Monday’s Friend: Pamela Turner
Today I am pleased to welcome Pamela Turner to the blog, to talk about her new release FAMILY TRADITION. Pamela’s giving away a copy of FAMILY TRADITION today, so post a comment to be in with a chance of winning!
Portrait of an Author as an Artist
By Pamela Turner
Many of my stories and poems are influenced by pictures. For example, the poems “A Girl Like Alice” (Taproot Literary Review) and “Ophelia Lies Dreaming” (Indigo Rising UK, Issue 2) were inspired, respectively, by De Chirico’s “The Mystery and Melancholy of a Street” and Millais’s “Ophelia”. My short historical crime stories, written in high school, were inspired by photographs of Prohibition-era gangsters. And several flash fiction pieces were based on pictures. One of these became “Family Tradition”, inspired by a photograph of a woman whose face is concealed by an umbrella.
“Family Tradition” was never meant to be anything more than a 250 word story about an artist who finds himself hired by a model, who turns out to be a vampire. But the thing about flash fiction is it lends itself to being expanded, played around with. I soon found myself fleshing out the story. But I didn’t want Elizabeth to be a vampire, and I didn’t want her to have a face. Instead, I wanted Rick to learn why and discover Elizabeth’s terrible family secret.
Okay, confession time. Before I became a published writer, I wanted to be an artist. One of my first drawings was of a kangaroo. Too bad I drew it on the endpapers of a library book… (I was in kindergarten.) Anyway, I pursued drawing off and on, much of my inspiration coming from art history and animation. (I wanted to be an animator.)
While I didn’t pursue a degree in art, I took drawing and painting lessons through a local arts organization, and used this experience to write “Family Tradition”. Unlike my character Rick, I don’t rely on art for my livelihood. But I know artists who do. And I’ve also had the good fortune to have my work displayed in a few shows, none juried, though.
It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a brush or pencil, but the urge to draw and paint is still there. Pursuing another creative endeavor seems a good way to rewire the brain, so to speak. Sometimes it helps when trying to solve a creative-type problem, like writer’s block.
Does painting Elizabeth’s portrait solve Rick’s financial problem? Ah, now that would be telling, wouldn’t it?
Want to find out what happens to Rick in “Family Tradition”? I’m giving a copy away to one commenter on December 3.
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?
The housekeeper waited for me in the corridor. “The mistress requests your presence.” She pressed her hand against a panel and a heretofore-unseen door swung outward to reveal a narrow, dark stairwell. I’d no idea if this hidden room was a common feature of Victorian houses, but given Elizabeth’s mysterious photograph, a secret room seemed to fit.
“Through here, sir, and up those steps. The mistress is in the room at the top.”
Hand pressed against the door, I looked up the narrow stairwell. Once the door closed, I’d be in total darkness. I swallowed, apprehension tracing the back of my neck with icy fingers. Not that I was claustrophobic, but the thought of being surrounded by such gloom unnerved me. I turned to the housekeeper. “Don’t suppose you have a light?”
“You’ll be fine.”
What then? I wanted to ask, but the door had already started to swing shut. I made a grab for it. Too late.
I fumbled for an opening, some notch for my fingers to grasp—a knob, latch, anything. Nothing. Not even a light switch.
Inside the passage, the musty odor of old wood and stale air assailed my nostrils. Tattered cobwebs brushed against the top of my head. Had this stairwell ever been aired out? Probably not. I guided my hand along the wall as I edged my toe forward until I touched a riser. I stepped up and repeated the process, counting twenty steps until my hands pressed against what felt like wood. I pushed and whatever was in front of me scraped open.
I recognized Elizabeth’s voice, but her head and face were concealed by a hooded cape.
She stepped past me to close the door. I looked back and bile rose in my throat. Grotesque demons, carved in the wood, glared and leered at me in various stages of agony and bestial ecstasy. What the hell had I gotten myself into?
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 “A Girl Like Alice” (Taproot Literary Review), Death Sword (Lyrical Press), “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). 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.
Haunted Dreams, Dark Destinies (website)
Darkling Delights (blog)