Sunday, July 27, 2014

High Upon Dragon's Tooth

A couple of miles into the hike, just under a mile from the summit. At the end of it all,
I don't think any of us looked quite this fresh and enthusiastic.
Old Rodan is tired and sore, and — before that most welcome shower — all-too-recently soaking wet and filthy dirty. This morning, I headed up to Dragon's Tooth on the Appalachian Trail, just northwest of Roanoke, and met up with a number of Virginia-based geocachers to hike up to the summit. Back in the 1990s, when my brother lived up that way, we spent countless hours roaming around the countryside there, but we never did go up to Dragon's Tooth — silly us. From the parking area along Highway 311, it's roughly a six-mile round trip to the top, and about three feet of the journey is on smooth, level ground. The mile just before the summit is steep, rocky, and frequently requires one to use both hands and feet to make the ascent. We did this in 100% humidity with occasional rain squalls, so those rocks tended to be slick and treacherous. By the time we reached the top of the ridge, there was not a one of us that wasn't soaked to the skin with sweat and/or rainwater.
Bound for glory, or something such.

The formations and view from Dragon's Tooth are spectacular. From the parking area, the elevation change is about 1,100 feet, and the main two Tuscarora quartzite spires at the summit each rise about 35 feet, at almost 90-degree angles from the surrounding terrain. Some of our number — mainly the younger ones — clambered all the way up to the crest of the biggest and sharpest tooth, while at least one of us older folk settled for tromping out on one of blunter molars — itself not a trivial formation, and guaranteed to send you to your death if you're not cautious along its edge. Needless to say, there were caches to be found on this excursion, and find them we did — only three for me today, but a trip such as this is all about quality over quantity, and that much we surely got.

Most interestingly, three of the group — "Kivotos" (a.k.a Noah) and "Fishercachers" (Leif and Bobbie) — are from Waynesboro, VA, and are acquainted with my good friends, writer Elizabeth Massie and artist Cortney Skinner, who are themselves avid geocachers. Geocaching communities do tend to overlap a lot, since most cachers end up traveling and meeting other cachers in oftentimes faraway places. That's just one of many very gratifying aspects of geocaching.

Click on images to enlarge.
The easy part of the hike

A less-easy part of the hike.
Homestyle on the rocks
Down in the valley, valley so low — viewed from my perch on the "molar."

Mountain goats
The road barely visible at the base of the ridge is Newport Road, where my
brother lived a couple of decades ago.
"Hey, Rodan! Does this rock make my butt look big?" Well, that's what Audra
hollered from up there, yes she did.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

High in Alamance County

It's one of those days that's too nice not to go geocaching, so I went geocaching — all around Alamance County, next door, in the company of my good friend Bridget "Suntigres" Langley. There's a relatively recent set of six caches over that way, each at one of the various branches of the Alamance County Public Library. It turned out to be an excellent little series, with several clever hides, none very difficult but all far more enjoyable than your garden variety park-and-grab cache. A few other new, well-placed caches made it a fruitful and highly enjoyable day. Tree-climbing has always among the old dude's favorite activities, and as you might deduce from the photos above, one of the caches along the Haw River Trail (GC5704W) provided the perfect outlet for that particular urge.
A good 1.5 inches long, this
rotten-ass fly-beast.

Another favorite was a new multi called "The Code" (GC57YFF) placed by frequent caching companion Robbin "Rtmlee" Lee at his own place of business. To even get past the first stage, one needs to utilize an app on a smart phone, and once you do, you're in for a big treat — providing you can figure out the "code" the app reveals to you. At another cache, we encountered the landowner, who had no idea there was a cache hidden at his place (generally a big no-no) but who, it turns out, was a good friend of one of our local diehard geocachers and quite familiar with our peculiar little hobby. He was fine with the container being hidden where it is and called his friend to let him know there was caching to be done — which is, to my mind, far more sporting than threatening to whack geocachers with a lawnmower blade.

No summer day in the south is complete without all kinds of critters in evidence. At the aforementioned cache, not only the landowner, but a very friendly snake came along to watch what we were doing. At another, a horsefly approximately the size of Rodan the Flying Monster gave us the compound eye but — fortunately — otherwise let us be. I say fortunately because he was so big and ferocious-looking that a close encounter with him would have amounted to a bad end for one of us.

Indeed, a highly satisfying day on the caching trail. Some of those Alamance County folks have their creative brains engaged. Always welcome.

Click images to enlarge.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Killer Cicadas Premiere — August 9, 2014


Invasion of the Killer Cicadas, the latest bit of indie movie mayhem from the evil Smith brothers, Mat & Myron, is coming to the Rives Theater in Martinsville, VA, on Saturday, August 9, at 7:00 PM. Ye old man has a small part as mad professor Dr. Werner von Schwartztotten, the evil genius behind the killer cicadas, and Kimberly "Ms. B." Brugger gets to show just what she's made of in a killer hot tub scene. If you're anywhere in the area, by all means, come round and get in on the monster action. Tickets cost $7.50 and must be purchased in advance — and they're going faster than fast. They're still available from several businesses in Martinsville, including What's Your Sign and Stafford's Music, and online from cbaity.wix.com. Or contact Mat Smith or Myron Smith directly (via Facebook) for fast personal service.

Trailer 1 for Invasion of the Killer Cicadas.

I have just finished the novelization of Mat & Myron's first movie, Young Blood: Evil Intentions, which was released just over a year ago. Recently, the gentlemen producers decided the real events behind the movie needed to told, and I was the nearest person who might be able to actually make that happen. So, yeah... done and done. The book will be coming out soon enough, so mind your necks, good people.

Bloody well right.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Summer of Lovecraft

I has a happy! My story, "Short Wave," has been accepted for the upcoming anthology, The Summer of Lovecraft, edited by Brian Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass. It's a collection of stories set in the 1960s, which, needless to say, is the decade of my most formative years. My story is set in July 1969, just after the Apollo 11 moon landing. As a fun coincidence, my acceptance note came on the exact date — plus 45 years — that the events take place in the tale.

Table of Contents:
"Night Trippers" — Lois H. Gresh
"Crystal Blue Persuasion" — Jeffrey Thomas
"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Sullivan" — Lee Clark Zumpe
"Dreamland" — David Dunwoody
"Lost In the Poppy-Fields of Flesh" — Konstantine Paradias
"Five To One" — Edward M. Erdelac
"Keeping the Faith" — Sam Stone
"Mud Men" — Sean Hoade
"Misconception" — Jamie D. Jenkins
"No Colors Anymore" — Joe L. Murr
"Operation Alice" — Pete Rawlik
"Shimmer and Sway" — Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
"Short Wave" — Stephen Mark Rainey
"Project AZAZEL" — Christopher Slatsky
"The Song that Crystal Sang" — Tom Lynch
"Through a Looking Glass Darkly" — Glynn Owen Barrass & Brian M. Sammons
"The Color from the Deep" — William Meikle
"The Long Fine Flash" — Edward Morris
"The Summer of Love" — C. J. Henderson
"Wonder and Glory Forever" — Scott R Jones
"Just Another Afternoon in Arkham, Brought to You in Living Color" — Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr.

The book is slated to be published by Chaosium in 2015. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Universe is Doomed...


...and it's my fault. Well, sort of. Let me tell you about it.

My kitchen garbage disposal has acted up lately, requiring the motor to be cranked and reset. To do this, one needs an Allen wrench. Lacking one of sufficient size, I booked on over to Lowe's, purchased a set, and figured I was good to go. And in a healthy, normal, sane universe, by rights, I would have been.

It happened thusly:

I inserted a quarter-inch Allen wrench into the socket in the bottom of the disposal unit. It fit nicely, so I attempted to turn it counter-clockwise, in prescribed fashion. Alas, the damned thing wouldn't budge. I gave it another good tug, and the freaking Allen wrench slipped out of my hand and vanished into the darkness of the cabinet beneath the sink. Oddly, it made no sound. You'd think nice-sized hunk of metal making contact with any number of hard surfaces would make a racket. But it didn't.

I proceeded to remove some items from the cabinet. Boxes of aluminum foil, waxed paper, sandwich bags, and garbage bags. Bottles of cleaning solutions, bug spray, lamp oil. A basket of dust rags, steel wool, and Swiffer cleaning pads. Vases. Jars. Where did all this stuff come from? What do you know — there's that can of WD-40 I'd been looking for a while back.

The Allen wrench is nowhere to be seen.

OUT comes everything. Every last item in the cabinet. I'm shaking out rags, dumping sandwich bags out of their boxes, unrolling foil and waxed paper... searching, searching, searching... and I'm yelling, "Where are you, you vile fuck?" I check the rug around the outside of the cabinet. Under the kitchen table. Around the refrigerator. In my shoes.

The damned thing isn't there. It isn't anywhere.

Suffice it to say, there was not one item, not one object, not one space I didn't turn inside out looking for that Allen wrench. There is but one explanation, and that is that the little metal bastard slipped into a wormhole and is now drifting through parallel time and space, aimed at the center of everything, where it's going to collide with something and destroy reality as we know it. And you're all gonna blame me. Look, I'm telling you, I'm sorry, I hunted EVERYWHERE, and it still disappeared.

So, prepare yourselves; this the end coming... unless Droolie somehow happens upon the thing. Wouldn't surprise me if I get up some morning, and the little fuck wrench will be on the kitchen floor because Droolie has managed to fish it out of some nonexistent dimension.

On the up side, I then tried a metric Allen wrench — the 6mm, I think — and it worked like a charm. At least, when the universe goes, I can grind up all the pieces in the garbage disposal. And I have a very clean and nicely organized kitchen cabinet.

I guess that's the way to go.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Congregating Divine Llamas


I spent most of this weekend over in Winston Salem at ConGregate 2014, which turned out to be a decent little con. It was run by many longtime organizers of StellarCon and other local conventions, so there was plenty of prior experience and talent to keep the machine running smoothly. Programming was varied and ran on time, attendance appeared fair-to-middlin', and as far as the convention area went, the Marriott hotel was great. Can't speak about its other services, as I didn't stay overnight, but for an event such as this one, it appears worth returning to. Downtown Winston has plentiful restaurants, bars, and parking, and the hotel is easily accessible, even with lots of other events happening in the area, as there clearly were this weekend.

I had a fairly long break between panels yesterday during the day, so after wandering about the con for a while, mostly in the dealers' room, I headed out geocaching. I had already cleared out most of downtown Winston some time ago, so I had to go a bit farther afield for the majority of them — and since it was bleepin' hotter than Looney's little brother out there, it is well that I brought a change of clothes. One particular favorite hide was "Odd Fellows Cemetery" (GC54BNM), near the Liberty Classic Fairgrounds, which is one atmospheric, haunted-looking place. The cache is a multi, requiring the hunter to find information from a certain gravestone to determine the coordinates to final stage, which lurks nearby. Not far from that one, there is another neat little graveyard cache, "Peace at Last" (GC40B0X), which Ms. B. and I visited on our way out to Divine Llama Vineyards, in East Bend, just a short jaunt over from Winston Salem.

There are, in fact, llamas at the winery, though we didn't see any this time around. They do have a wine club one can join for a modest fee, and one of the perks is a llama tour — you get to load up your necessities on a llama's back and take a tour of the entire vineyard. All their wines are made from grapes grown there, and while their selection is modest, the quality is generally quite good. Brugger and I were most taken with their Reserve Cabernet Franc, so we sat in the shade of the front porch and shared a bottle, which proved to be the highlight of the day, despite the muggy heat. Afterward, we returned to downtown Winston and had a very enjoyable dinner at Hutch & Harris Pub — their Southside burger, with pimento cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, and jalapeno peppers absolutely sold me. Ms. B. had their Steakhouse burger, with horseradish, mushrooms, and onions, also more than satisfactory.

Finished the evening with a reading ("I, Krall," actually one of my oldest stories), and a late-night panel ("I'm Friends With the Monster Under My Bed"). After all this, the old man was exhausted, so it was back home to crash with my own bunch of monsters, who menaced me with hollering and meowing until I gave them extra food as recompense for having left them alone all day.

Divine.
A view of the graves at Odd Fellows Cemetery
A convention bonus: false eyelash on the floor of the men's restroom
Tasting room at Divine Llama Vineyards

Friday, July 4, 2014

White Pines Tree Monkeys

(Or "Team Old Fart Rides Again")

There's almost nothing better for Independence Day than a nice geocaching trip with Rob "Robgso" Isenhour and Rob "Rtmlee" Lee — heretofore and generally known as "Team Old Fart." Today, it was off to the White Pines Nature Preserve, just south of Pittsboro, NC. The preserve occupies about 275 acres at the confluence of the Deep River and Rocky River, with terrain varying from steep, densely wooded slopes characteristic of the Uhwharrie mountains to low-lying coastal swamp. Ten geocaches hide back in this area, and, most happily, we found the lot of them. A couple of the tougher ones stymied us so that we almost called it quits on our hunts for them, but in the end perseverance paid off. One of the most enjoyable of the bunch required me to play spider monkey and make my way up a tree to a pretty fair altitude. Fortunately, I did this without breaking my head or any other bones, and that makes for a good day.

Afterward, we snagged several other caches, a couple at a little park in Pittsboro where we found ourseves being watched by a big honking chimpanzee. No joke.

For the evening, there were hot dogs, drinks, and fireworks with Ms. Brugger and friends Doug, Jenny, and Chad. The neighborhood where Doug and Jenny live is apparently quite keen on big fireworks displays — in the end, far better than going to any of the local "official" fireworks.

Live free and climb trees.
Two-thirds of Team Old Fart
Nice river view
Random picture of chimpanzee in a park
Brugger carries a torch

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

ConGregate 2014


Next weekend — July 11–24 — I'll be a guest at ConGregate, a new speculative fiction convention held in Winston-Salem, NC, at the downtown Marriott hotel. I'll be participating in several panel discussions, helping out with Allen Wold's "Famous writing workshop" (which has limited room for attendees and requires advance sign-up) and reading one of my very scary short stories. Schedule for the weekend is as follows:

Friday, July 11
8:00 PM: "Writing the 'Other'" (with Edmund Schubert, John Hartness, Debra Killeen, Nicole Givens Kurtz)

Saturday, July 12
9:00 AM: "Allen Wold's Famous Writing Workshop" (pre-registration required; with Allen Wold, Darcy Wold, Diana Bastine, Edmund Schubert)

10:00 PM: Reading ("The Jack-o'-Lantern Memoirs")

11:00 PM: "I'm Friends With the Monster Under My Bed" (moderating; with Gail Z. Martin, Tony Ruggerio)

Sunday, July 13
10:00 AM: "Allen Wold's Famous Writing Workshop Recap" (pre-registration required; Allen Wold, Darcy Wold, Diana Bastine)

For more information about the con, visit www.con-gregate.com.

Join us.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

"Mommy, Make the Bad People Stop."

Old dam and waterfall on Cascade Creek in Stokes County, NC
That's the name of an old and distinctly difficult geocache hidden in Stokes County, NC, and it was today's target cache. It's a multi-stager, each stage providing its own unique challenges, ending at a particularly scenic area not far from Hanging Rock State Park.

An amusing item we found near the final
stage. Someone was clearly one toke
over the line, sweet Jesus.

Scott "Diefenbaker" Hager, Jeanne "Cantergirl" Allamby, and I got together once again this weekend, starting out bright and early to make the trip out to Stokes County and hopefully conquer this aging but still vicious beast. It was originally hidden in 2004 and has been modified by the cache owner a few times over the years. To get from stage 1 to the final, you end up taking a fairly lengthy, very scenic tour of the county, so this hide is anything but a quick park-and-grab. We had trouble on more than one occasion due to our GPS coordinates bouncing all over creation, and at the final, Diefenbaker's ground zero coordinates and mine differed by a good hundred feet or so. In the end, my decrepit but trusty old Garmin eTrex H, which is held together by duct tape, put me within two feet of the hide. Signing the logbook on this one was a real pleasure, especially after having undertaken a good physical challenge or two to get where we needed to be.

Well, Diefenbaker and I undertook a good physical challenge. Cantergirl opted for the longer but considerably less hazardous route. She, no doubt, was the smart one, for after it was all over Diefenbaker and I rightly took turns calling each other Dumb Ass.

Of course, that's all as may be. In the end, all three of us dirtied up the cache's logbook with our signatures. It's all in a day's work to earn those smileys. That makes number 7,114 for Old Rodan.

Click on images to enlarge.
Cantergirl considering the best route to take across the stream. Hint: I'm not
certain it was the one Diefenbaker and I took.
L: Diefenbaker making his way across the very slippery waterfall; R: Damned Rodan following in Diefenbaker's
footsteps, unaware that Diefenbaker has booby-trapped the route. What a brute!

 


Friday, June 27, 2014

DARK SHADOWS Turns 48

Damn near as old as I. The first episode of Dark Shadows premiered on June 27, 1966 on ABC-TV. I was seven years old, and I saw that first episode while my family was visiting my grandparents in Gainesville, GA, as we often did in the summertime. Although the show didn't initially delve into the supernatural as it most famously did in later years, something about its air of mystery — and particularly its opening theme — grabbed my recently-turned-seven-year-old imagination, and, perhaps more than any other single property, paved the way to my becoming an enthusiastic writer of all things dark and creepy. When we came back home to Virginia a few days later, I discovered that our local ABC-TV affiliate didn't run Dark Shadows, and this rightly upset me. In Martinsville, unless you had cable TV and could pick up WLVA channel 13 out of Lynchburg, VA, you didn't get to see Dark Shadows, and in 1966, not so many people had cable as do today. A few friends of mine did, however, so I took every opportunity to invite myself over to their houses after school so we could get our Dark Shadows fixes. By late 1969, when my family finally got cable and I could watch the show daily, I was already a diehard fan.

If you've ever read a word I've written, you're probably already aware that Dark Shadows, to me, remains something of a magical property. I've been fortunate enough to write a licensed Dark Shadows novel — Dreams of the Dark (HarperCollins, 1999), along with Elizabeth Massie — as well as several scripts for Big Finish's Dark Shadows audio series, which features numerous members of the original cast, as well as an unlicensed Dark Shadows novel titled The Labyrinth of Souls, which, though it never progressed beyond first-draft stage, I honest-to-god believe turned out to be one of my best writing efforts. Perhaps most meaningful of all, these projects have allowed me to get to know some of the cast members who, almost to the person, have proven themselves fascinating, personable, and exceedingly decent human beings. As a kid, if I had known I might grow up to undertake these particular endeavors, I might well have had a heart attack and thus never grown up to write any Dark Shadows. I reckon it's a good thing life sometimes offers one surprises.

A little over a year ago, I took it to heart to watch the entire original series from start to finish, something I haven't done  in several decades. I'm currently about three-quarters of the way through, and I find myself enjoying it — from its most polished to its roughest edges — perhaps more than ever. Though the show is often known mostly for its campiness and frequently amusing bloopers, usually due to its severe budget limitations, it is also balanced by countless moments of creative brilliance, and it's the latter that, to me, continue to make the show magical.

As a kid, I half-believed this, and as an adult, I want to believe it... that if you're a person of good character and vivid imagination, when you die you'll go to Collinwood.

This suits me, it surely does.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Maneater of Hydra


Now and again, I get one of those mighty cravings to catch a moldy oldie horror movie or several, and I expect it's no surprise to anyone who visits here that I have a fair number of them at my disposal. The most recent was The Maneater of Hydra (a.k.a. Island of the Doomed, a.k.a. The Blood Suckers [UK]), a movie I caught at least once in the very early 70s and which has lingered in my memory quite vividly over the decades. It's a 1967 English-dubbed, Spanish-German co-production, directed by Mel Welles, who is perhaps best known for his role as flower shop owner Gravis Mushnik in Roger Corman's Little Shop of Horrors from 1960. Welles also wrote and oversaw the film's English dubbing (as he did the US release of the Japanese TV series Spectreman, so the dubbed voices may sound familiar to fans of that particular serial). Aptly, The Maneater of Hydra features a vampire plant, this one bred by a reclusive mad scientist — one Baron von Wester, played by well-known actor Cameron Mitchell — who lives on an isolated, unnamed island, which, according to local legend, is haunted by a vampire. Ostensibly to pay his exorbitant research bills, the baron has opened his sprawling island villa to tourists, and one particular party of six suffers a rather traumatic time during their stay.

The party consists of All-American Hero David Moss (George Martin); the too-sweet-to-be-real Beth Christansen (Elisa Montes); wealthy retiree James Robinson (Rolf von Nauckhoff); his promiscuous wife, Cora (Kai Fischer); the obnoxiously noisy Myrtle Callahan (Matilde Sampedro); and the amiable if overly enthusiastic botanist Julius Demerest (Herman Nelsen). Things go wrong right from the start, for upon their arrival on the island, their car runs over an old fellow who seems to be fleeing from something. A very polite Baron von Wester greets them, assuring them that the dead man was suffering from a fatal disease and had lost his mind, thus the accident was actually a blessing in disguise. But to the group's shock, a man who appears to be the accident victim appears to serve them dinner. The baron tells them the servant, named Baldi (Mike Brendel), is actually the dead man's twin brother.

The baron is a geneticist of no small ability and has bred all sorts of exotic plants, which excites the interest of Mr. Demerest. He proudly shows off one plant that is similar to a Venus flytrap, only much larger, as it devours a mouse. It isn't long, though, before some grisly human deaths follow. The driver of the car that killed Baldi's brother is found dead inside his car, his body drained of blood. The highly irritating and very slutty Mrs. Robinson meets a mysterious if well-deserved end, her body also bloodless. Loudmouth Myrtle buys it while walking around the villa's grounds in the dark. The victims' bodies all bear strange puncture wounds, a fact that incites the survivors to start talking anew about the local vampire legend. Unfortunately, the only escape from the island — at least until the return of their ferry in a couple of days — is a small boat that has been conveniently scuttled by party or parties unknown.

Mr. Demerest, meantime, discovers on the estate a huge, tentacled, monster plant that sucks the blood from animals. He excitedly reports the thing's existence to the baron, stating he believes it is the result of one of the baron's experiments inadvertently gone wrong. However, the baron informs Demerest that the plant is not a failed experiment but a successful one, and he kills Demerest by forcing him into a knife that emerges from a statue of the Hindu god Shiva the Destroyer. Mr. Robinson is next, ax-murdered by the highly irate baron when he discovers the truth about his wife's death.

To hero David and now-girlfriend Beth, the baron feigns innocence, blaming the murders on his servant, Baldi. They pursue Baldi to his death, but David discovers the monster plant and hacks it with an ax. The baron, grief-stricken over the mortal wounding of his beloved "baby," sacrifices himself in a vain attempt to restore the plant with his blood. Presumably, David and Beth wait around for the ferry and eventually go off to live happily ever after.

For its limited budget, The Maneater of Hydra displays some pretty effective gore effects, the vampire plant appearing reasonably convincing in design and execution. The story follows the classic whodunit mystery format, with a group of people stranded in a remote location with no hope of escape. Cameron Mitchell plays the twisted but well-mannered baron with reserve, at least until the end, when everything goes well over the top. In general, the rest of the characters are dull or irritating — particularly our good lady Myrtle, whose ever-grating voice is dubbed by well-known American actress Anne Meara, and who never really shuts the hell up. Poor Mr. Demerest, the botanist, is the most agreeable of the lot; even the baron, after murdering him, instructs Baldi to show some care disposing of the body, for Demerest was a "nice man."

The musical score, by Antón García Abril and José Muñoz Molleda, is pure 1960s European pop-jazz, with a main theme that at times sounds remarkably like Ennio Morricone's score to Svegliati e Uccidi (Wake Up and Die). It's often loud and frenetic, and quite perfect for rattling your nerves just a bit.

Unfortunately, The Maneater of Hydra has never received a decent US DVD release. As far as I know, it is available only as half of an Elvira's Movie Macabre double-feature set, paired with The House That Screamed. The video is pan-and-scanned, and taken from what appears to be a poor VHS copy of a TV broadcast. Regardless, the movie is a very 1960s, very European horror hoot that, for me, brings back some very fond memories from the past. You could hardly ask for a more entertaining bit of cheese to accompany some decent Tempranillo.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Game Changers

M. Wayne Miller — fellow connoisseur of Thai food, rabid Godzilla fan, and artist extraordinaire — has unveiled his illustration for my story, "The Game Changers," coming up in the Dark Regions' Press anthology, World War Cthulhu: A Collection of Lovecraftian War Stories, edited by Brian Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass. And here's the illustration — scaring me to pieces it is. I reckon it's a good thing I know how the story ends. (Or is it?)
World War Cthulhu is due out later this year and features all new fiction by Neil Baker, David Conyers, Tim Curran, Ed Erdelac, Cody Goodfellow, Ted Grau, C. J. Henderson, David Kernot, William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Edward Morris, Konstantin Paradias, Robert M. Price, W. H. Pugmire, Peter Rawlik, John Shirley, Darryl Schweitzer, Jeffrey Thomas, and Lee Zumpe. Cover art is by Vincent Chong, interior illustrations by M. Wayne Miller. Visit Dark Regions Press for more info.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Smiling at Lake Lure

This was one of those days where I come home, pick up the nearest cat, look him right in the eye, and say, "Daddy tired."

A mighty good kind of tired, though. A full weekend of geocaching — yesterday here in NC's Piedmont with Jeanne "Cantergirl" Allamby and Scott "Diefenbaker" Hager; today in the mountains in the western part of the state with Bridget "Suntigres" Langley. The old feets are a bit achy from many miles of walking, I can tell you, and though I applied the DEET liberally, the bitey bugs laughed it off and bit the hell out of me anyway.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Out at Lake Lure, not far from Chimney Rock State Park, NC, there's a geoart smiley — a smiley pattern on the map formed by geocache icons — made up of 53 separate caches, which are located all around the lake itself. Cell service in that area is spotty, to say the least, and since we at least partially relied on our phones for navigation, we occasionally ended up in slightly different areas than we had anticipated. No biggie; we got to see lots of impressive scenery. Though we finished the day with 50 or so cache finds, we didn't complete the entire smiley pattern, so we'll no doubt make a return visit to claim the rest of the hides.

Lake Lure is pretty touristy, with lots of muggle-friendly attractions, such as golfing, ziplining, boating, swimming, a few restaurants, bars, shops, etc. Along US Highway 64 through town, there's very a very high concentration of human-type animals, mostly quite annoying, but away from the hordes on the numerous narrow, windy back roads, the atmosphere is far more placid. Happily, we found a few spots possessed of an enjoyably eerie quality, such as a ravine from which rose the ominous baying of the Hounds of Tindalos, complete with a skull and crossbones warning sign.

It feels like it's time to crash and burn, so thus it shall be. Nighty-night. Mind those hell hounds.

L: Don't go there. R: Suntigres hastens to sign the log before the Hounds of Tindalos come hauling
out of the ravine to maim, murder, and mutilate.

Partially complete geoart smiley over Lake Lure

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spooky Sticks and Crazy Bitches

Several years ago, up in Martinsville, I placed a geocache called "Sticks" (GC1WNG9), inspired by Karl Edward Wagner's horror story of that title. The story has been one my favorite works of dark fiction since the day I read it, many decades past, and it seemed only fitting that one of my caches should pay tribute to it. The other day, an out-of-town cacher notified me he was particularly keen on hunting this one in a couple of weeks, and since I haven't revisited the hide in several years, I figured it was high time to give it a look-see and perform any necessary maintenance.

The cache itself was in pristine condition. Some of the stick figures I had placed had fallen into disrepair, so I spent several hours making new ones and hanging them at strategic locations in the woods. Yeah, it was kind of creepy out there — absolutely dead quiet, for the most part. Scarcely a breath of breeze, and virtually no sounds of wildlife — except for a few buzzing, marauding insects that made the work uncomfortable. In the end, though, I escaped with my life and my sanity. Most of it, anyway.

Thanks to a new cache hidden by my friend Ed "Kuykenew" Kuykendall, I did discover a relatively new trail along the Smith River in the Bassett area, just north of Martinsville. It's the Lauren Mountain Preserve, and what a gorgeous trail it proved to be. At the moment, there's only the one cache there, but I saw several spots that are screaming for one, including a couple that could present interesting terrain challenges. I foresee placing a new hide or two out that way. Be warned.

Leaving Bassett, I experienced an interesting and inexplicable case of road rage on the part of some crazy bitch, whom I shall, for convenience's sake, hereby call "Crazy Bitch." From a side road, I turned onto Riverside Drive, and the driver of a car approaching from the left apparently didn't like me doing so — the fact she was a tenth of a mile down the highway notwithstanding. She threw the car into overdrive, raced down the road to overtake me, and proceeded to remain on my bumper for the next few miles. If she wanted to go around me, she had more than ample opportunity, so it was clear Crazy Bitch was intent on pursuit. Since there are numerous ways to get where I was going, I took the most circuitous route possible, most often at excruciatingly slow speed, and, after quite a few miles, fatigue must have set in, for she finally went on about her merry little way. I went and had an enjoyable lunch.

So, Crazy Bitch, if you have by chance found me here, let me just say, you are one crazy bitch, and you might want to check your crazy bitch ass in a place where they have nice sedatives. And just by way of a little advice, you might wish to consider that not everyone is as good-natured as I, and the next person you fuck with might check you in somewhere you really don't want to be.

Just a little something to consider from your friendly neighborhood horror writer.
Not much sense of scale in the photo, but that is one big-ass water tower across the Smith River
from the Lauren Mountain Preserve Trail.
Big ol' concrete slab from some ancient structure out in the middle of the river.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Geocaching Trail of Tears


The mob descends upon the Reidsville Flash Mob event, 2014-06-07.

Some of you men out there — particularly if you're my age or older — may be able identify with this rather uncomfortable personal revelation, though you probably wish you couldn't. And some of you will no doubt cry "TMI! TMI!" but them's the risks you take when you visit a blog written by a writer of things dark and horrible, be they imagined or be they real.

Two words: Acute prostatitis.

I did, I had a full week of this ungodly condition, and it's only just abating. Rather than put you through an overly vivid description, I'll just ask you to imagine a bunch of hyperactive razor blades trotting around in your innards, goading you to pee every five minutes. Most of the time, you just can't, but when you eventually do, one or more razor blades comes slicing through.

There. There's your happy, sanitized version.

The doctor prescribed an antibiotic, and it's sure enough doing the trick; just not very quickly. Regardless, this weekend, I determined I was going to work in some geocaching or know the reason why. Thus, by gummy, I went geocaching. It wasn't particularly comfortable, but I added a few numbers to the total, which now stands at 7,044.

May the blessed antibiotic send this raging microscopic beast back to burning hell, where it rightly belongs.


A couple of hipsters hanging out in a graveyard. Dig it.


I told her, I said, Bridget, like, don't have a cow. But it was it too late.


Lots of water from the water plant at Dam Micro — just no cache.


Rodan Mobile in front of haunted house, near Dam Micro.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Evil Spirit of Gravity Hill

There are numerous locations around the earth where, to our physical senses, gravity appears to go utterly haywire. Happily, geocaching has taken me to a couple of them, both of which are within relatively short driving distance of NC's Piedmont Triad. At such locations, you park your car at the base of a clear uphill slope, put your car in neutral, and disengage the parking brake. Your vehicle will then begin to roll uphill, gathering momentum as it goes.

The one I visited yesterday is in Rowan County, NC, near Morgan Ridge Vineyards, where Ms. Brugger and I spent a pleasant afternoon with some very benevolent spirits. There is another such site in Rockingham County, NC, just south of Danville, VA, where this singular phenomenon is perhaps even more pronounced. The stories around such locations, at least in this region of the country, go more or less as follows: Back in the 17th century, a young woman was convicted of practicing witchcraft and executed by hanging. Before dying, she uttered a curse that, for the rest of eternity, her spirit would drag anyone who visits the place of her execution away to the gallows. After so many years, her spirit remains weak, but it is perpetually gathering strength, and the more people who visit the site, the stronger she gets. Eventually, anyone who trespasses on the cursed ground will be found dead.

When Kimberly and I arrived to hunt the cache at that location, we came upon some folks in a vehicle testing out Gravity Hill for themselves, but they drove off as we approached. After I found the cache — which is housed in a most appropriate container for the site — I parked my car at a point that is, to my senses, absolutely the bottom of the slope; shifted into neutral; and sat back to let the witch do her worst.

She didn't do too badly. My little Ford Focus gathered momentum and rolled well over a hundred feet up the rather steep slope before shaking itself free of the witch's grasp.

Here's a more mundane explanation of the phenomenon, but it was clearly devised by some poor soul who had not the nerve to reveal the reality of ye olde witch and her curse: wikipedia.org/Gravity_hill.

You've no idea how lucky I consider myself for having survived not one but two of these infernal cursed places — not to mention having tramped with my own little feet upon ye old Devill's Tramping Ground, down south of here a ways. I tempts me some fate, I do.