Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Sound of Horror



This review is from an earlier blog, but worth a revisit, as this little jewel may be on the menu in the next few days...

Back in the early 70s, I remember watching on TV a 1964 Spanish monster flick called The Sound of Horror and thinking it just might be the worst piece of crap ever put to film. Except...it kind of left me feeling unnerved. A while back, I picked up the Alpha Video DVD for something like $3.99, watched it, and came out thinking exactly the same thing.

It's about an invisible dinosaur. I am not lying; it's true. The budget was so small, they made the dinosaur invisible. But you know what? It makes a hell of a scary noise. It shreds people in right gory fashion. And like some of the best SF/horror movies — The Thing and Alien coming foremost to mind it features characters confined in a location from which they cannot escape. As a bonus, it stars a young Ingrid Pitt and Soledad Miranda (Lucy in Jess Franco's Count Dracula), who, in her day, was about the hottest thing on two legs. The moviemakers realized this and even stopped the film in its faltering tracks so that Pitt and Miranda could dance for the camera. No complaints from me.

Make no mistake, it's a dumb, dumb film, but, in its way, it's also a bit brilliant. A group of former Nazi fighters, along with the aforementioned beautiful women, meet at a remote location in Greece to seek treasure that was buried in a cave before the war. In the process of digging it up, they unearth both a remarkably preserved mummy (identified first as a "homo sapien neanderthal" and then as a fighter at the sacking of Troy) and a couple of very large, petrified eggs. The mummy stays dead, but the eggs hatch. One releases said invisible carnivorous dinosaur; the other provides us with a glimpse of a pair of creepy, glowing eyes, but their owner is bashed and burned before it can camouflage itself and join in the blood feast. Several of the treasure-hunting party are killed as the invisible horror continually attacks the house where they are trapped, until they finally figure out a way to best the noisy, unseen brute.

From scene to scene, the movie yo-yos from outright inept to chillingly atmospheric. The creature's murderous raids are surprisingly — and realistically— graphic. There's a rather poignant scene in which the household caretaker, a superstitious woman named Calliope (whose forecasts of doom are quickly borne out) is brutally savaged by the monster, and the others trapped in the house watch helplessly...almost casually. In reality, it was probably just a matter of lackadaisical direction, yet the scene comes across as depressingly authentic.

Overall, the characters are not terribly heroic, though the WWII veterans in the group evidently once fought with great honor. Their motivation is greed, yet they are played as mostly sympathetic and humane individuals. I can just imagine this movie being remade today, with every one of these folk portrayed as vile scum, each of whom deserves to die, and the sooner the better. I find it refreshing to be able to care about, and to some degree identify with, a group of not-quite-perfect people, depicted far more realistically than the despicable stereotypes that populate far too many of today's horrific features. For one thing, there's no annoying conflict-for-conflict's-sake between a bunch of foul-mouthed imbeciles, which is the main reason I so often want to strangle every character in most modern horror films, particularly when the protagonists are youthful.

Of course, the characters do some pretty dumb things, but by and large, they're smarter than most of their modern monster movie counterparts. The final scene, though, brings us to a mishmosh of cluelessness, heroism, and a display of one of the worst monster effects ever shown on the screen. It's the film's quintessential moment, where brilliance and ineptitude collide and create something like a cinematic black hole.

If you haven't seen The Sound of Horror... well, you just gotta. You can still pick it up on Amazon.com for cheap.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Surfside Sojourn

LLLadies....

Back from spending a couple of relaxing days with some good friends in Surfside Beach, SC. There was geocaching, of course; other fun and games, my favorite being the ever-popular cornhole; numerous refreshing walks on the beach; excellent food and drink; and some reasonably painful sunburn. In fact, both Ms. Brugger and I came home with unique patterns imprinted on our skin due to uneven applications of sunscreen (I blame the lady). Sunday was our friend Doug's birthday, so we even had cake. The forecast for the weekend had looked anything but promising, but just to reinforce the idea that meteorologists are overpaid carnival fortunetellers, the weather turned out damn near perfect — mostly warm and sunny, with a few clouds and an almost constant light breeze. We did get rain for a spell late on Sunday afternoon, but it was while we were all inside anyway, so we barely noticed. On the way home, after picking up a geocache, I got pulled over by a South Carolina state trooper, as I had apparently rolled through a stop sign on my return to the main highway, but he was kind enough to give me a warning rather than a ticket. I'm sure you're thinking I have done far worse things, and you might be right, but we will not discuss those.

Heading down on Saturday morning, Ms. B. and I stopped for geocaches at a couple of fascinating locations. The first was "Great Falls Mill" (GC1RJ8P) in Rockingham, NC, which took us to the crumbling remains of a cotton mill built in 1869 atop the foundation of an earlier mill burned by General Sherman during the Civil War. The Great Falls Mill closed during the Great Depression and then burned in 1972. The structure has been steadily crumbling over the years and, for safety's sake, is best viewed from a distance. Photos taken just two years ago show considerably more of the structure intact.

My other big favorite was "Blenheim Mineral Springs" (GC20DQ9) in Blenheim, SC, the site of natural mineral springs from which Blenheim Ginger Ale is made. The springs were discovered in 1781 by James Spears, a Whig, who was attempting to elude Tory troops. As legend has it, Mr. Spears lost his shoe in a water hole. When he attempted to recover it, he sampled the water and discovered its potent mineral contents (and presumably the distinct bouquet of shoe leather). News of the spring circulated around the countryside and, before long, it became the center of a bustling hub of commerce. In the late 1800s, Dr. C. R. May counseled his patients with stomach troubles to drink the spring water, but his patients complained about the its iron-like taste. To make the water's flavor more appealing, Dr. May began supplementing it with Jamaican Ginger — and thus was born Blenheim Ginger Ale. In 1903, Dr. May and A. J. Matheson founded the Blenheim Bottling Company, and the remains of the old bottling works can be found near the spring, from which you can still drink. Ms. B. and I explored the site for some time and sampled the spring water, which did taste not unlike rust from an old iron pipe. I'm sure it was very healthy for me.

Just before arriving in Surfside, we stopped at a cache that's up in a tree, which I had to climb after. And that is how you top off an enjoyable road trip. I did manage a little caching around the beach area — and had a bit of a fright when I thought my phone had gone missing. After coming to the conclusion that someone must have stolen it, since at one point I had foolishly left it unattended in the unlocked car, I discovered it in my back pocket.

Apart from a nasty traffic jam on our egress from the beach that took over an hour to get through, things went pretty smoothly. Was notified of an issue with my mom that may take some sorting out, but that is a bridge to burn on another day.
The remains of Great Falls Mill
Ms. B. among the ruins of the old bottling works at Blenheim Mineral Springs
Inside the ruins
The view from "Fiddlin' in the Marsh" (GC491MA). Dammit, I forgot my fiddle.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Monster Museum


One of my most genuine pleasures is finding a copy of some old book that frightened, inspired, or otherwise made memories in my youth. I grew up an avid reader, and I'm sure you'd be stunned to learn that my favorite books were the scary ones. One of the most influential — an anthology I found myself consciously thinking about when concocting my earliest works of fiction — was Alfred Hitchcock's Monster Museum, which I discovered at my school library when I was in sixth or seventh grade. I hadn't seen a copy of this old classic in more years than I could remember, but I recently acquired one in decent condition, and I was so excited to receive it I put all else aside so I could delve into its pages. The volume boasts "Twelve shuddery stories for daring young readers," and to be sure, as a youngster I shuddered at several of them, but a number of pivotal horror/dark fantasy tales for all ages can be found herein — such as "The Day of the Dragon" by Guy Endore; "Slime" by Joseph Payne Brennan; "The Microscopic Giants" by Paul Ernst; "Shadow, Shadow on the Wall" by Theodore Sturgeon; "The Desrick on Yandro" by Manly Wade Wellman (which I referenced in some detail in my recent entry about The Legend of Hillbilly John); and "Homecoming" by Ray Bradbury.

Although Alfred Hitchcock's name adorns the cover of this, and numerous other volumes of terror tales — he merely licensed his name to be used on various book projects — Monster Museum was actually edited by mystery and speculative fiction author Robert Arthur. The selection of stories runs the gamut from grim and suspenseful ("Day of the Dragon," in which genetic experiments on alligators produce huge, winged dragons straight out of legend; "Slime," a story about a ravenous, flesh-eating horror from the depths of the sea; "The Microscopic Giants," about tiny, subterranean humanoids whose composition is so dense they can walk through stone) to whimsical ("Henry Martindale, Great Dane" by Miriam Allen deFord, in which a writer, in Kafka-esque fashion, physically becomes a great dane while retaining his human personality as well as power of speech; "The Wheelbarrow Boy" by Richard Parker, about a teacher who can turn unruly children into any object of his choosing; "The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles" by Idris Seabright, a futuristic tale about a traveling salesman's ultimate nightmare). My youthful favorites, of course, were the darker ones — and they still are — but upon re-reading these recently, I found myself unexpectedly taken with some of the more humorous ones, particularly "Henry Martindale, Great Dane," which also manages a certain poignancy. And upon finishing "The Wheelbarrow Boy," which I was reading in bed just before conking out for the night, I fear I startled the cats by unleashing a barrage of laughter. Yes, this resulted in long, withering stares of consternation from which I have scarcely recovered.

Having have read these stories during my formative years, I suppose it's no wonder they have lingered, in some cases like half-remembered, eerie melodies, haunting but vague, influencing in subtle, if at all identifiable ways. But upon re-reading them, most for the first time since I was a youngster, the memories came flooding back, in many cases with crystal clarity, transporting me to a time when reading was truly exciting, oftentimes as much as or more so than watching the most spectacular monster epics on television or at the theater. Most of the stories in Alfred Hitchcock's Monster Museum are vivid and full of imagery, perfect for bringing life to the movie screen inside any adolescent's mind. Or even an adult's.

And now my batteries are recharged and set to get me moving on a new story for an upcoming anthology. Sometimes a pleasant return to your roots can do that for you.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Rum Collins


I suppose it's the most intense writing experience I've ever had. It was Autumn 1998, and I was working on Dreams of the Dark, which I co-wrote with Elizabeth Massie for the HarperCollins Dark Shadows series. Dark Shadows was, for me, a magical property, one I grew up with, dreamed about, plotted new episodes in my spare time. I knew the original television series, the movies, the Marilyn Ross novels inside and out. I was the consummate Dark Shadows fanboy. I had decided way back when, and I've said it many times since, that in a perfect universe, if I lived a good and worthy life, after I died I would go to Collinwood.

Ms. Massie and I had intricately plotted the novel, had virtually all the details worked out, and had divvied up the chapters for which we would each be responsible. I had developed a new character, a vampire, named Thomas Rathburn who would insinuate himself into Collinwood and thereby become the reader's eyes and ears as events at the great estate unfolded. It was via Rathburn that the reader would meet the Collins family — most notably, Barnabas Collins.

It was a Friday afternoon when I started working on the scene where Rathburn was to meet Barnabas for the first time, and I found myself as excited as if I were there, at Collinwood, about to come face to face with the characters I had known so intimately for so many years. I had armed myself with some rum, but as I began to paint the scene, I felt giddy, intoxicated, far in excess of the effect of any alcohol. It was the first time — perhaps the only time, really — that the process of writing transported me wholly into the world in which I was working. It was a world I knew better than any I could create from my own mind. In those moments, Collinsport, Maine, the place and its people, was as real, as corporeal, as the most familiar corner of my own hometown. I could see Barnabas Collins with perfect clarity, hear every word he spoke — in Jonathan Frid's inimitable, mellifluous voice — as if he were standing before me, performing for me only.

I wrote and drank for several hours, and sometime around midnight my (now ex-) wife reminded me that I'd had no dinner. I took a brief break for some vittles, recharged my glass (again), probably took a pee, and settled back in to continue the scene. It was all coming out like lightning, as natural, as real as if I were merely transcribing events happening in the tangible world around me. At some point, Mrs. Death went to bed, while I kept writing and drinking.

Eventually, I realized the sun was coming up.

I was beginning to feel the effects of the night's alcohol, so I made coffee, took a few minutes' breather, and went back to writing. And by noon, the rum was flowing again.

I finished that chapter sometime after sundown and finally, at some point, collapsed, pretty well enervated. I think I napped for a couple of hours before getting back to it, this time sans rum. Well, at least for the next few hours. By Sunday afternoon, I was writing and rumming again as if all that previous rumming had never happened.

When I look back at Dreams of the Dark, that chapter specifically, I can happily say it is not the work of an excited drunk. It's the work of an enthusiastic spirit who, for just a little while, visited the place of his dreams. I'd say there aren't any other media properties that could have done that for me, not then, not ever. I'm mighty glad I had the chance to work in that universe, not once but several times, because it opened a door for me — inside me — that few, if any, of my own unique creations have ever done. No right or wrong about it. It just was.

Fortunately for me, in the days since then, I have managed to write just as enthusiastically (if for much shorter spells) but without quite so much drink. I'm pretty sure I would never — could never — even attempt to repeat or recapture that experience. That was a singular, isolated time where passion and spirits overcame everything else. It's a fine thing to remember. I'm glad I can remember. For a while there, it was iffy.

Write on.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Time Keeps on Slippin'...

Yeah, this past week was my birthday, and this coming week is Ms. Kimberly's birthday. I just had my previous birthday a few days before, so I really can't figure what's up with that. But since these things somehow keep coming around again, we figured we'd make the best of them and do a bunch of celebratory stuff. Most of my birthday festivities went on last weekend, but on Friday night, I got a little bonus celebration going caching around Greensboro with my old friend Beth "Bogturtle" Walton and Debbie "Cupdaisy" Shoffner. It had been at least two or three years since I'd seen Beth, who lives in Florida these days, so it was great catching up, signing logs, and making a stop at one of our local cache bars afterward.

Yesterday, Ms. B. and I headed to Chapel Hill to hit a few of our preferred destinations for shopping and entertainment (and for me to find a few geocaches). We took the scenic route through Hillsborough to have lunch at Hillsborough BBQ Company (in my experience, their beef brisket is second only to Blues BBQ Company's in Roanoke); then, after going walkies around Chapel Hill and grabbing a handful of caches, we each suffered through a glass of delicious wine at the Weathervane bar at A Southern Season; we checked out West End Wine Bar in downtown Chapel Hill, of which we both approved mightily; and finally, we had dinner at Thai Palace, where the fare has been consistently excellent for us. Once back at Ms. B.'s, we watched Cold Mountain, which I had never seen, and, in general, I quite liked it. A bit overlong, but for the most part engaging.

After gorging myself on way too much, way-too-delicious food yesterday, I ended up not eating much of anything today — go figure — and getting in enough exercise to burn off at least the cole slaw from Hillsborough and all but wipe me out for the evening. I spent the better part of the day on the trails at Bryan Park North, hiding a new series of caches inspired by The Walking Dead, and things couldn't have worked out much better. I discovered a few prime locations in the woods, put in several miles of strenuous hiking (plus a bit of running when it looked like rain was going to set in), and undertook a physically taxing and moderately perilous tree climb. There are four caches in the series, which I call "Terminus," after the storyline in TV series, and I think I'm pleased with the results. Those who hunt and find the hides will be the final arbiter of their quality. They should publish in the next day or two.

And for this coming week, it's back to the salt mines.
Searched long and hard and couldn't find that cache.
Enjoyed running into a few local young geocachers in Chapel Hill
One of the intriguing fixtures I discovered in the woods while setting up "Terminus."
Near the final location of "Terminus." A scary cache!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Wine, Witches, and Watery Awakenings

As is customary, yesterday's Spring Book Festival at Brewed Awakening in Danville, VA, opened in the great outdoors, with a quite a few authors in attendance, but by the end of the first hour, gathering clouds had begun to ooze a pervasive mist, which eventually turned to rain, and in the interest of preserving our wares, most of us moved quickly inside. Fortunately, the shop, which is half café, half bookstore, is large enough that it accommodated both authors and customers without undue discomfort. The weather definitely had a negative impact on attendance and sales, but at the end of the day, it still proved profitable, and both Kimberly and I quite enjoyed the event. Brewed Awakenings, owned by John and Bonnie Helms-Hale of Martinsville, VA, occupies the lower floor of one of the historic buildings in Danville's newly renovated warehouse district and, in addition to a respectable stock of literature, offers a wide variety of coffee, tea, sandwiches, and other deli items.

Ms. B. and I had gone to Martinsville on Friday, where we spent a pleasant evening at Mum's in the company of some decent wine. It turned out to be a beautiful night for sitting under the stars on the back deck, with tiki torches burning. I might mention that Martinsville is known for its population of sizable arthropods, and we met a couple of them this weekened — a great big june bug, which dropped in unannounced for a personal wine tasting (fortunately, Kimberly's glass, not mine), and a dragonfly of prehistoric proportions that we discovered hanging on her bedroom window. And after the book festival yesterday, we decided to check out 2 Witches Winery and Brewing Company in Danville, where we each enjoyed a glass of Cabernet Franc on their expansive covered porch, sheltered from the rain. Currently, 2 Witches offers only a handful of wines, mostly still young, but a large selection of craft beers, which we didn't try on this visit, but which I imagine I could be convinced at something less than gunpoint to sample on a future trip.

And since my 5,700th birthday is coming up on Monday, Kimberly treated me to a nice celebratory dinner at The Golden Leaf Bistro, which we have enjoyed on several previous visits. And though I have long since cleared the list of geocaches in Danville, a particularly daunting cache awaited me on the way back to Greensboro. After a couple of fruitless attempts to find the mean little bastard during this past week, this time I managed to lay claim to it. Some caches require you to think outside the box; this one, not so much.

Happy bleepin' birthday to me.
Still life with wine and tiki torches at Mum's
Prehistoric beast on the bedroom window at Mum's place. That sucker is every bit of five inches long.
Some geocaches require you to think outside the box. Others, not so much.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Brewed Awakening Spring 2016 Book Festival

COMING UP: Brewed Awakening's Spring Book Festival, on Saturday, April 30, at the store, located at 610 Craghead St., Danville, VA 24541.  I'll be on location to sell and sign books (yes, my own; I get fussed at for signing other writers' books). I plan to have copies of The Monarchs, Blue Devil Island, Other Gods, The Gaki, and possibly others on hand, so if you are in traveling distance and possessed of exceptional intestinal fortitude, by all means, stop by. I'd love to see you.

Not only does Brewed Awakening sell books, they serve first-class sandwiches, wraps, and beverages (I'm especially fond of their hazelnut latte). And for you intrepid souls who enjoy geocaching as much as braving Rainey's terror tales, Danville is a geocaching mecca — in fact, there is a cache ("The Crossing," GC1BR2C) directly across the street from the café. Good books, good refreshments, good geocaching.

Mark your calendar and join us.

Brewed Awakening Book Festival 
Saturday, April 30, 2016 • 10 AM–2 PM
610 Craghead St., Danville, VA 24541
(434) 483-2138

Saturday, April 16, 2016

What a Long, Strange Trip, Part II

In our last episode, after a nerve-wracking flight into Islip, Long Island, ye olde drowned rat had sunk a couple of Bass Ales at good Molly Malone's (now permanently closed, I'm sad to report) and boarded the ferry to Fire Island with a contingent of intrepid Dark Shadows fans. When we arrived at our semi-rustic lodgings, both Ms. Massie, whose journey had been scarcely less taxing than mine, and I collapsed for long afternoon naps. In fact, if I recall, I think several of us decided to crash for a while, as the severe storms had done a pretty good number on everyone's nerves, and it was good to finally relax. Fortunately, for the next two days, the weather ceased to be a complicating factor, and spending time among some good friends served as much-needed tonic. There were no cars in our particular corner of Fire Island, so we either walked or rode bicycles to whatever areas we saw fit to explore. I believe it was on our second evening there, I remember we had to hoof it quite some distance to find vittles, at a restaurant whose name I can't recall but that proved most enjoyable. At the time, I was working on the opening chapters of Dark Shadows: The Labyrinth of Souls, and I read at least the first chapter to an enthusiastic crowd — which was actually a motivating reason for finishing the novel even when it appeared that an official release by either HarperCollins or Tor was not destined for the offing.

No, for those couple of days, I thought perhaps I had left the bizarro realm behind me, but on that last day on the island, I discovered it had been but a brief respite.

On that Sunday, I bid my companions adieu, for I had to return to work the following day. It was particularly sad for me because the group was planning to visit Dark Shadows actor Louis Edmonds at his home nearby. Fortunately, I had met him once before he passed away in 2001, but I have always regretted not being able to spend time with him on that particular trip. Anyway, as planned, my fellow Air Warrior staffer "Mojo" Wayne met me at the ferry station early that afternoon, and we decided that Molly Malone's would make a perfectly fine destination for lunch and drinks before heading to the airport. As it turned out, Molly Malone's was equally appealing to the church crowd as the seafaring set, and before we knew it, battalions of patrons in their Sunday best, accompanied by countless raucous children, descended on our positions. Mojo said he knew a place close to the airport, so off we went to escape the onslaught of Christian soldiers.

Little did I know, Mojo's favorite spot was a strip club. Now, I am far, far from prudish, but I have just never taken much pleasure in such adult venues. We settled ourselves in a relatively secluded corner, and I was enjoying a well-made gin and tonic when he stood up and hollered, "Famous writer here! A famous horror writer!" So much for remaining incognito. A couple of attractive young ladies came around to check out my credentials, and when they learned I had written a Dark Shadows novel, they were both ecstatic. Longtime fans, apparently, and how nice! I ended up grabbing a couple of copies of the book from my (finally dried out) suitcase and donating them to the cause here, for which I was offered all kinds of favors, and which I all kinds of refused because, well, Mrs. Death. (I was still married in those days.) Anyway, after all this, Mojo drove me on to Islip Airport, where I anticipated, finally, an uneventful flight home.

My flight had been canceled.

Well, the attendant said, there wasn't another flight to PHL until late that evening, and I wouldn't be able to make a connection to Greensboro till the following day. However, if I wanted to catch a direct flight home, they could put me in a limo, free of charge, to LaGuardia, an hour or so away, which was due to depart in about three hours. I settled on taking the limo ride to LaGuardia and the direct flight, so off we went. The driver was courteous enough, a big fan of Rudy Giuliani, who turned out to be the sole subject of a very one-sided conversation. Now, for whatever reason, after leaving the strip club, I had kept a copy of Dreams of the Dark in my hand and stuck my plane ticket between its pages. When we arrived at LaGuardia, the driver dropped me off at the terminal, I grabbed my suitcase, and began heading toward the doors. The limo pulled away.

And I realized I had left my book — and plane ticket — in the car's back seat.

In a burst of panic, I took off running after the limo, hoping the driver would see me in his rear-view mirror. No such luck! By now, the police officers manning the terminal entrance came hauling ass my way, yelling at me to get the hell out of the road.

"My ticket's in that limo!" I shouted back.

Another limo was just pulling out, and an officer yelled, "Grab that one!"

Sure enough, as the limo pulled by me, I flagged the driver down and, while the car was still moving, flung myself into the back seat.

I pointed to the vehicle ahead I had so recently quitted. "Follow that car!"

The driver, a very cordial young African American fellow, nodded politely and said, "Hold on, sir!"

The G force was terrible. I was smashed into the back seat under what felt like a ton of bricks as the limo rocketed after our quarry. I could see that, not far ahead, the road divided, the right lane leading to the expressway, the left lane circling back around the airport. Naturally, my former limo was heading for the expressway.

In his rear-view mirror, my driver must have noticed my consternation, for he said in a placating tone, "No worries, sir."

Next thing I know, we're pulled up right beside my old limo, and the driver is honking his horn. My former driver noticed us, and I rolled down my window. "MY TICKET IS IN THE BACK SEAT!"

The driver looked around, noticed my book with the ticket inside, and in one smooth motion, reached back, grabbed the book, and flung it out the window toward me. The book came flying in and smacked me in the chest. "THANK YOU!" I hollered, and our dexterous fellow gave me a big thumbs' up. Then he was disappearing in the direction of the expressway, and I had my ticket in hand.

Now, quite unperturbed, my driver carried me back to the terminal at a far more reasonable speed, and when he dropped me off at the doors, I gave him a $20 bill for going around that circle, which back then was probably not a bad tip for a quick round trip.

In the end, I caught my flight back to Greensboro, this time sans inordinate turbulence, on time, with dry clothes, and at least some of my wits intact. When I got home and Mrs. Death asked me how my trip had gone, I told her it was fine, a few things a bit out of the ordinary. I wasn't sure she would believe the whole story. I wasn't sure I believed the whole story.

But that's what happened. And now I suddenly have a craving for Bass Ale. Anyone care to join me?

Friday, April 15, 2016

What a Long, Strange Trip, Part I


Back in May 2000, not long after Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark was released, I accepted to an invitation to attend a gathering of Dark Shadows fans at Fire Island, NY. I anticipated it being an entertaining weekend spent in the company of some nice folks with a similar fondness for certain supernatural soap operas. I was delighted to find that Ms. Elizabeth Massie, my co-writer on the novel, would also be attending. The part about about hanging out with some nice folks proved true enough, but what I did not expect was a surreal, at times disconcerting experience that began the moment I left home and didn't end until my plane touched down safely again in Greensboro two days later.

At the time, I was the head game op on AOL's Air Warrior flight simulator, and it so happened that one of the other staffers with whom I'd gotten to be friends lived in that area of New York. We decided that, on the last day of my trip, he would pick me up at the Fire Island Ferry Station, we'd have a few drinks somewhere, and then he'd take me to the airport. A little bonus to look forward to before my return home.

My plane departed on a cold, drizzly Friday morning, bound for Islip, Long Island, by way of Philadelphia. The flight out was normal enough, though the turbulence was considerable. It was when I arrived at PHL to make my connection that things really went south. By now, the drizzle had become a relentless deluge, and my flight to Islip was on a tiny commuter aircraft that resembled a shoebox to which someone had glued wings as an afterthought. However, rather than at the main terminal, the airplane was parked on the tarmac somewhere at the farthest reaches of the airport, to which we few passengers had to take a bus. Our baggage followed in an open trolley, and as you might guess, my canvas suitcase fared rather poorly in that driving rain. Once the plane was airborne, some coffee seemed just the ticket, so I acquired a cup from the flight attendant. I had barely taken the first sip — hot! — when we hit the first serious turbulence. Fortunately, the seat next to me was empty, and I held my cup out over that seat to keep the scalding coffee from sloshing all over me.

And just in time too. WHOMP! Big air pocket, and the plane dropped a hundred feet, my stomach rushing to my throat, every last bit of coffee splashing onto the empty seat beside me. Beverage service was immediately terminated, and for the next 45 minutes, we bounced along in the air, my head every now and then striking the overhead compartment when we hit a particularly rough stretch. It was the landing, though, that almost put me off flying, for as we made our descent, the little aircraft began swaying mercilessly back and forth, occasionally so sharply that, through the windows, I found myself looking straight down at the earth below. Soon enough, treetops were rushing past at high speed, and then — WHAM! — the left tire touched down on the runway. WHAM! The right tire touched down. Finally — BAM! THUD! — the nose wheel came down, and my head hit the back of the seat in front of me hard enough to send stars dancing across my field of vision. People around me were screaming, and I mean screaming, and this I found far more upsetting than the pain of impact. But outside the window, I could see that we were rolling along on level ground, gradually slowing down. The worst, it would seem, was over.

Indeed, I had survived more or less unscathed, but when my suitcase and I were reunited, it appeared to have been salvaged from some underwater catastrophe. Inside it, everything — and I mean everything — was soaked through and through. Where I was going, I didn't anticipate finding a handy retailer to replace anything that had been ruined, but my spirits were far less dampened than my belongings. I caught a ride with a friendly limo driver who carried me to the Bayshore-Fire Island Ferry Station, now under merely cloudy skies. However, immediately upon our arrival, the bottom fell out again, a blinding torrent, and I really wasn't sure where I had to go to meet my party. Oddly, the parking lot was deserted. The driver and I appeared to be the only human beings at the ferry station. He offered to wait with me until Ms. Massie and the others arrived, but I saw in the distance what appeared to be a tavern called Molly Malone's, and it was open, so I asked the driver to drop me there that I might enjoy a drink while waiting for the Dark Shadows contingent. He obliged, but in the fifty feet between the limo and the establishment's front door, I ended up so drenched I might as well have leaped into Great South Bay. With my waterlogged suitcase in hand, I staggered into the tavern, immediately to encounter a young hostess who, upon taking in my appearance, gave an involuntary snicker and said, "Sir, you need a drink."

I quite agreed, and she led me past a crowded bar, where a group of clearly drunken, burly seafaring types were belting out "Sweet Molly Malone" at the top of their collective lungs. I think it was at this moment that I realized I had become an active participant in some surreal, possibly preordained scenario, and there was nothing for it but to go along for the ride and see where it led me. I ordered myself a Bass Ale, and, if I recall, I ended up having another before I saw, through a rain-splashed window, the arrival of a vehicle from which, blessedly, Ms. Massie and several other familiar figures emerged. For quite some time afterward, whenever it rained, I found myself craving Bass Ale, and now upon reflection, it seems a tradition worth revisiting.

 As I made my way out of Molly Malone's, the rain stopped, and I met Ms. Massie, Mr. Bob Issel, and a few other folks whose acquaintances I had made at a previous Dark Shadows festival. We boarded the ferry, and, for the moment, it appeared that things might actually settle down and allow for a pleasant, mellow weekend at a cozy summer house on the island.

I only hoped I had some place to hang my soaked clothes and that they might dry out quickly.

Part II to follow.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hey, Ray!

Another random tale of mischief and woe from my adolescence...

It was during that period — 1972 or 1973 — when my friend Charles and I made it our business to prank call as many people in the town of Martinsville, VA, as was humanly possible. Perhaps you'll remember the story of The Pinocchio Lady, who doubtlessly suffered more at our hands (or our voices) than any other single individual. However, there was the case of Mr. Ray Bocock, whom we started out pranking, only to have the table somehow turned on us. Sort of. Anyway, witness the following account:

When I was thirteen years old, I considered Ray's son, Ken, my fiercest rival for the affections of one Mary Beth Hughes, with whom I was madly in love. For reasons that can perhaps be fathomed only by a very peculiar thirteen-year-old lad, I determined that it was up to me to make Mr. Bocock the Elder pay for the sin of having sired said rival by way of the prank phone call. Charles, being the devoted friend and all, was perfectly willing to help me on my quest — mainly because he enjoyed playing on the phone as much as I did — and so we set about plotting Mr. Bocock's demise with evil glee. The man was clearly a monster and needed to be dealt with.

As was our custom, we set up my Lloyd's cassette recorder to tape record the call. I wanted this take-down preserved for posterity. It was going to be brutal.

Ringggg....

"Hello?"

"Hey, Ray!"

"Hey there. Who's this?"

"This is Ronald! Don't you know anything?"

"Oh, Ronald. I didn't recognize your voice."

"Are you deaf?"

"No. Are you sure this is Ronald?"

"Are you sure this is Ray?"

"Pretty sure."

It occurred to me then that, for all our scheming, Charles and I had no plan at all. Now that I had Mr. Bocock on the line, I had no idea how to bring this terrible man to his knees. This could be serious. With the most hostile inflection I could manage, I said, "So, whatcha doing?"

"I was about to go mow the yard."

"Yeah? You know, I just got me a new riding lawn mower."

"Really? Sounds nice. What kind did you get?"

"Uh, a Sears, I think."

"You didn't get a Toro? That's a lot better."

"Uh, no."

Holy cow, this was falling apart quickly. Mr. Bocock actually sounded very nice. But how could that be? His son was trying to steal the love of my life, the maiden who had stolen my heart, the girl with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life — or at least the next couple of months. This simply could not stand. It was time to get ugly.

"Uh, hang on, Ray, my wife's calling me." (Charles makes some noise in the background.) "I'm back. She's a real nag, you know?"

"I bet she wouldn't nag you if you'd get on that riding lawn mower and mow the yard."

"Really?"

"Pretty sure."

"Uh, yeah. I guess I will then."

"That's good. Well, give her my best, will you?"

"I will!"

"All right then. Well, thanks for calling, Ronald. Talk to you later."

"Bye, Ray!"

I hung up, not quite sure I had achieved my objective. I'd had the man square in my sights, but he was so... so... cordial I just couldn't bring myself pull the trigger. Of course, it wouldn't do to let on to Charles that our wicked little plan had been derailed, so I gave him a sly grin and said, "We sure got him, didn't we?"

"Oh, yeah! I bet he doesn't even have a riding lawn mower."

Big laughs all around. "Yeah, and you know his wife nags him."

"All the time!"

After that, Charles and I called Mr. Bocock a couple more times, and the conversations went just about the same way. Those I did not record, alas. I never could bring myself to say anything bad to him, even about his son, and it wasn't long before it didn't matter anyway because Mary Beth Hughes had pretty much spurned the both of us. And a couple of years later, Ken Bocock and I took to playing golf together. What do you know — Ken was pretty much all right! And in my later teens, when I played a lot of golf with my dad, we often ended up in a foursome with... Ray Bocock. Damn, he was a great guy! Fun-loving, witty, sometimes a bit acerbic, in an endearing way.

Hell, no, I never told him I was Ronald. Would you?

I understand Mr. Bocock passed away a good many years ago — not long after my dad, as a matter of fact. I have to admit, I'm kind of glad Ronald made his acquaintance. Ronald probably learned something. I think he really needed to.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Haunted, Hurting, and Happy


Oh, my achy-breaky knees. I have surely put in some hiking this past couple of weeks, and the old bones are feeling it. I suppose it's a good kind of ache, except that it's not; oh yes, it means I've been getting back to some pretty serious cardio and overall muscle workouts, but unfortunately, I have the feeling the occasional ache in the knee is more arthritis than exercise related. Still, I'm more than happy to be hiking many miles, climbing trees, adding to my geocache count, all that good stuff. I also had to do some maintenance on several of my own caches the past couple of days, which involved additional hiking and tree climbing. Such suffering!

Now, the caching did take me to some scenic, creepy, and otherwise pleasing locations this week, such as the back roads of Guilford County; Farris Park, near Mayodan, NC; and one of my mostest favoritest trails ever, the Fieldale-Smith River Trail in Henry County, VA. I tell you this, heading out to on the latter trail to replace the log in my cache, "Haunted Island" (GC1P9Z3) — yes, it is on an island, and it is haunted — the wind was a-howling, the trees a-creaking and a-groaning, kind of like my old bones. And from the trail, you get a good view of the old Koehler Warehouse, which served as the area Jaycees' Halloween haunted castle back in the 70s. In my late teens, I had the pleasure of helping the Jaycees out, playing a mad vivisectionist (using real organs from a butcher shop) and skulking around the dark corridors in a monster costume scaring the hell out of the patrons. Ah, the good old days when you could touch, grab, tickle, and otherwise startle folks without worrying about lawsuits. To this day, I think of the old warehouse as "The Spooky Place." It really kind of is....

I did spend the past couple of days helping my mom out, so it was hardly all fun and games, but the time was pleasant enough. Today, back home, but unfortunately, Ms. Brugger is down with a flu bug. She needed some provisions, and while I don't love her enough to go to Walmart for them, I do love her enough to travel miles out of the way to get them at a non-Walmart. And though I almost never drink beer anymore, I noticed that strange brew called Oculto you see in the photo above, and I figured I might as well try it. Nothing to brag about, for sure, though it blends well enough with bloody mary mix (in this case, Clamato juice and scorpion pepper sauce). Now and again, a good old red-eye hits the spot.
Cute little cache guardian I discovered in the woods in Greensboro
Thought I might buy this little fixer-upper out in Guilford County for Ms. Brugger
as a summer cottage. Cozy, wot?
Purty view at Farris Park, near Mayodan, NC
The Spooky Place, in Koehler, VA

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Daisy Zoo


Back in the days of Deathrealm, I tended to read more poetry than I do in my current old age. I cannot lie, poetry has never been one of my favorite mediums — I know, my loss — but for the magazine I certainly managed to home in on some brilliant dark verse from numerous authors, and Jessica Amanda Salmonson's work was something of a Deathrealm mainstay. She contributed both short stories and poetry to the magazine, and her work often managed to define, as much as such is possible, the unique brand of weirdness I sought to present in its pages. From her heartfelt tribute to Wilum H. Pugmire, simply titled "Wilum" (which I think appeared in the premier issue — forgive me if I can't recall them all specifically without digging into the vault) to the psyche-stabbing "The Gorgeous Beast," to the Jonathan Carroll–inspired "In the Looking Glass, Life Is Death," Jessica's poems held an allure for me that few other poets could rival. Author/poet Fred Chappell once told me that reading poetry made him feel smarter, and I think there's something to that. After reading Jessica's latest poetry chapbook, Daisy Zoo and Other Punk-Ass Nonsense, I'm quite sure I got a dose of smartness that I'd never have come by otherwise.

There's not so much darkness in Daisy Zoo; it's more full of whimsy, of vivid sensuality, of quirkiness, of cynicism in many guises. For want of a better term, it's just damn fun. Smart fun. Sometimes gentle and touching and sometimes a kind of "what the fuck?" fun. I don't want to excerpt but so much because most of the poems are quite short, but one of my favorite WTF poems, called "Gotta Love Rats," features this:
     "I love rats — wo yeah
     Love 'em wearing hats — wo yeah
     Love 'em in my trousers — wo yeah
     Make me yell 'yowzehs' — wo yeah."
And there's plenty more. How about this, from "Stop! Stop Right Now!" —
     "I want you to know
     Your haiku are stupid
     Please stop writing them."
For me, that just does it.

For the most part, these are simple-structured rhymes, but in their simplicity they pack all the more wallop. You can read the entire collection in a sitting or two, and while you might get a few chuckles — even more than a few — you may also come away from it feeling as if your emotions have been scraped just a little raw. Jessica pokes and prods your brain perhaps more than you realize, at least until you step away from the verse and take stock of what just happened.

Sometimes feeling smarter is funny. Sometimes it hurts.

While supplies last, you can get your own copy of Daisy Zoo and Other Punk-Ass Nonsense from Jessica for $10 via Paypal. Use jessicasalmonson@gmail.com.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Legend of Hillbilly John


The Legend of Hillbilly John is a relatively obscure little relic from the early 1970s, based on Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John stories. I saw the movie when it came round to the Rives Theater in Martinsville, VA, most likely in 1973, when I was in junior high school. I have vague recollections of being in old Ronnie Townsend's physics class and making plans to go see the movie with a buddy of mine named Edmond. At some prior movie show, I had seen the trailer, which featured a stop-motion-animated giant bird, and this naturally set off some serious fireworks in my juvenile head. At the time, the name Manly Wade Wellman meant nary a thing to me, though I had actually read "The Desrick on Yandro" in that most wonderful horror anthology Alfred Hitchcock's Monster Museum, probably that very same year. Apparently, my youthful mind did not pick up on the association between the story and the movie, although in later years, it was actually my vivid recollections of the "Desrick on Yandro" segment from the film that prompted me to seek out more of Wellman's works. Two decades or so ago, I picked up a copy of this movie on VHS, which I still own and keep safely stored, since, as best I can tell, no official digital version exists. I recently re-read "The Desrick on Yandro" — not just one of my favorite Wellman tales but one of my favorite horror/fantasy stories — and I got the bug to up and revisit the film.

For a low-budget picture with relatively limited appeal, The Legend of Hillbilly John features the contributions of several noteworthy names, such as stars Denver Pyle (Bonnie & Clyde, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Dukes of Hazard), R. G. Armstrong (Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, My Name Is Nobody, Race With the Devil), Harris Yulin (How the West Was Won, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Law & Order), Severn Darden (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, The Day of the Dolphin), and Susan Strasberg (The Trip, The Manitou, The Brotherhood); director John Newland of One Step Beyond fame; and country music legend Hoyt Axton, who provided the movie's main tune, "The Devil," among others. Though the plot ostensibly chronicles Hillbilly John's travels through the southland, putting down the devil wherever he may be found by way of a silver-stringed guitar (the devil, of course, cannot withstand the pure power of silver), the movie plays more like a number of cobbled-together set pieces, linked by the common characters of John (Hedges Capers); his girlfriend, Lily (Sharon Henesy); his dog, Honor-Hound; and the enigmatic Mr. Marduke (Darden). Two of the pieces are relatively faithful adaptations of Wellman's Silver John tales "The Desrick on Yandro" and "O Ugly Bird," featuring mostly convincing southern characters and authentic backwoods atmosphere (the movie was filmed in North Carolina and Arkansas). Unfortunately, the character of John himself departs rather drastically from the source material. Wellman drew the character as an educated, worldly, sometimes cynical veteran of the Korean War, whereas the John of the film is a naïve, rather effeminate flower child. While the set pieces themselves move at a fair pace and occasionally generate some tension, between them we are subjected to interminable interludes with John, Lily, and Honor Hound, usually accompanied by meandering, unmemorable ballads, some written by Capers himself.

Screenwriter Melvin Levy and director John Newland managed to conjure a few memorable moments, such as Denver Pyle performing his ill-fated "defy" on guitar (which culminates with the film appearing to actually break); Mr. Yandro's dramatic first appearance at a rather somber country church shindig; the animated Ugly Bird's attack on John; and John's confrontation with a powerful Haitian witch doctor-cum-slave driver named Captain Lajoie H. Desplaines IV (Percy Rodrigues). Our most intriguing character is actually Severn Darden's dowser/magician/narrator Marduke, who is not a Wellman creation but an apparent incarnation of the Babylonian deity Marduk, his nature and motivations unclear from start to finish. While he appears a benevolent enough character, he exudes a certain dark mystery, partly due to Severn Darden's perpetually dour countenance. He is clearly possessed of occult powers (not to mention he owns a mule named Asmodeus), but while he occasionally lends John a hand — such as replacing his guitar which was destroyed as he battled Ugly Bird — he doesn't actively participate in any conflicts with the antagonists. More than once, he goads John to question his own motivation, going so far as to tell him that, if he goes on to defy the devil, those who benefit from his victory will likely not appreciate it. Quite the contrary, as a matter of fact.

Apart from Ugly Bird, special effects work is less than sparse. I can't imagine today's audiences, accustomed to the casting of spells by way of flashy CGI laser strikes, suspending their collective disbelief by anything as simple as a few simple camera tricks, staccato music, and slightly over-the-top acting. One scene that almost impresses is near the end of the film, when John and Lily arrive at the cotton plantation run by Captain Desplaines. They approach a tall wooden gate, and upon opening, find themselves facing a landscape and sky colored a lurid orange. Only after Captain Desplaines has been vanquished by John's silver-stringed guitar does the color return to normal.

Unquestionably, The Legend of Hillbilly John has heart, and at times it has brains. Hoyt Axton's "The Devil" over the opening credits does a commendable job of setting up a dark, expectant mood. In its better moments, the movie can draw some approving nods. At no time, however, does anything in it come close to making you stand up, thump your chest, and holler, "God damn, that was good!" Quite unlike Wellman's stories, which have, for me, done this very thing. It's difficult to find this film, as I don't believe it's available either on DVD or at any digital service. My old VHS tape of it doesn't get much business, but I do like having it on hand, just for when I get in that mood. I expect I'll give it another look in some future year.


Hoyt Axton's "The Devil," as it opens the picture.

Back to Jack Taylor's House Party


Back on St. Patrick's Day, I had the pleasure of appearing on Jack Taylor's House Party radio show on WFJX FOX Radio 910, and the hosts — Big Knox and Vano — have, for their own inexplicable, possibly sadistic reasons, seen fit to invite me back. I'll be on the show again today, round about 2:00 PM EDT, this time to carry on about geocaching and perhaps a bit about writing horror. You can listen live on the web, or get the Tune-In Radio apps for Android and iPhones to listen anywhere, anytime. Last week's show is available on Soundcloud — it begins the third hour, so you can either listen to the whole entertaining show or skip straight to my segment if you're feeling masochistic. Anyhoo, please do join us today. You might learn something, and you'll certainly go away afeared.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Just Divine

Had to make my usual visit to Martinsville to look after Mum on Friday and first part of the day Saturday, but I was able to get back yesterday afternoon so Ms. B., Kidlet, and I could head out to hit a couple of wineries and enjoy a very pleasant day in the Yadkin River Valley. Our first destination was Divine Llama, which Ms. B. and I have visited a few times in the past. They only have a couple of dry reds — a reserve Merlot and a Cabernet Franc — but they're both exceedingly good for NC wine, and even a couple of their whites weren't too ugly on my palate. Their oaked Chardonel was actually smooth and buttery enough to make me consider having a glass of it. That is all kinds of different, my friends. Now, Ms. B. is all about  stainless steel–aged, crisp-and-citrusy, non-oaky white wine, but everyone is entitled to at least a few minor shortcomings. Alas, there were no llamas in evidence this visit; just a lot of bumbly bees and a few children. (Parents, cut that the fuck out. Wineries are for adults.)

From there, we went over to nearby Cellar 4201, which is a decent enough place, with more choices of dry reds. However, their tastings are way overpriced — $9 for seven wines (with a very small quantity of each wine — about half an ounce) in a stemless glass, or $15 for the same seven in a stemmed glass, which you get to keep. Please! Now, I certainly prefer a glass with a stem, but good lord, you wouldn't even get a half glass of wine for your $15, and the last thing I need is another tasting glass to bring home. For comparable wine tastings, most Yadkin Valley wineries charge you from $5 to $10 for up to ten wines, and more often than not, you get to keep the glass anyway. I confess this little bit of gouging irked me, but it wasn't hard to make the best of things, what with the company and everything. Bottom line is, with so many wineries in the area that offer you a better deal (and some with better quality wine), I am not much inclined to make 4201 a destination to revisit in the near future.

Upon departing the vineyards, our trio headed to Little Tokyo restaurant in High Point for sushi, which certainly proved a high point of the evening. Great food, and a nice two-for-one deal on sake for Saturday evening. One of the better venues for not-terribly-dead fish in the Triad.

Today, there was caching. Fun, happy caching. Sadly, Kidlet will be leaving us tomorrow. It has been a fine two weeks having her close at hand. Well, mostly. I mean, you can see a bit of scariness in the visages down below. Rough stuff, my friends, rough stuff.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Browns Summit Chainsaw Massacre?

I love finding haunted places while I'm out geocaching, and I came upon a mighty fine one this afternoon. It's out in Brown Summit, a few miles north of here, on the edge of Bryan Park North, a relatively new extension to the already sizeable park. There's over five miles of hiking/equestrian trails in these woods, only a portion of which has so far been claimed by geocachers. I had gone out after a couple of new ones, and my search led me to the remains of an old homestead, with a crumbling farmhouse in the woods; a couple of collapsed tobacco barns; a field full of abandoned, rusting automobiles; a chugging generator; and an honest-to-god roaring chainsaw somewhere just beyond my line of sight. There's a couple of squalid, dilapidated houses just beyond the woods, both clearly inhabited. The geocache (GC6DNBN) was virtually within sight of this rather forbidding property, and during my search, I kept a keen eye and ear open for the approach of any hostile beings, human or otherwise. Obviously, I lived to tell the tale, and I rightly look forward to heading back out that way in the coming days.
Multiple dead cars... multiple dead bodies?
It fall down!
Still alive to tell the tale — for the moment.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Wining and Sciencing

Kidlet came into town from New York City last week, and she's staying with me this weekend. She wanted to see the Greensboro Natural Science Center, as she hadn't been there since she was a wee youngster and it was a single building with just a few displays — and except for hunting geocaches on or around its premises, I've never been. It's now an extensive, multi-million-dollar complex, with lots of live animal displays, dinosaurs, rocks & minerals, aquariums, and a treetop rope course (which Allison did not care to do, but I'm quite sure I want to give it a go). We spent a good couple of hours seeing the sights, the highlight surely being the pair of tigers who have a nice big area to roam and mingle with guests — well, almost. We were also quite taken with the pair of fishing cats, a passel of penguins, a bunch of otters, and stingrays of all sizes, which you can pet as they glide past through the pool. There's a huge octopus, which we were told only rarely makes an appearance, but it was kind enough to treat us to a brief appearance when it came out from its cover of rocks to check out the passersby. Bet he would have made for some serious tako-su at any of the nearby Japanese restaurants (octopus is one of my favorites, by the way).

Out in the zoo area, there were several dinosaur-sized tortoises; a number of playful gibbons in the trees; some shy lemurs gathered together in a hovel and grooving on a pict; and a peacock strutting around the pedestrian walkways, which made me wonder whether we had stumbled onto the NBC lot by mistake.

Afterward, we headed over to Stonefield Cellars Winery in the Stokesdale area — by way of a few geocaches — which made for a most pleasant afternoon, the weather kindly cooperating with sunshine and balmy temperatures. We shared a bottle of their Synchronicity red blend, which is one of their many excellent red selections. It was nice to see that Stonefield has a new winery cat, named Fizzgig (from The Dark Crystal). Some time ago, their original winery cat, Noah — a beautiful bengal cat — passed away. Fizzgig — whom Allison referred to as Francis — proved himself affable company while one is drinking wine in the great outdoors.

Then, finally, we made our way back into town and met Ms. Brugger, Jenny Chapman, and Doug Cox at Casa Vallarta Mexican Restaurant for dinner. Fair Mexican fare, excellent company. Today, the kid is preparing us a nice lunch. I hope to survive to tell the tale.
Brought to you in living color.
Droolie in his dreams
Fishing cats, sans fish
Fizzgig, a.k.a. Francis
Dad and Kidlet

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Coming Up on Jack Taylor's House Party...


Thursday, March 17, 2016 — hey, that's St. Patrick's Day! — I'll be doing a live Q&A session on the Jack Taylor's House Party radio show on WFJX FOX Radio 910 Roanoke at or around 2:00 PM EDT. Co-host Vance Pitzer (or should I say Mr. Pitzer — you know, of Pitzer Hut fame) decided I should get the roast or some such, and what could I do but oblige? We'll talk about my writing, scary stuff in general, possibly some geocaching, who the heck knows? At any rate, it ought to be wicked fun, so if you've got the time, we've got the torture for you.

You can listen live on the web, or get the Tune-In Radio apps for Android and iPhones to listen anywhere, anytime. The shows are recorded, so you can always come back and torture yourself at a later date.

Pop in!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Discoveries: Best of Horror and Dark Fantasy


Received today: my contributor copy of the paperback edition of Discoveries: Best of Horror and Dark Fantasy from Dark Regions Press. This one features my pleasantly deviant little horror tale "Megan," which originally appeared in the mini-anthology Darker Discoveries in 2008. The new anthology, edited by James R. Beach and Jason V Brock, features stories from various Dark Discoveries Press projects, including the magazine, the newsletter, and the anthologies NW Horrors and Darker Discoveries.

Here, we also have works by Paul Bens Jr., Ray Bradbury, Jason V Brock, Kealan Patrick Burke, Elizabeth Engstrom, Paul Finch, Bill Gauthier, Cody Goodfellow, Gerard Houarner, Richard Laymon, Tim Lebbon, John R. Little, Nick Mamatas, Brett McBean, Michael McBride, James Newman, William F. Nolan, Gene O’Neill, Weston Ochse, Wilum H. Pugmire, David A. Riley, Michelle Scalise, John Shirley, Steve Rasnic Tem, Jeffrey Thomas, Tim Waggoner, and Matthew Warner.

Discoveries: Best of Horror and Dark Fantasy is currently available in ebook and trade paperback; Dark Regions Press will release a deluxe, signed hardcover edition later this year. You can check it out at Dark Regions or at Amazon.com (ebook here or paperback here).

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Night Cachers

It's unusual in the extreme to have an impromptu nighttime caching outing these days, mainly because I've had Greensboro essentially cached out for a matter of years now. But with the infusion of damn near 400 caches in town in recent days, courtesy of Mr. Night-Ranger, there's at least enough to keep me busy for a matter of weeks. Tonight, Mr. Robgso, Ms. Cupdaisy, and I decided to get together to go after a dozen or so in northern Greensboro. Well, it took some shaming from the lady to coerce Rob into joining us, but join us he eventually did. We started out at dusk, just in time to witness the rainbow over the golden arches, which you see in the above photo. This was all nice and everything, but it was after the rainbow vanished that the rain actually began. It pelted us for a little while, but once it let up, it left us in peace for the rest of the evening.
Yep, walking dead things in the woods

Most of the caches were of the park-&-grab variety, but there was one that took us into the woods off Lawndale Drive, with lots of tree frogs piping eerily, and something went tromping through the darkness nearby that gave Cupdaisy a start. And my favorite location was one that I didn't realize existed — an old, abandoned apartment complex some distance off the main road, which was pleasantly creepy, with old benches overgrown with weeds, trees growing out from a once-tended pond, and the sounds of wildlife singing and scurrying in the darkness. Once again, caching brings us to interesting, previously undiscovered places in our own own backyard. Happy day. Or in this case, happy night. I don't know if we'll manage anymore night outings in the area real soon, but this one sure was a treat.

My daughter is in town, and she was treated to a couple of cache finds last night, and a couple of more this morning, all quite against her will. There might be a little more of that in her future before she heads back to New York. Let's have a little evil laughter, shall we?

Happy hunting and good-night.
Hurry up and sign the log, Rob, I think there's one of them walking dead things coming this way.


Friday, March 11, 2016

The Creep's New Threads


Yeah, the Sandy Level Creep is watching you. Apparently, the Creep has changed into his best spring attire, as you can see in the accompanying photo. He's shed his tattered gray raincoat and donned a red long-sleeved button-down shirt, off-white slacks, a sassy hat, and a pair of ultra-stylish shades. He still wears his customary broad smile and offers a cheerful wave to folks driving past on the old Axton Road in Henry County, VA, just north of the NC state line.

As friendly as the Creep appears to be, he's very much the strong, silent type, and I've yet to see him engaged in conversation with anyone. Presumably, the Creep's family lives in one of the mobile homes on the property, and I can deny a certain temptation to stop and see if they're the chatty sort. I'd love to hear the story behind this fellow.

At least, I think I would.

Too busy to blog much lately. Life is running me ragged. At least there's a whole slew of new caches to go after in my snippets of spare time, courtesy Mr. Rich "Night-Ranger" Colter — 380 of them, give or take a few. Happily, there are a fair number I can grab on my increasingly regular comings and goings from Martinsville. They do add a sparkle to the day.

Peace out, creeps.