Bad Things, Horror’s Roots, and Rock and Roll

So, my favorite DJ, Mimi Chen, on my favorite classic rock station, 100.3, The Sound,  gave me a Facebook thrill this morning when I found her post about loving Bad Things. Mimi isn’t a horror reader, but she liked it so much she reviewed it on Amazon.

Bad Things

Bad Things is a coming of age Halloween tale about Ricky Piper, his legless twin, Robin, and the greenjacks who cavort and taunt and try to steal the souls of those who can see them.  As a boy, Ricky is terrified of everything – the dark, greenjacks, his brother, and especially, Halloween.  As an adult, he returns to his childhood home with his own kids, having spent years convincing himself the greenjacks – and their leader, Big Jack, don’t exist…  And you know how that always goes.


Inspired by my own childhood game – sitting outside at night watching leaves move in the breeze and pretending to see faces and figures dancing among them – greenjacks – Bad Things was a labor of love. Writing it brought back all those nights spent gleefully spooking myself then racing into the house to write ghost stories. But many other things played into Bad Things, too.


I’ve always loved the Green Man – the guy you see with leaves growing out of his mouth – grinning down from the ornamentation on old buildings – including churches, or staring at you from his hiding place amongst the foliage on English tapestries, and old paintings. The Green Man even has his own story in beloved Arthurian Legends. (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight). A pre-Christian figure, he has been embodied by such diverse figures as Pan, Bacchus, Dionysus, Robin Hood, Herne the Hunter, Shakespeare’s Puck, and Tolkien’s Ents.


He is the lord of the forest. There are lords (and ladies) associated with the other elements – fire, water, and air – as well. (In fact, my collaborator, Alistair Cross, and I have just turned in a new novel that deals with one of these other elementals.)

Water Fire Earth Air Element (800 x 450)

I love the green man so much that I incorporated him into The Sorority as the Forest Ghost, along with tales of greenjacks told by my recurring professor, Dan S. McCobb. (Say it out loud.)

Sororityhand_1000There’s much more to Bad Things than green men, though.  Santo Verde, Rick Piper’s hometown in SoCal, is based on a very real little city called Redlands. It’s an hour east of Los Angeles, a place full of citrus orchards, greenery, and Victorian mansions. Years ago, it was a favorite weekend retreat of Hollywood’s elite.  The cemetery in Bad Things is a clear reflection of Redland’s own fabulous boneyard. Redlands/Santo Verde is also only a few miles from the apple-growing mountain town of Oak Glen which provided inspiration for my  witchy Halloween tale, Moonfall,  (FOr that matter, Thunder Road‘s Old Madelyn is based on Calico Ghost Town, two hours north, in the desert.)m 180x300But I digress.  The next thing you should know about Bad Things is that Todd Browning’s classic Freaks also helped inspire it. Years before I wrote it, I was fascinated by the legless boy, Johnny Eck, who walked on his hands. This grew into an interest in freaks in general; their history, their lives.

220px-Kobel-JohnnyEck-handstandJohnny Eck is particularly inspiring. He lived a long life, was well-loved and a master of many trades.  What I didn’t know when I researched for Bad Things – it wasn’t in the books I used – was that Johnny Eck had a “normal” brother, Robert, with whom he traveled and lived his entire life. Just like Ricky and Robin. Synchronicity rules.

The final thing about Bad Things is that, well, that’s a secret… Suffice to say, I don’t like practical jokers.

41QZH57ZEELBad Things is one of my favorite tales not only because Halloween is a subject dear to my heart, because it helped me understand why I am endlessly fascinated with human nature, especially its dark side. As for my love of ghost stories – there’s nothing to understand. I was just born that way.  Yowza.







I’ll be signing at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, California at 2 pm on September 14.  You can order autographed and/or personalized copies from this terrific horror-oriented bookstore by going to their website then clicking “Signings/Events” in the upper left, and scrolling down to September 14, where you’ll see The Sorority, The Forgotten, Bad Things, and Eternity listed.  Order and, in the notes, let them know what you’d like in the way of personalizations or signings. (You can specify something — and if it’s a gift, make sure you give the name! — or you can leave it to me, your choice.

Candle Bay, Moonfall, and Haunted – last year’s releases – aren’t listed but you can order them as well. Just write them in in the notes section, along with personalization requests.  These three are a bargain at $4.99 a piece!


The Theme is Vampires (and Sororities, Ghosts, Evil Nuns, Jack the Ripper, and Halloween)

Joining me are Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, signing her new Count Saint-Germaine novel, Night Pilgrims, Amber Benson signing  the 2014 Buffy calendar, and — squeeee! — Lara Parker, the original Angelique from the original Dark Shadows, signing her novel, Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising.  (I was Angelique for Halloween in sixth grade. Oh, the beautiful gown my mother made for me! I wish I’d  kept the photos!)

Sorority Countdown: Day 8 – Water Ghosts

What do King Arthur, cheerleaders, greenjacks, sorority girls, jocks, Tom Piccirilli, sex, ghosts, more sex, and really really shameless puns have in common?  Why, they all share the pages of The Sorority, which is just days away from hitting bookshelves everywhere.  Each day, I’m going to tell you a little about the story, some trivia, some true facts and some fun ones.

Originally, the Sorority Trilogy came out as a serial novel over a summer several years ago, but now it’s back as a nice fat trade paperback (and all e-formats). And the cover is to die for.  In fact, I can tell you that the beautiful blue The sorority300dpicover girl has died. She’s a ghost who haunts the lake at the old cheerleader camp near the Briarwood College campus just inland of Caledonia, California.

Holly Gayle was once a member of the Gamma Eta Pi sorority house, but she met with a horrible fate. An accident, they say. However it happened, she drowned in the lake and if you dare go rowing on a quiet night, she may appear to you, floating just beneath the surface, seemingly asleep.

There’s no need to be afraid, at least not until she opens her and looks at you. . .

And rises.

But she isn’t the only ghost in the lake; there are many, many more.  A century ago, the original town of Briarwood lay in that valley,  then the townsfolk decided a reservoir was necessary and they rebuilt on higher ground, leaving behind all the homes and shops. Even the churches, cemetery,  roads, and the skeletons of oaks, pines, and apple groves are still down there.  Students brave enough – or foolish enough – to paddle far out into the lake at night report seeing lights winking on one by one as the ghostly town comes to llfe.  Sometimes they even see lantern lights moving slowly along the road and, in the fall, bonfires.

The lake is based in fact; on a story I begged my mother to tell me over and over.   As a girl, she lived in a little town that was eventually rebuilt so the original could be flooded to make a new dam.  Years later, when she got married, she and my father revisited the original site of the town, under the lake.  The reservoir is surrounded by forest and they laid out a picnic on a flat boulder near the water. After a leisurely lunch, they relaxed and my father talked my mother into taking a swim.  They stripped to their bathing suits and my father jumped in, daring my mother to join him.  She was nervous about swimming over the old town, but she finally joined him, paddling out until sunlight revealed the tops of drowned pine trees a few feet below her.   That was too much for her — what else was down there? — and she waited on the picnic rock while my father dived deeper and deeper, swimming well away from the shoreline.  Eventually he yelled to her that he’d found the church  and he dived and dived, staying down for minutes at a time.


When he finally got tired, he swam back to her and told her how he’d explored the old steeple, swimming through the belfry and trying to get inside the lower part of the building. He almost managed it, but something shifted and the opening he’d found closed before he could get inside. My mother told me she’d almost become a widow the same week she married.

Since I was a little kid, I’ve loved stories about drowned towns thanks to my mother’s tale.  I always wanted to write about one and when I thought up The Sorority, I knew my ghostly lake finally had a home.

Favorite drowned town book:  Under the Lake by Stuart Woods’ Under the Lake.

Favorite drowned town movie: In Dreams.

Tomorrow:  Cheerleaders, Sex, and Professor Tongue.  Or maybe Football Players vs Knights of the Round Table.  We’ll see what comes out of my fingers!

Here’s a look at the original set of covers for The Sorority

TheSororityBooks Merilynn