunted Well” particularly stands out for me. A tale of familicide, a father murders his family in a rage because his daughter commits a seemingly innocuous act. It’s a brutal story, made all the more moving by the ending as a sister struggles to cope with the loss.
Besides being influenced by short dark fiction stories, I also found inspiration in such anthology shows like Thriller, Night Gallery, The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, etc.
Night Gallery’s “The Doll” also had a significant impact on me. Seeing previews of that as a child was enough to convince me to turn my dolls to face the wall before I went to sleep, lest they steal my soul. Only recently did I watch the episode on DVD. I think it still holds up in terms of creepiness, and the ending is strangely satisfying in its own twisted way.
I started writing my first horror collection in sixth grade. Penned on notebook paper and stapled together, there were three issues of three stories each. I passed these around to my classmates. Even then, I looked for feedback, leaving a place on the back page where they could comment and rate. Despite not being popular, my fellow students liked my writing.
I no longer have those stories, which I’m sure were absolutely wretched. But my past seems to have come full circle. Last year, I published four dark fiction stories in the Ten Tales anthologies: “It’s in Your Blood” (Bites – Ten Tales of Vampires), “Family Heirloom” (Scared – Ten Tales of Horror), “The May Lady Vanishes” (Beltane – Ten Tales of Witchcraft), and “Obsession” (Spells – Ten Tales of Magic).
While I may never achieve the renown of such authors as Richard Matheson or Charles Beaumont, I’m excited to announce my short dark suspense story, “Family Tradition,” is a finalist in the fiction short works category of EPIC’s 2014 EBook Awards. Looks like I’m heading in the right direction.
Artist Rick Stanton needs a commission. He faces eviction from his apartment and his latest project is on hiatus. Worse, his muse refuses to cooperate. A recent letter may contain the inspiration he needs. Inside is the photograph of a mysterious woman, her face hidden by an umbrella. But there’s no identification, no way for him to contact her. A month later, another envelope arrives, this time with a phone number. Realizing this may be his last chance, Rick calls her. The woman introduces herself as Elizabeth and tells him she wants him to paint her portrait.
Rick agrees, only to learn there are conditions. Elizabeth is a recluse who lives with her two servants in a Victorian manor. She never allows her face to be seen. Not only must he stay at Elizabeth’s residence while painting her, he can’t leave, nor can he ever tell anyone about the portrait.
Sensing something isn’t right, Rick is even more disturbed by the sinister undercurrent beneath the household’s genteel façade. It’s somehow connected to the family portraits hanging in Elizabeth’s living room. Could they be haunted? And why doesn’t Elizabeth’s housekeeper want Rick to finish the painting?
“Family Tradition” is available at:
Barnes and Noble (Nook)
Pamela Turner drinks too much coffee and wishes she could write perfect first drafts. Writings include reviews, articles, poetry, screenplays, plays, and short fiction. Her 10-minute play “Brides of Deceit” was part of a local performance, and “Cemetery” placed second in The Writers Place short/teleplay screenplay competition. Publications include the urban fantasy, Death Sword (Lyrical Press), and the upcoming paranormal, Exterminating Angel (Lyrical Press, Spring 2014). She’s a member of RWA, Sisters in Crime, EPIC, and a supporting member of HWA. Besides coffee, she likes cats, cemeteries, and old abandoned buildings. You can find her at http://pamelaturner.net