Category Archives: Pimping Post

What Scares Us blog tour: Clay & Susan Griffith Talk About Scary Places

Welcome to our guests, Clay & Susan Griffiths of Vampire Empire fame as they continue their  “What Scares Us” Halloween blog tour by talking about scary places.



Clay and I used to write scripts for Monster Creature Feature, an old-time horror host show that starred our good friend, Ormon Grimsby. We loved helping out with the low-budget filming too, and would meet Ormon at his various locations. The studio had set up shop once in downtown Raleigh in the basement of a particularly old building below an antique shop called Father and Son. Disturbingly old, odd collectibles cluttered the space so you couldn’t see all the way to the back walls. Shadows filled every nook and cranny and I tried not to look into those dark corners. The ceiling was low in spots so Clay and Ormon had to hunch over a great deal, while the top of my head just skimmed the low beams which felt like someone was touching my hair constantly. It was just the type of basement where creepy stuff happened in movies all the time, not to mention it was a death trap if a fire broke out.


I was doing fine of shoving those thoughts aside and keeping busy working the fog machine and various low-level special effects. Until ghoulish Ormon decides to tell me some history of the building. “You know,” he says, “back in 1918, an influenza epidemic swept though most of America, including Raleigh.” Yes, I heard that in North Carolina it killed more than thirteen thousand people. I didn’t need to hear any more, but of course that wasn’t to be the end of the conversation. With a wave of his ratty undertaker gloves, he gestured to the dark corners. “So many died that funeral homes couldn’t handle them all. They started stacking the bodies in the buildings. This one in particular. The word is they stored a number of bodies here in the basement.”

And that was it. I hated going to film there suddenly. Now every corner had eyes. The creepy tableau of antique dolls and old furniture seemed to cry out. The touches from the low beams felt human.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was when we moved to a new locale. The sad thing was I really liked the antique store above. They have some great items, along maybe with a ghost or two.



Susan and I were married in Edinburgh, Scotland. That city has plenty of scary and creepy places, but I found one that went beyond scary to genuinely disturbing. While honeymooning in Edinburgh, I decided I needed to see the skeleton of William Burke. Why, you ask. If you ask that, you don’t know me very well.

William Burke was one of the murderous pair of Burke and Hare, famous for killing more than 15 people in 1828, and then selling the cadavers to Dr. Robert Knox for anatomy lessons. Burke was convicted, thanks to testimony from Hare, and executed. Then his body was surrendered to the medical school to be anatomized and his skeleton displayed in the museum.

Unfortunately for me, Edinburgh has two medical school and two medical museums. I only had time for one and in those days before you could pull out your phone and Google William+Burke+skeleton+Edinburgh+museum, I had to just pick one. The museum of the Royal College of Surgeons was divided into a small public collection and a larger private collection for medical students. At the time, I worked for the Department of Plant Pathology at NC State University as a researcher in the history of science so I informed the museum gatekeeper that I was in town from NCSU and wanted to study the museum’s collection for potential research about connections between human medicine and plant medicine. Yeah, it sounded stupid then too, but it worked. The museum was closed, but they unlocked the door and told me to knock when I was finished.

It was a beautiful space, designed by the famous 19th century architect, William Playfair. And the displays were amazing. At first. Eventually, however, one tired of shelf after shelf, cabinet after cabinet, row after row of anatomical specimens floating in oily liquid. The peculiarly attentive and vengeful faces inside jars began to creep me out. And I saw no skeleton of William Burke.

Finally I had my fill of diseased organs, and frankly even the most crowd-pleasing deformity lost its power to charm. I went to the door and knocked. There was no answer. I knocked louder. Still no answer.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of horror movies. Were those bloated arms flexing their fingers? Did I hear the sound of tiny hands unscrewing jar lids from the inside? Were empty eye sockets turning toward me?

Needless to say, I managed to escape (although how awesome would it be to end this by saying I was writing from inside a display case?). The gatekeeper had merely gone to lunch and forgotten he had a lone guest that day.

I asked him about William Burke’s skeleton? Was it out being cleaned? No. It turns out Burke’s bony remains were at the University of Edinburgh. I had picked the wrong museum.

Or had I? On the way out, I noticed an odd little display item. It was a book. And it was supposedly bound in the skin of William Burke, flayed from his anatomized body.


* * * * * *

Okay, I get it, these two LOVE the scary places, right? As for me, my scariest place isn’t physical, it’s mental…when I’ve run out of ideas. I haven’t found it yet, and hope never to!


What’s the scariest place you’ve been/seen? What was awesome about it?


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Back in the saddle…aka, it's been a long time since I posted

I have no excuses, just that my life is a series of busy-ness, dealing with health issues and all the usual stuff that makes up, well…life.


The great news, I finished recording Blood Bargain, and it’s now for sale as an audiobook via or iTunesBlood Bargain audio cover art


Soon, I’ll start recording Blood Kin, for your listening pleasure. ::g::


A lot of folks have been writing me, asking me about the fate of the Blood Lines series. I’m afraid that at this point there are no more books as Pocket isn’t continuing the series. I’m concentrating on the audiobooks right now and am contemplating various options after that. I’m actually not sure at this point. There is always the direct-to-ebook option and I have not discarded that idea at all. I just need to focus on the recordings first and then move forward.
I’m extremely heartened by these emails, though. It’s wonderful to hear from my fans and know that they love the books. So often, we writers send our work out into the aether and don’t get much feedback outside of our editors. It’s lovely to be able to correspond with our readers.


I hope you’ve all been having a great & safe summer!

True grit: My kind of reality television

HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET It began with Homicide: Life on the Street, with the murder po-lice, the Waterfront, the dark and twisty tales of life in a Baltimore cop shop. Who can forget following right along with newbie Tim Bayliss as he desperately sought Edina Watson’s killer in season one? How we agonized when the brilliant Frank Pembleton was brought down, not by bullets, but by a stroke? Seven seasons of awesome by Tom Fontana and based on David Simon‘s Homicide: Life on the Killing Streets.

After Homicide made its final bow, as desperate as Bayliss for equally brilliant entertainment, I uncovered Oz. I didn’t have HBO when Oz actually aired, but was lucky enough to score DVDs via Netflix. As with Homicide, I was instantly hooked and quickly mainlined the entire six season run in less than two months.

I even got to tell Tom Fontana how much the show meant to me in a brief encounter during MWA’s Edgar cocktail party one year. He probably thought I was insane.

After I finished this fix, I faced a whole lotta nothing. At this point, I still didn’t have premium cable and though there were a few shows I enjoyed, none had the hard-hitting edge I craved. I needed something other than bright shiny Hollywoodized characters with improbably pretty actors. I’m not against pretty. Pretty has its place, but having gotten a taste of something more visceral, more real, I wanted more. Fabulous writing merged with excellent casting/acting. It had to be there.

Then, there it was. From a familiar source: The Wire – a different view of Charm City and yet another show that I had to wait to see until it was done and available via iTunes/streaming. My inner addict breathed more easily. All too soon, however, I finished watching the five seasons.

I cast my wandering eye about, hoping for a new fix. A new show to fill that gap. Sure, I watched other dramas, but nothing that resonated with me as much. Some tried too hard. Some not at all. How could I settle for bland polished Hollywood pablum when I’d been exposed to the real thing?

Continue reading True grit: My kind of reality television

TV: Downton Abbey

Downtown Abbey promo shot It’s BACK!!!

One of my favorite shows has returned. Downton Abbey, which garnered much critical and popular acclaim has returned to PBS.

Thanks to the kindness of the Intarwebz/friends, I was able to watch the entirety of series 2 over the weekend. (It aired in the UK already). Yes, I utterly mainlined this show like the absolute crack it is.

Series 2 is all about WWI and all the social/cultural changes it wreaks amongst our favorite characters.

Remember Torchwood‘s saying: Everything changes?

This is how it is for Downtown now. It’s all different and series 2 is all about how the various personalities handle the upheavals.

SUCH a great show.

Here’s a review on Jezebel (1st episode only).

Interesting article over at Slate.

Do you watch Downton Abbey? What do you like/dislike about the show?

Instabookrec: Screw Business As Usual

Screw Business As Usual coverToday, I am reading Sir Richard Branson‘s Screw Business As Usual.

I rarely read business type books, mostly because I get so tired of the peppy jargon and sometimes silly trends wrapped up in consultant-speak.

This book is different. It’s about how Branson (Chair of the Virgin Group) is and has been creating business as a force for good.

He says a lot of smart things about how business can help – not by doling out money to charities, but to help create sustainable solutions by education and inspiration.

I think most of us want to make a difference in the world. We’re not billionaires, not even millionaires – at least most of us aren’t and won’t ever be. How can we help? How can we contribute and give back, pay it forward.

I blogged a little about what I’ve done in a previous post. In reading Branson’s book, I can also see that buying/patronizing companies who also subscribe to his philosophies is important.

What companies/vendors/suppliers do you use and why?

Pimping Post: The Butler Didn't Do It

Butler coverGreat news!

My Agatha award nominated short story, The Butler Didn’t Do It, is now available for the Kindle & Kobo. It’s been out on B&N and iBookstore, but just got posted other places.

The story was my very first published work of fiction. It appeared in the original Chesapeake Crimes anthology and garnered an Agatha nomination for Best Short Story of 2004. In the foreword to the anthology, the most awesome Ms. Laura Lippman says: “…Maria Lima serves up ‘The Butler Didn’t Do It,’ injecting fresh blood into the oh-so-traditional English manor house mystery.”

What happens when your weird cousin sends you a telegram stating that your aunt’s dead and the butler did it? Lindsay Graham discovers that there’s more in store than a traditional English funeral and the requisite neighborhood gathering. Way more.

Here’s where to purchase:

If you do buy & read, I’d love it if you’d leave a review on one of the above sites!