Friday, December 31, 2010

The War Lords of Leng

A nice way to end the year. Robert M. Price, editor of From Secret Asia's Blackest Heart, has accepted my recently completed short story, "The War Lords of Leng," for the anthology. Happy day. The book is scheduled to come out in 2011 from Mythos Books.


Monday, December 27, 2010

BALAK Now Available on Kindle, Nook

My first novel, Balak, has been set free to run amok once more, in the form of an e-book release (Kindle and Nook formats), as well as an audio book release from Crossroad Press (forthcoming in the next few months, read by Erik Synnestvedt). I originally wrote the novel in the early 1990s and then overhauled it in the late 1990s; in 2000, it was published by Wildside Press, some months after the release of Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (HarperCollins, 1999), which I co-wrote with Elizabeth Massie. Thus, my first novel was actually my second published novel.

Balak may be considered a Cthulhu mythos story; it draws its inspiration from Lovecraft's mythos, to be sure, though it features few of its overt trappings. Primarily, it's a police procedural novel with an undercurrent of dark fantasy, set in Chicago in the early 90s; in fact, many of the locations in the book are actual places in and around the neighborhood where I lived during the 1980s, fictionalized... perhaps... to incriminate the not-so-innocent. Unlike so much Lovecraftian fiction, in which the cosmic scope of the story so frequently overshadows the characters, Balak is a distinctly character-driven story; the cosmic events, such as they are, tend to be glimpsed in bits and pieces by the various characters involved.

You can download free samples of the novel from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble for you e-reader. Here are links to the respective book sites:

Balak for the Kindle from Amazon.com

Balak for the Nook from Barnes & Noble

Of course, the original trade paperback edition is still available, nicely packaged by Wildside Press. You can get more info, including an excerpt and numerous reviews of the novel, at my Web site: Balak at The Realm of Stephen Mark Rainey. From that page, you can also order autographed copies of the book directly from me, via Paypal.

Enjoy. Or run screaming, whichever turns your crank....

"Stephen Mark Rainey brings us a Cthulhu Mythos novel that neither gushes with avant-garde blood nor creaks under the rusty chains of homage. Balak strikes me as the best story of its kind since Russell Kirk’s Lord of the Hollow Dark (1979)...Rainey moves his story along with just the right balance of suspense and revelation, and provides a resonant climax."
—Paul Di Filippo, Asimov's Science Fiction

Friday, December 24, 2010

Black Tooth Pond

Confession is good for the soul, so they say, and maybe today a good unloading is in order.

Back behind Martinsville High School, my old alma mater, there's a fairly extensive woodland area, and in the middle of it, a medium-size pond, which I've always called Black Tooth Pond. Now, that's not its actual name, if it even has one; I coined it because, at the pond's southernmost end, a large number of broken, blackened tree trunks once protruded from the water — probably the result of a fire from many years ago. If you've read certain of my short stories, you might recall I used this exact setting, and the name Black Tooth Pond for the first time, in "The Weird Violet," which appears in my short-fiction collection, Fugue Devil & Other Weird Horrors (Macabre, Inc., 1994).

From the get-go, Black Tooth Pond was for me a place of higher learning. In 11th grade, circa 1976, my biology class hoofed it down the old dirt road to the pond and took samples to test for water quality. Later, I furthered my education here with a select number of female specimens of the species. Not long afterward, I returned to the area to conduct experiments with certain chemical substances, the results of which are in some cases hazy. When I first started geocaching, this was one of the spots I seriously considered for placing my first hide, but I never did get around to putting one here. Alas.

But let's backtrack a little ways. It was my senior year in high school. I was dating a singularly appealing young woman, whose aplomb with certain physical exercises left me very much in a state of awe. As with most teenagers, one of the biggest hindrances to practicing these exercises was the lack of a setting that offered even a modicum of privacy. As you have astutely deduced, we found such a setting back in the woods by Black Tooth Pond.

At that time, my folks owned a 1970 Ford LTD station wagon, and if you grew up anywhere near the same time I did, you'll know that this was the perfect vehicle for conducting highly specialized scientific experiments. One evening right around Halloween, this young female specimen and I drove down the treacherous dirt road into the woods around Black Tooth Pond and proceeded to practice some of the exercises mentioned above. Well, we had settled ourselves in the back of the station wagon and were just getting ourselves prepped to exercise when we heard the distinctive sounds of footsteps in the woods, not very far away. Being a little nervous about doing scientific research on what might be someone else's property, I opted to withdraw from the position I'd gotten myself into, open the back window, and thoroughly evaluate the situation.

I suppose it's lucky I did.

There, about fifty yards away, starkly silhouetted against the purple twilight sky, was the distinct figure of a man traipsing toward the car, a rifle or shotgun clearly at the ready.

With a holler that likely shattered my test subject's eardrums, I unceremoniously abandoned the experiment at hand, vaulted over two seats, and within three seconds flat had that 1970 Ford LTD station wagon hauling ass down the treacherous dirt road, back toward the high school — or at least, that's what I hoped. Problem being at the time, I wasn't exactly sure which direction I had to go. I mean, we didn't have GPS technology in those days, and I had been paying attention to other things while navigating those winding little roads....

Then it happened: Ba-BOOM! Pothole! Big, big pothole! The rear tires left the ground more than once, and as the car bounced violently, I saw in the rear-view mirror something metallic go flying into the air.

The license plate. My parents' license plate. Even in my panic, I had the presence of mind to realize that that was one damning piece of evidence. Then and there, I had to make a decision: face a potentially homicidal maniac with a gun or my dad's wrath.

Obviously, there was nothing for it but to stop and retrieve the wayward item. I reluctantly slammed the car to a stop, praying I hadn't busted any axles, leaped out the door, and ran back to find the license plate. There it was, lying in a pool of mud. I grabbed it up, paused long enough to take stock of the situation, and — much to my horror — heard footsteps in the woods, making a beeline toward me. Running toward me.

Damn. Back into the car, and off we went again, and... somehow... before I knew it, I was out of the woods and back on the road that led to the high school. From there, I'm certain I broke every traffic law in existence returning the subject of that experiment to the safety of her home; privacy be damned.

Before heading back home, I was able to re-attach the license plate (after much scrubbing of mud), and it's only by the grace of God that I hadn't completely screwed the car's alignment. Indeed, they made those cars durable in those days. I can only imagine trying to undertake such a panicked escape in my current Buick Century. I'd be leaving pieces of that car strewn all over Martinsville and Henry County, and maybe beyond.

So, one scientific experiment a massive failure. Despite it all, I still have a great fondness for Black Tooth Pond. However terrified I might have been at the time, it didn't stop me from conducting further experiments in those woods, all of which certainly contributed to my well-rounded education.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Big Old Stomp That Rocked My World


Or...
A Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On
The following originally appeared in G-Fan magazine, issue #70, Winter 2005

One evening in the late 1960s, in the small town of Martinsville, Virginia, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Rainey took an evening out for dinner and bridge, as was their occasional habit, leaving my little brother and me in the care of a teenage babysitter (a fine young gentleman named Mike Combs; in later years it would be his sister Sherry, with whom I would fall madly in love…but that’s another story). On this particular night, it just so happened that Godzilla, King of the Monsters was playing on TV, and Mike could not have been a better choice of sitter for us because he was something of a dinosaur and daikaiju enthusiast. By age eight, I had already seen Godzilla three or four times, Gigantis at least twice, and Godzilla vs. the Thing once; I had already hit a few mileposts on the road to becoming a diehard. Mike, on the other hand, though a monster movie buff, was still a layman, and like most, looked to me to provide background information that would help him understand the movie.

“What the heck is a HEELIE-copter?”

“That’s just Perry Mason’s way of saying ‘helicopter,’ Mike.”

“Oh.”

Now, before you throw up your hands, I have to tell you…yes, I had been baiting him, for I knew that Perry Mason was a fictional character portrayed by Raymond Burr. Sadly, by not correcting my intentional gaffe, Mike proved himself unworthy of being called a true Godzilla fan. Still, I had to admit he offered lots of spirited advice to the fleeing citizens of Tokyo (“Run to the side, you idiots, not straight in front of him!”), and anyone who could get so worked up over a Godzilla movie was okay in my book.

The movie ended at eight o’ clock, and a critical discussion immediately ensued.

“Yes, his eyes were made of plastic!”

“No, they were actually marbles painted to look like eyes.”

“Who told you that?”

“None of your bees’ wax.”

“You’re a moron.”

“No, you are.”

“No, you.”

In the middle of all this, I thought I heard a roll of thunder. What a cool coincidence; on the screen, Godzilla had first shown up during a raging storm. But then the light fixture began to sway, and the windowpanes behind the couch took to rattling. This was no ordinary thunder! By now, Mike’s eyes looked a lot like painted marbles popping out of his skull, and my little brother, who had the audacity to sleep through the movie, began to plaintively scream and holler.

After about thirty seconds, the rumbling stopped. But Mike and I were charged up. We spent the rest of the evening peering out windows, surveying the neighborhood from the front porch, even braving the spooky stairs to the attic because the upper windows afforded a panoramic view (even if it was pitch dark outside). I bitterly rued the fact that, at the time, I didn’t own a tape recorder so I could leave behind some kind of verbal record for Mr. George Lawrence, United World News, Chicago, USA, should the worst happen.

Only when my parents came home around ten o’ clock did I learn that Martinsville, Virginia, had experienced its first sizable earth tremor in over 150 years. Now, to most, an earthquake might have been a stimulating spot of news; to me, however, it was anticlimax exemplified because, for a little while there, I had completely repented of my heretical hypothesis that Godzilla’s eyes might be made of plastic. As far as I was concerned, his eyes—as well as all the rest of him—were far more real than plate tectonics.

That incident might not have been the beginning of my love affair with Godzilla, but it was certainly the one to most impress an impressionable young lad. (Some will say I’ve hardly changed; that again is another story.) To this day, the booming footsteps and roars at the beginning of Godzilla inspire a twinge of excitement unlike any other. If I hear Raymond Burr’s voice in some other show or movie—be it Perry Mason, Ironside, Rear Window, you name it—lines from the original Godzilla inevitably flood my memory. Of all the tape-recorded monster movie soundtracks I memorized word-for-word during my teens (I bet some of you reading this did the same thing), the English-language soundtrack to Godzilla, King of the Monsters is easily the one I recall best.

I imagine I was around ten years old when the fact that I had always seen an “Americanized” version of Godzilla truly began to dawn on me. And at that moment, the original 1954 Japanese version hit number one on the “must-see-before-I-croak” list. On subsequent viewings of Godzilla, I scrutinized every frame of film, assiduously looking for telltale signs of tampering with the original material. Suddenly, my eyes were opened. Holy cows—that wasn’t Dr. Yamane, but a look-alike, and not a particularly convincing one. And looky here! “Emiko,” whose back seemed to be her most prominent side, was dressed a tad differently from camera angle to camera angle. How could I have ever missed such blatant cinematic blunders?

Anyway…I spent a good portion of my adolescence convinced that American audiences had been robbed, and that the perpetrators deserved to be punished with extreme prejudice—sans the benefit of a Perry Mason defense. Without having seen a frame of the original, unadulterated Japanese movie, I became one of the most vociferous detractors of the American version in the western hemisphere.

Of course, all it took was one more viewing of the American release, somewhere around age 13, to convince me that, well, maybe Raymond Burr in Tokyo wasn’t really that big a stretch. Hey, it was still Godzilla. And Godzilla…good. (Fire is our friend, and all that.)

And finally…almost twenty years after the earthquake that loosed Godzilla upon Martinsville, Virginia…I got my chance to cross number one off the must-see list. Mid-1980s, Chicago, USA. A few years earlier, I had moved to the Windy City so that I might reside near Japanese Giants co-editors Ed Godziszewski and Bill Gudmundson (not to mention the main office of United World News). As some of you may recall, the technological toy of the day was the laser disc player. Ed had one; I had one; and one day, we struck gold. Ed obtained a catalog where we could order original Japanese laser discs.

Toho discs.

Godzilla discs.

THE Godzilla disc.

In those novel days, region coding was still an unrealized bit of idiocy; and through Ed’s ingenuity, we obtained an English script of the movie.

I don’t think the excitement of an earthquake surpassed the excitement of sitting down in Ed’s living room to watch the 1954 Godzilla, complete with a typed English translation (which was admittedly a little more inconvenient than reading subtitles). But moly hoses. A gorgeous print on a flawless LD system…it just didn’t get much better.

Ed pushed the start button.

My initial impression was that the movie moved faster than what I was accustomed to (the opening scenes of Tokyo’s devastation in the American version notwithstanding). The absence of Raymond Burr and his somber narration, which extended each individual scene, seemed almost disconcerting. Perhaps the most jarring aspect in the first half hour of the movie was that, on Odo Island, Steve Martin and Tomo did not go out among the natives.

However, a new fire exuded from the Japanese cast; especially during the conference at the Diet Building, where Dr. Yamane dramatically testified that Strontium-90 had been discovered in Godzilla’s wake. Dr. Serizawa had more screen time—meaningful screen time. The triangle between him, Emiko, and Ogata took on an entirely new poignancy. Godzilla’s rampage, shown as it would have actually progressed through the streets of Tokyo, seemed somehow grimmer. And Serizawa’s final sacrifice, shown in its deeper context, hit home with far more power.

After Godzilla was over, I knew I had seen, not just a different version of the movie, but a different movie altogether. Certainly a better movie. A movie whose heart and soul did not revolve around the monster, but around its characters. For years, I had considered Godzilla, King of the Monsters and King Kong of roughly equal stature in the grand scheme of monster movies. No longer. Godzilla had left old Kong in the dust.

For many years afterward, I would occasionally watch Godzilla—even without the script, for I had come to know it inside and out; perhaps not as intimately as the American version, but certainly well enough to recall key dialogue. And Godzilla…well, he spoke a language in which I was already fluent.

But as well-acquainted with Godzilla as I considered myself, its well had far from run dry. In the 80s, with the laser disc and English translation in front of me, I had wondered how it might get any better. In 2001, I attended G-Fest, where Godzilla appeared on the big screen (at the Woodfield Mall Cinema, Schaumburg, Illinois—my old stomping grounds), and now I was in a real theater surrounded by a horde of honest-to-god, diehard G fans. There was a time—and trust me, it doesn’t seem all that long ago—that the very idea would have seemed too fantastic to be believed. All my young life, I was the sole Godzilla fan among many casual observers; even as an avid reader of The Japanese Fantasy Film Journal, and later as editor (and then co editor) of Japanese Giants, which exposed me to lots of like-minded individuals, I was a fan in a near-vacuum. But in the last years of the 20th century, things had changed, and now going into the 21st…

The environment at G-Fest could not have been more conducive to a meaningful viewing of the original classic. Here I was, sitting next to my old friends Ed and Bill—and new one, Robert Scott Field; the screen lit up, and the booming footsteps and roars began. Just as expected. But something was different. I had seen this version of this movie countless times, and yet I felt as if I were about to witness something wholly new and remarkable.

And so I was. The big screen; the fact that there were no obnoxious kiddies to distract one’s attention; the absolute silence during the long, solemn passages where the characters absorbed and reflected on the events as they happened…these things came together to create nothing less than a transcendent experience. As the girls’ choir sang their prayer following Godzilla’s stroll through Tokyo, I actually discovered my eyes burning. Never in my 42 years had I been moved to tears during a monster movie. Especially not one I had seen an average of twice a year for well over a decade.

Damn!

There are times nowadays, when I think it would be mighty sweet if, one day, while watching my favorite movie in the world, the earth started shaking…and this time it wasn’t just an earthquake.

And his eyes would not be made of plastic.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Caching Through the Snow...

How nice to have a good old friend, Dr. Beth Walton (a.k.a. UNCGBogTurtle) return to Greensboro from Illinois to visit for several days. Got with the doc and Ms. Debbie "Cupdaisy" Shoffner for an afternoon/evening of caching over in Burlington. About the time we left, snow started coming down, and the temperature started dropping. Made for a very cold but very enjoyable caching trip. Found a bunch, didn't find a couple. But perhaps the highlight was discovering an excellent little Mexican restaurant called La Cocina, where they serve Margaritas in boats the size of the Titanic and hit you with two varieties of spicy tomatillo salsa. Yay! The spinach enchilada and cheese-stuffed poblano pepper kinda rocked as well.

The snow didn't really stick, but playing in it was fun nonetheless.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

THE MONARCHS Revisited

Thanks to a certain publisher's interest in my novel, The Monarchs, which I originally wrote in 2007, I have my schedule pretty much laid out for the next couple of weeks. From looking over the manuscript, I've come to the conclusion that this book requires revisiting and a spot of revising. Nothing terribly major, but I do want it to be the best it can be before I dump it on any unsuspecting readers. Fortunately, my Christmas preparations are pretty much in the bag, so I should be relatively unencumbered while I'm working on it.

Perhaps above all else, the title worries me. Given the novel's theme, it's apt, but...is it a grabber? I originally called it The Monarchs of Fearing (the name of the town where it's set), but in any case, the first thing that comes to mind is a kaleidoscope of butterflies, and as best I can remember, there's not so much as a mention of butterflies in the text. Perhaps there should be. Anyhoo, I'll be mulling over alternative titles as I go.

Now, X those appendages, y'all, while I take care of these little bugs.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Everyone Loves a Parade


Except me. And — based on the road rage that was spreading like wildfire over the course of an hour — pretty much every driver passing through Gibsonville this morning, at least those who weren't there for the express purpose of seeing the Christmas parade. The local brain trust closed the main route through town (which is the only route through town, unless you know some magical shortcuts), without providing any advance notice or laying out a marked detour, which created one of the worst tangles of traffic I've seen since I got stuck for six hours when they closed Lakeshore Drive in Chicago for the Fourth of July fireworks in 1994.

Get this picture:

I'd been caching near Elon College and I'm now heading home. Traffic is getting heavier and heavier, and soon, it slows to a crawl. Then it just plain stops. Thirty minutes later, once it starts moving again...at a snail's pace...I realize we're behind a dozen little bastards riding go-carts up the road. Next, here come some tractors pulling floats, which the cops allow to get into the traffic stream. Oh, joy. They're queuing for Gibsonville's Christmas parade, and I have managed to get stuck right in the middle of it. Surely...surely...there's a detour around this thing. I mean, they do plan these parades in advance, right?

Nah. There are just a few cops directing traffic — poorly — and as I watch, they become slowly overwhelmed by all the cars converging from several roads, all trying to find a way through. A couple of officers throw up their hands in utter frustration, as — apparently — they didn't expect CLOSING THE ONLY GODDAMN MAIN ROAD THROUGH TOWN, without a marked alternative route, to foul up the works.

Fortunately, after just over an hour of this mess, I was able to find a couple of side roads on my GPS map that took me five miles out of the way but at least out of town — and I only had to break a couple of traffic laws to do it. Talk about poor planning on the town's part. No, wait. Non-existent planning.

Way to generate some Christmas cheer, morons.

Prior to the parade, while hunting for a geocache deep in an underground pipeline, I discovered a cache of black widows. You'd think they'd all be dead about now, but no. Dozens of 'em, all clustered in a roughly 5' x 5' underground chamber. It was fairly shuddersome, but given the choice between the Gibsonville parade and the black widows, I'd take the friggin' spiders.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetini

Apart from the occasional glass of wine, a fiery hot dirty martini is about the only thing I imbibe anymore. It's killer good, so here's my recipe; short, simple, and not even a little bit sweet.

Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetini
  • 3 oz. vodka or gin (I usually prefer gin)
  • 1 oz. extra dry vermouth
  • 2 tbsp. olive brine
  • 2–3 habanero-stuffed cocktail olives
  • 1 hot pepper (bhut [ghost] jolokia, habanero, or serrano are my favorite)

Directions for One Drink:
Cut hot pepper in half. Drop the halves into a shaker filled with crushed ice; then pour in your vodka or gin, vermouth, and olive brine. Shake vigorously for about a minute. Strain into a chilled martini glass and drop in your olives. For an extra kick, spoon out the hot pepper sections and add them to the glass as well.

Warning: As with any Damned Rodan recipe, Spontaneous Human Combustion may result from even careful and conscientious consumption. Do not smoke cigarettes or imbibe this product near any open flame, inflammable materials, children, most animals (including hedgehogs, pygmy goats, and llamas), and overly sensitive individuals. Do drink responsibly.

I Never Eat December Snow


About every month or so, it's necessary to make the pilgrimage over to Chapel Hill...no, I'm not particularly a Tarheel fan (sorry, Chapman)...but there are a few places there that anyone in — or even out of — his right mind simply has to go, such as The Spotted Dog (actually in Carrboro) for good chow; A Southern Season for incredible drink mixers, hot sauces, and chocolate; and Trader Joe's for good, inexpensive wine and groceries. Not to mention passels of caches...of course. Today was the day. It started out cold and gray, but off my friend Ms. B. and I went, grabbing caches along the way. Midway through lunch at The Spotted Dog, the sky began to spit a little snow, and as we headed out after a couple of more nearby caches, down it came in earnest. On to A Southern Season and Trader Joe's, and by now we had a fair amount of accumulation. A nice way to get a little Christmas spirit going, for sure. But like Lucy van Pelt, I don't go for eating that December snow because it just isn't ripe yet.

Fabulous dinner with the Albaneses tonight — Joe's famous pasta from his grandmother's recipe — followed by Burton's Alice in Wonderland. An excellent day all-around, but now I'm another day behind wrestling with my characters in "The War Lords of Leng." But tomorrow's another day and another battle. Maybe...just maybe...tomorrow I will prevail.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Gums Feel Like Bloody Royalty

Which is what happens when a freakin' tooth breaks and you have to get a crown. This one hurts. Don't remember the last one hurting. I guess it's better than having that big old hole leading clear up to my brain.

The characters in my latest tale, "The War Lords of Leng," are completely out of hand. Don't know what to do with them. I could just shoot them, I guess, and be done with it. Unfortunately, I don't have a cast of extras waiting in the wings.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ye Big Olde Birdie Day



Much big bird was consumed and enjoyed today...and then at least partially walked off on a couple of long and invigorating hikes around Martinsville—one on the new Dick & Willie Rail Trail (yep) and then a long, late-night walk through the old neighborhood in the company of some Woodford Reserve. Thankfully for my peace of mind, I got in a spot of caching, and did some much-needed maintenance on a few of my own. Great day for it all; a bit gray, but on the whole, quite comfortable. Watched Goldfinger just for good measure. With a wonderful friend to share in the joy, it has been a relaxing and I think memorable Thanksgiving. Oh, yeah—made a killer punkin pie as well. Happy day.

Still have much left on my plate for the days ahead. A ways to go yet on my current short story, "The War Lords of Leng." Then some tweaking of my novel, The Monarchs, to send to an editor who has expressed an interest in it. And as most of you who visit here know, in January, I expect the divorce will be finalized. I spent a lot of years with Mrs Death, and there were many good ones. Some time ago, our respective lives diverged to the point that they could just never come back together. But I will always wish her the best.

I can certainly give thanks for the richness of life that I've known over the years, and that I can hope for in the days and years ahead. I hope those of you who come by here have much to be thankful for as well.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

THE NIGHTMARE FRONTIER Now Available as an Audio Book


And it's here from Crossroad Press. Narrated by Basil Sands, for a very reasonable $12.99. Currently, order it from directly from Crossroad; should be available from Amazon.com and other vendors very soon. You can also pick up the e-book in various formats, including for the Kindle, for $4.99 — either direct from Crossroad or from Amazon.

Check out a free audio sample.

You can also read a sample text passage (Chapter 3) at my website, here.

A little testimonial from author Gary Braunbeck:

"Remember what it was like to read a horror novel that actually made you sweat with dread and your hand shake ever-so-slightly as you turned the page? Remember what it was like to feel your heart thud against your chest as the plight of the characters became your own? Remember what it was like to have a story cast a spell over you rather than ram everything down your throat? If so, you've reason to rejoice; if not, then you need to discover what that's like. In either case, Mark Rainey's The Nightmare Frontier delivers the goods. This is the Good, Real Stuff. From its powerful opening in the jungles of Vietnam to its nerve-wracking finale, this novel never releases its grip on the reader's nerves, brains, and heart."

Give it a go. You'll get plenty skeered!

Potter Fever


Friday, November 19, 2010

All That Jazz...Here and On the Way

Having lots of my written work hitting the street within a relatively short span of time. If you've not checked out my fiction — short, long, and otherwise — here are some good opportunities for small investments.

Currently in release as e-books from Crossroad Press:

The Nightmare Frontier
Available in MOBI (Kindle) - E-Pub - PDF (Adobe) and PRC (Mobi Pocket) Formats; $4.99

Order from Crossroad Press here.

Coming soon as an audio book from Crossroad.




The Lebo Coven
Available in MOBI (Kindle) - E-Pub - PDF (Adobe) and PRC (Mobi Pocket) Formats; $2.99

Order from Crossroad Press here.





My first novel, Balak, is still available as a trade paperback from Wildside (you can check it out here [Amazon.com site]), and it's soon to be released as an audio book by Crossroad.

Dark Regions will be releasing my new short story collection, The Gaki & Other Weird Horrors in Spring 2011. It features 16 of my short tales, including six that have never been previously published. Cover art by M. Wayne Miller. Stay tuned for more details and ordering information.

Also in Spring 2011, Marietta will be releasing my WWII dark fantasy novel, Blue Devil Island, as a trade paperback. Also features cover art by M. Wayne Miller. There's a good possibility it will also come out on audio from Crossroad. Again, stay tuned.

All righty, then.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Geocaching the Twin Peaks of Leng's Deathly Hallows



It's been a very full weekend of writing, geocaching, writing, reading, watching a bit of Twin Peaks, and writing. My new tale, "The War Lords of Leng," which is for an Asian-themed Cthulhu Mythos anthology, is far enough along to see a light at the end, but there's yet a fair ways to go before giving the glad hand to the fat lady. I do hope to have it finished up no later than Thanksgiving.

Found geocache #3,000 yesterday, while out on a run through Kernersville with the young whippersnappers from next door. Quite an enjoyable day of it, and then dinner with them and friend Kim at Don Juan's — surely, the best Mexican restaurant north of the Rio Grande. Well, it is when you have a couple of their margaritas. This fiesta was followed by a long, thoughtful exchange of ideas (purely intellectual, of course...ahem, Paul...) about how one person might make another person disappear permanently, both in spectacular and in thoroughly clandestine fashion. Naturally, I now have some grand ideas for a horrific new short story. Some may call this deviant...okay, so they did call it deviant...but so be it; I shall happily cast all the blame upon Paul. This is not to say I will split any potential forthcoming profits with Paul.

This particular line of discussion served to fling upon me a craving for some Twin Peaks. Thus, for a spot of very late-night viewing, I put on Fire Walk With Me and (today) the Twin Peaks pilot episode. In its day, FWWM was pretty well blasted by critics and even the show's fans, but all these years later, I find the movie a work of under-appreciated genius, flawed though it undeniably is. Now and again, I feel compelled to re-visit both the movie and the series, as it serves to recharge the brain cells when they seriously need it, and apparently, now is the time.

Okay, so I've become a Harry Potter geek; never would have thought it, but once I was finally convinced to read the first book, I became hooked, and now I'm trying to get through as much of the series as possible — both books and movies — before The Deathly Hallows comes out next week. I'm most of the way through Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix (book 5), but in order to catch up, I expect I'm going to have to watch movie #6 and read the book afterward... which is not the way I prefer to go. One does what one must — especially when one labors under the watchful eyes of at least two seriously devoted Potter fans. Woe be unto me should I fail.

First-to-find on a new cache this evening...and now it's back to the fabled and very dark Plateau of Leng and its attendant war lords.

There's soon to be yet more news on the dark fiction front. Stay tuned.

Ol' Rodan signs the log on his 3,000TH cache find.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Deadlines and 3K Looming

Mercy...been otherwise occupied so much, haven't updated the blog in a while. Largely, working on a new Cthulhu Mythos story, which is going a bit slowly but at least quite satisfactorily. Hopefully will have it done by Thanksgiving.

And I'm only a handful of caches shy of hitting the 3,000 mark...which I anticipate reaching this weekend. No particularly monumental landmark cache on the schedule at this point, but then a cache is a cache, number-wise....

And it's back to work.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Writing, Reading, Tricking & Treating


It was one busy October, with lots of activities, writing, and traveling to keep me out of trouble, at least kinda. The final week of the month was non-stop but very gratifying. After returning from New York last week, I went whole-hog into revising my old story, "The Horrible Legacy of Jacob Rigney," for my customary dramatic reading at the office Halloween fest, which we had on Friday afternoon. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that no one chucked heavy objects at me—although I narrowly avoided being shot by a stun dart (thanks, Kitty).

I have, in fact, posted the new version of "Jacob Rigney" in the Free Reads section of my website, so please give it a look. You'll tremble and weep. Or laugh. Whatever. It's here: "The Horrible Legacy of Jacob Rigney."

Saturday, it was off to Martinsville for a friend's Halloween/birthday bash. Beforehand, got in some enjoyable hiking on the Dick & Willie Rail Trail, which also included stomping around in the woods to drop off some trackables in a couple of my caches. There's an old foundation and chimney near one of them, right on out there in the woods; if you squint just right, it's pretty creepy, especially at this time of year.


Yesterday morning, got up long before the sun to make the traditional journey to Mabry Mill, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where they grow the best buckwheat pancakes anywhere. Managed to grab a few caches both coming and going, so...yay! Last night, dinner with my young neighbors, Paul and Jamie, followed by an evening in the yard around a very comfortable fire in the firepit. No trick-or-treaters this year, which was something of a surprise; we usually have at least a handful come by. No matter; that's just more chocolate for me. Wait—did I say no matter? Silly me....

Took today off work, but a big ol' Siamese lying on my head roused me quite early, so I got on up, fixed up a couple of cache containers, and went out to the new Shallow Ford trail system in Alamance County, where I planted two new caches. Parties unknown have taken it upon themselves to construct some entertaining formations out of rocks all along the trail, one of which resembled an owl (or a penis, if your mind works along those lines), which was just the place for one of the caches.

It's an owl, for crying out loud.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Sleepy Hollow-een

Lyndhurst, a.k.a. Collinwood, from House of Dark Shadows and
Night of Dark Shadows

Periodically, it's necessary to make the pilgrimage to Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow, NY, just north of New York City, where the two Dark Shadows movies were filmed in the early 70s. The Halloween season is the perfect time for it, so this past weekend, that's where you would have found me. Left on Friday afternoon—GPS in hand for a bit of geocaching—and stayed the night with friends Elizabeth Massie and Cortney Skinner in Waynesboro, VA. On Saturday, it was the long drive to Tarrytown (more caches), and on Saturday night, met my daughter, Allison, for a fine dinner at The Striped Bass, right on the Hudson, next to the impressive Tappan Zee Bridge. Tarrytown was beautifully decorated for Halloween and even had a Halloween Parade on Saturday afternoon. (Didn't hang around to watch it, though; eight bazillion raging muggles made getting around a chore.) Ended the evening with a midnight lantern-light tour of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Most impressive, as well as rather relaxing. In fact, Sleepy Hollow is the kind of cemetery that makes being buried less annoying.

Lyndhurst against the rising sun

Old dude at one of the huge copper beech trees on the Lyndhurst estate

Sunday morning, it was up bright and early to visit Lyndhurst, the beautiful, historic estate that served as Collinwood in 1970's House of Dark Shadows and 1971's Night of Dark Shadows. Spent the better part of the day wandering about the house and grounds, and then, after a fabulous sushi dinner at Yama Fuji Sushi in Briarcliff Manor, headed to the Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze at Van Cortland Manor, about ten miles north of Tarrytown. Four-thousand jack-o'-lanterns at this attraction, intricately arranged around the estate—many carved as individual components of incredible structures, such as huge spiderwebs (along with attendant spiders), dinosaurs, bats, cats, skeletons, scarecrows, monsters, and ghoulies. Without a doubt, one of the most impressive Halloween spectacles I've ever seen.

The too-short trip ended today with the long drive home...and fortunately, the hunting of a good many caches. It was all just the ticket for kicking off Halloween week. I'm certainly in the spirit now, and tomorrow, I'll be carving my meager jack-o'-lanterns; child's play next to the spectacle of the Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze, but you can bet your axe my pumpkins will be sincere.

Click on the pics to enlarge.

Fall foliage at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Send me an angel. Grave marker at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Van Cortland Manor, done up for Halloween

Jack-o'-lantern spiderweb at the Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze

"Who goes there?" The lantern-light tour at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Gotta wonder if Spencer was a fan of Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Sleepy Hollow is festive at Halloween.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Damn That Betty White!

Old Rodan in the middle of a predicament.

Back from a none-too-profitable but all-too-entertaining book-signing event in Williamsburg, VA, this weekend. Drove up last night from Greensboro, working in a number of geocaches along the way...of course. East of Petersburg, it's a gorgeous drive along Route 5. One of the highlights was stopping for a cache at an excellent little tavern in Charles City (which is one of the four or five buildings in town, I think). It was full of character, and I had one seriously good cowburger. In fact, after that, I don't know that I'll be able to eat a McDonald's cowburger ever again.

Stayed at a cheap but decent hotel very near the college bookstore (and several caches, which is important). And today at the signing, I met up with a passel of very good friends—Beth Massie, Cortney Skinner, Tom Monteleone, Matthew Warner, Beth Blue, Sarah Schoenfeld, and Mark Sieber—and met Mark's friend Laura Long and writer Ron Malfi for the first time. Things were slow...to say the least...but when the caching team of emvirginia (Ms. Massie & Mr. Skinner) and Damned Rodan headed out to claim a nearby cache, we discovered just what was up.

Betty White had stolen our entire audience.

Yep, they were all out there—thousands of muggles, all waiting for Betty White, who was in town to do a benefit for her animal rescue program. She was set to make a big entrance riding in a carriage and then do a presentation/autograph session at one of the businesses on the square. We even figured maybe we could get Betty to hawk some horror novels for us, and we'd cut her in on a percentage. Alas, we never got to see Betty White; when we were outside, she was in, and when we were inside, she was out. Or something to that effect. At any rate, she didn't sell any horror novels for us. Conversely, we didn't autograph any Christmas ornaments, so really, whose loss is it?

Yep.

Ms. Massie, a little too happy.

Mark Sieber and Laura Long, also too happy.
Matt, Ron, and Tom, suitably somber.

Malfi and old dude, once again all too happy but laughing at muggles.

Damned Rodan and Emvirginia, posing with Thomas Jefferson and
some Betty White muggles. Yeah. Too happy.


Dark Visions

Wow...been too occupied to blog this past week, but here's a late notice. If you're in range of Williamsburg, VA, drop into the College of William & Mary bookstore, Saturday, 10/16, 10 AM–5 PM, for Dark Visions—several horror authors, including Tom Monteleone, Elizabeth Massie, Ron Malfi, Matthew Warner, and ye old dude, will be signing books, reading, and generating fear. My booksigning slot is at lunchtime—12:00 PM to 1:15 PM. Grab a book or two of mine, and I'll be happy to devalue it with a signature. Come on by and say hey.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Devil's Caching Ground

New blog entry by the old dude about The Devil's Tramping Ground at Elder Signs Press...very fitting for the Halloween season. Check it out.

Tonight, got in a fair bit of caching with my friend, Bridget, a.k.a. Suntigres. A nice rural run between Liberty and High Point, topped off by a visit to Bill's Pizza Pub, which flat out rocks. There was a small herd of pygmy goats back behind the restaurant, which I found rightly amusing. I'm pretty sure Bill's doesn't offer pygmi pizza. Yes, pretty sure.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Swamp Thing?


Headed out this afternoon for a hike along the Haw River, in Alamance County, to hunt a number of geocaches. Put in about three miles on a couple of different trails, and found a nice little village along the river that I had no idea existed. You go down a picturesque country road, and suddenly you're in Glencoe: a tiny spot on the map that was founded in the 1880s as a textile town and fell into decay after the mill closed in the 1950s. However, in recent years, the village has been renovated to resemble its former state, and the nearby trail takes you along a beautiful stretch of river.

I do have it on good authority that a number of the local forest animals took perverse glee witnessing an old dude on a cache hunt go slip, slide, boom! as he made his way through a swampy area near the river. The chap came out looking a lot more like the Swamp Thing than he did starting out, or so I'm told, anyway.

Short Stuff, Long Stuff, and In-Between Stuff

New short story, titled "Beneath the Pier," which I've been working on this week—all done and ready to be sent to editor. Now I've another one to write for a different editor, titled "The War Lords of Leng." Have just started it, and I expect it's scary because it's keeping me awake.

Things by the old dude coming down the pike:

Crossroad Press: The Nightmare Frontier (novel, audio book); The Lebo Coven (novel, e-book); and Blue Devil Island (novel, audio book). The Nightmare Frontier audio release, to be narrated by Basil Sands, may be in time for Halloween. Nice. The other two releases should follow shortly thereafter.

Marietta Publishing: Blue Devil Island, trade paperback and e-book. Cover art by M. Wayne Miller.

Dark Regions: The Gaki & Other Hungry Spirits (short story collection), signed & limited edition hardback, trade paperback. Cover art also by M. Wayne Miller.

And since I've recently gotten the two new Shout! Factory DVD releases of Gamera vs. Gyaos/Gamera vs. Viras and Gamera vs. Guiron/Gamera vs. Jiger, the movie reviews will no doubt be posted on my Daikaiju page in fairly short order.

Next weekend (Saturday, Oct. 9), I'll be selling and signing books and CDs of the Dark Shadows audio dramas I've written (Path of Fate, Curse of the Pharaoh, and Blood Dance) at The Woods of Terror on Church Street, just north of Greensboro. Come by between 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. for a visit!

October is always a busy month, and it's off to a running start. C'mon now, keep up!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Devils, Caches, and Crowns


A most invigorating weekend. Yesterday, headed up to Martinsville to visit Mum, stopping off at the brand new Shallow Ford trail system in Alamance County to get in some hiking and geocaching. There were five new caches placed out on the trail and, as it turns out, no one had found them yet, so I got first-to-find on the lot of them. Yay! Just for good measure, I picked up a couple of more on the trip up to Virginia. Alas, while I was hiking and chewing on a piece of gum, I felt the distinct crunch of something in my mouth that was most definitely not gum. Wouldn't you know it—a crown had vacated its assigned spot and taken to running loose. I did manage to chase it down and salvage it, so—hopefully—the dentist can put the little chopper back where it belongs. Fortunately, it's not painful—except when I try to eat potato chips, so chips are off. Just when I was having a craving, too.

Got in some more serious walking around Martinsville late last night, in the company of a bourbon and ginger ale, and on the way home today...a couple of more caches. Then headed over to see Devil, the new M. Night Shamalamadude's movie, which was pretty good, if ridiculously didactic. It would have been much better by sparing us all the devil's rules and regulations and just letting it go where it would. I didn't need everything spelled out to the last detail. Regardless, I enjoyed it enough; probably just won't watch it again.

Finished up the evening giving my website a much-needed overhaul, to fit in the newest news, The Lebo Coven, the podcast at Ghost in the Machine, and all those goodies. Managed to fit in a bit of writing on my new story, as well.

I sleep now.

THE LEBO COVEN and THE NIGHTMARE FRONTIER Now Available From Crossroad Press



The Lebo Coven, originally released by Thomson-Gale/Five Star Books in 2004, is now available as an e-book from Crossroad Press. Here's a little teaser for you....

After a ten-year absence, Barry Riggs returns to his hometown of Aiken Mill, Virginia, in search of his brother, Matt, who has mysteriously disappeared. Not only is the younger Riggs missing, but his house has been ransacked—and branded with the strange word “LEBO,” painted in blood on the bedroom wall. Faced with a local sheriff whose efforts to solve the crime are less than devoted, Barry sets out on his own to discover the truth. He meets a number of locals he had known in his youth, including a young woman named Jennifer Brand, whom he had once treated with contempt because she suffered from a repulsive, crippling affliction. After some awkward moments, the two become friends, and together they begin to unravel the mystery of Matt’s disappearance. Certain locals suggest that the name “LEBO” holds certain, ominous significance, but no one will so much as whisper its meaning. Barry eventually encounters a mysterious character who goes by the name of Ren—a reputed Satan worshipper. As Barry and Jennifer unravel the clues, they learn that all is far from what it appears—and that dark, inhuman forces are certainly at work.

"This former editor of the legendary horror magazine, Deathrealm, has written a novel of supernatural terror worthy of his esteemed literary reputation. The Lebo Coven seethes with darkness from the first page and surges forward in a pulse-pounding pace to the very end. This is a thrilling tale, custom-made for a dark and stormy night, that will keep you flipping pages until you've reached the slam-dunk, knock-your-socks-off climax."
—J. L. Comeau, Count Gore de Vol Presents Creature Features

Crossroad also recently released my fourth novel, The Nightmare Frontier. They're available in most all e-formats, at very reasonable prices ($2.99–$4.99) . They're both pretty creepy—quite the ticket for going into the Halloween season! Check 'em out at Crossroad Press.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ghost in the Machine Meets Old Dude


Several weeks back, Ms. Gail Z. Martin, author and proprietor of the Ghost in the Machine podcast site, conducted a telephone interview with me, primarily about Lovecraftian fiction and my novel, The Nightmare Frontier, recently released as an e-book by Crossroad Press. The interview is now live as a podcast and can be downloaded at Ghost in the Machine. Check it out (but take some Dramamine first). I always feel awkward doing live interviews; when they're written, I can at least give some thought to the responses, whereas live interviews and the resulting off-the-cuff answers usually just serve to expose a certain degree of brain death. Anyway, listen, weep, and go grab The Nightmare Frontier.. That, at least, oughta get your blood flowing...one way or another....

Monday, September 20, 2010

We All Scream!



Very nice geocaching event in High Point last night, at Bruster's Ice Cream, starring most of the local caching crowd. Headed over early and snagged a bunch of caches around High Point, went to dinner at the very nice Thai Herb restaurant with my friend Kim, and then...ice cream! Huge, monstrous masses of the stuff. Cookie dough with peanut-butter/chocolate chips! In waffle cones! Evil, I tell you. In the best possible way, of course.

At one of the caches I went after, I discovered an Imperial moth larva, which is not at all a small thing. Mind you, I did not give the caterpillar any ice cream, since it's probably not so good for the critter's health. (Click on the image for a larger view of the gentle beastie.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Geo Drive-Thru

Went after a few geocaches tonight, one at a boarded-up drive-thru out near the airport. There was a state trooper parked just across the way, and when I got out and commenced to hunting, he turned a curious eye my way. So I put on my best drive-thru inspector's face, and it seemed to do the trick. The drive-thru inspector in my trunk is a little miffed about not having his face, but we do what we must.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Under the Pier and Other Excursions


Lots of lounging seagulls on the beach all weekend long

Spent a long weekend at Surfside Beach, SC, with some friends, which was just the thing to recharge the old batteries—never mind that, right now, I'm about to fall over and gong my head on my desk. There was plenty of caching, of course, but since my friends are not fellow geocachers, I kept the caching activity relatively low-key (fortunately, they are a reasonably sporting bunch). Out of necessity, we kept the trip quite economical, but we still managed to eat very well, drank a bit, played games, and got in plenty of long walks on the beach (as well as some splashing about). Last evening, a late-night walk led us to a very cool and somewhat creepy setting under the pier in Surfside, providing all kinds of inspiration for a new short story, which I have in mind for an aquatic-themed anthology. In fact, will be starting work on the tale tomorrow, I think. Almost wish I'd had my camera with me at the time, though undoubtedly, nighttime photography would not have done the setting justice.

It was a great trip for people watching. As a bit of preface, back in 1985, when staying at Myrtle Beach with my family, my brother and I were forever bemused by this ugly kid with a buzzing, gravelly voice who would never stop talking. He always wore too-large swim trunks covered in garishly colored, even psychedelic, geometric patterns. Thus, Phred and I began referring to him as The Voice With the Multi-Planar Shorts. While I was on the beach yesterday, I experienced a similar phenomenon; in fact, I would swear I was witnessing a much older incarnation of the same chap. His shorts weren't exactly multi-planar, but he sure had The Voice, and he appeared absolutely determined to have his say to anyone who would listen. Apparently, there were those who would.

Discovered a game called Rummikub, which I found enjoyable, despite some early misgivings (it involves the mathematics). To play, you must engage a few brain cells, which I accomplished by plugging my toe into an electrical outlet; once the juice got flowing, it all worked out nicely. Also got in a bit of Lasso (a.k.a. Redneck) Golf on the beach. A hootin' good time.

Perhaps above all things, I found that Zing Zang ("Not Just Another Bloody Mary Mix") is killer stuff when mixed with Corona beer, lime juice, and hot peppers. It won't replace the martini as my traditional favorite, but it's dynamite for the occasional refreshing explosion.

Click the pics to enlarge.

On the trip down: Caching in Seagrove, NC


The guardian at "The Great Norman Bank Robbery"
cache, Norman, NC


Not sure what was happening here, but it was all quite impassioned.
Get multi-planar, dude.

Old fellow resting after a long hike on the beach after some caches

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Up to Abergavenny



Wow..."Abergavenny" by Marty Wilde (a.k.a. Shannon), father of '80s singer Kim Wilde, is one of those songs that I heard a handful of times as a kid, but that stuck in my head for many, many years like an errant railroad spike through the skull. This thing just kills me. Can't help but smile, though....

My daughter, Allison, isn't going to Abergavenny, I don't think, but she's just crossed the pond to visit London for a week — her birthday treat to herself. Hope she has a wonderful time.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Belabored Again


It was a bear of a week at the office, but it's been a good week for writing, reading, watching stuff, and caching. Picked up a few new caches around Greensboro, and I've gotten over to High Point, Archdale, Burlington, and Chapel Hill; today, I hit Sontag, VA, just north of Martinsville, for a pleasant walk in some very scenic woods. I've put in almost as much mileage hiking as driving...so I've been craving a cheeseburger. I've been trying to improve my diet in recent days, and so far, I have not given into the temptation to have that cheeseburger. Doesn't mean it's not going to happen, though. I mean, I did have that big old block of chocolate and peanut butter from A Southern Season in Chapel Hill yesterday...and no, I did not just admit to any wrongdoing.

Via Netflix, I've been enjoying DVDs of Star Blazers (a.k.a. Space Cruiser Yamato), of which I was quite the fan in my college days, as well as some episodes of Dark Shadows, which you can stream instantly. I like that a lot. And today, I'm working on a new story for editor extraordinaire Robert M. Price, for an upcoming Cthulhu Mythos anthology. It should be scary. Me? Yeah, I'm all kinds of scared. Yes, sir. Hopefully, you will be too.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Distractions and Other...What?

Sometimes, I'm easily distracted. It was a sleepy morning, so I figured I'd make a pot of coffee. I was about to start things going when the cats yowled at me for not feeding them early enough, so I set the coffee aside and fed the cats, which reminded me their litter boxes needed cleaning, so I did that, which reminded me there was laundry to be done, so I did that, which reminded me I needed to change the linens on the bed, so I did that, which reminded me the bathroom needed cleaning, so I did that, which reminded me that the living room needed dusting and vacuuming, so I did that, which reminded me the yard needed mowing, so I did that. By then it was lunchtime, so I figured I'd fix some tea. That's when I discovered the coffee that had never been started.

At least the house is in reasonable condition.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pandora's Box


Another superb geocaching adventure today, courtesy of Chris "Vortexecho" Whittemore, over yonder in Durham—a 5-difficulty/5-terrain (the "5" rating being the most difficult) extravaganza called Pandora's Box. It features quite a few stages over a distance of several miles, and each stage presents its own physical challenge and/or brain-numbing puzzle to solve. Went out this morning, bright and early, with a group of twelve, four of whom were armed with "keys" that had been previously found, all of which are necessary to unlock the container that's hidden at the final stage. Without giving too much away, some of the highlights included going into tunnels under the highway; clambering over (and into) a large, abandoned, and singularly distasteful structure; climbing way up into trees; crossing rivers on fallen timber; and sorting out puzzles of various kinds, each of which required participation by the entire group.

Most refreshing was to get together with a number of people, most of whom didn't know each other well (if at all), and having a common objective, which required working as a team to achieve. We had males and females, young (8 to 10) and...uh...mature (50s), and even a Ranger Fox who, perhaps affected by a certain rather toxic stage, wanted to eat people's brains. There was nary a slacker in the bunch—everyone made a valuable contribution to the team—and in the end, after spending the better part of the day on the trail, we were able to claim the final cache. By the time I got home, I looked (and felt) as if I'd been dragged through a sewer, lacerated with briers and barbed wire, and eaten up by mosquitoes whose disregard for DEET bordered on the fanatical...and that shower was more welcome (slightly) than the post-cache martini.

Another first-class job by Vortexecho, who accompanied us on the journey, no doubt to make sure at least most of us got out of the woods with our brains.


Getting ready to rock


Assembled


One of the few easy passages


The Dark Water Passage
Ms. 3 Eagles High: "Hey, did you hear that? The sound of millions of souls, trapped for all eternity, screaming in unutterable torment?"
Little Eaglet: Yeah! Cool!"



"Absolutely NOTHING to see here. Move along."


Old man Rodan wonders...will we all survive?