Real Ghosts


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Remember when the parapsychologists in Poltergeist tell the Freelings about a fantastic poltergeist experience they’d had just before they see what’s going on in Carol Ann’s room? It goes like this:

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Yes, Ryan photographed an extraordinary episode on a case in Redlands.

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A child’s toy, a small matchbox vehicle, rolled seven feet across a linoleum surface. The duration of the event was seven hours.

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Seven hours for what?

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For the vehicle to complete the distance. This would never register on the naked eye, but I have the event on the time-lapse camera.

Poltergeist (1982) has a number of realistic incidents (mixed with many not-so-real ones) in the first portion of the movie – even the chairs stacked on the kitchen table are not far off from the more spectacular of documented poltergeist incidents. (In fact, Tamara witnessed something similar – but far less artistic – in an anomaly-laden house, not once, but three times in succession.)

The most realistic thing in Poltergeist is the investigators’ excitement over that little Matchbox car moving by itself. In reality, assuming the floor was level and there were no other factors that might affect it, that movement would be pretty amazing – unless you believe everything you see on shows like Ghost Hunters.

The truth is, anomalies don’t perform on command, and for something truly anomalous to happen while a TV crew is filming, would be truly jaw-dropping. Reality TV is entertainment, pure and simple. Oh, there’s no doubt episodes are based in true stories and experiences, but we guarantee you that real events caught on camera on a weekly series, are about as likely to happen as water turning into wine.

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Recently, someone asked us why nothing “big” happens in Five Nights in a Haunted Cabin, our account of our stay in an allegedly haunted little house in the woods.  We were surprised by the question because we were trying our best to recount what really happened and didn’t want to exaggerate the events for the sake of entertainment. Rather, we wanted to document them. We had been given a specific duty: to investigate and report. We were not there as a TV-style ghost hunters.

That’s why we went in with as little knowledge of the history of the cabin as possible. We didn’t want to have any expectations because the mind plays tricks, makes connections, and leaps to conclusions when you’ve been fed information, and that leads to inaccurate reporting.

That said, we were pretty amazed by what did happen. We even conceived of The Cliffhouse Haunting during our stay and were inspired by several events we witnessed.

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But as far as reality goes, Tamara has spent many hours in allegedly haunted locales over the last thirty years and has been fortunate enough to witness a handful of anomalies that are pretty impressive. But the cabin was the gift that kept on giving. We saw, heard, and felt things in and around it that were peculiar – and occasionally quite frightening. While we can find possible explanations for most – if we try very hard to dig some up – we can’t explain everything we experienced. We were, to put it mildly, impressed.

Compared to the ghost-of-the-week TV reality shows, our experiences are pretty tame, but from the moment we walked in, there were minor anomalies that would thrill a serious non-entertainment-oriented ghost hunter. They certainly excited and inspired us.

We hope you enjoy our account for what it is – a realistic look at a “haunted” house.  We admit that going back in and reliving it while we prepared it for publication gave us both the shivers, but we’ll tell you up front that neither of us levitated, spoke in tongues, or spotted any demons. However, we did experience some things that made us wonder if we’d ever agree to go back.

We probably would, but we’re just crazy that way.

And speaking of ghosts, don’t forget that our Gothic Horror novel, The Ghosts of Ravencrest, is available now for just .99!

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An Interview with Dead People


We really didn’t get to know the first victims of The Cliffhouse Haunting’s own serial killer, Hammerhead, so we’d thought we’d take a moment and talk with them about their experience in our novel. First, here they are in action:

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Hammerhead heard voices and paused. One male, one female.  It had been a long time since he had taken down two at once. The prospect delighted him, but he was nothing if not cautious; if it wasn’t safe, he would wait until another day.

He stepped into the dappled shade of a huge fir, pulled his water bottle from his knapsack and drank. The prey drew closer, and after capping the bottle, he patted the rip claw hammer that hung from a loop on his belt, hidden by his light jacket.

When the voices were no more than fifty feet away, he began walking toward them, timing it so that they would meet near a steep cliff with a panoramic view.

The couple appeared, early twenties, slender and smiling.  Hammerhead moved to the side of the trail.

“Hello!” said the young man. “Here for the view?”

Hammerhead nodded, a smile painted on his face.

“It’s worth the hike,” the woman said. “It’s so clear today.”

“It is.” As they passed, he drew the hammer, whirled, and hit the man in the temple. The hiker crumpled where he stood. Before the girl could scream, he turned, and as graceful as a dancer, spun the weapon around and impaled her temple on the claws. She didn’t fall because he held her up by the hammer. He pulled a compact mirror from his pocket, flipped it open and held it up as he lowered her to the ground.  Her eyelids drooped, so he held them open with two fingers until she died and her soul was captured in the mirror. He snapped the compact shut, retrieved another, and turned to the young man. Disappointment flooded him. He was dead, his soul already gone. At least he had one soul.  It felt good; it had been too long.

Hammerhead dragged the bodies to the edge of the rocky cliff. Once there, he lifted one head and brought it down on a sharp rock where the hammer wound had been, then dropped the rock over the cliff. He repeated the action with the other on a different rock. Then he pushed the bodies over. The coyotes and hawks would eat well, and in the massive brush and trees below, it was unlikely the remains would be found. There were others down there, after all, who’d been there for years.

And now, on to their interview. Please note that due to their head wounds, they are unable to tell us their names and since it’s unlikely their bodies – what’s left of them – will ever be found, we’ve taken the liberty of calling them Victor and Vicky Victim.

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T & A: How are you feeling today?

Victor: I have a headache.

Vicky: Me too.

T & A: We’re sorry to hear that. Is it your sinuses?

Victor: Partly, but, uh … I think it might have more to do with the great big fucking holes we have in the sides of heads.

Vicky: Now, Victor, you shouldn’t swear like that during an interview! It’s not polite.

Victor: I didn’t say anything when you bled all over the sofa.

Vicky: (rolls eyes) Tamara, Alistair, you’ll delete the f-word, right?

T & A: Of course we will. Now tell us, what were you doing that day in the mountains?

Victor: We were hiking to Deep Creek. We were going to swim naked.

Vicky: We even brought joints!

Victor: Shhh! Don’t fucking tell them that!

Vicky: What, it’s legal here. And stop swearing!

Victor: Sorry. It’s just that my head is killing me.

Vicky: Mine too. My hair is never going to look good again. I just can’t cover this hole!

T & A: Joint?

Vicky: You know, weed. (giggles)

Victor: Shhh!

Vicky: What, that bastard probably killed us for it.

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T & A: Mr. and Mrs. Victim, we can assure you that you weren’t murdered for your cannabis.

Victor: Well, what the fuck DID he kill us for then? My wife’s smoking hot body? She wasn’t even naked but man, look at those leg bones! You should’ve seen them before the vultures!

Vicky: Language.

T & A: He killed you for your souls. It’s kinda weird, we know, but it’s the truth.

Victor & Vicky in unison: Our souls?

T & A: Yes. He traps them in mirrors and keeps them in what he calls his Hall of Souls.

Victor and Vicky look at each other, then burst out laughing.

Vicky: What a nut job!

Victor: Crazy bastard! Who does that?

T & A: He calls himself Hammerhead and he kills people with a-

Vicky to Victor: Hammerhead! See! A hammer! I told you I saw a hammer!

T & A: It was probably the last thing you saw.

Victor: Well, I hope they caught the bastard.

Vicky nods vehemently.

T & A: We can’t tell you that. We don’t give spoilers.

Vicky: Spoilers?

T & A: You’re going to have to read the book.

Victor: The book? What book?

T & A: It’s called The Cliffhouse Haunting and it’s available now!

Vicky: We’re in a book!? Isn’t that wonderful,dear!

Victor: (grunts) Wait a minute. You mean to tell us that we died – in your book – and you have the nerve to try to sell it to us? What, were you born in a barn?

T & A: Yes.

Vicky: I think we should buy it, dear!

(Victor scowls)

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T & A: Halloween is coming up. It will make a great gift for the season.

Victor: We’re dead, you assholes. We don’t even have a credit card, let alone cash.

Vicky: Language, dear. (turns to T & A) Well, I think it’s wonderful. I’ve always wanted to be in a book.

Victor: But we died in the book!

Vicky: Semantics, dear. Where is this book available, Tamara and Alistair?

T & A: Amazon.

Vicky: Well, as soon as this interview is over, we’re going to buy it. I don’t care what my husband here has to say about it. (Turns to Victor) My mother will be so proud!

Victor: Whatever you say, honey. Do we get any royalties from this book?

T & A: (Look at the ground and avoid eye contact with the victims): Look, we’ll go to the place you died and throw some flowers at your carcasses. Will that do?

Vicky: White roses. We’d like white roses.

Victor: Fucking roses, good call. You do that, we won’t haunt you.

Vicky: Language. You really will clean this up?

T&A: Yes. Sure. Thanks for your time. (They run away. Fast.)

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Thorne & Cross

Christopher Moore joins Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!


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This Thursday at 9:30 pm EST, we are thrilled to introduce Christopher Moore as our guest at Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! We’ll spend the hour talking to Christopher about writing, his hobbies, and his upcoming book, Secondhand Souls, available on August 25th.

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Christopher Moore is the author of fifteen novels, including the international bestsellers,Lamb, A Dirty Job and You Suck. His lastest novel, Secondhand Souls, will be released in August 2015.

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Chris was born in Toledo, Ohio and grew up in Mansfield, Ohio. His father was a highway patrolman and his mother sold major appliances at a department store. He attended Ohio State University and Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. He moved to California when he was 19 years old and lived on the Central Coast until 2003, when he moved to Hawaii.

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Before publishing his first novel, Practical Demonkeeping in 1992, he worked as a roofer, a grocery clerk, a hotel night auditor, and insurance broker, a waiter, a photographer, and a rock and roll DJ. Chris has drawn on all of these work experiences to create the characters in his books. When he’s not writing, Chris enjoys ocean kayaking, scuba diving, photography, and painting with acrylics and oils. He lives in San Francisco.

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About Haunted Nights LIVE! hosts Thorne & Cross

Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross joined forces in 2012 with the idea to write a short story together. One thing led to another, and they have since completed The Cliffhouse Haunting, and 8 installments of the successful Gothic serialized novel, The Ghosts of Ravencrest. In November of 2014, their horror-themed radio internet show, Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!, debuted to great acclaim as part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network, LLC.

Tamara Thorne’s first novel was published in 1991. Since then she has written many more, including international bestsellers Haunted, Bad Things, Moonfall, and The Sorority. Her novel, Thunder Road, hit bookstores in September, 2014. Tamara’s interest in the occult, mythology, and folklore began at an early age, and her interest in the paranormal has been life-long. She’s been a speaker for many paranormal groups and been involved in many investigations. She has appeared on the television show, Ghost Adventures, as well as gone on a five-day investigation to an allegedly haunted cabin in Gold Country with co-author Alistair Cross – an adventure that inspired The Cliffhouse Haunting. She has also been featured in various newspapers on the topics of haunted areas and local lore, and has been a guest on Anything Ghost, and many other syndications. Tamara is also a journalist who writes features for several southern California newspapers.

Alistair Cross grew up on horror novels and scary movies, and by the age of eight, began writing his own stories. He is an avid poet who has been published in multiple collections, and his poetry has been featured on several syndications. His first work of fiction was published by Damnation Books in 2012. Alistair’s fascination with the supernatural, combined with an affinity for psychological suspense, has shaped his writing and continues to influence his work. He became involved in paranormal investigations with Tamara Thorne, and their adventure, Five Nights in a Haunted Cabin, was the feature for an episode of Tales to Terrify, on the Lights Out podcast with paranormal expert, Sylvia Shults. Together, he and Tamara have also published articles for several publications, including Crystal Lake Publishing’s Beneath the Lake: On Writing Horror. Along with his multiple collaborative projects with Tamara Thorne, Alistair’s new release, The Crimson Corset, was released to rave reviews in August of this year.

THE CRIMSON CORSET: News


As the release of The Crimson Corset draws close, I find myself humbled by the amount of interest that readers have taken in this book. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about its release date, what formats it will be available in, and whether or not it is part of a series. I’m flattered by this interest, and will answer these questions the best that I can.

As for its release and format, I’ve already begun receiving feedback from the editors and am pleased to say that, so far, it’s been positive. Monday, I will start on the first round of edits and within the next couple of weeks, the other rounds will have returned and been completed. The book will be available in eBook format in July or August, and shortly after that, it will go to paper as well. I don’t have any exact dates for either yet, but when I do, I will post the information.

Regarding sequels, I hadn’t initially intended to write a series, but before The Crimson Corset was completed, it became clear to me that continuing this tale was, for a couple of reasons, probably the best route. First, there’s enough opportunity for continuation that it would be a shame to stop. This is a character-dense novel with each player possessing a fully-developed story of his or her own, and once I started exploring their pasts, I quickly realized there was no way I’d be satisfied not exploring their futures as well. The real story of The Crimson Corset begins as far back as the late 1600s – so there’s a lot of room for continuation and exploration here, and I’m excited by all the possibilities.

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Also, although The Crimson Corset is a complete story within itself, I left it open because, to be honest, I think I knew I wasn’t quite done with it just yet; on some level, I knew I’d be returning to the spooky little tourist town of Crimson Cove, California, where The Crimson Corset takes place, and already, the next plot is germinating in my imagination.

But it isn’t something I’ll begin right away. Having put so much on hold to complete this book, I have fallen behind on other projects. Tamara Thorne and I have begun our next collaborative novel – which I’m super-duper-stoked about – and once that’s complete, I will likely begin another solo (not Crimson Cove-related) that’s been gnawing at me for a couple of years now. And then there’s Grandma’s Rack which continually surprises us with its new developments, and The Ghosts of Ravencrest, which is ongoing as far as either of us can see. But after this, I will return to Crimson Cove.

If you’re interested in learning more about our work, Maureen’s Books did a great interview of us recently where we talked about The Cliffhouse Haunting, The Ghosts of Ravencrest, our process, and our plans.

In closing, if you’re a fan of vampires, be sure to check out Haunted Nights LIVE! this week where we’ll be talking to New York Times bestselling author of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, Laurell K. Hamilton about her latest release, Dead Ice. The show goes live at 6 pm Pacific, 7 Mountain, 8 Central, and 9 Eastern. Just go to Authors on the Air to listen in. You can also join the Facebook event.

To see our full guest list, visit my website

And The Show Goes On …


After two weeks of reading, rewriting, and reading again, I’ve completed the first major edit of The Crimson Corset. The manuscript still has to go through the official editors, but after that (and a final read-through) The Crimson Corset will be a real book, ready for consumption. The expected eBook release is mid to late July and shortly thereafter, it will go to paper. It’s been a long ride and I have a few folks to whom I owe great thanks.

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First on that list is my collaborator, Tamara Thorne, who put our joint efforts on hold to read this entire novel aloud so I could hear how it sounded. Then there are the editors, who have already begun reading it and sending great feedback. Finally, there’s our wonderful publicist, who is already setting me up with interviews and reviews for the Crimson Corset’s release. Thank you all.

Tomorrow, I’ll be returning to collaborating full-time. First on the agenda is finishing the 8th (and final) installment of The Ghosts of Ravencrestthe Gothic serialized novel that Tamara Thorne and I began almost one year ago. Though the next installment will wrap up the current story arc, Ravencrest (in true soap opera fashion) is ongoing, so there’s plenty more ghosts, governesses, handsome millionaires, and diabolically delicious housekeepers to come. We’re not sure when Belinda’s misadventures at the mansion will come to end – but it won’t be any time soon. Especially if Mrs. Heller has anything to say about it. She has plans, you see …

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With the completion of Ravencrest’s 8th installment, Tamara and I will return to our next collaborative novel. When considering which project should come next, there are several possibilities. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s fantastic. It feels great to have so many ideas in the wings – to know that as one novel wraps up, several others are just waiting to begin. After discussing it this afternoon, I believe we’ve decided our next move, but I won’t say anything more about that for now, except that I’m stoked. This is one of those stories that’s been hovering in our minds for a long time – tapping our shoulders and whispering in our ears as we work on other things. I think it’s ready now. I’m eager to see what happens …

As I write this, I’m proud to say that the goals I set for 2015 are running right on time. The Cliffhouse Haunting was released in April. The Ghosts of Ravencrest’s first ‘volume’ is wrapping up, and my debut solo novel, The Crimson Corset, is going into production. On top of this, Tamara and I have not only maintained our hour-long, horror-themed, weekly internet/radio show Haunted Nights LIVE!, but we’ve procured interviews with such literary legends as Jay Bonansinga of The Walking Dead novels, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro of the Saint Germaine vampire series, New York Times bestellers, Christopher Rice and Christopher Moore, Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, and Charlaine Harris of the Sookie Stackhouse books and HBO’s True Blood. And there are plenty more. You can see the full guest list at my website.

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The point is that I’m proud of us. Tamara and I have worked diligently, every day. We’ve put in the extra hours, the extra work, and a whole lot of extra effort. We’ve sat in front of our computers, our backs sore, our faces growing pale from lack of sunlight, pounding out page after page as, in many ways, the real world has passed us by. Not that we mind. But we’ve done it. Day after day. Rain or shine. With or without the cooperation of our moods. With or without the luxury of feeling inspired. With or without the “time” to do it. We’ve come a long way, but the road ahead is even longer … and that’s why, tomorrow morning, I know that we’ll start cracking away at the next project. And the next … I’ve never been so tired. Or fulfilled.

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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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Q & A: The Cliffhouse Haunting


Our readers have been asking questions about our new novel, The Cliffhouse Haunting.  We’ve collected some up to answer here.

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Is the Cliffhouse Lodge based on a real hotel? Yes, in some ways. It was built by an architect associated with Gilbert Stanley Underwood, designer of Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel, Grand Canyon Lodge, and the Timberline Lodge in Oregon among many others.  It also has roots in California’s Brookdale Lodge. The Brookdale’s natural stream in the dining room inspired the stream that runs through the lobby in the Cliffhouse Lodge.

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The story is set in the San Bernardino Mountains. Are they any real ghost stories attached to that area?

Yes, many, though we didn’t use any. Just Google “ghost stories San Bernardino Mountains, Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear” and you’ll find plenty.

Is the Blue Lady a ghost from real life?

There are many blue ladies in ghost fact and fiction. They appear all over the globe. Our Blue Lady is a little different in that she isn’t a human spirit but an elemental one. A naiad if you will, a water spirit, a force of nature. Some characters think of her as a regular ghost, or as Santa Muerte, a female saint of death not condoned by the Vatican. She is also connected by some to La Llorona (The Weeping Woman). La Llorona is famous for having drowned her children in order to seduce a man who she thinks wouldn’t want them.  She is a Latina banshee who walks and wails and seduces children to watery deaths.

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What ghost stories did you base your story on?

Many. The Blue Lady partially hails from a spooky night Tamara and her husband spent in a lodge overlooking Boothbay Harbor in Maine. A strip of forest no more than 20 feet wide hugged the parking area and when they stepped from the asphalt into the woods, intending to check out the water, they experienced a dizziness and something that can only be described as a clinging chill that ran up their arms and remained until they nearly all the way upstairs to their room. A pervasive smell of dark water clung to the cold.

You two spent time in a real-life haunted cabin. Did it have anything to do with Cliffhouse?

We spent five nights in a haunted cabin at the request of a frightened owner and conceived of the basic story of Cliffhouse there. We experienced sounds and other anomalies we couldn’t readily explain while staying in the lightless little cabin. We don’t know what caused all the incidents there, but it was frightening and exciting. It was so intense that we set aside our work in progress to write Cliffhouse while the experiences were fresh.

Did anything happen in the cabin that you put into the book?

We fictionalize everything, but the description of Sara’s floating sandwich is pretty close to one of the real incidents we experienced.

What about the ghost cat, Omar Siam?  

There are many hotels with stories of resident feline spirits that leap on beds or meow, and we thought it would be nice to have one at Cliffhouse. Omar Siam is named for Tamara’s own Siamese kitty, who lived a fat and pampered life.

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And the perfume of Aunt Theodosia’s ghost?

This came from an experience Alistair had when he was very young. He remembers waking up in the middle of the night and seeing an unfamiliar woman in his room. He spoke to her and she didn’t reply. She disappeared without acknowledging him, but he remembers that she left behind a soft, flowery scent. When we wrote Theodosia, we gave her the signature perfume – we chose White Shoulders – that she left behind.

Was “Walleye” Gardner inspired by anyone?

He is based on a strange man who walked around the small town that Alistair grew up in. Alistair remembers that the man had strange eyes that seemed to look in different directions. Alistair was intrigued by – and a little frightened of – the man, and he and his friends would often follow him, trying to see who he was and where he lived. When Walter Gardner came into existence in Cliffhouse, Tamara and Alistair based him on this mysterious man.

Is Constance Welling based on anyone?

No, but we did incorporate all the worst qualities of egotistical would-be writers into her persona. We’ve encountered many people like her; those who consider themselves above genre writing, those who try too hard to be “literary,” those who are baffled by – and hateful toward – the publishing industry and prefer to spend their time bemoaning the difficulties of the business rather than writing novels. Constance is also the embodiment of vanity – she is a woman who refuses to accept growing older, and no longer being the young, beautiful center of attention she imagines she once was. Constance Welling is entitled – and not justifiably so. She is the ego personified. We had a lot of fun her and thoroughly enjoyed doling out the justice she deserved. It was therapeutic – for both of us – for reasons we can not publicly disclose.

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How did Dr. Siechert come to be?

Dr. Siechert is one of those “people” who decided he didn’t want to be just a secondary character; he demanded to be heard. He quickly showed more and more eccentricities as his intake of Blue Springs Water increased. We both broke out in laughter the day he called the mortician’s wife a very bad name in front of everyone. He took off with the story after that, creating his own thread by dating Constance Welling. We still wonder what he was thinking.

Did you know that H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer, was really named Herman Mudgett?

Yes.

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Are a lot of your characters’ names based in reality?

Yes, in odd ways. For instance, Dr. Siechert’s name is lifted from one of the possible Jack the Ripper suspects. Also, there is a humorous link between the names Siechert and Cornhull, but we can’t say any more except that it has everything to do with the finger Siechert carries around. We also love puns. Try saying ‘Constance Welling’ and ‘Constance Leigh Welling’ out loud… Also, Sara Bellamy’s name is a hidden pun. Consider that she’s very intelligent and say her full name aloud.

Tell us about the old lady who likes to take baths. The bathroom was described just like the one in Kubrick’s The Shining. Is there a reason for that?

Yes. We wanted to do it since water horror is involved. Maisy Hart – said old lady – was originally a near throw-away character slated to be found dead in her tub. Her name, before she acquired a speaking role, was Mrs. Massey… You might also recognize the names of the young couple beleaguered by ghosts: George and Marianne Kirby. Change the spelling slightly and you’ve got another young couple who were ghosts who picked on a man named Cosmo Topper. There are lots more. Beverly Hill, for instance. She’s the most obvious. Generally we look for names and place names that won’t be noticed if they aren’t pointed out.

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Is Laurel Lutz a real actress?

No, but the name is a snark at a real singer/actress who constantly and inexplicably shows up in Alistair’s “likes” on Facebook. Revenge was necessary.

Shouldn’t the restaurant in Cliffhouse be called Le Chat Rouge?

No. We knew what we were doing when we added that extra “TE” to “Chat.”

Are the kids who befriend Walleye based on your own kids or nieces and nephews?

No. Think about the names. Carrie. Tommy.  Pre-high school Carrie and Tommy. Dirty Pillows. Proms. We were having fun. The last name of Collins can refer to the drink you want after dealing with them, or the family from Dark Shadows. Your choice.

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Sheriff Jackson Ballou has a sister named Kitty and a father named Lee. The names seem familiar but I can’t place them.

Like many other characters, Jackson Ballou was born fully named. Kitty Ballou and Lee Ballou came later – ever see a movie called Cat Ballou?  That’s probably why it sounds familiar. Kitty simply sounds like Cat, but Lee – Lee is special.  From the moment we knew Jackson needed a drunken dad, it was Lee Marvin, the king of drunken cowboys (in Cat Ballou and Paint Your Wagon among others.) While we rarely know what our main characters really look like – we like to be vague so the readers can envision them the way they want – minor characters often look like someone to us. And that’s true of Lee Ballou. In fact, we’re pretty sure his middle name is Marvin.

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Were there any characters you were surprised by?

Yes. Chad Armstrong. He began as a secondary character, grew into something much larger, and then in edits, he got cut back to a secondary status again. His sexual preferences went back and forth quite a bit, too, which made for amusing rewrites.

Was The Bodice Ripper a real serial killer in history?

No. We just love the name. It’s based on a book genre often referred to as “bodice ripper.”

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Is it true that Cliffhouse was originally 175,000 words? What happened the the rest of it?

Yes. We ended up having to cut over 50,000 words. One of our favorite character’s threads was removed, but we saved it, and intend to incorporate his already-written scenes into a very exciting, large apocalyptic novel  (working title is B.O. – Big One) which we’ll begin in 2016. Nothing is wasted.

Who wrote which scenes?

We both wrote them, equally. We work in the same document, side by side. We have a mutual email account and we write in the Cloud while simultaneously talking on Skype. When we say that we collaborate, we mean it. Our sensibilities and styles are so similar that we rarely even remember who thought of a scene, let alone who wrote what. Both our fingerprints are all over everything.

Have either of you ever stayed in a haunted hotel?

Of course! Long before we met, we were both into haunted hotels and each of us have managed to rent the most-haunted rooms in those hotels. While we have only experienced a few minor spooky incidents, we both love recalling the spooky halls and rooms, the expectations of scariness, and these get into our work.

Cliffhouse is set in California with Tamara’s other novels. Will you write more books in that area? Why does it appeal to you?

Yes. We are already writing more books that are set in California. Devilswood in The Ghosts of Ravencrest isn’t too far from Cliffside, and Crimson Cove, in Alistair’s upcoming solo, The Crimson Corset is also close by. We plan to continue creating our own fictional universe, and as you read our work, you’ll see references to our other towns and even occasional guest appearances by characters from other books. California appeals to us because it has everything – ocean, mountains, deserts, and it’s in the southwest, where we both live. We may venture out of state, but we’ll still be in the same fictional universe. We’ve adopted radio deejay Coastal Eddie from Tamara’s Candle Bay as a sort of narrator – the voice of unreason, so to speak. He’s making appearances in almost all of our novels.

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Alistair’s upcoming book is called The Crimson Corset. There is a Crimson Corset in Cliffhouse. Was this deliberate?

The idea for naming a nightclub The Crimson Corset goes way back. When we were writing Cliffhouse, we put a club there with that name, but Alistair’s novel, The Crimson Corset, was already underway. The original title of this novel was Crimson Cove, the name of the town the novel is set in, but as the plot thickened, The Crimson Corset became a more appropriate title. We figure that The Crimson Corset is a chain of nightclubs. More of them will likely be seen in other works.

How did you come up with that nasty immersion blender scene?

It was inspired by a hot pink immersion blender that Tamara’s close friend gave her for Christmas a couple years back. It was supposed to be red and the friend offered to exchange it, but the hot pink Cuisinart was just too perfect. “It’s like having a sex toy in the kitchen,” says Mr. Thorne.

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What about all the festivals? Do those really happen in the San Bernardino Mountains?

Pretty much, though if you want to see a huge Civil War reenactment in the area, you need to go to Calico Ghost Town around President’s Day. This is in the high desert by the mountains. (It’s also the inspiration for Tamara’s novel, Thunder Road.) Local mountain towns Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead are famous for their Oktoberfest celebrations.

Have you ever swum in a real indoor pool?

Yes, and it’s as scary as you think it is, even without ghosts.

Visit our websites at: tamarathorne.com & alistaircross.com

(Images retrieved form Google images)