I'm author and editor Holly M. Kothe. Thanks for stopping by my writing and review blog.
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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Debut Book Launch! With a Sampling of, "The Glass Room"

If you aren't one of the many, many friends/acquaintances/family members/Facebook writer-friends I have already begged and pleaded with to order my book, then I'd like to let you know that my debut book, Sweet Violent Femmes has been published! It is available now, in the digital store. HOORAY!

I'm a bit late on this announcement, as I have been making it all over the place, both in bookstores and online. The blog has been getting much traffic, mostly by people that have taken pity on me and came here to order.

Sweet Violent Femmes has a few sparkling reviews, and I am in complete awe when I read reviews from people who actually like it. I believed in these short works. I believed they were publish-worthy, but some of the reactions I've been getting have been more favorable than I could have imagined. To those fans and reviewers, I want to say a big, ginormous THANK YOU FOR READING!

And the independent thing...it is a LOT of work. I've managed to get a few copies in The Book Vault--a little, independent bookstore in Oskaloosa, Iowa (the place where I visit family). It's the neatest place because it used to be an old bank, and all the vaults have been turned into small rooms displaying different genres. I was ecstatic when I received word that they approved the book for a place on their shelf. I'm still waiting to hear word from a few other bookstores where the competition to get in is outrageously fierce. But even those stores, the bigger ones I feared would scoff at me, have spent large amounts of time talking to me on the phone all about what I need to know. They enjoy talking about it and wish me well. I am so glad the bookstores I've dealt with have been so forthcoming. I took a publication course in college that painted a much more pessimistic picture...not the case, I have found.

I was happy to discover that though they won't place it on the shelf without a big publisher to back me, Barnes and Noble are indeed happy to put it on their website, and to order it for customers who ask about it in-store. It's in the database, so whoever may want it can get it from them. Now...to get people to want it. There's the rub, right? It hasn't proven easy. In fact, it's incredibly hard to convince someone to try a book by an unknown author. How can you convince them, when you're tooting your own horn? It's been a challenge. You've got to work your book. And work it. Then work it some more. Whew!

Now to the main point of this post--to entice you! I want to offer a sample of the first story in Sweet Violent Femmes. In future blog posts, I'll be providing samples from the three other stories as well.

Without further ado, here's an excerpt from the dark and sordid tale of a young, American prostitute in Paris who goes to extremes to maintain a safe work environment. (Do avert your eyes if the creative and oh-so-flexible naughty words of the English language offend you). Enjoy!

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From, "The Glass Room"

Debussy’s “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” floats through the room as my co-worker Charlotte practices the sensitive art of hair removal. She rubs two strips quickly with her palms before peeling them apart and slapping them to the most intimate areas between her thighs. I make a mental note to ask her about the effectiveness of the cold wax kit; I usually opt to stick by my trusty electric razor, preferring to take care of the pesky private details in the comfort of my own bathroom. Charlotte lifts her bare leg, propping her foot onto a chair to get a better angle in the mirror, practically exposing her uterus to me and the other girls. No one seems to care one whit about it—especially not Charlotte.

When I arrived in Paris not two years ago, I soon discovered a side of the city that I’d never heard about in Hemingway novels or romantic Woody Allen comedies, deep in the underbelly of Paris life. Some instinct in me always gravitated toward situations of a concupiscent nature; early on I stumbled into experiences with boys (sometimes men) who weren’t particularly healthy or good for me. It was a troublesome talent I’d had since the onset of breasts and hips and hormones. My mother wasn’t helpful in the department of feminine guidance or parental support, and when I shared my dreams of being a starving Parisian artist, she laughed. When I let her know after graduating high school that I had done it—that I had saved enough and purchased my passport and was really leaving—she nearly choked on her morning whiskey and coffee.

I observe another girl as she tweezes a single dark hair from the pink circle surrounding her nipple. She studies the dubious strand with its attached root in quiet disgust. No grooming is too personal here, no landscape of skin too shameful. I sit in one of the tall chairs, adjusting my black stockings and garters as Marcus flitters around me, lightening my already pale complexion with expensive mineral foundation. We are treated nightly to hair and makeup by professional artists hired exclusively for the purpose of making us aesthetically pleasing before we go to the glass room. The bright lights and mirrored vanities of the dressing quarters always made me feel as though I were backstage preparing for a big theatrical production. 

At the airport, Mom had been plastered beyond her usual-functioning drunk. She’d bid me farewell with the slurred prediction that I’d end up crawling the streets “a desperate gutter-cunt for money.” (Her own creative idiom.) “How proud will you be then, hmm?” she had asked. Within a month, my romantic, Lost Generation fantasy of the city had sharpened into reality. The only movable feast I’d found in Paris was of the fleshly variety—a constant supply of lithe, undulating bodies presented under glass, offering every view to the clientele. It’s a good job, one I do well, and—most appealing of all—one that keeps me from having to return home.

Over the sound system, a Serge Gainsbourg tune that I’ve heard a million times plays at just the right volume. Good old Serge and Brigitte Bardot croon a musical history of Bonnie and Clyde as my co-workers and I comb through the rolling racks. I choose a black-and-yellow lace mini-cocktail number. There’s a small stain on the waist of the gown, something that will probably go unnoticed by the johns. Stains and rips are commonplace after entertaining in the private rooms. Surprisingly, Remy sometimes lets us keep the gowns that have seen better days. (Remy is not known for his rampant generosity.) I had the hope of adding the gorgeous Christian Lacroix to my ever-expanding designer closet. 

My drunken mother’s prior predictions weren’t completely accurate. I’m a far cry from the average street walker. This is Paris, and this is business. Good business. If I’m going to sell sex, at least I’m doing it in the most upscale gentlemen’s club this side of the Seine. Remy’s girls are the haute couture of brothel whores.

By 9:00 p.m. we are plucked, painted, and ready for display. We line up and walk through the clear doors. We find seats at small tables placed on three rows of platforms, each platform at different levels of height. Once we are settled two to a table, posing in various positions that show off generous portions of leg or breast or whichever asset we might work to our advantage, the heavy red curtains in front of the glass glide apart.

The men are there, finishing dinner, drinking or smoking as they look into the giant glass box. Some don’t bother to pay attention just yet, more concerned with talking shop to their business partners. It won’t be long before they can’t ignore the porcelain dolls in the window display. The French love to mix business with pleasure; we are merely an end to a stressful workday. It’s a no-nonsense part of the culture. Somehow, working for the business didn’t cheapen the concept of sex for me—it enhanced it.

The music is blasting now. Some new-age techno beat pulses in my chest as I look to Sabine, the girl I’m sitting with. We’ve grown particularly close because of the handful of regulars who’ve made it a habit to pay for both of us at once. She and I discovered early on that we are marketable side-by-side. The song’s pounding bass vibrates the glass. Music is an integral cog in the wheel of the sale, Remy tells us. The nightly playlist is so random, I can’t wrap my head around it. Well-hidden speakers blare in every private room, as well as on the main floor. The fucked-up factor of servicing a gentleman to Cole Porter’s “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” transcends words. I once confronted Remy about Cole Porter, demanding he never play it again. He gave me an ugly smirk, assuring me that the men liked it, even if they wouldn’t admit it.

“They all have that base, primal urge,” he’d said, his accent slimier than any Frenchman I’ve yet to work with. “The pretty young daughters go and leave them all alone with their once-pretty wives. They like to fuck their mortal reminders … to act out the revenge fantasy.” Then and there I’d decided never to debate musical taste with Remy again. 

A waiter enters the glass room to take our drink orders. We are a mirror image of the men, sitting and drinking. Everything we touch in the room is glass: tables, chairs, even the floor and platforms. The four walls are spotless, thin enough to hear muffled conversations from the main room. Remy stands at a podium, a notebook open to our profiles. We are each different, in both appearances and skill sets. Remy guides the clientele, helping them find a good match for their eclectic wants and needs.

“CafĂ© au lait, s’il vous plait,” I say to the waiter. Sabine asks for straight vodka. She takes a pill from her bag and swallows it dry. This is not normal Sabine behavior; she’s usually so cool and collected, reeling the guys in with a meaningful nod in my direction. I raise an eyebrow at the many bottles peeking out from her small Louis Vuitton.

“I heard he’s coming again tonight,” she says in perfect English, not taking her eyes off the men. Sabine was born in Montpellier, an army brat sent to London by her father and raised by a distant aunt. She ran to Paris the second she was old enough, so we have a lot in common. I watch her pop another pill from a second bottle, hiding it in her hand so the men don’t see. 

The Marquis. God, I don’t want to hear this.

“It’s not his normal night,” I say.

“Perhaps he needs more,” she replies, gulping vodka like ice water. “I think he is like this—he needs more and more.”   
*     *     *

Links to both the print and Kindle version of Sweet Violent Femmes are provided in the digital store tab of this blog. Thanks all, for reading.

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