The Taking by Dean Koontz

The Taking, Dean Koontz, 2004

My favorite quote: “We’re down the hole to Wonderland, and no White Rabbit to guide us.”

If I remember correctly, the White Rabbit was an unreliable guide, anyway.”

Notable characters: Mary Sloan, the typically-insipid main character; Neil, the typically-bland husband; Virgil, the ever-present preternaturally intelligent dog

Most memorable scene: One involving creepy talking dolls …

Greatest strengths: An engaging premise

Standout achievements: It’s ability to somehow keep me reading even when I’m not sure I really like it.

What it taught me about writing: Readers are smart people. It’s okay to play your secrets close to the vest, plant your clues discreetly, and give them room to make the discoveries on their own.

Other media: It was announced in 2006 that Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Productions purchased the rights of The Taking with intentions of making it into a mini series, but so far, it hasn’t happened.

My rating: 2.5 of 5

Haunt me:

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

Casino Royale (James Bond, book one, Ian Fleming, 1953

My favorite quote: ” ‘People are islands,’ she said. ‘They don’t really touch. However close they are, they’re really quite separate. Even if they’ve been married for fifty years.’ “

Notable characters: James Bond, 007; Vesper Lynd, the femme fatale; LeChiffre, the wicked financier

Most memorable scene: The ball torture (because ouch!) 

Greatest strength: The action

Standout achievements: It’s unrivaled ability to make card games and gambling interesting

Fun facts: Ian Fleming had serious doubts about this book — so much so that before it was published, he sent a copy of it to his friend, William Plomer, explaining that, “I really am thoroughly ashamed of it … after rifling through this muck you will probably never speak to me again, but I have got to take that chance.”

What it taught me about writing: Simplicity is power

How it inspired my own work: I always learn something about action sequences — particularly guns, bombs, and fights! — when I read anything from this series (you just have to try to ignore the sexism and other issues that were prevalent when these books were written)

Other media: 2006 film of the same name starring Daniel Craig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Haunt me:

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951

My favorite quote: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”

Notable characters: Holden Caulfield, the caustic teen; Ward Stradlater, his dorm roommate; Robert Ackley, his dorm neighbor; D.B., Holden’s brother, the screenwriter; Phoebe, his little sister; Mr. Antolini, English teacher and controversial head-patter; Allie, Holden’s deceased brother

Most memorable scene: The (ignored) composition that Holden wrote about his dead brother’s baseball glove — and the memory of Holden lashing out over his brother’s death

Greatest strengths: The voice is impeccable and never falters

Standout achievements: Its ability to place you in the scene

Fun Facts: Despite its position and popularity in American literature (and the multitude of directors and production companies who have tried securing the rights) The Catcher in the Rye has never been made into a movie

What it taught me about writing: That humanity — even if you’re writing about monsters — is everything.

How it inspired my own work: I liked this book so much I made it into the favorite book of one of my characters — Father Vincent Scarlotti in the Crimson Cove series, who carries a battered copy of this book with him wherever he travels.

Additional thoughts: I’m always astounded by how controversial and polarizing this book is. Some love it, some hate it, and there doesn’t seem to be much in-between. It’s been analyzed to death, and is, in my opinion, somehow both unduly praised and unreasonably criticized. I read it before being subjected to all the contention and adoration surrounding it, and to me, it’s a simple story about a young man trying to understand what it means to be an adult. To me, it’s about someone desperately seeking a human connection at an age when human connection seems impossible. Despite all the dissension and debate, I fucking love it.

My rating: 5 of 5

Haunt me:

A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories of History’s Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors by Michael Farquhar

A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories of History’s Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors, Michael Farquhar, 2001

My favorite quote: “The rigid, repressed [Queen] Victoria was never a particularly cozy mum, candidly acknowledging early on that she derived ‘no especial pleasure or compensation’ from her large brood of children. Even when they were babies, Victoria regarded them as distasteful little creatures. ‘I have no tendre for them,’ she once remarked, ‘til they have become a little human; an ugly baby is a very nasty object … and the prettiest is frightful when undressed … as long as they have their big body and little limbs and that terrible frog-like action.’”

Notable characters: Napoleon Bonaparte, Nero, Marie Antionette, Caligula, Tiberius Caesar … and so many more … 

Most memorable scene: I always go back to the Russian marriage that was consummated on a bed of ice 

Greatest strengths: It’s tabloid-like ability to suck you into its tawdry snare … 

Standout achievements: Well, it certainly isn’t your typical dry, boring history lesson

Fun Facts: The author, Michael Farquhar is a former writer and editor at The Washington Post and has several other books along the lines of Royal Scandals, including A Treasury of Great American Scandals, Behind the Palace Doors, and Secret Lives of the Tsars

Other media: N/A

What it taught me about writing: I’m not sure what it taught me about writing, but I was surprised to learn how inbred the royals were … 

How it inspired my own work: The death of one of the “Exterminators” in my novel, The Black Wasp, was inspired by the assassination of Mary, Queen of Scots, as described in this book

Additional thoughts: You’ll laugh, you’ll gasp, you’ll be glad we’ve evolved as a society … or have we?  

My rating: 4 of 5

Haunt me:

Pearls Before Swine by Margery Allingham

Pearls Before Swine (#12 in the Albert Campion series), Margery Allingham, 1945 (originally published as Coroner’s Pidgin)

My favorite quote: “Nobody, nobody ever killed anyone simply in order to provide an awkward corpse in someone else’s house.”

Notable characters: Albert Campion, the detective

Most memorable scene: Campion in the bath while his servant, Lugg, and local aristocrat, Lady Carados, carry a corpse into his bedroom.

Greatest strengths: Continued suspense, unique character description, remarkable wit

Standout achievements: On top of being a fun detective story, Pearls Before Swine is a superb period piece that gives readers a vivid look at the deterioration of aristocracy and the crumbling state of London as World War II was reaching its end

Fun Facts: The character of Albert Campion is alleged to have been created as a parody of Dorothy L. Sayers’ detective Lord Peter Wimsey

What it taught me about writing: This is one of the books that showed me the importance and power of setting

How it inspired my own work: The surname Campion always sounded strong and smart to me, so I used it for one of the leaders (Matthew Campion) of Obscura Nocte, an organization from my own novels that specializes in the supernatural

My rating: 4 of 5

Haunt me:

Comes the Blind Fury by John Saul

Comes the Blind Fury, John Saul, 1980

My favorite quote: “All she knew was her anger. Her anger and her hatred … ”

Notable characters: Michelle Pendleton, the new girl; Amanda, the blind dead girl

Most memorable scene: I’m not gonna lie … Amanda, sailing off the cliff … 

Greatest strengths: I have to say, this book captures the cruelty of children in a way few books do.

Standout achievements: This is 80s vintage-horror at its best

Fun Facts: I met John Saul when Tamara Thorne and I interviewed him on our podcast (he was actually on with us a few times) and I was surprised to learn that “John Saul” is, in essence, two people, that his husband actually did a lot of work on the writing and concepts, and that he, John, did the publicity, etc. He was, and remains, one of my favorite guests. 

Other media: None 

What it taught me about writing: Honestly, I read John Saul books for the pure joy and can’t say it truly “teaches” me anything — but I sure do dig it. 

How it inspired my own work: I always come away from John Saul books wanting to write the next spooky thing.

Additional thoughts: While not the best John Saul out there (the writing on many of his earlier books tends to be less-than-stellar) Comes the Blind Fury is a nice introduction to his work in general. It has a little of everything you can expect to find in his books: children in peril, neglectful parents, cruel school kids, and, in this case, creepy dolls.

My rating: 3.5 of 5 

Haunt me:

The Long Walk by Stephen King

The Long Walk, Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman), 1979

My favorite quote: “They walked through the rainy dark like gaunt ghosts, and Garraty didn’t like to look at them. They were the walking dead.”

Notable characters: Ray Garraty, the main Walker; McVries, a Walker who befriends Garraty; Stebbins, a Walker with a secret; the crowd, their real nemesis

Most memorable scene: An uprising along the way

Greatest strength: It’s haunting sense ot reality. You’ll feel your feet get tired before you’re halfway through

Standout achievements: Creating a reality TV vibe before reality TV was a thing

Fun facts: While not the first one published, The Long Walk is the first novel Stephen King wrote. He began it in 1966, during his Freshman year at the University of Maine, when he was only eighteen years old

What it taught me about writing: That even a story about people walking can be riveting if the stakes are high and the characters are interesting

How it inspired my own work: I’ve always seen a little Ray Garraty in Cade Colter, my protagonist in the Vampires of Crimson Cove series

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Haunt me:

Midnight Cowboy by James Leo Herlihy

Midnight Cowboy, James Leo Herlihy, 1965

My favorite quote: “Her voice went soft and sweet: it seemed to be luring some small child into a gas chamber with promises of candy.”

Notable characters: Joe Buck, the cowboy; Ratso Rizzo, the con-man

Most memorable scene: The bus ride to Miami, of course …

Greatest strengths: Clear, concise writing — specifically, the author’s ability to convey great imagery and invoke deep emotion in very few words

Standout achievements: Its powerful portrayal of unlikely, profound male friendship

Fun Facts: In Austin, inside a former Oriental massage parlor that was busted by the FBI, is a speakeasy bar named after the film

Other media: The 1969 film of the same name starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman

What it taught me about writing: To never flinch from tragedy

How it inspired my own work: I frequently refer to this book when I’m creating close friendships between my male characters

Additional thoughts: This book has an incredible ability to make the reader feel as alienated as its characters are. And it’s a very sad story. I got teary more than once.

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Haunt me:

Behind the Book: The Forgotten, by Tamara Thorne

The Forgotten: Cozy Horror

I haven’t revisited my novel, The Forgotten, since the early 2000s, when I first wrote it. Now, I’m listening to it chapter by chapter, as the audio producer turns it in, and it’s quite an eye-opener. While there is, as always, plenty sex and violence — along with ribald problems like a talking penis — I’m inclined to label this book “cozy horror.”  And while it’s horror — it oozes with ghosts — it’s also science fiction — or speculative fiction might be a better word since there’s nary an alien or a UFO in sight.  

What makes it cozy? The Forgotten is a book for cat lovers in particular. Protagonist, psychologist Will Banning, has given up bad marriages in favor of felines and he’s quite smitten with the trio he calls the Orange Boys. They were based closely on my own trio of brothers; the only things changed about them were their names. 

The Forgotten concerns a haunted town. Citizens of Caledonia, California (a thinly disguised Cambria, the coastal town where Arachniphobia was filmed) are seeing ghosts and hearing voices, and Dr. Banning’s waiting room is overflowing with new patients concerned that they’re losing their minds. 

Will’s friend, veterinarian Maggie Maewood, is having similar problems with an overabundance of furry and feathered creatures that are acting every bit as odd as Will’s human patients. 

I’d always wanted to write about an entire town being haunted — not just a house or hotel or a cabin in the woods — so when I began The Forgottten, I took a sciencey turn because I was fascinated by ELF waves.  Those are Extremely Low Frequency waves and they’re quite real. The Soviet and American military spent a lot of time bombarding each other’s countries with them after WWII, and they are still used by the Russian military for undersea communication with submarines. (They were used by the US Navy for that purpose until 2004, the year after the book first was published.) There were and are many other uses for ELF waves, and some of them are frightening. For example, right after I wrote the book, I saw an ELF-wave rifle being demonstrated by the military on the nightly news. It could pipe thoughts into your brain — or heat it up like a muffin in a microwave. Creepy stuff.

So I researched and researched and ended up more fascinated than ever. What better way to afflict an entire population with ghosts — or mental problems — than to employ these waves?  If you suddenly started hearing voices in your head talking about you, would you think you’re losing your mind, or that maybe a filling is picking up radio waves? If you began hearing your long-dead mother’s footsteps on the stairs each night, would you wonder if your house is haunted or if something’s wrong with you?  And what if you saw the ghost of someone gruesomely murdered in your home long before you ever lived there? What if your spouse saw it, too? And what if the family dog also reacted? What would you think?

Most fascinating to me was how a psychologist like Will Banning would handle all this. This question played into another interest of mine. It’s been posited that some schizophrenics might be extremely sensitive rather than mentallyy ill. What if something happened that amped up regular folks’ sensitivities? How would a psychologist respond? Would he chalk it up to a convenient plague of schizophrenia, or would he be open to more possibilities?

Will Banning must contend with all these problems — and one of his own. As a man of science, how will he react to a ghostly visitor in his own home? One who reminds him of  something he’s long forgotten? And what happens when he understands that his cats hear the voice as well? 

You get a soft-science cozy-horror mystery for cat lovers!

How did the cats get involved? Major inspiration came from my very real trio of Orange Boys. One day, they went as still as statues and sat, unmoving, staring up at something invisible in the hall for nearly an hour. If I moved them, they ignored me, refusing to walk. Instead they remained seated and stared at the ceiling. Then, all at once, they stopped, and went back to life as usual. This happened a number of times.  I began watching them and finally headed outdoors to see what was in the sky when they went into statue-mode.

Black helicopters. Military choppers, big ones. Seriously. Research led me to believe that my cats, with their incredibly sensitive hearing, were probably picking up on masers – aural lasers. When the choppers went away, so did the behavior. 

Thus, all these things came together to form The Forgotten. If you like your horror with a feline twist and a little touch of speculative fiction, you just might enjoy this strange little story.

Learn more about the writing of The Forgotten at Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre

Masking the Monster

Do you prefer in-your-face horror or suggestive horror? Which frightens you most when you’re reading a ghost story or watching a scary movie? In Poltergeist, while we do see a number of masks worn by the real supernatural entity, for most of us, the clown doll that we see in place of the monster itself is, from the very beginning, the primary mask, the horrific image we retain long after the movie is over. It’s iconic. From the moment we see the form in the closet covered by a blanket and expect it to be Carol Ann’s lifeless body to the startling figure on the chair in the dark and the thing lurking under the little boy’s bed – it’s not the real monster that terrifies us, but the toy clown. And a clown face is terrifying because it’s a mask of happiness.

Mask is the key word. Think of Stephen King’s IT. The clown – supposedly an image children love – is only one disguise IT uses, but it is the most effective. Again, that’s because the mask of happiness hides true horror, and on some level, we sense that. And a mask we recognize from everyday life is easily more terrifying than something that tries our comprehension.

Masking a monster is done in many ways. A ghost, demon, or dangerous human usually appears to be something it isn’t. In my own books, I use masks in various ways. In The Crimson Corset, Gretchen VanTreese, the undead proprietor of a nightclub of ill-repute is as beautiful as she is deadly, and the other vampires in the story also wear masks of beauty to draw in their human prey. In The Cliffhouse Haunting, the primary spirit, the Blue Lady, appears to be beautiful … until she gets close enough to wrap her cold arms around you. Even then, she retains her mask as a misty figure that people can’t quite comprehend. The Ghosts of Ravencrest holds many monsters – evil nuns, nature elementals, serial killers, and a myriad of ghosts – all with masks of their own.

Masks are effective because, as we all know, there is nothing more frightening than the unknown. In the movies, we are haunted by images of Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, and Ghostface because we don’t know what lies beneath the facade. In real life, there is perhaps only one serial killer even more terrifying than John Wayne Gacy when he dressed as a clown: Ted Bundy, whose own handsome face was a mask disguising the monster beneath the surface. In this way, he is the most frightening of all because we are attracted to handsome and beautiful faces, not frightened by them.

In horror, masks are vital. Masks are what we fear for we cannot see what’s really behind the beauty or the clown make-up. What’s underneath – what each individual imagines in his or her own mind – is the most terrifying monster. After all, if you remove the monster’s mask, chances are the fear is greatly lessened or even removed. Your own imagination is where the scariest monsters live and a wise author or filmmaker remembers this and reminds you regularly that what you’re seeing is only a mask – that the real monster is lurking in your own mind.

Come for the Vampires, Stay for the Wasp – by Tamara Thorne

The Black Wasp is the third book in Alistair Cross’  Vampires of Crimson Cove series, and it’s a stunner.  I unabashedly love all my collaborator’s solo works, but with this tale, he has achieved new heights of imagination and storytelling. The book — and the title character — is riveting.

When Alistair first introduced her about midway through The Silver Dagger, book two in the series, the Black Wasp was intriguing and mysterious, a supernatural creature that was not a vampire, a ghost, or anything else you might expect.  Even Alistair didn’t know what she was at that point, but she persisted, making her presence known with a subtle but compelling urgency that hooked me from the very beginning. 

Alistair and I spend our days together in a virtual office in the Cloud and are connected on Skype. We spend two thirds of our day working on our ongoing collaborations — generally a stand-alone novel and one of our Ravencrest Saga books. The other third is spent writing our solo novels. Each project segment begins with a read-back of the previous day’s writing, and as Alistair began working on The Black Wasp, I was especially eager to get to read the previous day’s work. I never knew what he might come up with next.

One of my favorite parts came early on, when he created the Black Wasp’s origin story.  Oh, what a tale!  Digging deep into ancient myth and legend — going all the way back to Mesopotamian tales and following through into Greek, Roman, and all kinds of lesser-known mythology — Alistair plucked nuggets from each and deftly wove them together with his own unique ideas to create a new monster, something utterly fantastic. 

With The Black Wasp, Alistair Cross gives us a truly new supernatural creature. Her background is rich, she is terrifying, and fascinating in her intent, and as the tale nears its climax, she even becomes uniquely relatable.

The Crimson Cove books tell the story of the Colter brothers, Cade and Brooks, a friendly sheriff, and their interactions with two very different groups of vampires. With The Black Wasp, Alistair has expanded his universe to include a toothsome new monster, and to introduce another good guy, a priest as mysterious as the Black Wasp herself.  Father Vincent is part of an organization of mysterious scholars and warriors who have been quietly making appearances in our collaborations, including Mother, Ravencrest: Exorcism, and my upcoming solo,  Old Wives’ Tales. The Black Wasp — and the book that follows — reveal the most information about them, so if you want an inside look at the mysterious goings-on of the Obscura Nocte, you need to treat yourself to the Crimson Cove books. 

You need to anyway. Whether you’re a vampire fan or not, the Crimson Cove series will hook you and reel you in. The characters are compelling, the action is non-stop, you’ll laugh, you’ll shed a tear, and you won’t be able to put these books down.  

–Tamara Thorne, bestselling author of Haunted, Brimstone, and Bad Things

Guess What’s Coming to Audible…

The Black Wasp, book 3 in the Vampires of Crimson Cove series, is on its way to Here’s an excerpt where Cade Colter meets the Exterminators — a fanatical group of would-be vampire slayers …

Get the entire series …

The Crimson Corset




The Silver Dagger




The Black Wasp



Audio: coming soon

The Silver Dagger is Now Available in Audiobook!

The Silver Dagger, book 2 in the Vampires of Crimson Cove series, is now available at! If you haven’t yet read book 1, The Crimson Corset, you can get it in audiobook as well. Book 3, The Black Wasp, is on its way and is available now in eBook and paperback at Amazon.

Brother Against Brother

Life in Crimson Cove has been good to the Colter Brothers since Gretchen VanTreese was staked and her horde of vampires scattered. Brooks is once again human, and Cade, the rare Sire Gretchen had determined to take as her mate, is in love.Then the unthinkable happens: Gretchen rises from the grave, and the brothers are torn apart, their lives – and the peace between them – shattered.

A Trail of Blood

When Cade comes into possession of an ancient ceremonial dagger he awakens a power so deadly it defies comprehension. Meanwhile, a serial killer is stalking the little mountain town, leaving a trail of blood that leads to a truth Sheriff Ethan Hunter doesn’t want to face. And unknown to either of them, Gretchen is preparing to reopen her notorious nightclub, The Crimson Corset – and building an army to destroy her enemies and reclaim Cade Colter as her own.

A New Breed of Evil

The streets are no longer safe, nor are the forested paths, for a new and unknowable evil has come to Crimson Cove and everyone – vampire and human alike – must come together in order to survive.

The Black Wasp Has Landed

It’s official! The Black Wasp, book 3 in the Vampires of Crimson Cove series is available now!

Get the entire series at Amazon!

The Vampires of Crimson Cove series

The Crimson Corset




The Silver Dagger



Audio: coming soon

The Black Wasp



Audio: coming soon

Three More Days!

The Black Wasp, book 3 in the Vampires of Crimson Cove series, is coming this Sunday, June 13th!

Get books 1 and 2 now:

The Crimson Corset




The Silver Dagger



Audio: coming soon

Creepy, Stabby, and Mentally Odd – A Review

I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of Creepy, Stabby, and Mentally Odd — which comes out TODAY, btw! — and I was surprised by what I found.

This was my first excursion into the work and world of Wednesday Lee Friday and I’m not going to lie: I’m impressed. Creepy, Stabby, and Mentally Odd is a collection of short stories, poetry, and other dark content that shows off Wednesday Lee Friday’s creative muscle to great advantage – she seamlessly soars from story to story, tense to tense, person to person, and terror to terror, trapping the reader in a delicious, dark (and sometimes funny) world that’s hard to walk away from. There’s a lot to love here and I couldn’t choose my favorite part of it if I had to. 

In Growlers we get a macabre glimpse at the dark side of the fast food industry that takes unexpected turns that end up as terrifying as they are socially relevant. To Die Beautiful is so rhythmically and beautifully written that you’ll almost forget you’re seeing life through the eyes of a woman scorned in the worst way … almost. Trabajando Alegre proves that there are far worse things than being broke and unemployed, and Jetplane warns of the dangers of putting all your eggs into one basket. And that’s just the tip of the blood-covered icepick …  

It isn’t often you come across a horror author whose work contains as much entertainment value as it does depth, and when you find one, they keep you coming back. You’ll come back to Creepy, Stabby, and Mentally Odd again and again. Not just for the stories but for the poetry and for Stig and the Puppetman (you’ll have to get the book to learn more about that, though – let’s just call it a pleasant surprise). 

There’s some truly beautiful stuff here. You won’t just be entertained by this collection – you’ll learn from it. I did. A highly-recommended, very enthusiastic, full five stars. 

Get your copy at Amazon today

Movie Poster-Esque Artwork for The Black Wasp

Artwork by Stefan Ellis

The Vampires of Crimson Cove series

The Crimson Corset




The Silver Dagger



Audio: coming soon

The Black Wasp: Coming 6/13

My Top Ten Favorite Paranormal Novels

Choosing my ten favorite paranormal novels is like walking through a candy store and trying to choose only a few favorite pieces. I discovered the paranormal and horror genres at a young age, and instantly fell in love, submerging myself in everything from Stephen King movies (Carrie was my favorite when I was a kid) and any ghost stories I could get my hands on. By the time I was ten, I was pretty well-versed in the ways of the weird, and while I appreciate just about anything with a paranormal bent, there are a few classic books that really stand up. Below are the top ten paranormal novels that shaped who I am as reader as well as a writer.

1. Violin by Anne Rice

I put this novel at number one on just about every top-ten list, and here’s why: This story changed me; it reached inside of me and rearranged deep things. This is more than a ghost story – it’s a human story and it’s as dark and doleful as it is healing and hopeful. Violin follows a ghost named Stefan who travels to modern-day New Orleans in search of release from his own torment, and while reading this stunningly well-written emotional roller-coaster, I fell in love with Anne Rice. I cringed, I cried. I laughed, I loved. But most of all, I just kept reading and reading and reading. This book gave me no other choice.

2. Dracula by Bram Stoker

Long considered the daddy of all horror novels, Dracula has more than earned its place among my favorites. This novel, perhaps more than any other, is not only the reason I write what I write, but the reason I write at all. I tried reading this book when I was only eight years old, and though it was way over my head, those images of the Count climbing up the castle walls never left me. Nor did the very atmospheric carriage ride – the fog, the moors, the howling of the wolves – that Jonathan Harker took on his way to said castle. And when I returned to the book as an adult, I found it just as riveting, just as powerful.

3. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Beautifully-written and well-told, The Picture of Dorian Gray has a way of creeping into the dark corners of your mind and lying dormant there for years. Then, when you least expect it, this dark little tale of vanity and self-obsession rears its beautiful but tragic head to remind you of its existence within you. I only wish this book could have gone on much longer than it did.

4. It by Stephen King

When people think of Stephen King’s It, they immediately think of creepy clowns … and while there is plenty of that to be had in this book, I can’t help feeling that most people are missing the point. It is a story about childhood and coming of age. It’s about bonds and those rare lifelong relationships we all crave. And perhaps above all else, it is – of course – about fear. But it’s not interested in your garden-variety creepy-crawlies – this book is about all fear, every fear … and most of all, it’s about your fear – and that’s what made it the kind of book I simply couldn’t put down … and I really wanted to. At over 1,000 pages, that sucker is heavy!

5. The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz

Welcome to the creepiest old brownstone in New York. When an emotionally troubled fashion model – she’s attempted suicide, a big no-no for Catholics – moves in, she is beset by nightmares and troubled by the elderly, blind Catholic priest who sits vigil in the window of the top floor. Her new neighbors are supremely weird, and when she asks the realtor about them, she’s shocked to be told that only she and the reclusive priest live there. As she and her boyfriend delve into the mystery, everything escalates – including encounters from the phantom neighbors. The Sentinel is one of the creepiest, most disturbing books I’ve ever read – there’s even a nod to it in my new novel, Sleep Savannah Sleep. The movie is dated yet still nearly as effective as the novel. Both will give you nightmares.

6. The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

A contemporary Southern gothic, The House Next Door revolves around neighbors to a brand new home designed so well that it seems to grow organically from the earth. Everyone who moves in suffers misfortune or death – the house itself is a psychic vampire and more. It’s especially intriguing because the main character, neighbor Col Kennedy is a little too snobbish to be likable, yet draws you in as she begins to truly understand the horror that sits next door. Anne Rivers Siddons is not a horror author, but a writer of southern fiction. However, her grasp of the inherent evil makes her as terrifying as King, Saul, or Straub. Try Fox’s Earth if you want to meet a psychopath that is at least as horrific as anything Stephen King has ever created.

7. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Expectant mother Rosemary Woodhouse is thrilled about the upcoming birth of her child, but her neighbors are a little too interested in her pregnancy, insisting she use a certain doctor, take certain herbs, and drink foul-tasting concoctions. Who could argue with sweet little old lady, Minnie Castevet?  As Rosemary’s suspicions and rebelliousness grow, her husband, Guy, becomes darker and stranger. The novel is one of creeping terror that builds and builds until all you can do is be glad the novel is short – there is no way you can put this one down until you’ve finished the very last page.

8. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Catholic or an atheist, The Exorcist will frighten you … unless you’re also a sociopath. In the book (and movie), the real world is bright and shiny. Movie star mom Chris MacNeil and beloved daughter, Regan, take a house in Georgetown while Chris is making a movie. Then Regan finds a Ouija board and things begin happening. At first, they think they have rats, but they have so much more. Atheist Chris is forced to look to Catholic priest Damien Karras for help when science fails her daughter. The Exorcist is possibly the single most frightening novel written in modern American history.

9. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

While not exactly paranormal – at least not in the obvious in-your-face sense of the term – Rebecca remains one of my all-time favorites. It’s about the ghosts of the past, and one woman’s desperate quest to exist outside of the very tall shadow cast by Rebecca, the woman who came before her. Rebecca exudes the quiet, subtle kind of horror that raises the tiny hairs on the nape of your neck – just a little – and compels you to keep reading not only because of its smooth-as-warm-butter style, but because of what may or may not be waiting for you around the next corner and on the next page. And when it comes to payoff, Rebecca delivers. Boy, does she deliver …

10. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

“Whose hand was I holding?” is possibly the most frightening line in literary history. The Haunting of Hill House oozes and creeps and crawls with fear on every perfectly-written page. Hill House frightens without spilling a drop of blood. It’s psychological and supernatural terror at its best, partly because Eleanor Vance is an unreliable witness. Is she imagining things or isn’t she? Jackson’s finely drawn characters want to believe Eleanor is somehow responsible for the terror – it makes it more palatable to them – and that makes for interpersonal behavior that’s almost as frightening as the hand-holding, breathing doors, thunderous pounding sounds, and cold spots. Personally, I don’t think Eleanor is causing any of it beyond being there to help bring the house to life.

The Crimson Corset – a Review from FaerieFits

In honor of the June 13th release of The Black Wasp (book 3 in the Vampires of Crimson Cove series), here’s a review of book 1, The Crimson Corset, from FaerieFits:

“I honestly had no idea what to expect when I picked up The Crimson Corset. I don’t actually even know how I found it, but you know, it showed up on my Kindle and who wouldn’t be curious about a book with a cover of a woman wearing a bright red corset? Especially when the series is clearly about vampires? (Turns out that the corset’s ribbing is made out of bones of its owner’s own mother; how creepy is that?!)

So anyway, it took me about 5 pages to realize that I LOVE THIS BOOK!

Some context: I was reading this out loud to my daughter (don’t judge; a 7 week old isn’t going to understand what I’m reading to her, just that she’s hearing me). Ease of articulating was super important!

The Crimson Corset is punny. Oh, how I love puns!
There’s nothing better than starting a book off with a few good puns. Characters that bring some puns to the table are just so much more enjoyable than characters who are boring. Obviously.

I mean, right off the bat we get to observe a conversation between Cade,=, one of the main characters and his fern named Fernando! (Get it? Yeah, totally took me two thirds of the book to catch the pun) Cade also later named his cat Sir Purrcival. I mean, the punny in The Crimson Corset was spectacular.

And it’s not just puns. Even through the worst of the goings-on (see next section), Cade and the other characters still kept a sense of humor. Dry humor. Some of which may have involved holy water water guns leaking in pants. (But no, seriously)

The Crimson Corset is filled with graphic, detailed, gory imagery

The Crimson Corset
totally starts off light-hearted and fun. By the time I started to get a sense of the plot, I was definitely expecting it to be quick, fun read. But man, it gets  dark ! (YAY!) There’s sex (I mean, the title involves a corset; what did you expect?), violence, violent sex. Complete and utter brainwashing by way of vampiric venom. Psycho murderous blood-hungry cross-dressing children.

You know, the works.

(Yeah, maybe not the  best choice of books to read aloud to my daughter.)

Plus, the descriptions were just plain … well, good. They were powerful, and even though I’m not one to really care about knowing exactly what a character looks like, I LOVED Cross’ descriptions. They conveyed so much more than just appearance. Personality came across, as did insanity, where appropriate. It really made the experiences feel almost relatable.

The Crimson Corset adds a unique flavor to a common theme
Ok, this book is totally (at least partially) about vampires who kill humans against vampires who don’t kill humans. Totally cliche, right? But it felt unique and fun in a horrifying oh-dear-god-is-that-really-happening kind of way. There are enough fresh ideas to keep me from feeling bored.

And honestly, the “bad” vampires were so interesting (read: graphically horrifying and very consistently motivated) that I didn’t really care that this is a common/overused theme.

The Crimson Corset is easily the best vampire-dedicated book I’ve read. Ever.
And that’s saying something. Since, you know, I went through that phase. And, you know, I totally still read an awful lot of vampire books.” This review was originally posted on FaerieFits (less)

Books 1 and 2 are available now:

The Crimson Corset




Free on Kindle Unlimited

The Silver Dagger



Audio: coming soon

Free on Kindle Unlimited

The Black Wasp: Coming June 13th

Of Nightmares, There Will be Plenty: A Review of Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco

Marian Rolfe desperately wants to spend the sunny season away from the city, and the summer rental she finds advertised is everything she’s looking for. Her husband, Ben, is initially against it, but she eventually talks him into it. After giving the place a look and meeting its very odd owners, Marian and Ben eventually agree to take it … and right away, it becomes obvious that things aren’t what they seem. When the house begins to regenerate itself – and the Rolfe family’s expense – the summer getaway quickly turns into a nightmare. 

I heard that this book was the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, and having just read the final page, I can totally see it. Spooky, atmospheric, and at times, downright terrifying, Burnt Offerings had a little of everything I liked: interesting characters, ghostly visitations, and, of course, an old mysterious house – one that, in this case, seems to have the ability to influence its inhabitants.   

Given the many books and movies this novel has inspired, it stands to reason that this story wasn’t as fresh now as it must have been when it came out in the 1970s. But when you take its age and the reach of its influence into account, Burnt Offerings stands up as one of the creepiest and most interesting haunted house tales out there. With all the gothic subtlety of its genre, this novel will crawl under your skin and nest there. Of nightmares, there will be plenty.

The Black Wasp – Excerpt #2

Crouching behind a Dumpster near the mouth of the street, Scythe watched one of the women. She was beautiful, Asian, with startling electric blue eyes, and even from here, he could smell her. The bouquet of perfume, female skin, and human blood nearly pushed him over the edge. Her looks didn’t hurt either. She was as tiny and appetizing as an hors d’oeuvre, with braids like a Swiss girl on a box of cocoa, and presently, she stood just under the lemon-pale light of a streetlamp, looking – probably deliberately – like anyone’s idea of the typical hooker. 

Another prostitute appeared, this one male, and the two began chatting. Straining to hear, Scythe caught their conversation – they were talking about someone named Rachel who sounded to Scythe like some kind of she-pimp. He also caught both of their names. The male was called Danny and the female was Suzi.

Suzi. Suzi. It tasted like honey on Scythe’s tongue. Of course, by now he was starving in more ways than one and the very air of Scarlet Street seemed to throb with sex and drip with blood. He could smell everything the street had to offer now, down to the uneasiness of the prostitutes and the heady lust of their johns, to the sweat of the couples rutting in the darkened rooms of the buildings.

His fangs were loaded and his hunger sharp, but he couldn’t risk it. He was too smart to leave a trail of bodies for Gretchen to follow. He’d come too far to fuck up now. He started walking, this time heading away from Scarlet Street, away from the people. Human blood was too tempting now. He’d have to go back to the wilderness and find himself a big fat bunny, or maybe, if he was lucky, a coyote – but he had to keep off humans if he wanted to stay off Gretchen’s radar.

Then he needed to find a safe place to stay.

Coming June 13th

The Black Wasp, book 3 in the Vampires of Crimson Cove series, is coming June 13th. The first two books in the series are available now:

The Crimson Corset




Free on Kindle Unlimited

The Silver Dagger



Audio: coming soon

Free on Kindle Unlimited

She Comes with the Fog …

THE BLACK WASP, book 3 in the Vampires of Crimson Cove series, is coming June 13th!

Coming June 13th!

Something is coming …

As he grieves the death of his girlfriend at the fangs of his own brother, Cade Colter attracts the attention of a group of fanatical vampire killers. His life is in turmoil and just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse, a new evil comes to town.

The Woman in Black is back …

Now, something else roams the streets of Crimson Cove – something far deadlier than any vampire. She comes with the fog, she comes with the night, and she’s spreading a lethal poison that slowly rots her victims from the inside out … and she’s looking for Cade.

Sooner or later, you’ll see her, too …

First comes the deadly low hum of a thousand black wasps … Then a feeling of dread so deep and cold that you dare not breathe…

A figure, a woman dressed in old-fashioned widow’s weeds, appears before you …

Don’t Scream …

She wants to know your terror. She wants to taste your pain.

Get books one and two in the series:

The Crimson Corset




Read for free on Kindle Unlimited

The Silver Dagger



Audiobook: coming soon

Read for free on Kindle Unlimited

The Wild West of Publishing, Episode 1: Things to Avoid

Thorne & Cross sit down with longtime author, editor, and publisher, Margaret Lucke, to discuss writing and publishing in today’s climate.

In episode 1: Things to Avoid, Margaret discusses some of the pitfalls of writing and things she sees as an editor that will keep a manuscript from being accepted by a publisher. Listen in at Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre

To Pants or Plot

Mmmm … Jane Eyre … (Charlotte Bronte is a good example of a character-driven author)

One thing I’m frequently asked is whether I write an outline for my books, or just fly by the seat of my pants. The short answer is: both. The long answer is a little more complicated.

In my experience there are two types of writers: plot-driven writers and character-driven writers. Whereas the strength of plot-driven writers mainly lies in constructing plot, a character-driven writer is more focused on the development of the people populating the story. I’m the latter – and as a character-driven writer, it’s very difficult for me to make my characters do what I want them to do. They have a way of coming to life and taking over the story, which is wonderful … except when I have specific plans for my plot. 

This is where creating outlines can become a problem for me. After all, why bother making plans when you know they’re just going to change anyway? And I’ve tried forcing my characters to stay within the confines of my outline … believe me, that doesn’t work, either. The story just … stops. The only thing I know to do is to let the characters tell the story as they see fit – so I’ve learned not to bother creating detailed, scene-by-scene, moment-to-moment outlines. 

What it looks like when I try to create extensive outlines … which is why I kinda just don’t do it anymore

But I also don’t sit down and start writing with complete abandon and no direction. That doesn’t work, either. Without some kind of structure, I run the risk of writing myself into a corner. I know because it’s happened many, many times. 

The solution? I do create an outline … but it’s a very simple one that allows plenty of room for movement. In short, I make sure I know the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story – and for the sake of making room for unexpected twists and turns at the hands of my very undisciplined characters, I like to have two and sometimes three possible endings. I make little notes along the way – things I want to make sure I don’t forget about … and once I have all that, then I can sit down and write, knowing that regardless of what my characters decide to do, I won’t end up in some corner I can’t write myself out of.

From my more recent notes. I’ve gotten better but as you can see, sometimes even I don’t know what I’m talking about

I’ve learned to trust my characters. We respect each other. I give them their freedom, and in return, they tell me some really great stories. I couldn’t plan the comedies, tragedies, dramas, and horrors that they live out on the page. Strange as it is to say, they’re much more creative than I am. I love that about them. Like good actors, they just need a little direction. A little direction. 

That said, the writing process is different for every writer. It took me too long to find my own way of doing things; unfortunately, I took a lot of the wrong advice from other writers and lost a lot of time. So be careful whose advice you take – even mine. Do what works for you. This is just what works for me.

The Black Wasp Has a Release Date!

It’s official! The Black Wasp, book 3 of the Vampires of Crimson Cove series will be released on June 13th! The eBook version will hit first, followed by the paperback shortly afterward. Then will come the audiobook version – but not before the audio release of book 2, The Silver Dagger, which is on its way!

More about The Black Wasp:

Something is coming.

Cade Colter is dealing with a group of fanatical vampire killers even as he grieves the death of his girlfriend at the fangs of his own brother. His life is in turmoil and just when it seems things couldn’t get worse a new evil comes to town. 

The Woman in Black is back.

Now, something else roams the streets of Crimson Cove – something far deadlier than any vampire. She comes with the fog, she comes with the night, and she’s spreading a lethal poison that slowly rots her victims from the inside out … and she’s looking for Cade. 

Sooner or later, you’ll see her, too.

First comes the deadly low hum of a thousand black wasps …

Then a feeling of dread so deep and cold that you dare not breathe …

A figure, a woman dressed in old-fashioned widow’s weeds, appears before you …

Don’t Scream.

She wants to know your terror. She wants to taste your pain.

The Black Wasp is coming June 13th

Get Book 1, The Crimson Corset at:




Read for free on Kindle Unlimited

Get Book 2, The Silver Dagger at:



Audiobook: coming soon

Read for free on Kindle Unlimited

Writer’s Etiquette – Top Tips for Writers From Thorne & Cross

While there are no definitive rules about how writers should present themselves, there are some things we’ve learned along the way about what works – and what doesn’t. My collaborator, Tamara Thorne, and I have seen and heard a lot of things in our combined 40 years of experience in the writing industry that have caused many a writer unnecessary and avoidable problems.

Given the vast amount of advice floating around out there, our first recommendation is to be careful whose advice you take. That said, here are our top 10 observations about proper writer’s etiquette.

“Be Now What You Wish to Become”

This was the motto we both lived by from the very beginning of our careers. Being newly-published – or not-yet published – makes no difference. If you want to be treated like a professional, if you want your work to be taken seriously, one of the most important things you can do is believe in yourself. If you treat your work like a hobby, so will everyone else.

Do Not Argue With Reviewers

Nothing screams, “I’m an amateur!” like getting online and arguing with readers and reviewers who dislike your work. As a writer, you’re going to receive bad reviews – it’s just part of the gig. Not everyone will enjoy your work, and not everyone has to. If you feel you must read your reviews at all, we think it’s imperative that you refrain from fighting with negative reviewers lest you be perceived as childish and petty.

Allow readers their opinions, even if you don’t like them. And never take one-star reviews seriously.

Never Pay for Reviews

We all raise a brow when a book we’ve never heard of has 12,700 five star reviews – we all know it’s bogus. In short, paying for reviews (or otherwise dishonestly earning them) shows. Professionals avoid these things.

Please Don’t Whine

Are you having marital problems? Can’t make your mortgage payment this month? Caught your husband in bed with the babysitter? Have hayfever? These things happen, but when an author spends too much time bemoaning various trials on Facebook and Twitter, the personal life tends to overshadow the work.

People forget you’re an author at all and begin tuning in for the sole purpose of seeing what new drama has befallen you. Authors are human, and they should be allowed to behave as such, but they should keep in mind that not all attention is good attention. Your reading audience does not need to know about your polyps.

Don’t Argue About Your Books

For good or ill, readers will read all sorts of things into your work that you didn’t intend. Some things will delight you, others will horrify you, and a few will make your eyes roll. Once you release your book, it belongs to the readers. Let them think whatever they want. It’s their right. Sure, you can explain your meanings in blogs or interviews, but again, don’t argue with a reader. It’s not professional.

Don’t Denigrate Your Work

False modesty or showing your insecurities by telling people you think your work wasn’t the best is no way to inspire readers to pick up your book. If you don’t think your novel is any good, why would anyone else want to read it? Conversely, don’t brag about your book too much. Say you’re happy with your work, say you enjoyed writing it. But don’t compare yourself to Stephen King. That’s just obnoxious.

Don’t Be Owned

If you haven’t yet picked up a crazed “fan,” don’t worry – you will. Crazed “fans” come in all shapes and sizes and degrees of crazy.

Keep writing, and Annie Wilkes-like readers will crop up … and while most of them won’t necessarily hobble you and force you to write your masterpiece under their watchful evil eye, they all have one thing in common: They think it’s the writer’s job to write for them. To please them.

These folks feel entitled to you. They expect special treatment – treatment you don’t have time for because you’re writing. Some of them think they’re entitled to your time. Others believe they have the right to be given free books or other fringe benefits. Entitlement comes in many, many forms, but it all comes down to ownership. And authors are not pets – they should never allow themselves to be owned.

Let No One Confuse You With Your Books

It can get very ugly. Loving your work is very different from loving you. Tamara once had a fan follow her home from a book signing and knock on her door. He thought they were meant-to-be because they lived in the same neighborhood. But that was stalking. And this leads to our next tip.

Don’t Reveal Too Much Personal Information on Social Media or to People You Don’t Know

Giving away too much personal information on social media has backfired on many a writer. You don’t need to tell people where you live, who your relatives are, and where you’ll be hanging out Saturday night. No one is entitled to any information you aren’t comfortable giving out. We recommend exercising a good amount of caution when doling out personal information online.

A book we live by and recommend to all, authors or not, is The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. Buy it, study it, reread it now and then. It’s gospel and will help you understand why and how your intuition works. But also know that ninety-eight percent of your fans are awesome. They’re buying your books and spreading the word. Treat them right.

Write a Good Book

Make sure your book is the best it can be by producing a well-researched, well-edited, and well-written novel. Your real fans and readers deserve nothing less. Respect them by giving them your best. Anything less simply isn’t professional.

In the Wrong Vein: Writing the Book That’s Ready to be Written

With the release of The Black Wasp, book 3 in the Vampires of Crimson Cove looming ever closer, I thought I’d write a little about the book that came before it, book 2, The Silver Dagger, which leads directly into The Black Wasp.

The Silver Dagger was, if nothing else, a testament that some books want to be written right now, regardless of the author’s plans. When I finished The Crimson Corset (book one in the series) I knew I’d eventually go back and continue the story of Cade Colter and his vampiric archenemy, Gretchen VanTreese – but I had one more unrelated book that I wanted to write before plunging back into that world. So, fool that I was, I merrily began my other project, setting aside all thoughts of Crimson Cove and its quirky, undead inhabitants. I had a plan, you see… 

But some plans just aren’t meant to be, and if I were cannier, I would have realized sooner that the continuing tale of Cade and Gretchen was ready to be told – and now. The trouble was that I really, really wanted to finish this book first; I was very excited about the idea and was sure I was on the right track. It still didn’t occur to me that, as the author, I didn’t have complete say in the stories I told, and the order in which I told them – but for every page I painstakingly completed on my new project, I was besieged by the voices of the characters in the Crimson Cove books. I tried to silence them by jotting down what they told me, telling them I’d get to them soon enough. 

This did nothing to keep them quiet.

Not only that but, exciting as my current story had promised to be, every time I sat down to write it, an interesting thing happened: Nothing. Or close to it, anyway. I just could not get the voices of these new characters down – and no matter how badly an author might want to tell a certain story, if the characters’ aren’t talking, that simply isn’t going to happen.

But still, I pressed on, continuing in this vein, all the while congratulating myself on my self-discipline and stick-to-it-ive-ness, purposefully ignoring the fact that weeks – and then months – were passing by and my progress was next to nothing. But I wasn’t going to let that get me down. I just kept gritting my teeth and forcing out every word of my new story – and pretending I didn’t hear the voices of those other characters in that other book. 

It wasn’t until I hit the six-month mark that I took a good honest look at my progress. Usually, the first draft of a book can easily be written in that time, and yet I was less than a quarter into it. I realized that at this rate, this book would take years to write. Worse still, when I read back what I had written, it wasn’t very good. The characters were blurry, their motivations unrealistic, and the plot itself was going nowhere. 

And yet, I realized, the book I’d pushed into the background, The Silver Dagger, had all but entirely worked itself out in my subconscious. 

So, without further delay (and no regret) I tossed the new book aside and threw myself into The Silver Dagger. It came hard, fast, and easily – naturally – and that’s when I finally realized that I’d tapped the wrong vein, that I’d been in the wrong story all along. I didn’t even know that was possible, but I’m glad it happened because I learned from the experience.

I learned that, despite common-sense thinking, I’m not really in charge of the stories I tell – as bizarre as that may sound. Also, I learned that I can’t force a story that isn’t ready to be told any more than I can hold back one that is ready. Most of all, I learned that writing is much more mysterious than I thought, that there’s another power at work there – one that I don’t understand and, I suppose, I don’t need to understand – but it’s a power that knows better than I which stories are ready to be told.

Most important of all, I learned to trust this process – whatever it is – and that has made my life, and my writing, much, much easier.

The Black Wasp, book 3 in the Vampires of Crimson Cove series, is coming in mid-June

The King of Character: Thorne & Cross on the Work of Stephen King

Vampires hiding in mobile homes. Sentient vehicles with attitude. Characters haunted by ghosts, real or imagined. People tormented by addictions, supernatural powers, even their own sense of right and wrong. Folks fighting inner and outer demons alike, facing corruption by greed or some other deadly sin. Even alien shit-weasels burrowing into the darkest recesses of the human, er … condition.

But always, characters shining through as they fight the odds to overcome adversity. These are the inhabitants of Stephen King’s landscape. 

He shows us the very best and the very worst of human nature, and everything in between. He’s the master of character. This is because, first and foremost, King understands human nature. We’re compelled by his powerful characterizations; even in the smallest role, a King character shines with personality. We know who he or she is and will remember them a hundred pages later when they make another brief appearance. With a few deft words, King imprints his vision in our brains, and for that, we’re forever grateful. We’ve learned – and continue to learn – from him. King writes long and that’s because his characters come to life and take over. We relish each extra detail, each side story, because they’re all about people, about human nature. Whether we identify with a character or revile one, we know them and, in King’s capable hands, we understand even those most foreign to us. 

When my collaborator, Tamara Thorne, was writing her novel, THE SORORITY, she found herself in the mind of a cheerleader – a good girl full of school spirit. Understanding the motivations of a serial killer was simple in comparison. She turned to King and reread THE STAND thinking his character, Frannie Goldsmith, might teach her something about the kind of female she never understood or cared for. Somehow, King eventually did make Frannie understandable – and even likable. It was a lesson well learned and did much to get Tamara into the mind of that most alien of creatures  – the cheerleader.

I also frequently turn to King when I’m writing. When penning THE CRIMSON CORSET, I needed to put a new twist on the undead – not all of them, I was certain, live in castles or Gothic mansions in Transylvania. SALEM’S LOT, with its middle-America trailer-park vampires, shed fresh light on the genre and opened up intriguing new possibilities. Rereading that book gave me what I needed to break with tradition whenever and however he chose.

And, of course, as well as learning from the King, we read him for the fun – and the fear – of it. And oh, boy does King know how to scare. It’s rare that either of us reads anything that sets the gooseflesh racing over our skin, but there’s just something about the villains of Stephen King, about the horrific way he describes them, that gets right into our heads and nests there. King pulls no punches and he’s not afraid to tell it like it is. 

For us, and so many other writers, Stephen King is a teacher as well as an entertainer, a  … ahem, Shining beacon of inspiration by which all else is measured, a Joyland chock-full of Needful Things to be enjoyed and Carried with us during all Different Seasons. There is no Dark Half of Stephen King, no Dead Zone, and certainly no Misery. We hope you’ll excuse our Desperation to take a Stand about his work and what It means to us. The point is, it’s not a Long Walk to pleasure when it comes to the King. 

He has the courage to experiment, to take risks in his writing. He refuses to be fettered by others’ expectations, but follows his instincts and examines that which fascinates him – and thus draws us into his world where we travel happily. 

We love Stephen King unabashedly and without apology. Even his less-than-stellar books make for better reading than most, and we consider him to be one of the all-time greats, no matter the genre. We’ll take him over “literary” authors any old day of the week and twice on Sundays.

I am Now Officially Fully Vaccinated … and I Don’t Care …

I got my second COVID-19 vaccine today … and I’m proud of it. I realize that getting vaccinated is basically as controversial as not getting vaccinated at this point, but I don’t care. I’ve long accepted that no matter what you choose to do, you’ll incite the ire of someone for one reason or another – and I don’t care.

I don’t care if anyone makes fun of me for “living in fear of COVID” or “giving in to the man,” or … whatever it is they think. Nor do I care if they presume to understand my views of the world or my political affiliations because of my choice to be vaccinated. That this virus (and now its treatment) was politicized in the first place is, in my opinion, not only the height of social irresponsibility but of human stupidity, and I don’t have any respect for those who subscribe to the conspiracy theories surrounding it.

I didn’t do it for them, anyway. I did it for those close to me with medical conditions who might not survive catching the virus (and I happen to be very close to some folks who most definitely would not survive.) I did it for those who would survive it but might suffer lingering or even permanent effects (and plenty of them exist, regardless of what your news stations of choice might be telling you.)

I did it because I believe it’s the right thing to do. I’ll take my one in one million chance of getting blood clots as a result, and given that we all know I’m far more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke at the hands of the fast food industry, I feel confident in my decision.

Tamara Thorne’s ETERNITY is now Available in Audiobook

Eternity by Tamara Thorne is available in audiobook at!

Eternity features Sheriff Zach Tully, who is now getting his very own series, so this is a great place to start.

Welcome To Eternity … A Little Bit Of Hell On Earth

Eternity, California, is the sort of charming spot tourists flock to every summer and leave every fall when the heavy snows render it an isolated ghost town. Tourists and New Agers all talk about the strange energy coming from Eternity’s greatest attraction: a mountain called Icehouse. But the locals talk about something else.

The seemingly quiet town has been haunted by strange deaths, grisly murders, unspeakable mutilations, all the work of a serial killer who some say is the same serial killer for over a century. Now as the first snow starts to fall, terror grips Eternity as an undying evil begins its hunt once again…

To Write a Thrilling Thriller

In honor a Mother’s Day – here’s a little about the Thorne & Cross thriller, Mother ... and writing thrillers in general …

Thrillers are a little different from mystery and a little different from horror. Though all these genres tend to blend and merge to varying degrees, writing them – and reading them – is a slightly difference experience.

Generally speaking, the mystery novel’s goal is to solve a crime while thrillers seek to prevent it, but never having been big on following rules and regulations, my collaborator Tamara Thorne and I fiendishly merged these standards together for our thriller, Mother. We eagerly thrust our protagonists, expectant couple Claire and Jason Holbrook, into the hotbed of an already deadly situation; by the time they arrive at the scene, many unsolved crimes have already commenced. Unbeknownst to them, of course, the greatest offense has yet to be committed, and it’s up to them (with the help of some eccentric neighbors and a couple of reluctant priests) to prevent it from happening.

As well as mystery and suspense, Mother also incorporates strong elements of horror and black comedy – but at its core, this is definitely a thriller. That being said, there are a few things we’ve learned along the way that we believe not only apply to the thriller genre, but all genres.

The most important thing, we believe, is to keep the readers reading. No one wants to trudge through page after page of information to get to the good stuff, nor should they have to, so the first thing we focus our attention on is the opening scene.

The opening scene is a tough one because it should have enough action to excite and enough information to intrigue while still retaining its mystery; it should make promises of more to come. This requires walking a thin line, indeed. In Mother, we began at the end of the original “crime” – which becomes the driving force that propels our protagonists.

The protagonists are very important … and therefore, often the most difficult to write. While side characters can often get away with being one-dimensional, the main characters need a few more layers. It’s important that they be likable, but not boring. They should have weaknesses and strengths, triumphs and failures, and plenty of psychological complexity. And though they might do what they believe is right, they must make mistakes. If every character made the right choice at every turn, there would be a major shortage of damn good stories out there.

Andrew Neiderman, AKA V.C. Andrews, on the Thorne & Cross thriller, MOTHER

And having a damn good story is everything in this business. There are only so many themes in literature which have been recycled over the centuries, and it’s important to know what yours is. Are you writing a story about death and rebirth? A quest for higher understanding? An attempt to restore order and normalcy? A crusade to make the world a better place, or – as it is in Mother – a slaying of the dragon to reassert independence? Whatever your theme, know it and know it well, and make sure your characters go through hell to deliver it to the reader.

No one likes a story about people who coast through life, and this is why it’s important to put your characters through hell. Bestow upon them unimaginable grief and unspeakable horrors, and just when you feel like any further affliction will surely shatter your beloved character into a thousand pieces, double up on the damage. We want to see them struggle. We want to see them writhe and scramble and strive. Of course, we want to see them triumph, too … but not until the end … and sometimes not even then. But above all, we want to see them change – and grow.

Creating characters that change and grow as a result of their trials and tribulations is imperative. Think of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The penny-pinching Ebenezer Scrooge goes through a night of torture that brings him face-to-face with the demons of his past, the misery of his present, and the horror of his future. By morning, he’s a changed man … and we love it.

We love it because it teaches us something about being human … and teaching the readers is perhaps the trickiest thing of all; fiction readers generally want to be entertained, not taught. Yet, if a writer is smooth enough to educate without hindering the flow of the plot, the story resonates with readers on a deeper, more meaningful level. But good authors do not take advantage of their readers and use their attention as an opportunity to sermonize or push opinions. In Mother, our “lesson” was simple: The real monsters are not necessarily strangers – often, they’re the people you trust and love, the people you look at every day. Our goal was to get this point across through the story, not by wagging our finger at the reader and lecturing.

There are a million ways to tell a story and an endless list of do’s and dont’s, but no matter how you go about it, one thing is certain: Readers want to be thrilled. Whether by means of terror and dread or by the promise of justice, they want to be ensnared by a story that compels them to keep turning pages. And writing a thriller that really thrills is the best way to make that happen.

RIP Tawny Kitaen

I’m saddened to hear about the passing of actress and 80s video vixen, Tawny Kitaen. I was always a huge fan of Witchboard, not to mention those awesome Whitesnake videos. Rest in peace. Read the article here.

From Wikipedia:

“Kitaen was born Julie Kitaen in San DiegoCalifornia in 1961, the daughter of Linda Kitaen (née Taylor), a housewife and one-time beauty pageant participant, and Terry Kitaen, an employee of a neon sign company. She was Jewish.[2][3] Kitaen began using the nickname “Tawny” at the age of 12 on her own initiative. At the age of 14, with backstage passes after a Peter Frampton concert at Balboa Stadium, Kitaen witnessed the VIP treatment afforded to Frampton’s girlfriend Penny and aspired to achieve it for herself.

“… On May 7, 2021, Kitaen died at her Newport Beach home at the age of 59.Her death was confirmed to The New York Times by her daughter Wynter Finley, who told the paper that the cause of death was not immediately known.”

False Starts … or Oh, How I Hate the Beginning

Every writer has their problem area, some part of the plot that just gives them fits. It’s usually what’s infamously known as the “sagging middle,” but for me, it’s the beginning. Always. Not the entire first act, just the opening scenes – especially that first one. 

I’ve accepted that when I’m beginning a new book, a few false starts is just part of my process. It takes me a minute to find my balance – to get the plot moving while revealing enough about the characters to get emotional buy-in from the reader. And this starts with treating your characters like real people. As a writer, I think it’s important to remember that your characters have lived their entire lives up to the point at which you begin their story. In other words, you can’t introduce them in a way that feels like they just now came into existence; the reader should feel like they’re hopping on a train that’s been going full-speed long before they opened the book. And this applies to stand-alones as well as when you’re writing a series, as I am now.  

A few weeks ago, The Black Wasp went to the editors and I didn’t want to wait to get started on the next one. It picks up immediately where the last one leaves off, so I wanted to keep things moving while I was still in the zone. Simple enough, you’d think, but even so, I’m two false starts into it already and am just now finding my footing. For me, starting the next book always feels like some aggravating dream where I’m trying to find my room in a hotel with no room numbers on the doors. I head down the long, nondescript hallway and start trying my key until I find the lock it fits.

I’m finally at the right door now. I know because the characters are fully alive and the story is moving (not to mention that warm buzz of bone-deep deliciousness I believe every writer feels when they know they’ve just struck gold.) 

So “TMR,” book 4 of The Vampires of Crimson Cove series, is officially in full-swing now. Because The Black Wasp hasn’t even been released yet, I obviously can’t say much about TMR  … except that I’m very excited about it. I’ve been trying to move this series into a certain direction for a while now – one that will open things up and allow new possibilities that will keep things fresh and exciting – and it’s with this book that I’m finally setting my feet onto that fertile ground. This is the place I’ve been trying to get to and I can’t wait to find out where it goes from here. 

That said, book 3, The Black Wasp, is in the final stages of revision, which means an official release date is imminent. I shall keep you apprised …

Cats, The Writer’s Familiar

Pawpurrazzi and me

I’m a cat person. I just seem to have been born that way. Some of my first memories are of the family cat, a big gray tabby named Tiger. I wanted desperately to win his affection and can vividly remember inflicting upon him kisses, hugs, and vast quantities of unsolicited loves. As you might imagine, this did little to impress him. My sister, who was older than me – and therefore gentler – was Tiger’s favorite, but I loved him anyway. I just love cats. I always have.

When I first started writing at about the age of eight, I even put cats in my stories. Lots of them. In fact, my tales most often revolved around unmanageably large casts of talking cats, so it wasn’t too surprising that when I got published many years later, cats began showing up in my novels.

Pawpurrazzi and Sir Purrcival, looking thrilled to have their picture taken … again

Enter Sir Purrcival, star (or so he likes to believe) of the Vampires of Crimson Cove series. He makes his first appearance in book one, The Crimson Corset, when Cade Colter and his older brother Brooks are out for a jog in the woods behind their cabin. I didn’t plan to put a cat in the book, he just kind of showed up, and I’m glad he did – later, Purrcy’s presence helps bring things together so that Cade and company can confront the bad guys.

I described Purrcy as a chubby tuxedo cat with golden-green eyes, and I had no idea that a couple years later, I would meet him in the real world. I was looking for a friend for Pawpurrazzi, the female tortie who showed up at my house a few months before and decided we belonged together. Pawpurrazzi is a very affectionate and friendly cat and I thought she might like some feline company – so I began checking out the local Humane Societies. I didn’t have to look far. I found him at the first place I stopped. He looked just like the Purrcy from The Crimson Corset and I knew right away that’s who I’d name him after (of course, I don’t tell him that. I tell him that the fictional Purrcy is named after him, not the other way around.)

Sir Purrcival, “star” of the Vampires of Crimson Cove series

I soon found out I’m not the only writer besotted by felines. Not only do the vast majority of my writer friends own cats, but apparently, cats and writers have a long history together. Margaret Atwood, Gloria Steinem, Joyce Carol Oates, and Neil Gaiman are all said to be cat lovers. Not to mention Dickens, Twain, Burroughs, Hemingway, Chandler, Capote, Churchill, Plath, and Poe, all of whom famously claimed a deep appreciation of their feline familiars.

From Kerouac to King, cats seem to be a writer thing, and I’m not sure how to explain it. It’s not as if they help the writing process. Ask any author who owns cats and they’ll tell you how Muffin or Fluffy or Jezebel just loves to nap right on the keyboard.

Purrcy, giving me a high-five after a hard day of writing

Or maybe cats do help writers write in some mysterious way. Maybe there’s more to them than meets the eye. Maybe the ancient Egyptians were onto something, after all …

If nothing else, they provide excellent distraction. When Tamara and I are writing together on Skype, our kitties love nothing more than when we turn on our cameras so they can see and talk to each other. It gives us a nice excuse to spend a few minutes relaxing between chapters.

Pawpurrazzi, helping me write

How Gretchen Got Her (Gruesome) Groove Back

Gretchen VanTreese is back – and more furious than ever.

If you’ve read The Silver Dagger (book 2 in the Vampires of Crimson Cove series) you know she went through some, er, hard times and lost a little of her mojo for a while there, but in The Black Wasp, she’s back to her old undead self again … and then some. As you can see in the image below (artwork by Stefan Ellis) she’s even rebuilding her little army of beautiful human blood (and sex) slaves.

But the inevitable wreckage of Gretchen’s rage is just one of many disasters that go down in The Black Wasp. Here there be murder, dark magick, mysterious women in black, and of course, flesh-eating, soul-corroding poisonous black wasps … but I can’t say any more about that for now. You’ll have to wait until the book drops, which happens in mid-June. The exact date is still pending but as soon as I have it, I’ll be spreading the word!

Gretchen VanTreese with her two new pets, “Foxy” and “Pretty Boy.”
Artwork by Stefan Ellis

When You Join, It’s for Life …

As of today, you can get Tamara Thorne’s cheerleader-centric horror/comedy, The Sorority in audiobook at The Sorority is read by the inimitable Caroline Kiley – who also narrated Tamara’s classic, Haunted. I asked Tamara to tell you guys a little more about The Sorority and here’s what she had to say about it:

“My mother planted the seeds of The Sorority with her tales of a drowned town. She’d lived in a mountain village as a girl and the residents moved north so that the original town could be flooded as part of a new reservoir.  She watched the town drown with fascination. 

Then, years later, on their honeymoon, my parents visited the lake and went swimming. My mom got spooked when she saw the tall pines beneath her and got out, but my father went deep and swam around the old church steeple.

I dragged this tale out of my mother over and over again through the years. And it gave birth to The Sorority’s Applehead Lake. 

The Sorority is an odd book.  It’s often silly, as any book featuring cheerleaders ought to be, but it also deals with nature elementals and ghosts, and harbors loads of thinly disguised Arthurian lore. The primary ghost is named Holly Gayle. There’s something about a stone in the hilt of a sword … There are football players named Arthur and Lance Lake. We learn about Sir Gwaine’s Green Knight (and greenjacks) via Professor Dan S. McCobb’s folklore class. 

Eve, Merilynn, and Samantha, our three heroines, are joining the cheerleader-heavy Gamma Eta Pi Sorority. They should know better … but they have their reasons and because of that, they will experience frights and horrors, along with feminine hygiene spells and cult rituals that will make your short and curlies clutch their pearls and run screaming.  

The sorority president, Malory Thomas, was once the bane of King Arthur’s existence, and she’s here to cause … (drumroll)… More Dread among the good guys.  Featured on the cover, is her Veep and familiar, Brittany. (She’s not Sarah Michelle Gellar, even though she looks like her, and she has a thing for peanuts you wouldn’t believe.)

Reading the Audible version is the fabulous Caroline Kiley, who also voiced Haunted.  When you hear her read flashbacks to our heroines’ childhood days at Applehead Cheerleading Camp, she’ll make you laugh. When you hear her voice Malory, you’ll  get the creeping willies, and when when you hear her do her rendition of peanut-munching Brittany, you’ll crack up.

That’s all, except for Alistair’s favorite quote from The Sorority:”

A Reading of my Poem, Connemara Eyes, by Mike Davidson

Poetry has always been an emotional and creative outlet for me. It allows me to express all kinds of things about my life and the world I live in without actually giving away anything too terribly personal. As a rule, I don’t like explaining the meaning of my poems because I want the reader to be able to interpret in his or her own way. What I’ll say about this poem, though, is that it’s truly one of my favorites. Connemara Eyes was written about someone who meant – and still means – a lot to me. Most of it was written in a tiny little room in someone else’s house, and originally, it was very, very long (I probably cut about a dozen stanzas that either ended up in other poems or on the “cutting room floor.”)

Anyway, it really was October and every time I got stumped, I just looked out the window at the frost and the turning leaves for inspiration. The air has an entirely different quality in October, and it seemed to me that subject of this poem really was the embodiment of that season.

Here is an oral reading from Mike Davidson – an excellent poet you can learn more about below. Thank you, Mike, the for the great reading. You can find more of my poetry in the collection, The Book of Strange Persuasions.

About Mike Davidson

Mike Davidson is a writer and poet from Kansas City, MO. Starting in his youth he utilized language to overcome a speech impediment; wielding polysyllabic vocabulary to paint the concepts of love, loss, and awakening onto his canvass. His words are described as powerful, inspiring, and familiar to heart; able to move the soul through pen and paper. He believes that cradling both agony and passion allows others to view the extremes of life in an entirely new way; as a collective, not it’s individual parts. Mike has been featured in publications from Impspired, 300 South Media Group, and Open Skies. His debut self-publication The Arsonist’s Manifesto released in 2020.

Five Nights in a Haunted Cabin

A while back, my collaborator, Tamara Thorne, and I spent five nights documenting the phenomena inside – and outside – of an allegedly haunted cabin tucked deep in the woods in Gold Country. This being my first paranormal investigation, I was happy to be joining someone with Tamara’s experience, but I’ll be honest – I didn’t expect much. I’ve always tried to keep an open mind, and in truth, I’ve even experienced a few things I can’t exactly explain … but I wouldn’t say I was a firm believer in anything supernatural. That said, this trip to the haunted cabin definitely changed my mind about some things. Tamara and I came away with great new story ideas – and some new ideas about the paranormal. 

Now, not only can you read about our experiences in Five Nights in a Haunted Cabin, but you can listen to the whole thing, night by night, at Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre – read by Jamison Walker and Caroline Kiley: 

Check out all the episodes:

Night One

Night Two

Night Three

Night Four

Night Five

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