Monday, April 21, 2014

WORLD WAR CTHULHU Campaign, Up and Over

A triptych of illustrations by M. Wayne Miller for World War Cthulhu, coming soon from Dark Regions

I've posted numerous times about the Indiegogo campaign for World War Cthulhu, the Dark Regions anthology edited by Brian Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass, which includes my story, "The Game Changers," and here's another one for you. The campaign for World War Cthulhu has now ended, having become one the most successful for any book to date, with 233% of its $10,000 target raised. Due to this success, not only will several custom editions of the book be released, along with numerous perks for campaign contributors, the length of the anthology can be increased to accommodate a few tales the editors initially had to withhold due to space limitations.

Having had little other experience with crowd-funded projects, I wasn't sure how such a thing might actually go. Needless to say, I'm thrilled that World War Cthulhu zoomed over the top and then some. Crowd-funded efforts — be they for books, music, movies, and just about any creative endeavor — are popping up everywhere, offering opportunities to creators where opportunity might otherwise be scarce. At the same time, it is tiresome to forever bombarded by "invitations" to contribute to any and all endeavors with which I might have only the most tenuous connection, if any. While crowd-funding does rather democratize the process of determining which efforts will see the light of day and which won't, to my mind, entities and individuals who embark on such campaigns need to have already built some degree of trust with their audiences — Dark Regions, for example, has been around for many years and has produced tons of first-rate products — for the opportunities for fraudsters are also plentiful. Safeguards for investors may vary wildly, depending on who has ultimate responsibility for the project.

The Indiegogo campaign for World War Cthulhu is over, so the window for all those custom perks is closed, but the standard edition will be available as an e-book, a trade paperback, and deluxe hardback. Authors include 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.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Contraptions, Caches, and Good Companions

The contraption you see there is an old cotton press, very near nowhere, South Carolina, which one passes when traveling Highway 38 between Hamlet, NC, and the junction of US Highway 501, in our case on the way to Myrtle Beach, SC. Of course there is a geocache here (GC47CA4), and Ms. B. and I actually ran into another couple of cachers here on their way home from the beach. It's been some years since we've been able to get to the coast, but our friends Joe and Suzy Albanese, and their son Sam and friends, were in Myrtle for a few days and had a place with enough room in the crawlspace for us to crash, so we decided to inflict ourselves upon them. Ms. B. and I got down there Thursday evening and returned today — unfortunately, in a pretty good downpour most of the way home. Fortunately, while we were there the weather was chilly but mostly clear. I was surprised by the number of folk — mostly young, of course — who were actually out swimming in the ocean or otherwise dressed for summer weather. That water had to be damn near polar plunge frigid.

For the years between 1977 and 2000, my folks owned a timeshare condominium at Regency Towers on the south end of Myrtle Beach, and Ocean Lakes campground, where we were staying on this trip, is only a couple of miles from there. How nice it was to find that a geocache resides right at Regency Towers — along the wall where I used to regularly sit, playing my guitar and frightening the beachcombers. Kimberly and I headed over there straightaway yesterday morning, found the cache, and walked up the beach toward another cache nearly a mile to the north. Chilly but nice, and it was kind of bittersweet to be out on such a familiar and yet very changed stretch of oceanfront properties.
Regency Towers; my family used to have a time-share here. No longer, but there is a geocache nearby.
Being that many kids are out for spring break, Myrtle was very crowded, almost as crowded as when we used to go during the prime weeks of summer. Ocean Lakes is basically a community unto itself, enclosed and relatively serene; for us, buzzing around the premises in the Albaneses' golf cart was kind of a highlight, especially on Thursday night, when just about everyone there paraded the streets in their carts, some decorated and illuminated in fun ways. The young children that abounded were clearly enjoying it all no end, and for at least that evening, I actually felt an uncharacteristic lack of hostility toward the younger set. Now that, I tell you, is the old man at his most mellow.
A fishy feeding frenzy at Broadway at the Beach

Yesterday afternoon, we visited Broadway at the Beach, which is kind of a souped-up replacement for the old pavilion that was once the big bright tourist spot in Myrtle. There's a winery there — The Boardwalk Winery — but we're not talking any kind of fancy or sophisticated stuff here; they specialize in wines that are sweet to semi-dry, and they even feature novelties such as wine slushies (in non-alcoholic varieties for the youngsters). Their dry reds — Syrah, Sangiovese, Merlot, and a blend — are described as "young," and as to their quality, I'll elaborate no further. The highlight of this Mecca for tourists, apart from a couple of caches, is the Pepper Palace, a fairly extensive hot sauce shop that offers lots of free samples. As tempting as it was, I didn't buy them out, but after several samples, I left with sufficient inner fire to brace me against the chilly evening wind.

Dinner last night was in Murrell's Inlet, at Russell's Seafood Grill and Raw Bar, a place I had been once before, several years ago, but I remembered little about the quality of the place. Mercy, but last night I loved this restaurant; I think we all did. I ordered a peck of fresh, local oysters, and I've gotta tell you, a peck of steamed shellfish is nothing to sneeze at. It's a huge freaking pot of the best oysters I think I've ever tasted, with plenty of melted butter, cocktail sauce, tabasco sauce, and horseradish to accompany. In fact, though I'm rarely fond of naked oysters, these guys were delicious straight out of the shell, dipped in nothing. To finish them, I did need some help from Joe and Suzy (Kimberly is a no connoisseur of shellfish ) but at the end of the evening, that pot was empty. Kimberly and the Albaneses all enjoyed their dinners; between us, we sampled a pretty fair portion of the menu. Service was excellent from top to bottom — the owner greets you at the door; the lady bartender was as professional, amiable, and efficient as any I've ever seen (she made a damn fine gin martini); and our server was friendly, prompt, and conscientious. We did have to wait almost an hour for a table, since everyone in South Carolina was dining in Murrells Inlet last night, but we didn't mind a bit, as the company, drinks, and ambiance were better than fine. The restaurant's interior has the quintessential "beach tavern" atmosphere, and they do have a balcony with outdoor seating, though the weather allowed for none of that last night. I'd say dinner at Russell's was beyond satisfactory, and all for less-than-extortionate prices.

Today, it was a rainy drive home, with only a few caches on the menu — though, amusingly, ten minutes after I found a cache just outside of Myrtle Beach, I received a call from local cachers c3 and Norah, who had just claimed the same cache on their way to the beach and retrieved the geocoin I had just left there. Too bad our paths didn't actually cross. That would have been just plain decent.

Back in my teenage years, and even some thereafter, going to Myrtle Beach was something of a dream vacation. The place has grown so much over the years, and the dense traffic and endless stoplights become outright stressful, so for me personally, Myrtle doesn't hold the kind of charm it used to. But this trip was so enjoyable and filled with such good company that it was kind of like a return to youth. I just loved it, and I hope Ms. B. and the Albaneses can say the same thing.

Be good to each other.
Left: The Albanese, not necessarily scary; Right: Ms. B. and Old Rodan, pretty scary.
Nincompooper! Is upside down!
A pretty heavenly spread at The Pepper Palace
Old Rodan might be a little afeared of that peck of steamed oysters on the table.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In Memory of a Sweetie

Today is 7 years since our little cat Charcoal crossed the Rainbow Bridge. She was the sister of Dusty, who passed away just a few months ago at age 16. Of all the critters with whom I have ever crossed paths, Charcoal was just about the sweetest. She had lived a relatively brief 8 years when she was diagnosed with a tumor in her sinus cavity. She didn’t last long after that, and burying her out in the back yard was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I still miss her every day — along with all my other dear animals that are no longer with me.

At any given time, whatever Chester, the Siamese, was doing, that’s what Charcoal had to do. She loved him terribly — sometimes so much that he would come running to me to get her to leave him alone. There was never much I could do about this, but when she got tired of smushing Chester, she enjoyed smushing me. During the cold months, whenever I would sit at my desk, she would come and lie on my feet to make sure they were warm. I certainly never got cold feet!

I miss you, little cat.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Enough of This Whining

So I found geocache number 6,900 today (plus a couple), and I figured I'd start thinking about which cache I might target for my 7,000th — which prompted Ms. B. to call me a caching geek. Oh, what a poor soul! What a poor, unenlightened soul that fails to grasp the joys and challenges of finding and autographing log sheets in odd little containers that lurk in various and sundry entertaining locations. I mean, the experience of visiting a winery, such as Childress Vineyards in Lexington, is only made sweeter (or dryer, if you're like me and dislike sweet wines) when there's a cache waiting for you right there on the spot ("Enough of This Whining," GC3V1VG). How do you fully appreciate going shopping for home stuff with hysterical Swedish names at Ikea in Charlotte if you don't snag a cache or two in the process — particularly when one of them has additional, challenging logging requirements you have actually met ("The 366-Day Challenge," GC1XYQ4)? Can one really say one has had a satisfying dining experience at a restaurant such as 300 East in Charlotte's Dilworth district without conquering at least one of the nearby cache hides, such as "Artattack" (GC25V6H), or perhaps "I Have a Dream" (GC4M36T), which requires studying Martin Luther King's famous speech to calculate the coordinates for the actual cache hide? Why, I'm not sure one can. My gracious, a caching geek? Okay, sure enough, but I tell you this — on a day like today, one of us is a great big happy caching geek!

Well, in spite of her non-geocaching tendencies, Ms. B. is still a pretty danged good girlfriend. Maybe if I whine enough... er... wine her enough... she'll come around. Surely, this is only proper.

Monday, April 7, 2014

In the Court of the Yellow King

I don't recall with any clarity when I first read Robert W. Chambers' series of King in Yellow stories; it was probably sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s. I can't say they grabbed me. I understood that these tales influenced H. P. Lovecraft, and that they themselves borrowed names from stories by Ambrose Bierce, whose work I had enjoyed since I first read it in college, but Chambers' prose — typical late Victorian era — and the themes of his stories failed to engage me as did the fiction of Bierce or Poe or Wells or Lovecraft, whose authorial voices, to me, tonally enhanced their works. For several years afterward, I thought very little of The King in Yellow.

Then, in 1997, there or about, the good Dr. Robert M. Price edited an anthology for Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu fiction line titled The Hastur Cycle, which featured a couple of Chambers' stories — "The Repairer of Reputations" and "The Yellow Sign" — along with numerous other tales that used Chambers' work as a backdrop or jumping-off point, written by such familiar authors as H. P. Lovecraft, Karl Edward Wagner, Lin Carter, and others. While Lovecraft's "The Whisperer in Darkness" only obliquely referred to the King in Yellow mythos, as many of the tales in the book revolved around it as around Chambers' own. This is no doubt because, once elements of Chambers' work found their way into Lovecraft's, it was inevitable that August Derleth and others might appropriate those elements and dilute or remove whatever essence might remain of Chambers' original. However, from this volume, two stories in particular caught my notice and gave me an entirely new appreciation for Chambers: James Blish's "More Light," which included an entire script — or most of one, anyway — of the play, "The King in Yellow"; and Karl Edward Wagner's "The River of Night's Dreaming."

Now, you may well know that Chambers' stories are founded on this play of his own creation, but like Lovecraft's Necronomicon, it existed only in fragments, with virtually no context. All we know from Chambers' work is that reading the play leads to madness or death. We know that it includes characters such as the inhuman King in Yellow, Cassilda, Camilla, the Phantom of Truth; and locations such as Carcosa, Hastur, the Lake of Hali, Alar, Dheme, and Aldeberan. We know that the play's first act is so mundane as to induce boredom, while reading even a few words of the second act inexorably draws in the reader and drives him or her mad with its revelations of "irresistible truths."

Blish's "More Light" was, by the author's own admission, ambitious and doomed to failure, yet the script he concocted, while hardly sufficient to drive one mad, possessed an allure that, for me personally, became the "King in Yellow," the play that Chambers himself could not and would not have attempted to write. Lin Carter built on Blish's story by turning a portion of the script into actual verse, though not very memorably. Chambers himself referred to Hastur specifically as a place, while Lovecraft left references to Hastur ambiguous, open to readers' interpretations. Derleth, however, specifically made Hastur into another Great Old Entity, weakening, if not entirely severing, any connections to Chambers' mythos. Lin Carter attempted to reconcile these disparate interpretations, resulting in a few fragmented pieces that Price published under the apt title "Tatters of the King," but this attempt, while perhaps noble, proved ultimately underwhelming.

Wagner's "River of Night's Dreaming" merged contemporary reality both with aspects of the play and the speculative history that Chambers devised for his interrelated stories. Wagner's story, with its vivid imagery and memorable characterizations, haunted me much as had Blish's, and it was these tales that prompted me to revisit Chambers' original work. With so many intervening years since my first exposure to that small body of King in Yellow tales, and now armed with new appreciation for the subject matter due to the work of these later authors, in rereading Chambers, I found myself drawn into a domain so surreal and tragic that I actually found it emotionally draining — particularly the story "The Yellow Sign." While no script could possibly live up to the power attributed to it, Blish's version — which is to some (myself included) canonical — created a foundation for Chambers' tales that he himself had never imagined. This foundation is hardly necessary, but its best, most important function may be that it drives one to take another look at and even re-evaluate Chambers' original stories. Taken together, many of the various works in the King in Yellow cycle seem to offer glimpses of a realm that is not a single author's creation, but that exists and permits assorted authors to glimpse and then reveal small portions of it.

In more recent years, the King in Yellow has enjoyed some resurgence in the dark fiction community and has inspired many new works by numerous authors, such as Joseph S. Pulver Sr., whose collections Blood Will Have Its Season and Sin and Ashes, as well as the anthology, A Season in Carcosa, which he edited, have enjoyed considerable acclaim. Now, editor Glynn Owen Barrass has assembled a new anthology titled In the Court of the Yellow King, due in fall 2014 from Celaeno Press. This volume includes my story, "The Masque of the Queen," as well as new work by many names familiar to aficionados of Chambers and Lovecraft — not to mention from the pages of Deathrealm — such as Willie Meikle, Christine Morgan, Edward Morris, Robert M. Price, W. H. Pugmire, Peter Rawlik, and Jeffrey Thomas. The cover, shown above, is by award-winning artist Daniele Serra. You can read more about In the Court of the Yellow King from Celaeno Press here.

I will post any and all updates about the book here, so... as always... do stay tuned.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Car Deal for You!

I had just come upon this slightly distressed vehicle in the woods when my phone went off — an email from Groupon reading "A Car Deal for You!" and, damn, yes it was! A bit of a fixer-upper, I guess, but there's a geocache here, and I did jump right on it. No resting on my laurels today. Spent most of the day in the lower southwest corner of Winston-Salem, getting in quite a bit of caching and hiking. Now I is sore.

A nice little pond and waterfall at Hobby Park
Lots of radio-controlled planes buzzing over at Hobby Park this afternoon.
A tired but happy old fart stumbling off the trail

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Buccaneer's Beech, Big Bugs, and Gnome Homes

Andi "AndiMN" Newton and Chad "CJBowser" Bowser

After most of a week of feeling like warmed-over black death, it was nice to finally return to something like my normal state of abnormality this weekend. Happy enough it was that I spent today out on the caching trail with fellow writers/geocachers Andi "AndiMN" Newton and Chad "CJBowser" Bowser, mostly in the Winston-Salem area. Several miles of hiking, quite a few caches, no catastrophic accidents, and that's what I call a fine day. Highlights included a fairly lengthy hike and a prolonged search at a pirate-themed multi in Reynolds Park called Buccaneer's Beech (GCNNP6); a letterbox hybrid cache that ended with us finding a funky little gnome home in the woods; a garland of missile tow hanging up in a tree; and a giant spider (with a bison tube stuck in its abdomen) hanging out in a dank, dark culvert. Lunch at First Street Draught House also proved intriguing, not to mention pretty dang tasty: lamb sliders with basil mayonnaise and havarti cheese and a huge side of fried pickles, with a Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, which I quite enjoyed — though I rarely drink beer any more, when I do, I tend to prefer strong IPAs, which this definitely is.

Time to prop up the tired old feets (mainly so the cats will have a place to perch).

(Click images to enlarge.)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Freebies Are Nice, But...

A fellow writer's recent post on Facebook highlighted a situation that I encounter, not frequently, but with some regularity, and that's people requesting free copies of my books. Or, if not directly requesting, implying that a free copy is somehow expected. This usually isn't from close friends, since most of mine are informed (and classy) enough to realize that I am not sitting atop a huge stockpile of copies just waiting to disperse itself, without recompense, to the general public. No, usually it's an email from someone claiming to be a huge fan of my work but, due to one hardship or another, is unable to actually purchase my books, and wouldn't I feel truly great about providing them an autographed copy of my latest? And, hey, maybe they'll even review it! Or, if I can't provide a copy of the book itself, how about I just send a PDF? In a handful of cases, folks have wanted autographed photographs suitable for framing for their collections. Sometimes just an autograph on a piece of paper. Now, I suppose at one time as a fledgling writer I might have been honored beyond words to think that someone was actually fan enough of my work to want to read more of it, or was so enamored of my physique that they should like to gaze or even drool upon it at their leisure. When it comes to free books, sorry about your circumstances, but this is not how the business works. For one thing, it is poor economics. While I generally get a small number of free copies of my titles from publishers, I do not have an unlimited number to give out to the masses; most of those I do give out go to real reviewers the publisher might have missed or editors of "best of" anthologies. If I want more copies, I still have to pay for them. An alien concept to some, perhaps, but you must realize the publisher isn't in it only for the love, either.

These days, especially if someone requests an e-file of my work, the most likely reason is that it's to go on a pirate site. These things have proliferated in ways not unlike music sites in the relatively recent past. As for photos, lord knows, there's enough of me on the web to shock the world to its very foundation, and if you really want one, well, you just go look and find one that doesn't rupture your brain cells.

I don't usually attribute autograph requests to some nefarious identity theft scheme — not that such things don't happen, I'm sure — but when I receive one of these, I do request that the requester send me a self-addressed stamped envelope, which, really, is kind of the least you can do if you expect to receive something for nothing. Precious few SASEs actually follow.

I'm sure none of you reading this would exhibit any of the behaviors described above, so just indulge me a little venting here — right? — and all is good.

Right then.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nine Dawgs on Panther Creek

Old Rodan, stylin' and smilin'

As of some weeks ago, Rob "Robgso" Isenhour, Robbin "Rtmlee" Lee, Todd "tbbiker" Briggs, and I had made plans to hit the Panther Creek Trail, just northeast of Durham, today come rain, shine, hell, or high water. We ended up getting a bit of all of these. The trail is about 4.5 miles long, with 42 geocaches along its length. Rob the Older, Todd, and I left here bright and early, met up with Rob the Younger in Burlington and made our way out to Panther Creek. As soon as our band arrived at the southernmost trail head, we saw a familiar vehicle and a couple of ominous-looking characters — Matt "Wimseyguy" Busch and Grady "Shady Grady" Ormond, along with caching dogs Fred and Olive — who happened to have had the same idea as us. What timing! They convinced us to join them on the trail on pain of merciless heckling. Each party took one set of vehicles around to the north end of the trail so we could do the whole thing going one direction, and off we went on foot. The first hour was relatively comfortable, with a spot of sunshine, but then wind and clouds began cooling things down, and the anticipated rain began to fall. Certain of us, no names mentioned (Robgso), left his rain gear in the car, and was thus subjected to considerable watering. Fortunately, Robgso is quite sporting, and took it all in stride. Near the halfway point, we were joined by Christian "Vortexecho" Whittemore, who proceeded to tunnel from one cache to the other, while the rest of us remained above ground and wet. Early on, unfortunately, I was struck by another freaking migraine — I had just had one of the damned things on Friday — but, most thankfully, Wimseyguy had some appropriate headache meds and kindly shared them with me, which took the edge off.

About five miles, a ton of rain, 42 caches, one migraine, and four hours later, we were done. Robgso, Rtmlee, Tbbiker, and I parted ways with our unexpected caching partners, grabbed our other vehicles from the northern end of the trail, and then went out for some most gratifying Mexican food at El Corral in Durham. They actually serve up some mighty spicy goodies here; the tacos el diablo fixed my headache, fixed everything, and now all is well.

Awfully fine, all things considered.
Mr. Lee signing the log at "The Cat's Pajamas" (GC4WJRD)
Even before the rain began, it was difficult to stay dry.
The old rails running through the woods
Eight of nine Dawgs: Vortexecho, Robgso, Wimseyguy, old Rodan, Shady Grady, Rtmlee,
with Fred and Olive, cachehounds
Five miles, 42 caches, one migraine, and four hours later, we were all smileys and hungry as hell.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Black Man With a Horn at Cedarock

Not much sense of scale here, but I'm pretty
sure this was a big old shoggoth emerging
from a hole in this tree.

Woke up to a beautiful Saturday morning, so there was only one thing to do: yes, go straight out geocaching. Decided my target would be Cedarock Park over in Alamance County, since a few caches over that way were still waiting for me to claim them — a new one and a handful of older ones. Found a couple of them straight off, but one of them — "Retest," an older, very difficult multi-stage hide — proved to be at least as beastly as I might have anticipated, though, ironically, I found one of its stages quite by accident while hunting a different cache. After the recent ice storms, the pine forest out there has been just about decimated, and the massive numbers of fallen trees made getting from location to location rather problematic. Anyway, like quite a few finders of this ancient terror, I sought and found a little help from a previous finder, which led me to the final stage. On my way to it, I thought I heard a distant, rather eerie wail. Soon enough, I determined it was a hunter's horn, and it was drawing nearer. It wasn't long before I felt I might have fallen into a certain novella by T.E.D. Klein, so out came my phone video camera, just so there might be some evidence left behind in case I went missing. My phone, at least, could have been found at N 35° 59.166 W 079° 26.689. Happily, I escaped the woods unscathed, though pestered by a couple of ticks, which have already come out of hiding. I should not be broken-hearted if the freeze predicted to hit us this week takes the lot of the little suckers out.

Ground zero for one of the stages of "Retest." Never found the stage; maybe it's there, maybe it's not.
Looking down one of the trails. After all the ice damage, it was easier to bushwhack than hike the trail.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Godzilla at Geeksboro!

If were still a very young man, say, twelve or fifty four years old, I might get pretty excited over this. Last summer, the Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema here in Greensboro ran a couple of Godzilla movies outdoors — the original Godzilla and Destroy All Monsters, if I recollect properly — though I didn't manage to get over to see them. Coming up at Geeksboro, to celebrate the Legendary Pictures Godzilla looming on the theatrical horizon, we have a regular borgasmord of daikaiju. (What, you never saw that Underwood Deviled Ham commercial with Mason Reese way back when?) Matter of fact, I recently went on a bit of a Godzilla DVD binge, and the latter three of these here — Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla: Tokyo SOS, and Godzilla: Final Wars — were among those still in the queue to satiate the Godzilla craving, so I reckon I'll hold off watching them (for the 30th, 20th, and 10th times, respectively, or something like that). Now, I must say, I've yet to figure out why Ms. Brugger seems to think that a place called Geeksboro is just the ticket for a daikaiju enthusiast such as me, but... whatever. It's not as if I ever once pestered the owner of a drive-in theater in Martinsville to change the line-up of their movies so they'd run Destroy All Monsters first, so my dad would actually take my friend Frank and me to see it on my twelfth birthday. Really, I didn't. That story was a lie!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Geocaching and Shopping

Kimberly and I went to Durham this weekend to visit my former neighbors, Paul and Jamie (a.k.a. TravelinFarmFam), and you might be able to guess who did the geocaching and who did the shopping. Above, you see the Damned one hanging out in the nice cool underground at "Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit: Top o' the Month Challenge" (GC2EQ7W). Paul and I also put in a few miles hiking and caching on the American Tobacco Trail, a portion of which runs very near their house. We managed some might good eating as well — Jamie and Paul made some dynamite grilled chicken fajitas for last night's dinner; we had an excellent breakfast at Rise Biscuits and Doughnuts, which I'd never heard of before but would happily go back; and this evening's dinner was in Chapel Hill at Carolina Brewery, followed by an excursion for necessities at Trader Joe's. Ms. Jamie is expecting a young 'un in July, so there is a bit of excitement brewing in the TravelinFarmFam household. A fun visit all-around, but I sure do miss those youngsters living right next door. Great folks, great time.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Chambers of Horrors

I've been on a tear writing the short fiction lately, and most of the tales I've dreamed up have found respectable homes. Here are the covers to a few of those upcoming. The Monk Punk cover here is actually the original edtion, edited by A. J. French for Dark Discoveries; there's a new omnibus edition soon to be released that will feature a new version of my story, "Visionaire," an older tale that originally saw print in a limited-run small press volume called The End, edited by Jeffrey Thomas. World War Cthulhu, edited by Brian M. Sammons & Glynn Barrass, features my story, "The Game Changers," and will be released by Dark Regions in the next few months. My latest tale — "The Masque of the Queen," which is set within Robert W. Chambers' "King in Yellow" mythos — is slated to appear in Celaeno Press's In the Court of the Yellow King, edited by Glynn Barrass & Edward Lipsett, coming in July, there or about. I trust all of these will offer you enough to have a mighty pleasant fright. Stay tuned for more info.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ice In, Lights Out

The third significant winter storm in as many weeks here in the North Carolina Piedmont, this one resulting in over 400,000 people in the area losing power, over 100,000 of whom have yet to have it restored. It's been many years since I've seen so much damage from ice in this area. My electricity was out from early Friday morning until the middle of the evening last night (Saturday), and I was clearly one of the lucky ones; Duke Power is anticipating it taking until Wednesday or Thursday to get all power in the region back on. In only a few hours, over four inches of heavy slush accumulated at my place, and I knew it was going to be a rough one when I could hear trees cracking and falling with such regularity it sounded like a gunfight outside. I took the picture at left a few seconds after a pair of tall pines — from that bunch in the distance in the center of the photo — came crashing down (unfortunately, the zoom on my phone camera makes the image rather blurry, but you can click on the photos to enlarge them). I did lose one medium-size cedar at the corner of my house, which can be seen in the first photo below. That first day, I was pretty well stuck in my house, since I couldn't have gotten the car out of the driveway if I had wanted to (not that I wanted to). Once I got out yesterday, I got a first-hand look at how much damage there was. In places, there were still more power lines down than remaining up, and several roads were closed because of trees falling across them.

On the positive side, even though I had not intentionally stocked up on supplies before this storm, I had plenty of food, cats for warmth, and martini fixings to keep my spirits up. I rather enjoyed cooking breakfast and making coffee on the grill out on the front porch yesterday morning; it was just like camping out, only not. Since we missed work on Friday, Brugger decided to go into the office yesterday, so I went in as well and got some writing done on my current short story, which fits firmly into Robert W. Chambers' King in Yellow mythos.

Mess with Mother Nature, and she'll whomp you a good one, that's for sure. Stay warm, peoples.

But lord, I hate the onset of Daylight Saving Time....

Those low shrubs to the left aren't low shrubs; those ordinarily stand about 12 feet tall.
The cedar on the corner was uprooted, and I had to take it down completely today.
On Willowlake Road in Guilford County yesterday evening. There weren't many
power lines left intact along this stretch of road.
Another shot along Willowlake Road. That big tree is cracked about halfway up and
leans out over the road. I'd hate to be underneath it when it falls.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

R.I.P. Brandy Rainey

I received the sad news yesterday that my mom's little dog, Brandy, after rapidly increasing physical decline, had finally been put to sleep. Brandy was already a mature dog when Mom got her back in the early 2000s, but for most of the intervening years, she was active and in fine health, largely due to Mom taking such conscientious care of her. Brandy provided endless hours of good companionship, taking Mom for regular walks and engaging her in good conversation (mostly one-sided). I'm told Brandy fell the other evening and couldn't get back up, and was in considerable pain afterward. At her age — around 18, I believe — there wasn't really hope of recovery, so Mom had to make that terrible choice of having her put down.

I'll miss Brandy too — she was always there to greet me whenever I'd visit, and a critter of better humor one would be hard-pressed to imagine. Rest in peace, little dog. You will be missed.

Brandy in her younger days...a bit spoiled, as usual.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

WORLD WAR CTHULHU: The Indiegogo Campaign

Here is the ever-so-lovely cover image for World War Cthulhu: A Collection of Lovecraftian War Stories, which features my story, "The Game Changers." (Click the image to enlarge it.) The anthology, due from Dark Regions later this year, will be published in ebook, trade paperback and signed limited edition hardcover formats. The publisher is running an Indiegogo campaign to fund a number of unique extras not offered in regular market versions, such as a collector's deluxe signed slipcased hardcover edition, which will be offered only while the campaign is in progress. There are numerous pricing tiers for pre-orders, each offering specific perks for purchasers at that level. For a buck, you get a PDF of the book; for $5, you get the ebook; for $15, you get the trade paperback. But if you contribute $50, you get the signed, special edition hardcover, plus ebook; for $99, you get the signed limited edition hardcover with guaranteed number request, plus a World War Cthulhu digital artwork print signed by artist Wayne Miller, plus two special edition trade paperbacks, plus ebook, plus World War Cthulhu bookmark, plus high-resolution desktop wallpaper, plus PDF art book of all World War Cthulhu artwork, plus your name listed on a special acknowledgement page. Other tiers offer various perks, including having your name used in a special story written by one or more authors from the book. The campaign runs through April 20.

You can visit the Indiegogo page here: World War Cthulhu campaign

My story, "The Game Changers," is set in the jungles of Vietnam, right after the Tet Offensive, but the tales herein cover warfare from virtually every period of history — from the legend of Achilles and Agamemnon to the Crusades to the Revolutionary War to World War II to present-day Afghanistan. Contributors include 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, and Jeffrey Thomas. Cover art is by Vincent Chong, interior illustrations by M. Wayne Miller.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Darkness Falls Restored

That scary fellow in the photo there is a tired but very satisfied Mr. Rodan after finishing up the restoration of "Darkness Falls" (GC14WGB) this evening (see "Restoring 'Darkness Falls,' February 21). It took several trips and many miles of hiking to get it all done, but I came out of the woods about nine o'clock this evening with the whole thing finally put to bed. It's ready to be hunted again, and I hope my efforts do justice to the original, classic Darth Sketcher hide. The old containers all had seen better days, and a couple of them were beyond repair; at least one container was missing altogether.

Night caching is a unique treat. The hides are generally set up where you follow reflectors from one stage to another until you reach the final container. "Darkness Falls" is spread out over five different trails, each involving short- to medium-distance hikes, and there are no reflectors to find until you're very close to the stages themselves. Some of them are fairly straightforward, a couple are rather tricky. To access the contents of the final container, hunters must collect and the information they have gathered from the preceding stages. The chances of actually finding the cache in daylight are slim.

I did enjoy tonight's final outing, as I found three other caches as well, one of them ostensibly a canoe/kayak cache, though it was accessible — only just — from the lake shore. That one had gone missing some time ago, and the container had been replaced; however, the container I found, half-buried amid the muck along the lake bank, was the original, which had not been found since August 2010. Ironically, I could not find the newer replacement container.

I also brought home the first tick of the season. Since the spiders are all out there in prodigious numbers — their eyes glow beautifully in the darkness when your flashlight beam hits them — I guess it would stand to reason, but since we had the deep freeze to end all deep freezes just over a week ago, I didn't anticipate the little assholes being out there already. Who knew?

Anyway, go play in the dark. It's fun.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Restoring Darkness Falls

No, not the 2003 movie — which I vaguely remember seeing, though I have little recollection of it — but a night cache called "Darkness Falls" (GC14WGB) here in Greensboro that I have recently adopted, since its creator — the nefarious "Darth Sketcher" — is no longer active. A couple of weeks ago, Todd "Tbbiker" Briggs; Fred "Smashemups" Hudolin; Fred's son, Joe; and I went out and attempted to find this extensive five-stage multi, and we did... sort of. At least a couple of the stages have gone missing since the cache was hidden, back in 2007, and one of them was damaged beyond repair. We made it to the final stage only with the help of a couple of previous finders. Still, since I have a great appreciation for night caches, I decided I would take on the restoration and maintenance of this venerable Darth Sketcher hide.

"Darkness Falls" is actually a Star Wars–themed cache, with each stage named after one of the planets featured in the movies: Stage 1 is Tattooine; Stage 2 is Coruscant; Stage 3 is Mustafar; Stage 4 is Hoth; and Stage 5, the final, is Endor. The stages are located on five different trails on Greensboro's north side, and the hides leading up to the final get progressively more difficult. So far, I've replaced two of the five, which have been little adventures in and of themselves. It's invigorating to be out there on a mission, alone, on a chilly evening — to be the the spooky thing prowling the woods, seeking, finding, and, when necessary, replacing reflector tacks on trees. On my way along the trail, I noticed a two pairs of reflectors high up in a tree, which I thought was an odd place for them, since it was off-track for the night cache. Turned out to be a couple of possums, who appeared quite intrigued by my nighttime wanderings. Possums are kind of cute in their ugly way, and they were welcome company out there.

Shortly after meeting these little folk, however, something big, and I mean it sounded Godzilla big, went splashing through Lake Townsend, and if that wasn't Bigfoot, then Bigfoot was missing his opportunity to sound menacing and impressive. Never did see the noisemaker, but if it was Bigfoot, I suspect he was out there after one of the caches that's named for him on the nearby trail.

I'll have to make couple of more night outings to finish up the restoration, which I hope to get done this coming week. I know there are a few people anxiously awaiting the cache's reactivation, and I certainly don't want to keep them waiting any longer the necessary.

Use the Force, why don't you.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas

It's review time! The current weather couldn't be more conducive to watching this venerable 1957 Hammer film, and last night, after a trying afternoon in the snow storm (see yesterday's entry, "The Great White Beast"), an eerie, late-night monster movie — though I use the term loosely — seemed just the ticket. I saw The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas when I was a youngster, and I recall finding it boring. It was slow, talky, and featured little in the way of monster action. In my more mature years, I consider all of these things among the movie's major strengths.

Here there be spoilers.

The film begins with botanist John Rollasan (Peter Cushing); his wife, Helen (Maureen Connell); and his assistant, Peter "Foxy" Fox (Richard Wattis) undertaking an expedition to the Himalayas to uncover rare flora. Their base of operations is a remote Buddhist monastery overseen by an affable but rather enigmatic Lama (Arnold MarlĂ©). Another expedition, consisting of adventurer Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker), trapper Ed Shelley (Robert Brown), photographer Andrew McNee (Michael Brill), and Sherpa guide Kusang (Wolfe Morris) arrives at the monastery, this one seeking the legendary Yeti — the Abominable Snowman of the title. Friend persuades Rollasan, over the objections of his wife, to accompany them on the long, dangerous climb into the mountains' upper regions.

Rollasan believes the Yeti might indeed exist but is interested only in the creature as a scientific marvel, while Friend seeks to capture one so he might make a personal fortune. On their ascent, the group discovers huge footprints in the snow that convince them the creature is real. Shelley sets out bear traps, but McNee ends up stumbling into one and is injured. That night, something visits their camp, sending Sherpa guide Kusang fleeing down the mountain. Shelley sees the silhouette of their mysterious visitor in the distance and shoots at it. Following the trail of blood, the men now learn that the Yeti is real, for Shelley has succeeded in killing one. Rollasan examines the body and claims it bears some resemblance to a human being, possessing a certain aspect of "wisdom." They wrap the gigantic body so that it can be transported by sledge upon their descent. However, strangely mentally affected, McNee takes off on his own and dies in a fall. Friend, determined to capture one of the creatures alive, has Shelley rig a net inside a cave and wait there with the dead creature's body for a visitation. The ploy succeeds in luring one in, but Shelley dies, apparently of fright.
Though their radio is broken, Rollasan hears a broadcast warning his party to leave the mountain. Convinced they cannot proceed farther, Friend agrees to abandon his search for a live creature and return with only the dead body as proof of the Yeti's existence. However, he then hears Shelley's voice calling "Help me!" from somewhere in the distance, and when he goes outside, he is killed by an avalanche. The Yeti themselves finally appear to Rollasan, the last remaining member of the party. In a silent but profound confrontation, Rollasan comes to understand the Yeti are indeed intelligent — and may, in fact, be simply biding their time until the end of humanity, when they will inherit the earth.

Helen Rollasan, concerned for the safety of the party, has mounted a rescue expedition, and they find her husband, nearly frozen to death in the snow. Upon their return to the monastery, now understanding the true nature of the Yeti, Rollasan tells the Lama they found nothing. Clearly understanding all, the Lama simply nods and states, "The Yeti do not exist."
The Abominable Snowman was directed by Val Guest (known for numerous Hammer films, including The Quatermass Xperiment, Quatermass 2, and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, as well as contributing to 1967's Bond-ish extravaganza, Casino Royale), and written by Nigel Kneale, based on the earlier BBC-TV production, The Creature, which Kneale also wrote. The story is undeniably slow and oftentimes dialogue-heavy (Peter Cushing reputedly improvised many of his lines), but the film builds an eerie atmosphere, based on thoroughly convincing settings and on suggestive rather than graphic depictions of the Yeti themselves. Cuts between location shooting (in the Pyrenees range, one the border between France and Spain) and sound stage (Bray and Pinewood studios in England) are mostly seamless, creating an effective sense of visual continuity. The set for the Rong-Ruk monastery appears dark and claustrophobic, its interior maze-like, its inhabitants — portrayed largely by the staff from several London Chinese restaurants — quite convincing as Buddhist monks. A scene of a ritual ceremony, complete with masks representing the Yeti and foreign, almost alien chanting, agreeably calls to mind the Odo Island natives' ceremony in the original Godzilla, deepening the sense of strangeness that permeates this remote outpost of humanity.

Peter Cushing as Dr. John Rollasan exhibits his customary classiness as an actor. Playing a principled intellectual, he makes fine use of his distinctive voice and refined verbal mannerisms. As the sensitive but strong-willed professor, in his few scenes with Helen, he conveys a touching tenderness toward her, despite his character's intent to act against her wishes. Cushing's Rollasan is the necessary counter to Forrest Tucker's Tom Friend, a self-centered, reckless, yet not unlikable exploiter, whose doom is spelled early on by his abandonment of traditional morality. Robert Brown, who would succeed Bernard Lee as 'M' in the 007 movies of the late 1980s, plays the trapper, Shelley, with a shade too much exuberance, displaying the boisterousness and exaggerated physical gestures of a theatrically trained actor. The character McNee, portrayed by Michael Brill, is all but superfluous, offering little character depth or material contribution to the Friend expedition. His main role is to foreshadow the psychic influence of the Yeti prior to their actual onscreen manifestations.

Nerdy professor Fox, played with amusing British quirkiness by Richard Wattis, adds little substantive to the film; his sympathetic interactions with Helen Rollasan serve more to highlight her concern for and devotion to her husband. As Helen, Maureen Connell is afforded an opportunity to show a tad more backbone than many supporting female characters from this era of films, particularly those of the horror/science-fiction persuasion. Despite her inability to sway Rollasan from his danger-fraught intentions, she avoids that infuriating, helpless hand-wringing so typical of female characters of the day and takes an active role in bringing her husband back alive.

Humphrey Searle's musical score provides a dramatic backdrop for the film, sometimes low-key and atmospheric, other times brassy and powerful, effectively corresponding to the images on the screen. Other soundtrack cues — the keen howling of frigid wind; the disconcerting crying out of the voice of the dead trapper, Shelley; and the ominous warning coming over the clearly non-functioning radio set — work beautifully with the film's visuals to create a mood of unsettling loneliness, isolation, and soul-deep fear.

While undeniably slow-paced, with a sometimes long-winded script, The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas presents a unique take on the Yeti legend and serves up some dark, foreboding atmosphere reminiscent of Universal's Creature From the Black Lagoon with Hammer's distinctly British bent. It's easy to understand why, as a child, I found the film boring; it doesn't conform to childish expectations. It seldom appears on broadcast television anymore, and though it was released on DVD by Anchor Bay over a decade ago, it is no longer readily available. I have an excellent VHS copy that I recorded from AMC back in the dark ages, when it broadcast movies uncut, without commercials, and featured hosts who provided commentaries before and after each film. I imagine I will have to settle for that version for the foreseeable future.

If you get the chance to view The Abominable Snowman, I would strongly encourage you not to miss it.