Writing with T & A: Psychic Vampires


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If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve no doubt run into a psychic vampire or two. These passive-aggressive hangers-on will, if allowed, suck your life force away, all the while paying you compliments, asking for advice, and creating drama meant to suck you into their world and make you worry about their well-being.

The most famous psychic vampire in the horror genre – and most others – is Annie Wilkes, Stephen King’s nightmare of a number one fan. While she is extreme, you can take some tips from her that will help you recognize a vampire who wants you to be her very own Paul Sheldon.

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While most readers who ask a writer to personalize a book with “to your number one fan” are utterly innocent and would be horrified if they realized what alarm bells this phrase sets off, there are others who are anything but innocent. They are narcissistic and the goal of any narcissist is to be paid attention. Annie Wilkes is the perfect example. Annie wanted Paul Sheldon to write for her, to her specifications. It was all about her. He was there to amuse her, to serve her, and no one else — including Paul Sheldon – mattered.

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Take this down a few ruined ankles and glassfuls of urine and you’ll still have a milder version of this same dysfunctional personality. Once you accomplish anything notable, such as writing a book, they come out of the woodwork with unbelievable speed and frequency. They want your time, they want your attention, and they want you to apologize for having worked hard and found success.

Psychic vampires are passive-aggressives who suck the energy right out of you. Shoot, they can suck the energy out of a whole roomful of people. You’ve undoubtedly experienced it: you come away from a chat or function that should have been enjoyable absolutely exhausted. You feel like you’ve run a marathon, only worse because you probably have a headache, too. They are truly vampiric, but not in the good fictional way we enjoyed writing about in Tamara’s Candle Bay or Alistair’s The Crimson Corset. We’re talking about the nastiest kind – the real kind.

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(Tamara’s vampire novel, Candle Bay)

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(E-Poster for Alistair’s upcoming vampire novel, The Crimson Corset)

And the very worst of these psychic vampires are aspiring writers, ones who, for whatever reason, have not done as well as you. They seem to feel you owe them something and they are jealous, oh so jealous.  If they ask you to review their book and you decline, they think you’re a snob. If you don’t have time to answer their basic questions about writing, they think you’re a snob. And if you actually write back and suggest that they can find the answers they seek via many excellent websites, organizations, and critiquing groups available online, they are sure you’re a snob. Somehow, to their fragile egos, this is a personalized rejection; it never even occurs to them that you took time out of your workday to reply. They just end up pegging you, once again, as a snob, and will probably whine about it on Facebook. As much fun as we had with Constance Welling in The Cliffhouse Haunting, these kinds of writers are toxic in the real world.

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(Tamara and Alistair’s collaborative novel, The Cliffhouse Haunting)

At the beginning of her career, a well-known writer advised Tamara that when someone gives you something, your only obligation is to say thank you. This author was referring to fans sending gifts, but this also is applicable to a published writer – no matter how sketchily published – who takes you under his or her wing – or seems to – early on and answers a few questions. If they are of the vampiric persuasion, they will try to exact gratitude from you for the rest of their lives because damn it, they deserve it. They’ll also take full credit for your talent once you achieve success; that’s annoying but it’s nothing but the equivalent of a fly trying to land on you – it’s not worth your attention. They’ll never have your talent and they know it.

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Don’t get us wrong, there are some great mentors out there. If someone has truly helped you, they find pleasure in the very act of aiding and don’t expect you to sing their praises. These are the people who deserve to be in your acknowledgments or have a book dedicated to them. But never buckle under and do it for someone who demands thanks. That person is bottomless pit of need and you’ll never, ever hear the end of it. They will tell everyone, forever more, how much you owe them, how you would be nothing without them. This is the type of person who posts the same two or three fan letters on Facebook over and over for years.

If, in the course of your becoming a professional writer, someone offers you help, go ahead and accept it if you want it. And just say thank you. You owe them nothing more.

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How to spot a psychic vampire who isn’t as obvious as Annie Wilkes? Here are some things to watch out for:

Someone – a would-be writer, a collaborator, an interviewer – insisting that the only time they can meet with you is during a time you’ve reserved to (a) write or (b) be with your family or (c) are otherwise engaged. Decline, and a normal person will understand. A vampire, on the other hand, will simply become more insistent. Or sulky. Usually both. Here’s a tell to watch out for: If you inform a vampire that you take Sundays off – or Mondays or alternate Thursdays – they will tell you it’s the only day they can talk to you. It’s all about power and manipulation. They especially need to drag you away from family and friends to prove how important they are. They’re trying to own you: don’t let that happen.

Guilt trips. This is drama. It includes sulking, crying, and self-righteous indignation when you won’t do what they want, no matter if it’s giving up personal time, changing something in your writing (because they think everything you write is about them) or anything else. This kind of emotional behavior is nothing but manipulation of the most childish kind. There are only a couple of behaviors even more reprehensible and outrageous. What are they?

One is feigning illness, physical or mental. Sure, we all get sick, we all get tired. Most of us make a joke, get some rest, and move on. Not the vampire. Nope. The vampire who plays illness like a fiddle has a constant list of ailments, from headaches to explosive diarrhea to strange growths in places you don’t want to hear about — but trust us, you will hear about every last one.  No anal polyp is too embarrassing, no perimenopausal flash flood too personal. They throw it all out there. Because – yep – it’s all about them. They are shameless.  They will tell you they may be fatally ill, they’re always waiting for test results, and their meds are making them ill (this includes meds for mental problems – it’s no fun being normal, damn it!) They will offer to show you things you don’t want to see. Beware the sickly vampire.

And when all of that doesn’t work, they go straight to threatening suicide or bodily harm (to themselves, we hope). This is the ultimate manipulation, designed to coerce you into doing whatever it is they want. It’s bullshit. It’s an attempt to draw you into their drama. The only answer – if you give one at all  – is to tell her/him that if that’s what they choose to do, good luck with it. It’s not your problem. Those who want to commit suicide don’t talk about it because they don’t want to be stopped. Those who threaten it on a regular basis will only commit it by accident. (We’ll keep our politically incorrect commentary about that to ourselves.)

How do you operate among the psychic vampires, then?  It’s not easy to deal with them, true, but it is possible. First, learn to identify them. Your own instincts will inform you if you listen. Don’t let them flatter you, be cautious.  And read Gavin DeBecker’s excellent book, The Gift of Fear. It will teach you to listen to your instincts and not give every potential Annie Wilkes the benefit of the doubt.

When you have a vampire stalking you, how do you stop them?  You wear Teflon armor because the shit won’t stick.

We’ve both had numerous psychic vampires try to interfere in our lives and Teflon is the ultimate answer. The Vampire, being narcissistic, wants only one thing: to be center stage. They’re like toddlers – any attention, no matter how negative, is better than none. Don’t give them what they want. Delete their emails unread, return their snail mail unopened, change your phone number.  The worst of them will keep trying, perhaps for years, but hopefully they will get sick of being invisible and go find a fresh neck to suck on.

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The only good psychic vampire is a dead psychic vampire but since we can’t legally stake them, we must make them invisible. Attention is what they feed on. Attention is what they live for. Don’t give them either.  If they piss you off, write it out, but don’t mail it to them; instead call a real friend and vent until you’re both laughing, maybe even until you pee a little bit. You can also kill them horribly in your stories, but don’t make them even remotely identifiable because that would be giving them attention and that would make them happy. Give them no energy. Eventually you will find that they’re rarely on your mind, even if you’re on theirs.  Making them non-existent in your universe is your ultimate goal.

And watch your ass. Some of them are as batshit as Annie Wilkes.

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Richard Christian Matheson is on Haunted Nights LIVE Tonight!


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He is an acclaimed bestselling author. His fiction has appeared in 125 major anthologies. He’s a screenwriter and executive producer for television and film. He’s worked with Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Bryan Singer, and legendary CREAM drummer, Ginger Baker.

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The man has done a lot things, so really, it was just a matter of time until he came to Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE​! He is RC Matheson​, and TONIGHT, I get to meet him! And you can, too. Just click the link at 6pm Pacific, 7 Mountain, 8 Central, 9 Eastern, to listen: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheairradio2/2015/04/17/richard-christian-matheson-joins-thorne-cross-haunted-nights-live

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RC will be giving away three personally signed books: a hardcover of his acclaimed new novella, “RITUAL OF ILLUSION”, a hardcover copy of his first novel “CREATED BY” and “BATTTLEGROUND,” a coffee table book collection about the Emmy-winning TNT production of Stephen King’s short story, which is signed by everyone involved with the production.

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Richard Christian Matheson joins Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!


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This Thursday, I get to meet one of the best writers of our time… Richard Christian Matheson.

Just click the link on Thursday at 6pm Pacific, 7 Mountain, 8 Central, 9 Eastern, to listen: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheairradio2/2015/04/17/richard-christian-matheson-joins-thorne-cross-haunted-nights-live

Join the Facebook event here.

RICHARD CHRISTIAN MATHESON is an acclaimed bestselling author and screenwriter/executive producer for television and film. He has worked with Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Bryan Singer and many others on Emmy winning miniseries, feature films and hit series. His critically-hailed, dark psychological fiction has appeared in 125 major anthologies including many YEARS’ BEST volumes. 60 stories are collected in “SCARS AND OTHER DISTINGUISHING MARKS” and the #1 Bestseller “DYSTOPIA”. Matheson’s terror novel “CREATED BY” is a scathing glimpse of network television and his mystery novella “THE RITUAL OF ILLUSION” is a sinister love letter to the movies. A professional drummer, he studied with legendary CREAM drummer Ginger Baker. He is president of MATHESON ENTERTAINMENT.

CONFIRMED


Confirmed today:

RC Matheson is coming to Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! Matheson is the co-writer of the screenplays for Loose Cannons, Paradise, Three O’Clock High, and It Waits, among others. He adapted Soul Survivor by Dean Koontz into a mini-series, as well as Stephen King’s Big Driver, and wrote the film, Happy Face Killer.

He wrote for Amazing Stories, the miniseries Nightmares & Dreamscapes and has been an executive story editor, executive story consultant, producer and Executive Producer for network television series.

Oh yeah, and his dad is Richard Matheson, author of Hell House. 

In short, he’s kinda a big deal and I am stoked.

A solid date is on its way. Stay tuned…

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Tamara Thorne Live at Conversations Live


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

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

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

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

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

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Tamara Thorne

“Tamara Thorne has become one of those must-read horror writers. From her strong characters to her unique use of the supernatural, anything she writes entertains as much as it chills.” – Horror World

“Tamara Thorne is the new wave of horror – her novels are fascinating rides into the heart of terror and mayhem.”Douglas Clegg

Thunder Road


Thunder Road, coming to bookstores everywhere from my collaborator, Tamara Thorne, in September!

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

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

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

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

“Tamara Thorne has become one of those must-read horror writers. From her strong characters to her unique use of the supernatural, anything she writes entertains as much as it chills.” —Horror World

“Tamara Thorne is the new wave of horror–her novels are fascinating rides into the heart of terror and mayhem.” –Douglas Clegg

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro at Open Road Integrated Media


Chelsea Quinn Yarbro – Author is the first woman to be named a Living Legend by the International Horror Guild and is one of only two women ever to be named as Grand Master of the World Horror Convention (2003). She is a good friend, a great lady, and I am honored beyond words that Grandma’s Rack and The Erotic Adventures of Belinda will be sidled up next to her Vildecaz Talents series at Avalerion Books.

Here she is, listed as one of Open Road Integrated Media’s Featured Authors on their homepage: http://www.openroadmedia.com/chelsea-quinn-yarbro

With fans like Neil Gaiman, you really can’t go wrong with Yarbro…

And here’s what Stephen King has to say about her novel, A Mortal Glamour – which I am currently reading and loving:

“Terrifying. Her picture of women going slowly mad in a convent during one of history’s darkest periods is both gruesome and irresistible.” – Stephen King

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Learn more about her at her website.