The Cliffhouse Haunting is .99 Today

A deranged doctor with an appalling side-hobby, a macabre groundskeeper who delights in terrifying children, an unlikely vandal with vulgar talents, a lovestruck cop, a 60s Scream Queen, a death-portending ghost, and an egomanaical self-proclaimed psychic who wants to write a book about it. What happens when they all end up in a cozy cliff side lodge, and bodies start piling up? Find out for .99! THE CLIFFHOUSE HAUNTING is 80% off today and tomorrow only:http://tinyurl.com/zeyyekv

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And here’s what’s happening in the town of Cliffside this week!

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Halloween, Green Men, and Greenjacks

Halloween is my favorite season and I wanted to write a book about the holiday as well as childhood terrors, about the panic that children feel when the lights go out and they know that something is there, lurking in the dark, watching, waiting to steal them away. That book became Bad Things and it began with a poem.BadThingsMan_1000

Big Jack

Winter cold, winter dreary

Winter leaves

No sap, no fool

Winter bones

No need to panic

Big Jack sleeps, the little ones too.

March buds, April flowers

May blood

So green, so new

Spring veins pump

And children panic

Big Jack wakes, the little ones too.

Summer heat, summer passion

Summer nights

So hot, so hungry

Dark desires

The children cower

Big Jack stands, the little ones too.

Autumn red, autumn brittle

Autumn cravings

So harsh, so clear

Child, run

Before he gets you

Big Jack walks, the little ones too.

                        © Tamara Thorne

As a child, there was nothing I liked better than going outside at twilight, especially in the fall, when the crisping leaves whispered and cackled about the arrival of Bad ThingsHalloween, making the night sounds even spookier. Oh, how I loved to scare myself! The good kind of scare, involving misty ghosts, eerie birdsong and, most of all, the greenjacks. The greenjacks were the best. They still are.

I became aware of green men when I was very small; my parents took me into Los Angeles to visit the museums at least once a month. I loved the natural history museum where the dinosaur bones towered and roared, where and the dioramas of cavemen and mammals in that great dark hall threatened to move if I so much as glanced away.

I loved peering into the mummy’s case, waiting for his papery whisper, wondering if he was aware of my shameless stare – and imagining what he might do if he could find the magic to reach out and grab me. At that point I would giggle and flee the room.  

In the space museum, there were rockets. I loved them, too, because my brain was locked and loaded with Ray Bradbury’s stories about Mars and outer space. Mars, I thought, really was heaven.ween

But most of all – next to the mummy and dinosaurs – I loved part of the history museum where huge old English tapestries festooned the walls. That’s where I first spotted green men hiding from hunters and ladies and dogs, peering around trees and through the leaves, watching… and waiting. They often had puckish goat legs, and always leered, full of wicked humor. I could – and did – spend hours sitting on a bench studying my latest find, telling myself endless stories about these green tricksters.

At home after dusk, I would go out in our vast backyard and sit cross-legged on the grass and stare at the ivied wall behind the swing set until the faces would come. They moved in the breeze, the shadow-faces, green eyes glinting, green lips moving. I could pretend the soughing wind and the mockingbirds’ cries were their calling voices, and that the chittering leaves were their whispers as they plotted and planned what they’d do if they caught me.Ruth Sanderson green man

The fear was delicious and I’d fight it, trying to stay put, to remain outside in the dark, but inevitably I’d run inside, frightened in the best way possible. Soon, the thrill would subside and I’d go back out to play the greenjack game again.  

Back then, I called them green monsters or green men and I made up stories to tell my friends when we camped out in the backyard on sleepover nights. Inevitably, we’d land in the safety of my bedroom long before midnight, where we’d hold a seance and try to talk to lingering ghosts or call up Bloody Mary.

But the green men were always my favorites. A little research led me to watch for them on the corners of old buildings, so I loved it when we’d go into the city because I could watch for them there too, and make up stories about how, at midnight, they would come to life and climb down to cavort in the meager trees and bushes by the buildings.

When I decided to write Bad Things, the green men became greenjacks.  “Jack” is a name  commonly used in conjunction with green men in England.  “Jack in the Green” was my inspiration.  May Day, May Poles, fertility rights are all tied up with this version of the green man.

greenknight1Around the world, there are many variations on the green man, but mine are American with English and Scottish roots. (In The Sorority, the Green Knight (from the Arthurian tale, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) makes several appearances and he’s pure Britannia.)

There are plenty of other modern green men. Tolkien’s Ents are probably the best known but the forest sprite, Tom Bombadil, from Tolkien’s The Hobbit, captured my interest even more. Groot, of Marvel Comics fame, is popular in these days of superhero worship. Bad ThingsTom-bombadil

The Green Man is also known to change with the seasons, becoming a holly king by winter and oaken royalty cloaked in a riot of fall colors in autumn. As the ruler of spring, he is festooned with tender young flowers, and in summer he is seen with bright blooms, corn, and wheat.

I wanted to create my own green man to match southern California since green men are always local deities. My Big Jack would be darkly green and lush, even at Halloween, alive and growing and terrible, and his minions, the greenjacks, would be nature spirits that only a cursed few (like our hero, Ricky Piper) can see. Normal people see only catch glimpses of whirlwinds and dust-devils, if they spot anything at all.

Bad Things TomOldManWillow

In my lore, the greenjacks, like many “little people” of legend, and Big Jack, their master, are tied to changeling myths, but mine are also tied to All Hallow’s Eve. Poor Ricky is afraid to say anything because his parents already think he’s overly sensitive and imaginative – but he is tormented by these capering, terrifying entities as they search for a proper sacrifice as Halloween approaches. Ricky can’t even enjoy the holiday because of his fears. He is a boy terrified of the dark and what it holds. As an adult, he must confront those fears once more in order to protect his own son.

As Halloween nears, take a moment to sit outdoors and enjoy the leaves on the trees and shrubs and see if you can find any greenjacks. And if you see them, be especially careful on Halloween night  – don’t let Big Jack, a monster made of branches and leaves that pulse with green blood, catch you!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

http://tamarathorne.com

 

 

 

 

 

Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights Live!

Our new show, Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights Live!, is all about horror. We’ll be interviewing your favorite authors, discussing books, movies, and your ghost stories, among other things. Our first guests include Douglas Clegg, Glen Hirshberg, and Michael Aronovitz!  The show premiers November 6th on the Authors on the Air station at Blog Talk Radio. URL coming soon!

ShhfrescoT&C_edited-3By the way, my Halloween novel, Bad Things is currently on sale!

BadThingshttp://tamarathorne.com

http://alistaircross.com

Riding on Thunder Road – and an Excerpt

Thunder Road, my novel of a small apocalypse, is releasing today in paperback online and in terrestrial bookstores everywhere. Here’s a brand new interview about the book on  Cyrus Webb Presents .

Thunder Road began with a modern cowboy named Tom Abernathy.  One day, he simply emerged, fully formed, and ambled patiently around in my head for quite some time before another character came to life via one of the most horrifying yet fascinating nightmares I’ve ever had.  Not long after that, I read about UFO reports in the California High Desert, out by my favorite historical amusement park, Calico Ghost Town.  (Even if you’ve never visited Calico, you may have seen bits of it in movies like Tremors 4.)Thunder Road Mech.indd

I had cowboys, amusement parks, serial killers, and UFOs – but I needed one more thing.  I remembered that, years and years ago, there had been a cult of sorts surrounding a high desert structure called the Integratron, where people went to try to communicate with aliens.  While I kept some UFO cultists hanging around Old Madelyn Amusement park – Madland, my version of Calico – I decided my main cult would be a religious one.  That was because too many missionaries had been knocking on my door lately and I needed some sweet revenge.

Also, I really wanted to try my hand at an apocalypse novel and where there are cowboys, there are horses, so I suddenly had visions of the Four Horsemen prancing through my skull.  I was now officially in love with the the book.

The mountains around Calico are famous. As the sun sets, they glow with eerie colors cast by all the minerals that were mined there besides silver. One of the most famous was borax, as in Boraxo Hand Soap. The chemical was hauled by a twenty-mule team on a hard road between mining towns (all the way out to Death Valley) and then into the city.  I had walked the road behind Calico and recalled seeing it on TV as a little kid.  What better name than Thunder Road, especially since I knew drag racing was going to be a problem in Madland.  So I named my new novel for Bruce Springsteen’s song. He, in turn, had been inspired by the poster of the 1958 Robert Mitchum  movie of the same name. It was about running moonshine.  It all fit.

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So, there, you have it. Cowboys, sheriffs, tattooed ladies, a sexy shepherdess, horses, rodeos, crazy prophets and crazier followers babbling about the coming apocalypse, aliens, one ghost story (how could I skip ghosts?), a beautiful UFO researcher, lots of quotes by Jacques Vallee, and not one, but two – count ‘em, two – serial killers!

In addition to being a very fun write, Thunder Road gave me some great returns. One was a friendship with Jacques Vallee (the French scientist in Close Encounters of the Third Kind is based on him); and another was a treasure trove of ghost stories.

While I believe the UFO sightings up in that area of the desert are primarily atmosphere or military related, I came to find out – and witness – that the real Calico Ghost Town is absolutely overrun with ghostly anomalies that’ll knock your socks off (though you’ll get nothing but denials if you ask those currently running the park). But that’s a story for another novel…

 

An excerpt from Thunder Road:

‘Justin had never been in here before, and he looked around, impressed with the rich, dark colors, the candlesticks and stacks of cards, the Tiffany lamp in the corner. He sat at the table and reached for the crystal ball.

“Don’t touch that.”

Justin hesitated, then withdrew his hand.

Carlo folded his arms and leaned against a rolltop desk. “What do you need to talk about?”

“Tonight. What we’re, I mean you’re, going to do to Alexandra Manderley.”

“Peel her,” the man said slowly. “What else is there to discuss?”

“You’re going to do it?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re going to teach me?” he added hopefully.

“You may watch. Whether you can learn or not is a question that remains unanswered.”

The doorbell rang, and Carlo stood. “Come back tonight at midnight. You may go now.”

Justin rose, in awe. The man was a king, a leader among men, with a voice so commanding that Alexandra Manderley would probably peel her own skin from her bones if he asked. “Midnight,” he repeated, following Carlo to the back door.’

 

* * *

Related links:

http://www.calicoghostwalk.com/BearDanceObservedg.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-mule_team

http://www.tamarathorne.com

Oh oh-oh-oh Thunder Road!

Tamara Thorne, will be interviewed at Conversations Live by Cyrus Webb, on Tuesday, September 2nd, at 3 p.m. Pacific and 6 p.m. Eastern time to talk about the release of her novel, Thunder Road, which hits bookstores everywhere in next week.

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“Evoking Stephen King’s terrifying novel The Gunslinger and the epic adventure film Cowboys and Aliens, Tamara Thorne delivers a tantalizing blend of horror and Western SciFi–in an arid, dangerous world from which there is no escape. . .

The California desert town of Madelyn boasts all sorts of attractions for visitors. Join the audience at the El Dorado Ranch for a Wild West show. Take a ride through the haunted mine at Madland Amusement Park. Scan the horizon for UFOs. Find religion with the Prophet’s Apostles – and be prepared for the coming apocalypse.

Because the apocalypse has arrived in Madelyn. People are disappearing. Strange shapes and lights dart across the night sky. And a young man embraces a violent destiny – inspired by a serial killer whose reign of terror was buried years ago.

But each of these events is merely setting the stage for the final confrontation. A horror of catastrophic proportions is slouching toward Madelyn in the form of four horsemen – and they’re picking up speed. . .”