Sunday, December 30, 2012

Such Misery


I wasn't really planning to go see Les Miserables, but I received an invite to do this thing, so that was that. I've never seen the stage production, and I only read the Classics Illustrated comic adaptation when I was a youngster, so I had no preconceived notions about the story. As for the film, the only real advance knowledge I had came from a featurette I saw a while back about the actors actually singing their parts live rather than being dubbed. Rather than an in-depth review, I'll just offer up a few thoughts, for I did find it a significant, noteworthy cinematic production.

There are a handful of musicals that I really love, most going back to childhood: The Wizard of Oz, of course; The King and I; My Fair Lady; Camelot; South Pacific; even The Sound of Music, to some degree. In more recent years, I've been quite taken with Sweeney Todd and Wicked. In general, though, the musical is not a theatrical form of which I am terribly enamored. Les Mis offers a handful of impressive songs — certainly the numbers are beautifully staged and performed — but by and large, I can't say I found much of the music memorable or otherwise distinctive.

Technically, Tom Hooper's Les Mis is a beautiful film, with loads of CGI that's obvious yet artful; it blends rather than intrudes.The stylized sets, virtually to the last, feel dank and claustrophobic; certainly apt, given the setting. Thankfully, there are at least a few grand, panoramic shots strategically placed amid the scenes to offer some much-needed brightening, particularly after we have been confined to the grim, utterly depressing chambers of the paupers for such extensive portions of the very lengthy running time (157 minutes).

I was quite taken with the cast. Jackman is reliably excellent, and here, as former convict-turned-respected-mayor Jean Valjean, he turns in a superlative dramatic performance, with singing far beyond mere competence. I must say, Anne Hathaway surprised me with her masterful, emotive performance as Fantine; I've always given her credit as an actress, and this sewed it up for me. By the conclusion of "I Dreamed a Dream," I was in tears — one of two or three such occasions in the film. Now, whatever his personal lack of charm, I admire Russell Crowe as an actor; in fact, I can scarcely think of a performance in which he hasn't excelled. He does everything right in Les Mis except sing. He clearly gives it his best, but an operatic talent he is not. Still, I can't fault him but so much, for though he may not shine as a vocalist, he pays the character of Inspector Javert his absolute due. Helena Bonham Carter as Mme. Thénardier, the Innkeeper's wife.... well, she basically reprises her performance as Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd. Certainly not a bad bit of casting for this character. And speaking of the Innkeeper... M. Thénardier... comic virtuoso Sacha Baron Cohen chews up the scenery — not to mention rotting meat, artificial appendages, cat tails, and bugs. If ever a production needed some comic livening, this is the one, and Cohen offers it up in spades. Amanda Seyfried as Cosette mostly wanders doe-eyed through the film, simply because that's the character's ordained fate, but in a couple of songs she does emote effectively.

I found the prevalence of Cockney accents in 19th-century France most disconcerting. Scarcely a trace of authentic French, or even French accent, to be heard. I can understand the actors eschewing what might play as mere affectation, but more neutral vocalizing might at least dull the shock of it, particularly in the case of the lad Gavroche, played by young Daniel Huttlestone, who might as well have come off the streets of Whitechapel in My Fair Lady.

I quite concur with many of the accolades bestowed upon director Tom Hooper for his work on this big, oftentimes impressive piece of theater. In numerous ways, it's a brilliant achievement. Yet, while individual moments of this film moved me as much as any film can, on the whole, I felt strangely unaffected, particularly during the second half the movie, when the young revolutionaries begin their plotting and the love story between Cosette and Marius — played at least competently by Eddie Redmayne — takes center stage. After the first hour and a half, I was really beginning to wonder whether my posterior would quite hold out till the end of the film. For all its virtues, Les Mis just doesn't call me to even attempt to watch it again. I suppose I might welcome an opportunity to check out the original stage production, but I would probably want some wine first.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bloodrock

One of the most enjoyable activities to come with this Christmas season was participating in the Dirty Santa Geocaching event at The Corner Cafe in Ringgold, Virginia, a couple of weeks back. I happened to end up with a bunch of creative cache containers that are just begging to be placed out in the wild, so today I up and hid a couple along a new trail by Lake Townsend, just north of Greensboro. "Bloodrock" (GC43DEB, so named for a bright crimson mineral crystal I found out there), and "What's the Matter? Chicken?" (GC43DF0, a lock-n-lock box full of rubber chicken keychains, hidden in some slightly challenging terrain) now await some intrepid geocachers to venture out after them. Note: these caches are for premium members only, so if you're not one, those links will only take you to the main page at geocaching.com, not the actual cache listings. If you're a cacher and not a premium member, then by gummy you need to be. Go, go, go!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Godzilla vs. Big-Ass Plant


Godzilla vs. Biollante
(Gojira Tai Biorante, 1989)

DVD Description:
Released by Echo Bridge, 2012; English language & Japanese language with subtitles. Additional material: Trailers, behind-the-scenes feature.

Directed by Kazuki Omori

Starring Kunihiko Mitamura, Yoshiko Tanaka, Masanobu Takashima, Koji Takahashi, Tôru Minegishi, Megumi Odaka, Yasuko Sawaguchi

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The second of the Heisei-era Godzilla films, Godzilla vs. Biollante is among the last of the Godzilla films never to have had a legitimate DVD release in the United States until very recently. The Echo Bridge DVD is just what the doctor ordered — incredibly inexpensive (I got it for $4.99 via Amazon.com), decent quality, with a very a nice behind-the-scenes feature. The audio options include the standard English-language dub as well as the original Japanese soundtrack, with two subtitle options.

Biollante opens in the aftermath of Godzilla's raid on Tokyo from the previous film. A research team collecting Godzilla's cells, which have been scattered among the ruins, is attacked by mercenaries from a company called Biomajor, who abscond with the Godzilla cells. But then the Biomajor team is then killed by a lone stranger, who proceeds to grab the Godzilla cells for himself. Turns out the stranger is agent SSS9 of a Middle Eastern nation called Saradia, which is funding research by Dr. Shiragami (Koji Takahashi), who hopes to combine Godzilla cells with grain cells, in order to create an indestructible, inexhaustible food supply. Shiragami, however, also has an agenda of his own: to use Godzilla's secret of immortality to resurrect his dead daughter, Erica (Yasuko Sawaguchi). His experiments go hopelessly awry, however, resulting in a bizarre hybrid of plant, human, and Godzilla cells. Meantime, in attempt to regain a supply of Godzilla cells, used to create Anti-Nuclear Bacteria — which can, in theory, utterly neutralize Godzilla — Biomajor threatens to unleash the great beast from his volcanic prison by setting off bombs at Mt. Mihara — which they end up doing. Godzilla emerges and, after a foiling an attack by Japan's newest defensive weapon, Super X2, enters and tramples Osaka. Biollante appears and attacks Godzilla, and the two monsters tear into each other, resulting in Biollante's apparent defeat. The Japanese military attacks Godzilla with Anti-Nuclear Bacteria, but it has no apparent effect — Godzilla's body temperature is too low for the organisms to be activated. To raise its temperature, they lure it to a microwave array, which creates artificial lightning, but then a bigger, transformed Biollante appears and attacks Godzilla again; this time, Godzilla disintegrates it, sending its spores drifting toward outer space. Finally, the Anti-Nuclear Bacteria begins to work, and Godzilla retreats to the sea, its ultimate fate uncertain. SSS9 returns a final time and murders Dr. Shiragami, but Super X2 pilot Kuroki (Masanobu Takashima) activates the microwave weapon and kills the Saradian agent.

Biollante, being a mutated hybrid, proves to be Godzilla's most unusual foe since Hedorah. The science-gone-awry aspect draws on at least a semblance of a real-life fear: that of genetic manipulation creating an unexpected horror. As part rose, part human, and part Godzilla, Biollante is a terrifying yet at least marginally sympathetic character. There's no stereotypical good-monster-vs.-bad-monster scenario here; just a pair of instinctive foes grappling for survival. The complex Biollante design is novel, to say the least and, with the combination of well-constructed miniatures and effective cinematography, achieves an impressive and memorable onscreen presence.

The Godzilla suit surpasses the design used in the previous movie, closely resembling the 1954 original, and becomes the prototype for the suits used in all of the Heisei-era films. The evil-looking facial features, with the unprecedented addition of red and black eyes and a double row of teeth, imbue Godzilla with a distinctly fearsome demeanor, very appropriate to the scope of this film — and to my mind, even more menacing than its pupil-less visage used in GMK in the Millenniium series.

Like most of the Heisei-era Godzillas, Biollante features a large cast, mostly utilized to good effect. Koji Takahashi plays Dr. Shiragami as a driven, brilliant eccentric, but also with a sensitive, sympathetic side. Takahashi's performance is understated rather than over-the-top, which is the far more effective approach. Megumi Odaka makes her debut as Miki Saegusa, a psychic who develops a special rapport with Godzilla, and continues the role through the remainder of the Heisei series. This is her best appearance, for she takes an active part in locating and then attempting to psychically combat Godzilla. JSDF Lieutenant Gondo, played by Toru Minigishi, stands out as one of the film's best characters, thanks to Minigishi's subtle quirkiness. His best moment comes when he attempts — unsuccessfully — to defuse the bombs planted at Mt. Mihara that will release Godzilla. As the clock counts down, and he realizes all is futile, he stands back, defeated, and utters a simple, "Amen."

Unfortunately, Koichi Sugiyama's musical score leaves much to be desired, frequently sounding thin and frenetic, more akin to an anime score than a live-action film. Conversely, the grander orchestral themes are entirely derivative of John Williams and play more like parody than true scoring. The best soundtrack cut is the opening theme, which has an eerie undertone, building to a driving, thudding pace, punctuated by sharp brass. Fortunately, this track, with a few variations, is used to good effect at several key moments in the film.

Godzilla vs. Biollante offers some novel ideas, decent characters, an interesting new monster, and a superb redesign of Godzilla. Though the film's flaws oftentimes stand out rather painfully, its many good — and occasionally excellent — moments make it a most noteworthy entry in the Godzilla universe.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Happy Joy Joy!


Ahh. I do so love me some Christmastime. This year, it's anything but unhappy — I'm spending it with the people I love most, except for my daughter and brother, who couldn't be here — yet it does seem a little "off" in some crucial ways. My mom has suffered the loss of more than one of her closest friends quite recently, which makes the holiday for her bittersweet. I have been experiencing a few medical issues that are uncomfortable, to say the least, and that will require some further testing. Kimberly's dad was recently in the hospital undergoing major surgery (fortunately, he has come through with flying colors). For me, even when things have been otherwise rough, Christmas has generally been an oasis of happiness amid the storm. Somehow, everything seems a bit more fragile this year, and it's mainly due to the fact that some of us — no names mentioned — are just plain getting older and dealing with those inevitable age issues. I gotta tell you, as some of my mom's friends are fond of saying, getting old isn't for sissies. Still, today's company and setting couldn't be better. I've gotten in some caching. Kimberly and I just had a fabulous Mexican lunch, and we're heading out to see Skyfall (again) in just a little bit. All in all, for today, it would be hard to ask for anything more satisfying, so I guess I won't. How about this: I'm just going to wish blessings on the lot of you who come round this place now and again, and perhaps on even a few of you who don't. May you have the merriest of Christmases, or whatever holiday you celebrate, if any. Y'all be good, you hear?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Servante of Darkness: History and Horror


A couple of weeks back, professor and author Anthony Servante posted an intriguing blog about literary horror through the ages, beginning with Shakespeare's "McBeth" and ending with my novelette, "The Children of Burma," which appears in my fiction collection Legends of the Night. The full article — which also reviews Banished by Billie Sue Mosiman, Skin Trade by Tonia Brown, Merkabah Rider by Ed Erdelac, and Where Darkness Dwells by Glen Krisch — analyzes each work both by contemporary standards and the context of the historical period in which it is set. About "The Children of Burma," Mr. Servante had these — and other — kind words to say:

"...We are immersed in 1942, not only in the middle of a war, but in the mind of an imperial soldier of said war, and we witness the horrors of the man, the army and ultimately the monster itself. Whereas other historical horror stories (many which I eliminated from this article) generalized the historical setting to merely tell a horror story, Stephen Mark Rainey establishes the structure writers of this genre should emulate or at least aspire to imitate...."

I encourage you to check out the full text of the blog here: History and Horror: From Natural to Supernatural

Also, visit Mr. Servante's interview with me (and several other authors) at Cybernocturnalism: Old School Authors Speak Up, originally posted in October 2012.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Asylum" in LORE 2.2


Looky looky! I've received my contributor copy of Lore magazine V2.2. It's a beautifully produced trade paperback–size publication of 167 pages, edited/published by Rod Heather and Sean O'Leary, featuring the following dozen mind-numbing, bone-chilling, soul-searing tales of horror:

"Enshrined" Bridget Coila
"Finny Moon" Keith P.Graham
"Congregate" Steve Rasnic Tem
"One in a Billion" Colin Heintze
"Asylum" Stephen Mark Rainey
"The House of Dreams" Nyki Blatchley
"Electric Souls on a Starless Planet" J.P. Boyd
"Lost in Darkness" Jeremy Harper
"Melbourn's Storm" Nickolas Furr
"Can Spring Be Far Behind?" Jeff Samson
"Tumor is the Night" Corey Mariani
"Nzambe" Denise Dumars

The superb cover artwork is by Christopher Allen. Visit Lore online at www.lore-online.com to pick up a copy of your very own — or to bestow as a holiday gift upon some poor, unsuspecting reader. Good creepy fun, you can bet on it, and this sucker is out just in time for the horrordays. You smile, I smile; yes, please.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Anglin' and Riverwalkin'

That's some little head that old Trail Dawg's got right there, wouldn't you say? Hey, and not to mention a big ol' bug. These are just a couple of the happy hides we uncovered in Danville this weekend — mostly at Angler's Park and on the Riverwalk along the Dan River. Every time I think there can't possibly be room for any more geocaches in that vicinity, a new bunch pops up. Mr. Isenhour and I spent the better part of yesterday exerting ourselves mightily and snagging a number of clever hides, followed by a big ol' whoppin' Ham's burger. Over a period of a couple of years, Danville has gone from having a scant handful of geocaches to becoming a regular Mecca of creative, oftentimes challenging hides (see "The Amazing Electric Rock & Other Caches," November 4, 2012; "Pastorale," January 9, 2012; "Nice Hat," July 21, 2012; "Caching Crew and the Blustery Day," February 25, 2012; "Triskphobia," December 17, 2011; "That Ol' Dan River," August 24, 2011; and others for numerous examples). Angler's Park, Dan Daniel Park, Ballou Park, the Riverwalk, the Richmond & Danville Rail Trail (a.k.a. The Ringgold Trail), and numerous other locations offer veritable craploads of hides for the most avid geocacher. There's a couple that you have to get into a boat and paddle up the Dan to reach. Good stuff in this town, yes, sir.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Scrapple II?

This sweet little guy has been hanging around my place for a few days. He's friendly, clearly well-fed, and looks healthy, so I suspect he belongs to someone. But he seems to want to take up here, and I've got all the critters I can handle. I do hope he has a home and is just enjoying an extended visit. Maybe he's enjoying my Christmas decorations — he did try climbing up the screen door so he could see in to look at the Christmas tree.

He closely resembles a very young cat that used to come round here regularly a couple of years ago whom I called Scrapple — because he was such an energetic, scrappy little dude (who also climbed my screen door). That one hasn't been around for a long time, but the more I look at this one, the more I wonder whether it actually might be the same fellow. If it is, then someone clearly has been looking after Scrapple since he wandered off.

Mercy, I hope he belongs to someone who will take good care of him. My guys are begging that it not be me.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Xtreme-ities

Yes sir, that is a dude in a tree.

Apparently, it was just another summer weekend in December. Warm beyond the bounds of reason for this time of year — out geocaching in a T-shirt and working up a sweat with only minimal exertion. There wasn't that much minimal exertion going on, though; a fair bit of it went somewhere beyond. Yesterday, I spent a fine, full day on the caching trail in Winston-Salem before meeting up with Ms. B. and some friends for dinner and a spot of wine. Today, I teamed up with Mr. Robbin "Rtmlee" Lee for a day of hunting a few of the more challenging hides in the area, including some in dark, dank catacombs, in graveyards, up retaining walls, and one in a big old tree — which required climbing up to a man-sized hole and hoisting the ladder into the tree to grab the ammo box lurking deep inside. I gotta tell you, if it weren't for Mr. Lee, who exhibited the true meaning of dexterity, I'm pretty sure that one might have skunked us.

In keeping with the theme of extremes, I managed to consume naught but fiery, spicy food all weekend long — last night, Mexican (with loads of extra habanero sauce), and today, inferno-grade chicken wings for lunch and super-hot Thai food for dinner. That healthy glow you see on me may just be the result of about 500 roentgens.

It was a more relaxing evening, going with Ms. Brugger to pick up her Christmas tree and decorating it — accompanied by another spot of wine, just for good measure. Happy stuff.

Also very happy: received ARCs of The Monarchs from Crossroad Press. Looking like a handsome book, this. Looking forward to its official release in February....

Click the images to enlarge.
This is up under a picnic table. Which object is the geocache?
Finally, a place to cool off on a hot December day
Still chillin'.
Yay, beef! Lots!

Monday, November 26, 2012

"Beneath the Pier" to Appear in Lovecraft eZine

My short story, "Beneath the Pier," has been accepted by editor Mike Davis for Lovecraft eZine, to appear in a near-future issue. Doubter you may be, but yes it is, in fact, a Lovecraftian horror tale. I know — who'da guessed? The idea for this one happened a couple of years back on a trip to Surfside Beach, SC, with Kimberly B, Jenny Chapman, and Doug Cox. Late one night, Brugger and I went out walking and decided to hang out for a bit underneath an old pier. Turned out to be a right scary place. William Faulkner's "Delta Autumn" also provided a little inspiration, though my story is scarier. Hopefully, anyway.

Naturally, I'll shout about the publication date for "Beneath the Pier" when I know what it is. Visit Lovecraft eZine here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Next Big Thing: The Monarchs

If you're currently following any writers' blogs, you likely have noticed a game of tag in which a writer receives and answers a set of questions about his or her upcoming work and then tags five other writers to answer the same questions. Each of those writers tags five others, and so forth and so on, until the entire virtual world has been overwhelmed by hordes of rampant rabid writers revealing all anyone could ever hope to know in advance of their Next Big Thing. I was actually tagged several times — by David Niall Wilson, Scott Falkner, Elizabeth Massie, and John Peters — and how could I resist the doe-eyed pleading of such fine purveyors of letters to get involved in this plot to conquer all? So I said yeah, sure, why not? And thus... let us be off.


1. What is the working title of your next book?
The Monarchs.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Several years ago, following a visit with friend, writer, Crossroad Press founder, and chap who tagged me, David Niall Wilson, in Hertford, NC, I kind of got lost in the vicinity of the Great Dismal Swamp. It happened like this. Rather than leave Hertford and head home to Greensboro, I had intended to go to Martinsville, VA, to visit my mom. At the time, having no GPS, I studied Google Maps prior to leaving and wrote out some directions to get to U.S. Highway 58, just over the state line. Unfortunately, I had not zoomed in close enough on the maps to realize that not all the little back roads on my route were continuous — a couple of them had jogs in one direction or another before continuing northward. Needless to say, I missed a turn or two. This put me in some of the most desolate country I've ever encountered — mostly marshland, with only the occasional farmhouse or mobile home to suggest any human presence. I finally happened upon a little gas station and asked the attendants if they could tell me how to reach Highway 58, to which they answered, "Huh, what, where?" I purchased an honest-to-god map, finally figured out where I was, and proceeded to make only one more wrong turn before I finally reached my destination.

At the end of it all, I had just about all of The Monarchs plotted in my head. It was a maddening and frustrating experience, yet I'd certainly never take it back, for in many ways, I enjoyed visiting the desolate yet picturesque countryside, and, hey, I got a novel out of it.

3. What genre does your book fall under?
I'd have to call it horror, but the story is something of a hybrid — a southern gothic murder mystery with a touch of the Lovecraftian.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Heh... I love coming up with stunning casts for my various novels and stories. In my mind, the ideal cast for The Monarchs comprises both current, age-appropriate actors and some who would have been perfect for the roles in their younger days. For Courtney Edmiston, the protagonist, I'd go with Katie Parker, who starred in Absentia, a pretty nifty low-budget horror movie. For her friend, the somewhat anti-heroic Jan Blackburn, I actually used a 30-year-old Nancy Barrett, who played Carolyn Stoddard and others in Dark Shadows, as the character model. Similarly, a 25-year-old David Selby, who played Quentin Collins on Dark Shadows, would be ideal for Jan's sardonic and secretive brother, David Blackburn. For the mysterious and sinister Aunt Martha Blackburn, I'd have to go with Piper Laurie, who played Mrs. White in Carrie and Catherine Martell in Twin Peaks. The primary human antagonist, Ray Surber, has got to be Woody Harrelson; his more sympathetic but still potentially dangerous brother, Dwayne Surber, well, that's Michael Rooker, perhaps best known for his roles in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and, more recently, Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Courtney Edmiston, whose life has been turned upside-down by the deaths of her husband and daughter, goes to live with her old college friend, Jan Blackburn, on the outskirts of the Great Dismal Swamp, only to find herself drawn into a deadly feud between two families as well as menaced by an ancient, unearthly horror from the depths of the swamp.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

That's not really an either/or question. Crossroad Press is essentially a traditional publisher, and will release The Monarchs as an e-book, a paperback, a hardcover, and on audio. I worked directly with them, rather than via agent.

7. How long did it take you to write a first draft of the manuscript?
The first draft took about eight months; then I let it sit for quite some time while my agent submitted proposals for it. Then, about a year later, I went back in and did a pretty fair overhaul of the entire book. That is the draft that will actually see print.


8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

If one must compare, I expect readers who enjoyed T.E.D. Klein's The Ceremonies would find The Monarchs satisfying. And fans of the movie Pumpkinhead would probably be all about this book.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See question 1.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think the characters and setting, in particular, really come together to create a distinct atmosphere of dread, which is the effect I was shooting for. The setting is largely fictionalized but based very closely on the real-life community of Hertford, NC, and its environs. I've been out to that part of the state many times, but that one trip that took me much deeper into the countryside than I anticipated gave me an opportunity for my creative nerves to get a thorough and very welcome workout — despite the frustration that came with getting so turned around in unfamiliar and what my mind perceived to be unwelcoming territory.

You can keep up with news about The Monarchs here on this blog and at my website: The Realm of Stephen Mark Rainey


There you have it. Now, for my part, I shall tag these unsuspecting and likely hostile souls, who may or may not play along....

Kealan Patrick Burke
Bob Freeman
James Newman
Alexandra Sokoloff
Jeff VanderMeer

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Marks Brothers

Out for a day on the caching trail in Chapel Hill with Robbin "rtmlee" Lee. Claimed 25 total today, including a fun little thing called "The Moustache Cache" (GC338VM). You can see the problems it led to.

Friday, November 16, 2012

THE MONARCHS Scheduled for February 2013 Release

Here's The Monarchs' full cover 1–4 spread with promo text. Cover art by Austin Bentley. Crossroad Press is currently sending out review copies, which I hope will be met with much fear and loathing. Well, fear, anyway. Loathing might be a bit much. Perhaps a great gnashing of teeth instead. Yeah, that'll do nicely. The book will be released as an e-book, paperback, hardcover, and, a bit farther on, as an audio book.

I've been tagged to post a blog called "The Next Big Thing," in which I am supposed to carry on about my newest masterwork until I start frothing at the mouth and falling over backward... and then tag five other writers to do the same thing. It's fair promo, I reckon, so I'll be writing that up in the next few days. Look for it here. Or don't. But it's going to be here, never you fear.

Read.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Getting Our Kicks in Times of Trouble

Steely Dan

Had to transport Ms. B. to Raleigh-Durham airport yesterday — a not altogether happy thing — but to make the best of it, I enlisted Ms. Bridget "Suntigres" Langley to accompany me for geocaching aplenty on the return trip to Greensboro. Sure enough, we arrived at RDU a little after 10:00 AM and, after a somewhat sad but hopeful parting of the ways with Ms. B., we commenced some serious cache hunting. Within a two-mile radius of the airport, there are about 500 caches, ranging in difficulty from the easiest to the most challenging. We ended up finding a fair mix of types — a total of 27 or so at the end of the day.

How often do you run into metal stick men out in the woods? How many hidden little graveyards can you discover in the middle of nowhere? Do you enjoy risking life and limb to make your way into precariously leaning trees so you can sign your moniker to a little piece of paper? How about reaching into dark openings where you're as likely to pull out some squirming, slimy, venomous life form as a goody-filled ammo box? Ever wanted to boot yourself square in the ass just for good fun? You should find out. Go caching. Go caching right now.

We did discover a pub that makes superb fish & chips and a mighty fine dirty martini — Trali Irish Pub in Brier Creek — because sometimes you just have to visit the cache bar. Also, as we sometimes do on the trail, we encountered some other geocachers who were relatively new to the game. As generally happens, we ended up shooting the shit and trading caching stories for a good half an hour. And then ran into them again at a subsequent cache a little farther on. Salute to "lotsofeathers," "do10hedron," and "naillik" from the Raleigh-Durham area.

A good day on the hunt, for sure. But in closing and in all seriousness, my best wishes are reserved for Kimberly and her parents as they face a severe and trying period of life. I have every hope that things will work out for the best.

Bridget gets the boot. It's particularly entertaining if you go to the enlarged view
and rapidly click back and forth between photos.



Why, yes it is up there. So guess who's going up there after it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Old Dude Speaks to YES! Weekly


A couple of weeks back, local journalist Karen Phillips interviewed me for the "Local Talent" section in YES! Weekly, one of Greensboro's leading free weekly tabloids. The published article is essentially a capsule review of the interview she conducted with me, and since the original was a pretty lengthy piece, to which I had devoted considerable time responding, I decided to seek permission to reproduce it in its entirety here. Karen and the editor of YES! Weekly graciously agreed, so here it is — a conversation with Mr. Stephen Mark "Damned Rodan" Rainey. Be afeared. Very slightly afeared.


1. When did you move to Greensboro? Why?
I moved here from Chicago in 1987 to work for the late, lamented Precision Typographers. I grew up in Martinsville, VA, but I had lived in Chicago for several years and quite enjoyed it. Unfortunately, the company I worked for had hit the skids, so it seemed a fair time for my wife (now ex) and I to move nearer to my old stomping grounds. It was a good move, though looking back, I wish I’d had a few more years in Chicago. It’s a great city.

2. What did you always want to be when you grew up?
An astronaut. When I was a kid, the space program was going great guns. In kindergarten, I could name every spacecraft and every astronaut that had been or would be going into space. Somewhere along the way, I learned that astronauts had to be good at math. Coal mining suddenly looked to be a more realistic option.

3. Where did you go to college?
I went to Ferrum College, Virginia, for two years and earned my Associate Degree; then I went to the University of Georgia in Athens for my Bachelor of Arts degree.

4. What made you decide on English and writing?
In college, I had the idea that I might become a commercial artist (you know, for all those jobs where you get to illustrate Godzilla and such), so I majored in drawing and painting. Once unleashed upon the real world, I went to work in the graphics field all right, but I had to unlearn everything I had learned in school several times over. I had always been keen on reading horror and science fiction, and, during my school days, I tried my hand at writing a few scary stories. Yes, they pretty well sucked. But as my profession required me to move steadily away from the kind of art for which I was trained, on my own time I gravitated more and more toward writing. I began to submit my short stories to various publications, both big and small, and eventually some of the smaller presses began picking up my work. Finally, I broke into some of the bigger, better-paying publications, and then there was no going back. In 1987, I created Deathrealm magazine, a quarterly that specialized in horror fiction, and it had a nice, decade-long run, under a couple of different publishers. During that period, I essentially left the art field behind, and since then my creative focus has been almost exclusively on writing.


5. What made you decide to hone in on horror fiction?
I was the world’s most terrified kid. My earliest memories are of vivid, horrifying nightmares. (Mind you, I’m sure that watching The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, and umpteen monster movies a week had nothing to do with this.) As I got older and became an avid, even compulsive reader, I found myself drawn to horror and science fiction tales. I loved Poe, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne... you know, the classic stuff. In college, I discovered H. P. Lovecraft, and that sewed it up. Like so many contemporary writers of the scary persuasion, my earliest work consisted largely of Lovecraft pastiches. I grew out of that phase, of course, but to this day, I still frequently write Lovecraft-inspired tales and have been fortunate enough to be considered, at least by some, as one of “the New Lovecraft Circle.” I’ve done a lot of work for Chaosium’s Cthulhu Mythos anthologies and edited a volume of Poe-inspired tales for Arkham House, which was the first publisher to anthologize Lovecraft back in the day. That’s all satisfying stuff.

6. How many books have you written?
I have a fair body of work beyond just “books,” so here’s a brief summation: six novels (Balak, The Lebo Coven, Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (with Elizabeth Massie), Blue Devil Island, The Nightmare Frontier, The Monarchs); one novella (The Gods of Moab); five short story collections (The Fugue Devil & Other Weird Horrors, The Last Trumpet, Legends of the Night, Other Gods, The Gaki & Other Hungry Spirits); three scripts for Big Finish’s Dark Shadows audio drama series (The Path of Fate, Curse of the Pharaoh, and Blood Dance); and about a hundred published short stories. I’ve also edited several anthologies, and for ten years I edited the award-winning Deathrealm magazine.

7. What was your most recent project?
A novel titled The Monarchs, which is forthcoming from Crossroad Press, probably around New Year’s. It will be released as both paperback and e-book. It’s sort of a hybrid southern gothic/ Lovecraftian horror thriller. The original idea came from a trip out to Elizabeth City a few years back — before I owned a GPS — during which I managed to get lost in the Dismal Swamp. At the time, the experience was pretty disconcerting, but the end result was what I think is a pretty fair novel. Nowadays, I’m very thankful for the GPS, but it does kind of take the fun out of getting lost.

8. Tell me a little about your blog.
I keep it primarily for me — it’s more or less just a journal — but at the same time, I try to make it entertaining for casual visitors. I carry on about geocaching (my favorite recreational activity; see question number 12, below), writing, relationships, travel, dining, current events, and occasionally — when I’m feeling masochistic — politics and religion. You can find The Blog Where Horror Dwells at http://stephenmarkrainey.blogspot.com


9. Tell me a little about the film, “Young Blood: Evil Intentions” and how did you become cast for that film?
Mat Smith and I have been passing acquaintances for several years — his aunt, Sarah, was a classmate and good friend of mine from my Martinsville days (she also went to Ferrum at the same time I did). Mat put me on the mailing list for updates about Young Blood, and when he made a call for extras for several scenes in Martinsville, I figured, what the hell, I could pop up to town for an afternoon or two and hopefully show up in the movie. Mind you, mine is just a tiny little part — mostly just another face in the mob scenes. But while we were filming, Mat asked me if I could ad lib a line or two about the vampire situation in town, so I said sure. At the very end of the film, there I am, in all my grumpy glory. It’s a wonderful little film. I had a feeling from the start it was going to be good fun, but I had no idea how entertaining it would actually prove. Mat and Myron clearly had a great time doing it, and in the film, that attitude is pervasive and contagious.

10. Are you interested in getting more into the acting field?
On some days, I can’t remember my name without looking at my driver’s license, much less memorize lines, so I’m probably best off sticking to writing and geocaching.

11. Where are you currently employed?
I have the best of day jobs. I am the graphic services coordinator at The Education Center, publisher of The Mailbox magazine and book lines. We produce educational materials for elementary school teachers. I love the work and the people there. Plus, it’s my way of contributing to education without actually being in the classroom, for which every child in the United States best be eternally thankful.


12. What’s the next project you have in line?
 

I’m working on a new novel titled The Night Cache. It’s an honest-to-god book about geocaching. It has a horror slant, of course.  In case you’re not familiar with geocaching, it’s a kind of high-tech scavenger hunt, in which you use a hand-held GPS to search for hidden containers. Each geocache contains a logbook, which you sign when you find the cache, and then you log the find at www.geocaching.com. There are thousands of caches in the Triad. They can be big, small, easy-to-find, or exceptionally challenging. Caching has taken me into all kinds of settings that I never knew existed, and the resulting adventures have inspired quite a few tales. Sometimes you end up in abandoned wells, up in trees, in grain silos, in underground pipelines, in caves, in graveyards, out on trails in the middle of the night... all kinds of places. The novel incorporates elements from many of the actual cache hunts I’ve been on, but... needless to say... I’ve warped them so they fit comfortably into Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. We have a very active geocaching community in the Triad, and I think most cachers will get a kick out of the book. Of course, my hope is that I successfully craft it so it will appeal just as much to readers who don’t know diddly about geocaching as those who do. I’m at about the halfway point in the writing.

13. What are you going to be for Halloween this year?
A horror writer, I expect. Or a serial killer. Or both.

14. Do you decorate your house?
Most years I do a little something for the house. I rarely go all-out with it, the way I used to — something about so much to do, so little time. Now, I’ve warded off quite a few trick-or-treaters by placing an old coat rack in the front door, hanging a lamp with a black light bulb in it, covering it with a sheet, and running a fan behind it. The result is a pretty creepy dancing ghost. Then I put speakers in the windows and play spooky music or sound effects. I’ve been amused by some of the youngsters who come round, give the place a good look, and say, “I-I-I’m not going down there....”

15. What’s your favorite candy to give out?
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Kit Kat bars. But who said anything about giving them out?

16. Please feel free to add a spooky tale or another other relevant info about yourself that you want to audience to know.
Hell, I’m off to go geocaching. And then a Halloween gathering this evening. This is my favorite season. But then you knew that.


And there you have it. You may visit the published article in the YES! Weekly "Local Talent" section here. Visit the main YES! Weekly site here. Thanks to Karen Phillips and the editorial staff for thinking of me and featuring me in the October 24, 2012 issue.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Amazing Electric Rock & Other Caches

Yes, that there is my "It's a relentless and biting
wind, but I'm having fun on the caching trail" face.

I usually hate waking up before dawn on Saturday mornings, but this is the second weekend in a row I've done just that to hunt geocaches and a decent breakfast (see "Pilgrimage" for the true tale of woe). The alarm — i.e., three cats — went off just before my usual workday getting-up time, and since I was already planning to drive to Martinsville to help my mom with some IT tasks, I decided just to go straight for the highway. Several new caches in Danville had been published this week, and — perhaps only marginally coincidentally — I found myself experiencing one mighty powerful craving for a breakfast at Keith & Laura McCoy's Corner Cafe in Ringgold. So, I set my sights for that particular corner of the world and hit the highway just as the sun crept above the horizon. I must tell you; if you're in the vicinity and you don't give the Corner Cafe a try, there's something seriously wrong with you. Damn. Fine. Breakfast. To top it off, a bunch of geocachers from out east had come for a visit, and my old friend Mr. Norman "Spring1" Dillon was his own self present as well. That's one happy morning we're talking here.

The day started out cold as kraut — witness poor old Damned Rodan bracing himself against the frigid gusts in the photo, above left — but as the sun rose, the wind gave up the ghost and the temperature quickly turned almost too warm for comfort. There were new caches to be found in three Danville parks — Anglers' Park, Dan Daniel Park, and Ballou Park. All proved to be a mess of fun. A couple of favorites: a mailbox out in the middle of the woods, and when you open it up... there's a truck inside containing the logbook (courtesy of Keith & Laura); and a pair of rocks with an electrical plug sticking out of them. Shake the rocks, insert the plug into the handy outlet in an electrical box, and the cache container drops out of the bottom of the box (this one is courtesy of Klaussinator, who has provided a number of unique hides). Quite the awesome.

In Ballou Park, near a section of its extensive disc golf course, I stumbled upon a formation of rocks hideously suggestive of a shrine to the Great Old Ones. Nyarlathotep be praised and hogtied! Nyarlathotep evidently enjoys disc golf.

At the end of it all, I had added an even dozen to my cache count, bringing my total number of finds to 5,202. From there, it was on to Martinsville. I wrangled an excellent lunch at Walsh's Chicken (hot wings and french fries), and then it was on to Mum's to perform some serious computer maintenance. Eventually, I got around to the blogging, and we thank you for visiting.

Click images to enlarge.
The Amazing Electric Rock!
Go here.
Mail truck.
The Great Old Ones were here. Probably playing disc golf.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jack-o'-Lanterns and Other Memoirs


Somehow, we've already come around another year to my single favorite day at the office. Trick-or-treating, jack-o-lantern and costume contests, and a story reading by ye old man. Today it was "The Jack-o-Lantern Memoirs," originally published in Flesh & Blood Press's Octoberland anthology, edited by Jack Fisher, back in 2002. I had to edit the tale rather severely to prevent offending small children, particularly sensitive persons, and most co-workers (including ye boss), but it all came together pretty well, and the substantial crowd packed into the break room appeared to eat it up. The unexpurgated version is currently available for free at my website (Free Fiction: "The Jack-o-Lantern Memoirs"). Keeping to my Halloween custom, I took the afternoon off, but I did have an excellent lunch with Brugger at Thai Garden on Tate Street. And, by the way, she did win the jack-o'-lantern contest, which was good for a $50 prize, which will no doubt help keep me living the extravagant lifestyle to which I have become accustomed. Usually on Halloween, I try to fit some geocaching into my time off, but today, I had some financial business to attend to. Not so much fun, but productive. Tonight, it's a gathering with some of our supper club bunch to surprise unsuspecting trick-or-treaters. That should be fun.

Y'all be sure to wear your Silver Shamrock masks tonight....

The boys are back in town. Or in the tree, as it were....

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Crossroad Press Announces THE MONARCHS


Crossroad Press has announced that it will be releasing my most recent completed novel, The Monarchs, late this year or early next, in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio book formats. The story is something of a hybrid — a southern gothic murder mystery with a touch of Lovecraftian horror. The cover art, featured here, is provided by Austin Bentley. The novel is set in the Dismal Swamp of North Carolina, a place that I became a bit more familiar with than I would have liked when I got lost there several years ago, following a visit with friend, writer, and Crossroad Press founder David Niall Wilson in Hertford, NC. It happened like this. Rather than leave Hertford and head home to Greensboro, I had intended to go to Martinsville, VA, to visit my mom. At the time, having no GPS, I studied Google Maps prior to leaving and wrote out some directions to get to U.S. Highway 58, just over the state line. Unfortunately, I had not zoomed in close enough on the maps to realize that not all the little back roads on my route were continuous — a couple of them had jogs in one direction or another before they continued northward. Needless to say I missed a turn or two. This put me in some of the most desolate country I've ever encountered — mostly marshland, with only the occasional farmhouse or mobile home to suggest any human presence. I finally happened upon a little gas station and asked the attendants if they could tell me how to reach Highway 58, to which they answered, "Huh, what, where?" I purchased an honest-to-god map, finally figured out where I was, and proceeded to make only one more wrong turn before I finally reached my destination.

At the end of it all, I had just about all of The Monarchs plotted in my head. It was a maddening and frustrating experience, yet I'd certainly never take it back, for in many ways, I enjoyed visiting the desolate yet picturesque countryside, and, hey, I got a novel out of it.

Here's a brief plot summary:

After her husband murders their daughter and then commits suicide, Courtney Edmiston, devastated and homeless, accepts an invitation to move in with her old college friend, Jan Blackburn. Jan lives with her brother, David, and eccentric Aunt Martha in the town of Fearing, North Carolina, at the edge of the Dismal Swamp. The Blackburn family has suffered its own recent tragedies — and Courtney learns that Jan and David have more than their share of enemies in the town. Because of her association with them, Courtney soon finds Fearing a very dangerous place to live. Certain members of the Surber family, who once worked for the Blackburns, hold a deep grudge against Jan and David and, on several occasions, attempt brutal acts of violence against them. Courtney, determined to help her friend in her own time of crisis, sets out to broker a peace but instead becomes more and more mired in the bitter feud.

For reasons Courtney cannot comprehend, many of the townspeople fear old Martha Blackburn. However, she begins to understand why when Martha threatens the Surbers with swift retribution — by way of a ghostly entity known as the Monarch — and gruesome death does indeed visit the Surbers. And to her horror, Courtney, caught between the two feuding families, at last becomes the focus of Aunt Martha’s fury.

In desperation, two of the Surber brothers abduct Courtney and Jan and threaten to kill them unless the Blackburns meet their demands. However, Martha unleashes the horrific Monarch against her family's rivals. And Courtney, whom Martha now considers an enemy, becomes as much a target for its inhuman wrath as the remaining members of the treacherous Surber family....

I will post updates and ordering information when available, here and at my website: www.stephenmarkrainey.com.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pilgrimage

Since I was quite the young chap, most every year — usually just before Halloween — I have made the pilgrimage to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Mabry Mill for their incomparable buckwheat pancakes. This year was no exception. Ms. B. and I were up long before the sun for the trip, and, as it turned out, the sun never even showed its face, for a massive wall of clouds and fog enveloped everything as we made our way from Martinsville toward the Parkway.
Tree stand
We arrived safely at Mabry Mill just before the restaurant opened at 8:00 AM and commenced the usual feeding frenzy: pancakes, bacon, and scalding hot coffee — black as midnight on a moonless night, naturally. Then it was off to nearby Buffalo Mountain for a bit of hiking and caching. Though the temperature wasn't uncomfortable, the fog remained thick, almost impenetrable, until well after noon. The drive on the gravel road to the trail head and the hike up the steep mountainside were straight out of Stephen King's The Mist, which meant the spectacular views the trail typically affords consisted mainly of solid white sheets. Occasional gunfire in the distance did make me wonder whether a heated battle with fee-rocious supernatural critters might actually be in offing. Alas, I never did spot any malevolent, carnivorous beasties; only a colorful and reasonably friendly salamander, which, I suspect, was a bit too small to manage any appreciable human carnage. Sigh. However, there are two caches at the summit ("Eye High" [GC1J1HX] and "Buffalo Mountain Preserve Cache" [GCNNZP]), both of which we logged without undue difficulty.

From Buffalo Mountain, it was down to Villa Appalaccia — one of the best wineries in the region — for a tasting and a glass of Aglionico; then over to Chateau Morrisette, just five minutes away, for another tasting, a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, and a picnic lunch on their sprawling, scenic grounds. About the time we started back from the Parkway, the fog began to lift — sadly, revealing not even one giant monster lumbering about the countryside. One of these days, I tell you, we're gonna find one, and then there will be such a party.

Click images to enlarge.
A wee bit of mist on the way up to Buffalo Mountain. I'm sure I heard some heavy,
booming footsteps in the distance.
Damned Rodan on the rocks
Damned Rodan at the summit
This little fellow didn't look much disposed to wreak any particular havoc. Alas.
Stephen King's The Mist has got nothing on this place.
Brugger relaxing after a long hike

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Incredible Edibles

Intrepid frosting crew members brace themselves for the horrors which are about to be wrought.
For several millennia, the nice lady has observed a particularly tasty Halloween tradition: baking a big old batch of sugar cookies and then having a frosting party. Last night, it came to be that time. The right honorable Doug Cox and reigning frosting queen Jenny Chapman joined Kimberly and me at Chez Brugger to spread a mess of stuff on a crapload of cookies. Drinks, bloody Band-Aids, gaping flesh wounds, and all kinds of happy nastiness followed. Witness the following frights....
We had plenty of first-aid supplies in case of emergency. Looks like somebody
already bled on the Band-Aids.
This cookie has a mighty ugly laceration. I'm not eating that thing!


A smattering of the spooky wares