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.






Book Signing at Mysterious Galaxy!

I’ll be at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego for a special Dia de los Muertos signing party.  All my books will be available, including Thunder Road.  If you can make it, it’s at 2 pm. If you can’t, but would like an autographed or personalized book or two, just contact Mysterious Galaxy to place an order.




Halloween booksTomorrow at 2 pm,  I’ll be doing a big Halloween signing at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego.  They’ll have tricks and treats and lots and lots of book – including all of mine.  Hope you can make it to this wonderful store!

If you can’t, but would like signed or personalized books for yourself or for gift-giving, all you have to do is give the store a call at 858-268-4747 (or simply fill out the order form at their site, putting your special instructions under the notes on the order form).

Bad Things and Moonfall are Halloween-oriented, if you’re looking for something to help celebrate the season!

Mysterious Galaxy is located at 7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Suite #302, San Diego, CA 92111




Jack the Ripper, Bigfoot, and Elvis: Exploring Eternity

Now that Eternity has hit the stands, I want to call your attention to Mike Aronovitz’s discussion and review of Eternity,  recently Eternitypublished on Hellnotes.  Take a look and please give it a “like” if you think it’s as awesome as I do.  I’ve gotta tell you, I’m in heaven!  Alice Walks, his first novel,  is officially one of my all-time favorite ghostly tales.

Eternity is one of my favorites. I always love research and this book required lots of it.  I became an expert on Jack the Ripper, Bigfoot, and the lore that belongs to Mt. Shasta, a sacred site way up at the north end of California.  While the town of Eternity is much smaller and quainter than the real city of Mt. Shasta, Icehouse Mountain  is very much like Shasta itself. I patterned the geography and roads on those of the real mountain. And the lore.  Mt. Shasta, scene of a crystal-packing “Harmonic Convergence” some years ago, has everything from UFOs to golden cities built inside the mountain. It’s said the Count St. Germain wanders the slopes dispensing wisdom, and that Lemurians still live deep in the bowels of this sacred mountain.  Add Jack the Ripper and a couple of Elvises to the mix, and you’ve got Eternity instead of Shasta.

I’d say more, but Mike’s review sums things up better than I can.

If you’ve read Candle Bay, you’ve seen references to Eternity and Icehouse Mountain there.  In Candle Bay’s sequel, currently being written, some of the vampires of Candle Bay head north for a huge vampire family reunion taking place there.  Look for plenty of cross-references and meetings, but you don’t need to read Candle Bay or enjoy Eternity or vice versa. They’re all stand alone, but I love putting everyone – and every book – in the same world.  Most of all, I love sneaking in tiny references and seeing if anyone notices.

For instance, Sheriff John Lawson, of Moonfall, is the younger cousin of Sheriff Frank Lawson of Eternity.  And Sheriff Tully, Eternity’s new sheriff, is from the town of Santo Verde. (Santo Verde is loosely based on Redlands, CA.)  I suspect he probably went to the carnival with Ricky Piper of Bad Things.  Both undoubtedly went apple-picking up at Moonfall, loosely based on Oak Glen) since it’s only thirty minutes up the mountain.


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!)

Serial Chat: Rituals of Writers


Being a writer isn’t a choice. It’s a condition and those of us afflicted are intimately acquainted with the suffering we were born to endure. Because our tortured lives are lived in the service of our art, we strive to sacrifice our very souls at the altar of literature for the sake of presenting the world with the beauty of our pain.

Today, we have decided to share with you the burdensome joy of our oft-flailing endeavors to create for you, Dear Reader, the finest, most insightful fiction our poet-souls can spew forth.  We shall reveal our rituals and our deepest secrets so that you may understand what all writers go through every day of their tormented lives to give the gift of verseful prose and to keep the word-thirsty demons of our condition at bay and our sanity at least partially intact.


TT: So, Jerod, I used to use heroin to spark my imagination, but that wasn’t quite elegiac enough, so now I make my own absinthe. Not only is it a staple of great literary tradition, I also find the color green clarifying and provocative and it allows me to maintain both creativity and beauty in my life. Do you have a similar support system?

JS: I gave up absinthe when my liver protested too much. I replaced that sweet nectar by the very bonnet Laura Ingalls Wilder wore when she was compelled to write her Little House on the Prairie series. It still brandishes the magic of long ago, which really was beneficial when channeling Sterling Bronson in Beautiful Monster. Tamara, what attire do you don to conjure up your tortured brilliance?

TT: I dress as a Union gunnery officer, circa 1864, because after all, isn’t writing a war with words?  Words are my rifle, my computer is my sabre and rattling it is my life.  I’ve worn this outfit for all my novels except Moonfall* when I found it necessary to dress in a full Felician nun’s habit, complete with the garters and holey leggings of the Benedictine monks.  Do you perform any rituals to enhance your performance?

JS:  I believe that to get to the creative depths of our souls, we must maintain the precarious balance of each of our universes by creating and destroying in equal portions. That being said, my rituals include but are not limited to breaking furniture, smashing mirrors, throwing champagne glasses into the fireplace, watching I Dream of Jeannie reruns, and animal husbandry.


No, but seriously, my real rituals are far less spectacular than any of those.  I like to wear electronic nipple clamps while I’m slaving over my work. There’s something about the power juicing through my body that I believe adds an adventurous edge to my writing. I also center myself by counting the hairs on the back of my left hand.  There are many hairs and this helps me find inner peace. It’s my Zen moment of the day and I always look forward to it.  Do you have any rituals, Tamara?

TT: I do, but none as interesting as yours, I’m afraid.  I keep a framed signed photograph of a young Samuel Clemens over my computer.  It’s been handed down in my family since he presented it to my great-great-grandparents, Chester and Sarah Bellham as a wedding gift in 1859.  (They were traveling after their wedding on the very first steamboat he piloted after receiving his license.)  Each evening, at the end of the working day, I close my computer and light a votive candle kept on the little altar below the portrait.   Then I choose thirteen ants out of my husband’s ant farm and hold them, one by one, over the flame with long tweezers until they crisp while I recite these lines partially from Tolkien:

Cut the cloth and tread the fat!

Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!

Pour the milk on the pantry floor!

Splash the wine on every door!

Hubba hubba shebop shebop

Hobbits, don’t let my new book flop!

Those lines have spoken to me since I was ten years old in ways I can’t begin to explain, even to myself. Perhaps it’s merely silly superstition, but I believe that these small sacrifices aid my creativity.


JS: That’s amazing, Tamara. I do the same thing, but I didn’t admit it earlier because I didn’t want PETA to go after me.  I do it a little differently. My altar includes a painting of Stevie Nicks and a tambourine, which I shake vigorously before sacrificing my ants to her. After the sacrifices have been executed, I look up to the Stevie Nicks painting and recite the following lines three times:

“Just like the white-winged dove…

Sings a song, sounds like she’s singin’

Ooh, baby, ooh, said, ooh…”


TT: Why Stevie Nicks?

JS:  Why Mark Twain?

TT: Good point.  We all contend with our private demons in our own ways.  Jerod, they say no book is written by just one person, so tell me what role your wife plays in your writing life.

JS: She lies. She tells people I’m a plumber because she’s very embarrassed, but in private, she’s quite supportive, going so far as to help me count the hairs on the back of my hand to help me focus. I couldn’t do it without her because she’s a far keener mathematician than I.  What of Robert Damien?  How does he cope with your literary mistress?

TT: Threesomes.  Well, Jerod, in closing, what advice would you give to new writers?

JS: As a natural born writer, you’re surely already hanging on to life by the thinnest of threads, so my advice to invest in plenty of anti-depressants, read books such as The Story of O by Pauline Réage, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, and of course, The Back Passage by James Lear. Also, find a good luck charm – worry stones. It’s nice to have something to rub whilst pounding away at your work, and according to ancient legend, worry stones are also good for your circulation depending on the vigor of your worry. Additionally, porn is good because it clears the mind, but make sure you have a keyboard cover.  Exercise.  Kegels are great because you can do them right at your desk and the keyboard cover also comes in handy. Also I glue leather elbow patches to my Lycra Spandex unitard and carry around a meerschaum pipe because it makes me look literary. I advise all new writers do something similar. Think like the writer — BE the writer! What’s your advice, TT?


TT: I advise always taking writing very, very seriously. There’s no joking around when it comes to being a Published Author.  This is a business, damn it, and you must be a professional at all times. Make sure, as well, that your subtext is well thought out and inserted consistently so that people will know just how brilliant you are–and obviously, you must be sure there are always many deeper meanings in whatever you are writing. Thinking like Camus is excellent for romance writers, and I recommend Nietzsche for humorists, but the cant of any serious philosopher will fit the other genres.

Any more to add, Jerod?

JS:  Yes. I agree one hundred and seven percent.  You must take your art as seriously as you do every breath you take. Each move you make and each claim you stake in writing is important. You don’t put on the red light. Just write. Write like the wind. And remember, I’ll be watching you.

TT: One last question, Jerod. However did you get the original Laura Ingalls Wilder bonnet?

JS: eBay.


*You can find links to Moonfall and all of Tamara’s other books at the all new and ever so exciting

Some True Ghost Stories from the Inland Empire

A reader just stumbled across this piece I did for a SoCal newspaper a couple Halloweens ago.  These are all haunts located in places that have inspired many of my novels in one way or another.  (There’s some false info here too, under the Mission Inn: it was not used as the exterior of Buffy’s school in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But it just oozes with hauntings, anyway!)

The Inland Empire’s top 13 ghost stories

Tamara Thorne, Correspondent

Posted:   10/28/2010 04:17:18 PM PDT

Fallen leaves of liquidambar skitter across lawns, bright dots of orange and yellow in the growing darkness. Crackling, cackling, they herald a chill breeze carrying the warm funky scent of burning pumpkin. You, aged 8 or 80, stand on the sidewalk, filling your senses with Halloween.

Distant shrieks and shouts tell you the nearest trick-or-treaters are at least a couple blocks away. Excitement sparks the air. It’s All Hallows Eve, and you’re staring at the big old dilapidated house across the street. The one everyone says is haunted. You wonder, as you always have, if you were to go inside, would anything happen?

That’s the question for which I’ve been driven to find answers all my life, and there is no shortage of haunted places in the Inland Empire. You name it, we’ve got it. I’d love to tell you about a baker’s dozen of my favorites.

Read the rest here:

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I created this blog to talk about my books, dish some trivia and goof around in a bookish way, but until now, I haven’t had a moment to do much of anything but announce links and signings. Well, as of last week, with the uploading of Haunted, the last of four titles  (Candle Bay, Moonfall and Eternity) I retained e-rights to, the conversions are complete and it’s back to full-time writing for me, with a little blog talk on the side. And as if he somehow knew all this, Michael Evans invited me to follow him in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, so won’t you please join me now as I venture into these questions? It’s a dirty job and we may come out with a lot of dirt under our nails, but, hey, free dirt!

What is the working title of your book?  CBII, Candle Bay Part Deux, Candle Bay: The Sequel, and occasionally, Roadtrip!   I’ll know the real title when it decides to reveal itself in all its pulsing naked glory.  Whatever it’s called, the book follows the vampiric Darling Family through a scary but rollicking new adventure and also reveals, at long last, whether or not our heroine goes under the fang.

Where did the idea come from for the book? From some of the characters in Candle Bay. Those troublesome vampire twins, Juicy Lucy and Poison Ivy, have been pestering me about their need for a roadtrip ever since I typed the last word on the last page of the original Candle Bay.

 What genre does your book fall under? Horror. In Tag-speak, that’s Vampires, Ribaldry, Humor, Atlantis, Eternity, American Folklore, Sex, and Puns.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Orion Darling, head of the Darling Family (the vampires who own the Candle Bay Hotel) must be played by Robert DeNiro.  That is, Robert DeNiro impersonating Marlon Brando as The Godfather.  It says that much in Candle Bay.  He owes me.

Ori’s daughter, business-vampire, Natasha, would be perfect for Katherine Zeta-Jones, though some may argue that she’s getting a little long in the tooth for the role… But I say, viva irony!  Brothers Stephen and Ivor Darling, can be played by any Chris-Sarandon-in-his-prime tall dark and hunksome actors. Forever teens,  Lucy and Ivy, with their insatiable appetites have always been a pair of wicked little Dushku-types.

Trueborn vampire, Julian Valentyne, is named after Julian Sands.  Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, know what I mean? In my mind, Julian is a cross between Sands and Richard O’Brien’s Riff Raff in Rocky Horror Picture Show, but for the movies, I think going with the yummier aspect is a good plan.

As for Amanda Pearce, she’s blond and perky, with a wide streak of snark and  a decent dose of brains. Someone with some range and a pixy nose will do.  And the ever-present (he pops up in lots of books), DJ Coastal Eddie Fortune, could be handily played by either John Corbett or the long-haired hippie schoolteacher from Beavis and Butthead.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? “Oh, crap, this dire situation requires a ROADTRIP!”

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  I tend to be a traditionalist.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  I’m writing it now.  It will take three or four months more and I aim to turn it in in June.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?  Inspiration came from the research for the first book as well as characters Julian and the twins. Between the stories Julian told them about Euloa/Atlantis and other places he visited, and my continuing fascination with Mt. Shasta’s lore, it was inevitable.  I first got into Shasta’s crazy lore (which includes vampires, Atlantis and just about every other beloved trope) when I wrote Eternity. Then I carried it into Candle Bay.  Icehouse Mountain is my version of Mt. Shasta.

 What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  Besides lots of sex? And tongue-in-cheekiness (and other places)? Well, my vampires are connoisseurs of blood. They taste by type and while they do appreciate a nice little house vein, they give bottles of rare blends to one another at Vampire New Years parties and bat mitzvahs.  (They’ve asked me to counsel you to never order a BO Negative.)   And hey, what else is there?  A freaking roadtrip!  Who doesn’t love a roadtrip! I call shotgun!

A week from today, follow the links below to read more Next Big Thing Blogs. You just might find entries  from the lovely Jared Anderson, the gorgeous Gryffyn Phoenix, the delightful Janice Oberding, and the absolutely fabulous Writer to be Announced.  He’s tops in the field!



Mysterious Galaxy Signing Saturday Oct. 27

I’ll be signing Haunted, Candle Bay, and Moonfall this Saturday at 2 pm at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego.  It’s a terrific store and Halloween will be in full swing!  Come check it out if you’re in the area. IT’s located at 7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Suite #302, San Diego, CA 92111. You can call the store at 858-268-4747 or check for directions and other information.