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.)

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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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. . .”

 

Gross Encounters of the Absurd Kind

My collaborator, Alistair Cross, and I have been sitting down together to write everyday for months. We’ve gotten a lot done, and we still have much to do. On top of the Belinda serial, we’re finishing up a horror novel  and have another novel  to edit and publish around the holidays. Needless to say, we don’t really have time to play around. And yet, that’s exactly what we do. Play is the reason we can Skypewrite together for 12 hours a day, every day. It keeps us sane and snickering.

We don’t wake up chomping at the writing bit every morning. In fact, most mornings we spend a little time waking up, gossiping, looking over media stuff, working on interviews, and, always, reviewing and tweaking our storyline. Then it’s time to get to work.

Sometimes, we still have trouble focusing first thing in the morning – and there are always a few brain freezes during that day. That’s when we often start writing freestyle; we just let the words go where they want until we find our way back to the true course of the story. These passages are, to us, hilarious, twisted, and – in some cases -sickeningly disturbing. What the hell is wrong with us? We don’t know and we don’t care. We do this both to jar our brains loose and to crack each other up. This is not the kind of material we can use in an actual book (with a few exceptions – we’ll let you guess what they are when you read the books, maybe even have a contest).

Because of the pleasure these passages have given us, we’ve decided to stop throwing them out. Why not share the joy? The sick, demented, twisted, repugnant joy.

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So we had an idea. What if we post these ridiculous meanderings on our blogs? Many contain portions of real scenes you find in the books, which we think makes this extra fun.

So we’re going to do it. We’re going to begin posting our outtakes and bloopers today. They work for TV shows specials, so why not here? We may even include some of the best evil auto-corrects from our texts, as appropriate.

With that in mind, here are yesterday’s best outtakes:

Belinda lay in her bed, her body deliciously warm under the down comforter, as the morning sun shot thin rays through the crack in the her buttocks. And her drapes. Her drapes were fucking ugly. She stretched and yawned and decided she’d buy new drapes. But not until the sun finished shining out of her ass.”

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Omar, a sleek, plump Siamese cat, snuggled into his mistress’s lap, then flehmened, mouth hanging open, eyes half closed, when he realized his human had forgotten to change her tampon for at least a week. He couldn’t contend with a stinking bloody human and decided he’d get a new one just as soon as she finished petting his glorious head.”

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“The room was large, luxurious, and honestly breathtaking, and every time Belinda stepped inside, she felt a little as if she were floating. This might have been due to the design of the floor, which was cobalt blue tile, patterned with gold stars, giving her the impression that she was walking on the midnight sky. Or it could have been the fact that she’d shot herself up with a homemade combination of absinthe, super-glue, and weed-killer, using a needle she’d found under the sofa. That might have accounted for the floating feeling in her head. But probably not. It probably really was the design of the bathroom.”

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(Warning: If any of the above grossed you out, skip this one.  It’s our favorite…)

“Margaret Massey stepped into the tub. It brimmed with sweet-scented lilac bubbles and as she settled into the water and rested her head against the cool rounded porcelain lip of the huge mint-green tub. “Heaven,” she said as she pinched her nipple and stuck an entire bar of Ivory up her wrinkled twat. “If only I’d remembered the toilet plunger,” she lamented as she queefed 100% natural bubbles that rose to the surface and popped like Lawrence Welk’s champagne music. Then her 70-year-old anus, the victim of one too many rounds with the local Hell’s Angels, sharted, but just a little. It didn’t even smell and what you couldn’t see beneath the bubbles couldn’t hurt you. She knew that from long experience.”

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$1.99 – Cheap!

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Bad Things is on sale at Amazon for $2! Meet Ricky and his legless twin brother, Robin. He walks on his hands with the greatest of ease and he licks your butter, too!  Bask in the badness of Aunt Jade and her creepy poodles! Get ready for Halloween with Big Jack. He’s a real scream, as are his minions, the greenjacks.  Do you have symptoms of greenjack infestation? Find out now!

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I Want to Show You My Bad Things

Bad Things is all about childhood fears, night terrors, day terrors, evil brothers who lick the butter and pee in the lemonade, crazy aunts, greenjacks, freak shows, and Halloween. Especially Halloween. It’s one of my favorite – and most personal – books.

Bad Things (Kindle) is on sale at Amazon for $1.99 today through August 24.  Get yours now and get in the mood for Halloween.

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About Bad Things

Something Lusty This Way Comes

The latest e-poster form the The Erotic Adventures of Belinda series

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When Belinda Moorland steps across the threshold of Ravencrest Manor, she feels as if she’s entered a fantasy world. The mansion is breathtaking, and her new employer, Eric Manning, is as mysterious as he is handsome.

But after just one night, she begins to suspect there is more to Ravencrest than she was told. Haunted by nightmares and seduced by erotic dreams, Belinda realizes her new home has a dark side. By day, the house and grounds are sublime, but the night is alive with dark shadows and phantom footsteps in empty corridors. Eyes – and hands – are upon her, and not all of them belong to the living.

The third installment of Belinda, titled Darker Shadows, is underway and will be available in September. The first two installments, The New Governess, and Awakening, are available now! Click on the titles below to read them.

The New Governess

Awakening

Here’s what people are saying about Belinda:

“If you’ve finished all of Sylvia Day’s Crossfires novels and are craving more, look no further. In The Erotic Adventures of Belinda, Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross have created a world that is rich, opulent, and smoldering with the promise of seduction. You’ll be able to feel the slide of the satin sheets, taste the fizz of champagne.”

-Sylvia Shults, author of Double Double Love and Trouble

“The Erotic Adventures of Belinda” by Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross is a fun, intricate read.  The erotica is well crafted and the ornate setting descriptions are breath-taking.  Most importantly, from page one, readers fall in love with Belinda.  We care about what happens to her, and we hope exactly what that is remains deliciously extensive!”

-Michael Aronovitz: author of  Alice Walks

“Shocking and fun!  The Erotic Adventures of Belinda by Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross will leaving you shivering with excitement as the innocent Belinda breaks free of a minimum-wage hell hole only to move into a sprawling Gothic estate where her body becomes the focal point of a mysterious specter.  Out of the pan and into the fire?  Only time will tell.”

-William Malmborg, author of Jimmy and Text Message

Comic Con Virgin Pops Cherry

I have finally been to a Comic Con.  My friend and fellow writer, QL Pearce, and I headed to San Diego in time to attend Preview Night on Wednesday.  The road trip, as always, was fantastic, and we stopped for a late lunch at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in Old Town before heading down to the Horton Grand Hotel where we showered off the effects of the heat wave before taking the short walk down 5th to the Convention Center.  The crowds were thick, but interesting.  On the way, we saw vans plastered with religious slogans and, in front of the convention hall, protesters picketed with signs about drinking Jesus’s blood and bathing in his sins or something. The Jeebus freaks were rebuked with good humor about worshiping Thor and other gods who know how to party.

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I’d been warned repeatedly that Comic Con is a smelly convention, but we figured the first night wouldn’t be too sweaty and, despite the crowds and heat, we were right.  We wandered the huge exhibition hall for two hours looking at everything from masses of storm troopers to adult magazines.  We walked and walked, slowly, stuck in a mass of people who inched along like a great slow earthworm. It was stressful, not stepping on toes or ramming others. But it didn’t smell and that was something. There weren’t many costumes that night. Bummer.

Returning to our hotel, we were accosted repeatedly (in a good way) by costumed characters giving out everything from packs of gum to Hello Kitty tattoo patches. By the time we got back to the room, we had about five pounds of postcards and flyers we turned on the TV and munched a cold dinner we’d brought along.  We slept in.

The next morning our feet were happier and off we went, stopping on Fifth for toast, berries and coffee at a neat little bar and grill that also gave us a drinks menu at 10 am.  The servers were all costumed – my favorite was Captain Underpants. Many  of the guests were in character, too, and quite a few of them had wine or mixed drinks.  (The Green Lantern appeared to have a drinking problem.) We watched costumed conventioneers walk by. There was a preponderance of Wonder Women and Batmen.

After breakfast, we walked on, collecting more postcards and packs of gum. And when we got to the last stop light where overly enthusiastic traffic “cops” blew their whistles like drill sergeants and employed furiously crisp hand signals at cars and pedestrians alike, we smelled it.  The Stench of Comic Con. It’s real, we realized, and it’s bad.  It wafted a couple of times. The third time, I noticed a large postcard I was holding seemed to smell like a dirty bathroom.  I sniffed again.  It did.  I had Q smell it and her nose wrinkled up like Caesar’s in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. She had one, too, and we gave it the sniff test.  It was equally foul.  The light changed and we carried those crappy postcards by our fingertips and deposited them in the nearest trash can before going in and washing our hands. I never knew they made printing ink that smelled bad.  Perhaps the conventioneers do shower daily and the stink is caused by putrid postcards.

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Inside, the costumes were great.  The hall outside the exhibition area was especially loaded with them.  But, oh, the crowds!  It was like ConDor – a San Diego con Q and I like to do each spring – gone insane.  I wanted to climb onto a bench and yell, “It’s a madhouse, a madhouse!”  But I couldn’t, because there were no benches, chairs, or anything else to sit on.  Tired elves and aliens lined the edges of the lobby floor and circled the pillars.  There was a Starbucks but no chairs in there, either.  Finally, we hit the mezzanine level and found a row of chairs where exhausted people sat. We joined them for a few minutes then headed into the art show and other things upstairs.  It was open and airy and huge vents shot cold air. Heaven.  Downstairs again, we hit the exhibition hall looking for goodies and Noel Hynd and his wife Patricia, who own Red Cat Press. We found them and had some fun.

At three, we met up with some friends, Mimi Chen and her husband. Mimi is a jock at The Sound LA, the best classic station in town, and her weekend show, Peace, Love, and Sunday Mornings, is my favorite.  She takes you back to Haight Street in the 60s. The music makes you feel groovy. So, off we went up Fifth, eeling through the throngs of people until we got to a little Italian place that wasn’t so crowded, Firenza Trattoria.  There were only a few patrons at that hour.  A pair of elves sat nearby eating pasta, and out on Fifth the crowds were colorful and noisy.  We all had wonderful pasta dishes followed by the best salted caramel gelato I’ve ever tasted.  Lunch took two blessedly quiet hours. We geeked out over movies and books like we couldn’t at the noisy convention.

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Finally, Mimi and Leslie headed back to the con and Q and I decided to hit the road.  We talked and talked.  We decided that Comic Con was a great experience, that it’s a humongous version the little cons we prefer, and that we hated the lack of places to sit.  We decided, too, that our favorite parts were relaxing in the hotel and going out to eat.

Q is returning with her husband to the con tomorrow, so I’ll let you know if the stench has to do with people or if it’s just the postcards.

Personally, I was going to drive back down today, but I’m on deadline and I missed writing. It’s so nice, sitting here in the quiet, in the cooled air, Skypewriting in the Cloud with Alistair Cross.  While I was gone, my collaborator turned out at least half of the upcoming third installment of The Erotic Adventures of Belinda, Darker Shadows. It’s full of sex, ghosts, and gothica and we’re about to read it aloud.  Then, it’s on to our horror novel, which has reached that sweet spot where everything is beginning to rush to the end. It’s so much fun I can hardly stand it. Indeed, it trumps Comic Con for excitement, at least for me.  The writing is great fun and, well, hurrah for chairs!
On a final note, the second installment of Belinda, aptly titled Awakening, is available now on Amazon (and will be available soon in other formats.)  The first installment, The New Governess is also available.

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