Sunday, March 27, 2011

To the Ancient, Forbidden City of Selma and Back


Gathered my courage and my GPS to make the journey to the forbidden city of Selma, NC, yesterday, to visit the old high priest of Cthulhu himself, Doktor Robert M. Price, and the slightly less venomous Ms. Carol Selby Price. Joining us, Stephen and Elizabeth Stiles and their pair of young 'uns—who about floored me with their extensive knowledge of Toho's daikaiju movies. We watched that rarest of animal, a Toho fantasy flick I'd never seen before, Yamato Takeru (1994), which featured a monstrously cool monster—Orochi, the mythological eight-headed dragon, on which King Ghidorah's design was largely based. Some very decent monster SPFX, for sure, though the movie as a whole didn't always hold up so well, particularly the climactic Hydra-vs.-MechaSamurai battle. Pizza and other goodies were included in the bargain, so it still made Mark a mighty happy old dude.

Stopped off for an even dozen caches along the way, and the same number coming back today. Happily, I managed to snag a few that had eluded me on previous trips, though there was still one in particular that proved frustrating. Eventually, I will conquer that little rat bastard of a hide....

Many thanks to the Prices for their hospitality. Will hope to do it again soon. Next time, I shall endeavor to be more offensive, as I must infer that I failed rather dismally this time. Alas.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Coming Soon: BLUE DEVIL ISLAND From Marietta



Just received a cover proof of Blue Devil Island, which is due from Marietta Publishing as a trade paperback in the next few weeks. Pretty awesome art by M. Wayne Miller, and the whole package looks like it's going to be killer. Will post more details about the release itself ASAP. (Click on the pic to enlarge.)

Here's a teaser for you....

"Autumn 1943: The beginning of the American offensive against the Japanese in the South Pacific. Just west of the Solomon Islands lies a remote, desert island called Conquest, where the U.S. Navy stations a new fighting squadron, led by Lieutenant Commander Drew McLachlan, an ace pilot and veteran of the Battle of Coral Sea.

With his group of air warriors, who call themselves the Blue Devils, McLachlan soars into frequent combat with the Japanese, inflicting serious casualties upon the enemy. However, on the squadron's island home, signs appear that it may not be entirely alone, for in nearby volcanic caves, McLachlan finds evidence of habitation by unknown natives—natives that resemble no known living race, and that may yet exist in the mysterious subterranean catacombs. As the tension on the island mounts, McLachlan is forced to fight on two fronts: against their known enemy, the Japanese, and an unknown, predatory force that leaves mutilated victims as the only evidence of its presence.

As the Solomons campaign enters into its final skirmishes, the Japanese at last turn their attention to Conquest Island. In the final conflict, the Blue Devils find themselves the target of an overwhelming assault by the desperate Imperial Japanese forces—and McLachlan must face the reality that the key to his men’s survival lies deep in the dark and deadly caves of Conquest Island itself."

You can read an excerpt from my website here: Blue Devil Island—Chapter 3 Excerpt

"...An enjoyable World War II adventure with a science-fiction plot twist. Readers nostalgic for the era's war movies and pulp fiction will enjoy the ride."
—Publisher's Weekly

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Twisted...But Memorable

When I learned today that a fellow geocacher just spent some time as a counselor at Camp Cheerio, over by Roaring Gap in the NC mountains, I had a rush of exciting memories from the times I spent there as a kid. In the past, I've posted about a few of those experiences (such as Wampus Cat), and after yesterday's experience with a shotgun-wielding dude, I figured it would be enjoyable to relate one of my most treasured memories from that picturesque and occasionally traumatic venue....

Today's pussyfoot parents would surely have a conniption, and there'd be lawsuits and media outcry and all that bullshit, but if that were the case back in the 60s, I'd have been robbed of an admittedly hellish but ingenious prank played on us kids by a bunch of camp counselors.

It started out on a nature hike, where one of the counselors (whose name I recall was Jeff something) was going to teach us how to build a campfire with a single match and only a bare minimum of flammable materials. Jeff was a little unstable, it seemed, for he had blazing black eyes, yelled a lot, and carried a pistol out on the trail with us. For me, that was a first, and I will admit I was a little scared. When he was instructing us how to gather materials for the fire, he was absolutely adamant that we find twigs of pine. "I want PINE!" he'd roar at us, and he had one poor little wretch in tears (not me—not yet). Eventually, we each had a fire going, and we thought that would please him. Nope; we hadn't thought ahead and gathered bigger wood to keep it going—PINE, of course—and this infuriated him enough to start popping shots off in the air. More tears, and this time, I think I might have leaked a few, since by now I was reasonably certain we were all going home dead.

Well, by the grace of God, we survived the nature hike and returned to the camp. Jeff went on his merry way, much to the relief of our little band of campers. That evening, right about sunset, the group from my cabin (the Navajo cabin, if I recall) went out to the lake for a picnic supper. We had just put our fire-building lessons to good use when, up on the ridge that overlooked the lake, silhouetted against the setting sun, we saw a figure holding what appeared to be a rifle. He yelled down at one of the counselors who was with us, accusing him of stealing his collection of handmade leather belts.

Yep. It was Jeff up there on the hill. "I could tell that guy was crazy," said one of the nearby kids, obviously about ready to wet his drawers. "Crazy!"

Our counselor, a red-headed chap named Mike, I think it was, hollered back that Jeff was mistaken. Nobody had stolen any of his belts; if Jeff had been robbed, he needed to take it up with Murphy Osborne, the camp director. This infuriated Jeff all the more, and he said that Mike had made his last smart remark. He raised his rifle...and BOOM. Damn thing sounded like a cannon going off. All us kids hit the deck. Mike hit the water, for he'd been standing on the dock.

Mike didn't come up, and a pool of red began spreading over the surface of the lake.

Yes, much screaming ensued, and next thing we knew, our other counselor was yelling for us to get in the van, GET IN THE VAN, and we did this with no little haste. He jumped behind the wheel and in seconds had us barreling back toward our cabin—but to get there, we had to pass the ridge from which Jeff had fired, and as we drove by, we saw that crazy mother in the distance aiming his rifle at us....

We were sure we were dead. But no shot came. Soon, we were back safely indoors, but we knew that if Jeff intended to come after us, he could be upon us in no time. Some of us wanted to head for the hills, but our remaining counselor said no, we needed to sit tight because even a crazy fucker like Jeff wouldn't come after us with lots of other people around. We fussed and fidgeted amongst ourselves for a seemingly interminable time. And then...the door burst open.

It was Jeff and Mike, arm in arm, hooting and hollering, embarrassingly pleased with themselves, obviously having set the whole thing up from the get-go, including Jeff's insane behavior on our nature hike.

Yeah, it was scary, and no doubt, that was one pair of twisted and somewhat sadistic rat bastards, but at eight years old, I'd never felt so alive or so close to death. To be sure, today, I'd never pull such a prank on a bunch of unsuspecting kids...well, probably not....but hey. In the end, it left me with a priceless memory from youth, and if nothing else, I learned early on just how I'd react in a traumatic situation.

I can say, with confidence...at least I didn't wet myself.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chili Con Cache


Geocaching is about my favorite way to spend a Saturday, especially when it's a beautiful day and there's a caching event down the road apiece. Today, it was Tadabailey's Chili Event in Randleman. Lots of cachers, good food, socializing, and fun. Beforehand, I met up with my friend, Bridget (a.k.a. Suntigres), and we made short work of quite a few caches around Randolph County. The photo is from "Where the Water Falls," which was perhaps my favorite of the day. Unless it was the one where a dude with a shotgun came after about a dozen of us. No, really. Just a misunderstanding, as the property where we were caching belongs to Duke Power, but sometimes it's best not to press a point, especially when you don't have a bigger gun. (At least the fellow was not trigger-happy, and to be fair, he was actually quite reasonable; just taking no chances.) But after our experience, that particular cache is now archived, gone, kaput, which is the best thing for it. Or perhaps it was the one where I climbed out onto a bunch of rocks into the middle of the Deep River, only to come up empty-handed. That one will require a return trip....

I'm not even going to mention that my caching partner for the day took a nice little tumble into a creek. If I'd known she'd shed some blood in the process, I wouldn't have laughed. Or at least, not as hard. But she was laughing too, so what can I say...?

Came home with a dozen finds today, and that was most satisfying. Almost as satisfying as the excitement, the good food, and the good company.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Demon Jar," from THE GAKI, at Dark Regions


Dark Regions has posted my short story, "Demon Jar," from my fiction collection, The Gaki & Other Hungry Spirits, as a free sample at the Dark Regions website. The signed, special hardback editions are currently available; look for the trade paperback in April. You can check out The Gaki and "Demon Jar" here: The Gaki & Other Hungry Spirits by Stephen Mark Rainey

As a late addendum, I've found Hellnotes has posted a very insightful review of The Gaki, with a focus on "The Demon Jar." It's here: Hellnotes' Review of The Gaki & Other Hungry Spirits.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Donate to Help Victims of the Disaster in Japan

The more I see of the disasters in the Japan, the more the enormity of it all begins to sink in. It's almost impossible to conceive of my entire world being pulled out from under me, almost literally, in just a few moments' time. There's still much uncertainty about the scope of the damage and the long-term effects of the quake, the tsunami, the resulting possible nuclear reactor meltdowns. One thing I can certainly recommend is going to the Red Cross website (www.redcross.org) and making a donation earmarked for the disaster in Japan. It's the simplest way to avoid the scams, concocted by the true scum of the earth, that inevitably follow in the wake of such tragedies. I never recommend following links to any site where you might be giving out personal or financial data; just type the address into your browser yourself.

My heart goes out to all the people of Japan.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Middle Earth in Caswell County

No country for old men

There's a very cool bunch of geocaches next door in Caswell County, in the extensive Caswell County Game Lands preserve. The caches are all based on characters, settings, and events in Tolkien's The Silmarillion, and the hider, "Stumpwater" Dunn, did a fabulous job of finding hiding places that possess a kind of Middle Earth atmosphere. I headed out there at the crack of dawn this morning with my two Rob friends—Rob "Rtmlee" Lee and Rob "RobGSO" Isenhour—for a six-plus-mile hike through the wilds of Middle Earth. This was definitely the time to be out in these woods; come summer, much of that area will be impassible and crawling with snakes, bugs, and other potentially unpleasant critters. The terrain types and altitude changes are dramatic, to say the least—everything from sheer, rocky hillsides that ascend to vertiginous heights to low-lying marshes and bogs along Country Line Creek, where you might expect to find the Boggy Creek monster. There aren't any trails to speak of, so it was almost all bushwhacking. Some of our terrain challenges included spelunking, climbing waterfalls, doing acrobatics up in trees, and fussing at briers that lacked the courtesy to get the hell out of our way (Brer Rabbit could have claimed a plethora of Laughing Places). Each of us fell on his ass exactly once, and we all donated no little blood to the briers ("No fun unless you shed some blood," as Uncle RobGSO likes to say). Several of the hides had multiple stages, and in the end, we came out of there with our signatures on 13 cache logs. One of them was, for me, cache number 3,200, so now I've got a total of 3,208 caches under my belt (and I've still managed to lose weight).

Since, between the three of us, age-wise, we have the 40s, 50s, and 60s covered, we figured Team Old Fart was just the moniker for us. At the moment, I gotta tell you, at least one member of Team Old Fart is tired, a little sore, and looking forward to the evening's first martini.

Click on the pics to enlarge.

Damned Rodan and RobGSO climbing the falls (thankfully, currently dry) of Lanthir Dinen.
One wrong move, and Damned Rodan becomes an amphibian.

The soggy bottoms around Country Line Creek


It's a long way up....

...and a long way down.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Of Monsters and Mooks


Monsters
was pretty danged good. It was one of those flicks I'd hoped to catch at the theater when it came round, but circumstances decided otherwise. Streamed it on Netflix last night, and I've gotta give it three habanero martinis out of four (not that I've ever quite knocked down four habanero martinis during a flick, but that's another story).

A space probe carrying alien life forms has crashed to Earth, resulting in an "infected zone"—mostly northern Mexico—where the gigantic critters take root. A massive barrier separates Mexico and the U.S., and it really is intended to keep out aliens, which, in this case, are distinctly unpleasant—and quite spectacular when revealed, albeit with relatively little screen time.

Monsters is a story of survival, primarily focusing on two characters, photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) and his boss's daughter Samantha "Sam" Wynden (Whitney Able). They're stuck in Mexico and, quite understandably, need to go elsewhere. Neither character is particularly likable from the get-go; they're both self-centered and somewhat egotistical. However, they're also very "typical" as human beings, and the actors succeed in portraying them for sheer believability. As the film progresses and the characters' predicament becomes more dire, they do mellow a bit and manage to become somewhat more sympathetic. By the time the end rolled round, I found myself hoping they'd reach their objective.

One very refreshing aspect of the picture is seeing ordinary Mexican people portrayed in a realistic and sympathetic light. They aren't just a bunch of stereotyped Latinos, as in so many standard Hollywood outings. Even the coarsest, most opportunistic of the lot are shown with some human depth, and our protagonists' interaction with them is absolutely believable. Given the low-key aspect of the monsters themselves, it was this type of detail that helped keep the movie moving and engrossing.

As for the monsters...yes, they have a small amount of screen time, but what you get is excellent quality. Forget the cheese here; these are creepy, chill-inducing critters that you just don't want to meet on a dark corner. The movie reveals their nature by what they leave behind—toppled buildings, wrecked vehicles, remnants of crashed aircraft, mangled human bodies. Though the monsters' appearance on earth is satisfactorily explained, the film retains an appealing aura of mystery from beginning to end.

Far superior to Cloverfield—almost certainly its nearest rival—Monsters may be a bit slow and a tad lacking in spectacle, but it makes up for that and more with its beautiful cinematography, lush setting, and an atmosphere laden with menace. Damned Rodan gives the film a very solid B.

On other fronts, things are moving with the upcoming divorce. Could be better; could be worse. In the end, I hope we both achieve satisfaction.

I do find myself increasingly bewildered, maddened, and saddened by the increasing polarization of people in this country, extreme enough even among people I know, to the point that friends are either no longer friends or their friendships are strained because of politics, religion, world views, what have you. I've never known it to be so extreme in my lifetime. My cynical, conspiracy-theorist side sees it all as a divide-and-conquer tactic by the powers that be (and the powers that want to be). The upside, I suppose, would be that more people than I've ever known are taking active interests in politics and social affairs; the downside is that so many are unapologetically exposing their stupidest, ugliest sides to the world at large, and I find it horribly depressing. "In diversity there is strength," we hear tell. Well, maybe. All I know is that all kinds of stupid does not necessarily constitute diversity.

So says the old man.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shevacon—No Go....

Alas, I had been planning to attend Shevacon in Roanoke, VA, as a guest this weekend, but I have regretfully canceled the engagement. Nothing dire—circumstances just aren't best for making the trip at the moment. Perhaps another time. Till then.