Monday, December 28, 2015

Put a Little Fear in Your New Year

JUST FOR NEW YEAR'S...

STARTING TODAY and running for the next six days, you can pick up my novella, The Gods of Moab, for your Kindle at the special discounted price of 99¢ (regular price $2.99).

"A pleasant New Year's Eve outing becomes an experience in otherworldly horror when two close-knit couples discover a shocking secret in the darkest corners of the Appalachian mountains. At an opulent mountain inn, Warren Burr, his fiancee, Anne, and their friends, Roger and Kristin Leverman, encounter a religious zealot named John Hanger, who makes it his business to bear witness to them of his peculiar...and disturbing...faith. His efforts rebuffed, Hanger insidiously assumes control of the couples' technological devices, leading them to stumble into unexpected, surreal landscapes...landscapes inhabited by nightmarish beings that defy explanation and rationality. To return to the world they thought they knew, Warren and his friends must not only escape the deadly entities that pursue them but somehow stop John Hanger's nightmare-plague from spreading to the outside world.

"The Gods of Moab is a chilling novella of Lovecraftian horror by Stephen Mark Rainey, acclaimed author of Balak, Blue Devil Island, Other Gods, The Nightmare Frontier, Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (with Elizabeth Massie), and former editor of the award-winning Deathrealm Magazine."

The Gods of Moab is just the ticket to put a little fear in your new year. Check it out from Amazon.com here: The Gods of Moab by Stephen Mark Rainey

Love it or hate it, Amazon.com reviews are always appreciate. Do enjoy!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

That Which Doesn't Kill You...

...makes you invincible! I tell you, it's the best burger I have ever suffered through: the Welsh Dragon Burger at The Celtic Fringe in Reidsville, NC. It's a a third-pound Angus beef patty simmered in their one-and-only Welsh Dragon ghost pepper sauce and topped with pepper jack cheese, candied red cabbage, arugula, and mayonnaise. (I even like to dip my french fries — which are excellent, by the way — in a side cup of the sauce.) Make no mistake, this is pure, delicious, wonderful hellfire! The  flavorful, perfectly cooked burger; the candied red cabbage; and just a veneer of mayo perfectly complement this sweet but fiery ghost pepper concoction. Inevitably, if you order a Welsh Dragon Burger, your server will ask you if you're aware of what you're getting into, and justifiably so, as I can only imagine the folly of some tyro with a passing fondness for hot sauce going all-out with one of these. Not a good idea, my friends. I will mention that I've turned a couple of folks of my acquaintance onto this burger — in one case favorably; in the other, not so much. If you are invincible, I invite you to come round one of these days and join me at The Celtic Fringe. There's a good selection of beer, wine, and assorted spirits to wash it down. Trust me, you're gonna need 'em.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve, Muggy Eve

Just a quick entry here for future personal recollections. It's bloody ugly out there — too warm, too muggy, too damned wet. At least it wasn't raining this afternoon when Kimberly came round for us to head to Martinsville. We started Christmas Eve right enough, with a visit to the Grove Winery (after snagging a new-ish cache at High Rock Road), where we enjoyed an excellent tasting and a glass each (Nebbiolo for me and Cabernet Franc for the lady). Then on up to Mum's and dinner at Rania's, which was quite good. Back home with us for a bit more wine (Chateau Morrisette Sangria, which is delicious — spicy and just a little sweet), the wrapping of presents, preparing tomorrow's dinner, and the requisite viewing of A Christmas Story. All in all, a very pleasant time.

Merry Christmas. Till tomorrow.

Monday, December 21, 2015

"The Crimson Wood"

My story, "The Crimson Wood" — based on H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds — has been accepted for Scott David Aniolowski's anthology Gaslight Ghouls, a collection of tales based on horrors from classic literature of the 19th century. Happy day — a superb contributor list here, and the book's subject matter could hardly be more enticing for aficionados of classic macabre. Full contents of the anthology are as follows:

"Introduction" by Scott David Aniolowski
"Alone in the Night"
by C. L. Werner
"The Phantom Club"
by Glynn Owen Barrass​
"The Tale of Samuel Whiskers Continued or A London Digression"
by Eric J. Guignard​
"A Christmas Dirge"
by Evan Dicken
"A Perversion of Instinct"
by Lee Zumpe​
"The Second Occupant"
by Joshua M. Reynolds
"The Black Hand of Fantomas"
by Cody Goodfellow
"Seeds"
by Don Webb​
"The Crimson Wood"
by Stephen Mark Rainey​
"Phantom Masquerade"
by Rick Lai​
"That Damned Moor"
by Tom Lynch​
"The Children of Saffron Hill"
by Brad C. Hodson​
"Carnacki: The Hound"
by Willie Meikle​
"The Hunger of Richard Enfield"
by Peter Rawlik​
"Just for Jolly Wouldn’t You"
by Scott David Aniolowski​
"A Zombie Christmas Carol"
by Donald R. Burleson​
"The Patchwork Woman"
by Tina Jens​

Not sure at this point what the forecast for publication is, but I'll keep you posted.

Monday, December 14, 2015

NOW! Blue Devil Island in Paperback


NOW IN PAPERBACK!
It's here — Blue Devil Island, in paperback from Crossroad Press. It's the perfect Christmas gift for friends you want to terrify! For this release, Crossroad is offering a special discount: 15% off the $12.99 cover price. That's $11.04 for the paperback edition featuring gorgeous cover art by M. Wayne Miller. Click on the link below to order at the discounted rate:

Blue Devil Island Paperback

The novel is also available as an eBook, if you prefer, for only $3.99. Order the eBook here (Amazon.com).

"Stephen Mark Rainey has crafted an exciting, compelling read. Combining genres can be a tricky maneuver, but Rainey does it here quite effectively. The writing is top-notch, and the action scenes drag you along by the throat. You'll have to force yourself to breathe during some of the aerial fight scenes. You don't need to be a World War II buff to enjoy Blue Devil Island, either; it appeals to anyone who enjoys thrilling reads. Pick it up, read it, then go out and find more of Mr. Rainey's fiction. You will not be disappointed." —Ron Dickie, HorrorWorld

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Notebook(s)

From the mid 1970s through the late 1980s — even into the 90s — I managed, documented, and illustrated my life via a succession of spiral notebooks, most of which I've kept to this day in the deepest, darkest recesses of the vault. This evening, a fragment of the lyrics to an old song I wrote, probably in 1983, sprang to mind, and I got it into my head to try to find them in their entirety. I figured if those lyrics exist anywhere, they'd be in one of those old notebooks. So I ventured into the vault, grabbed a bunch of the notebooks (a portion of which are shown above) and commenced to searching.

I had almost forgotten how many hundreds of thousands of words exist in those pages. Some go back to high school, when I doodled pictures and wrote things that almost resembled stories. Most are from college and post-college days, many chronicling dreams I had (in those days, analyzing and learning to manipulate the events in dreams was a hobby of mine). Looking at them tonight, I found some of the descriptions vivid enough to jog actual memories of those dreams. Some pages are random musings — thoughts and observations from whatever chapter of life I was living at the time. The page reproduced below indicates I had apparently encountered a child somewhere.

One page from one of those volumes has the words "Hey Cutie!" scrawled on it. That was from a trip to Washington, DC, I took in 1978, with my college roommate, Charlie Perkins. We were driving up U.S. 29, somewhere around Charlottesville, VA, and an exceedingly attractive young woman kept passing us up and then dropping back. Eventually, I managed to scrawl that message in the notebook, which Charlie held up for her to see. At that point, there was serious laughing and waving, and it's a wonder neither car ended up in a ditch or up a tree.

Later volumes, from the mid 1980s, feature original drafts of novels I attempted to write. Some include the first drafts of stories that eventually got published — such as "The Gray House," "Threnody," and "The Spheres Beyond Sound." There are a few almost polished drawings from my days living in Chicago, such as the character in the photo at left — some chap named Czerim Aignar, who was an original creation used in a role-playing game that several of us played on a regular basis. One notebook was a ledger from Deathrealm magazine, circa 1988. On the first page I turned to, the first name I noticed was film producer/director Frank Darabont, who was apparently a regular subscriber.

I found the lyrics to dozens and dozens of the songs I wrote between 1978 and 1986. Except for the one I was looking for. I couldn't find that one. It's unlikely, I imagine, that those lyrics will somehow round themselves up and reform in my mind, so perhaps they are relegated to the dustbin of my personal history. And given the relative merit of some of those oldies, perhaps it's just as well.

And on that note, just a reminder that, if you're in the Piedmont Triad of NC, come on by to Eclection in downtown Kernersville tomorrow (Thursday) night, 7:00 PM sharp. I'll be making a racket at open mic night, and I'd be more than happy to see you that I might just shake your teeth loose.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Musical Horrors at Eclection


Beware! On Thursday, December 10, noise-making, guitar-playing, ruckus-raising horror writer is scheduled to do the open-mic thingy at Eclection, in downtown Kernersville, NC. If you value your insanity, you should surely come! I plan go on about 7:00 PM, give or take a few minutes, and I'd love to see you.

Eclection quite lives up to its name. In the refreshment department, it offers a juice, coffee, beer, and wine bar, nicely stocked, along with sweets and small plates from various local establishments. You'll also find innumerable aisles and corridors filled with antiques, crafts, artwork, jewelry, apparel, home furnishings, and more, all provided by local artisans and vendors. You can enjoy a drink at the bar, in one of several intimate alcoves, or in the main entertainment area up front. Or you can carry your glass of wine with you while wandering among the booths and cubbies filled with handmade and one-of-a-kind items that even an old curmudgeon with no general interest in such things does mightily approve.

I'll post further reminders as we get closer to the date. In the meantime, I plan to practice, practice, practice, so that when the time comes, no one will leave the place unchanged.

Here's a little sample of the kind of shock you'll be in for:

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Give the Gift of Horror This Christmas



That's not actually Sauron you're looking at there. It's a mean, mean Christmas ornament, as illustrated by artist Zach McCain for my story, "Red Rage," coming up in Dark Regions soon-to-be-released anthology, Christmas Horror (volume 1). Editor Chris Morey plans to release subsequent volumes annually, each in time for the Yuletide season. The books will be available in ebook, trade paperback, and deluxe hardback editions. In addition to my tale (which you can read more about in my blog entry, "Red Rage for Christmas," Oct. 6, 2015), the debut volume features all new and original stories from authors Joe R. LansdaleJohn SkippCody Goodfellow, Jeff Strand, J. F. Gonzalez, Nate Southard, Shane McKenzie and (in deluxe hardcover retail editions only) William Meikle. Each story in this volume features a full-page illustration by Zach McCain.

Table of Contents:
  • “Santa Explains” by Joe R. Lansdale
  • “The Endless Black of Friday” by Nate Southard
  • “Red Rage” by Stephen Mark Rainey
  • “Pointy Canes” by Jeff Strand
  • “Naughty” by Shane McKenzie
  • “Krampusnacht in Cell Block J” by Cody Goodfellow
  • “The Shittiest Guy in the World (A Christmas Fable)” by John Skipp
  • “Belsnickel” by J. F. Gonzalez
  • “The Color That Stole Christmas” by William Meikle (Deluxe Hardcover Retail Editions and Expanding Grab Bag 2 Exclusive Editions Only)
You can pre-order this volume in your format of choice at Dark Regions website: Christmas Horror, Volume 1

Give the gift of horror this Christmas. And keep a little for yourself.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Miller Masterworks

Seriously, check out that stuff up there. Somewhere back in Deathrealm's ten-year run, artist M. Wayne Miller came to my attention. Whether he sought me out or vice-versa, I have no recollection, but it turned out he lived down the street from me, and it wasn't long before he became the go-to man whenever I needed art of exceptional caliber, be it for Deathrealm or some project of my own. Over the years, Wayne provided numerous illustrations for stories I ran in the magazine, and soon enough, the covers for my own novels and short-fiction collections. It doesn't hurt that Wayne is a fan of both Thai food and Godzilla — we get together now and again to celebrate these things. Truly, it's a rare and honorable soul what relishes the spectacle of miniature cities falling beneath the feet of monstrous, radioactively mutated rubber reptiles as much as I do, and Wayne is all there. Keeps us young and healthy, it does.

Wayne is currently the featured artist at GrayDogTales, and you need to check it out: M. Wayne Miller: An Artist Speaks. Go now.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Black Friday Trout Slayer

For me, Black Friday is the day to stay the hell away from any population center, particularly anything resembling a shopping area, and there is geocaching traditionally involved. This year's Black Friday was no exception, and it was, in fact, one of the most enjoyable such day in years — probably since 2011, when Ms. B. and I ventured out to the countryside around Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, to escape the Shopping Dead. Yesterday, we determined that a spot of wine and decent food would be a welcome switch from the spot of wine and decent food we'd been made to suffer on Thanksgiving, the day before. Thus it was off to Villa Appalaccia Winery (for that spot of wine) and Chateau Morrisette (for the decent food) in the Blue Ridge Mountains, by way of Kibler Valley, where a wunnerful little geocache called "Trout Slayer" (GC102WQ) awaited my attention. Once again, geocaching took us to one of the most beautiful, secluded little corners of the earth that we would have never otherwise discovered.

Kibler Valley is located in Patrick County, Virginia, just north of the North Carolina state line, a few miles southeast of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Dan River passes through the valley, and, somewhat surprisingly, a hydroelectric dam here provides power for the city of Danville, some 70 miles distant. The drive along the river toward the dam is truly one of the most picturesque locations I've ever encountered in the southeast United States. After weeks of torrential rains in the area — which had washed out a section of US 58, the main highway through the area — the river was running high and fast, but the winding gravel road out to the dam was passable and in fair condition. There are numerous dwellings along the route — everything from sprawling farmhouses to tiny, rustic cabins — many on the far side of the river and accessible only by narrow, rickety bridges, few of which appear all that sound. One geocacher who hails from Vermont described the location as virtually identical to the Green Mountains in that state, and it does, in fact, so resemble the Vermont countryside described in H. P. Lovecraft's classic horror tale, "The Whisperer in Darkness," that I could have been fooled into thinking I was on my way to the Akeley farmhouse featured in that story. We encountered precious few other human beings out there — nor any of them there "outer ones," probably to our good fortune — and at the parking location near the cache, the river ran through prodigious rock-strewn cliffs that rose so high and steep they appeared poised to collapse on our heads. Unfortunately, the above photo does not begin to convey the almost dizzying scale of the steep mountainside above the river. Happily, the geocache itself wasn't far up the hillside on the near side of the river, and I managed to locate it quickly. "Trout Slayer" was hidden in 2006, and it was good to find the container and contents in almost pristine condition.

After making the find, we drove back out of Kibler Valley, up the Parkway, and to Villa Appalaccia, which we'd had the pleasure of visiting just a few weeks ago, on Halloween (see "Stonewalling for Halloween," November 2, 2015). The wine here can scarcely be beat, and the weather was more than conducive for sitting out in the remote terrace area, which Ms. B. and I have traditionally had all to ourselves — as we did yesterday. After a delicious glass of wine each, we then made our way over to Chateau Morrisette, just a mile or so down the road. Actually, our reason for return to the area so soon after our recent visit was due to a nice incentive Chateau Morrisette provided us. As I mentioned in my blog at the time, our previous experience there was a bit underwhelming. I had also mentioned this in a review of the restaurant for OpenTable, through which we had made our reservation. For our dissatisfaction, the folks at Chateau Morrisette very kindly offered us a free bottle of wine on our next visit, and since we had the opportunity, we decided to take them up on the offer right away. This time, we could hardly have had a more enjoyable experience, both at the winery and at the restaurant. For them, it was an excellent investment; for offering us a bottle of wine, in return, we purchased several bottles at the winery (Ms. B. and I both have had a disconcerting number of empty slots in our respective wine racks) and had a near-perfect dinner, none of which would have happened had they not gone the extra mile for us. It's simply good business when the folks running an establishment understand they could have done better and then take the steps necessary to make things right. You can bet Ms. B. and I will be returning to Chateau Morrisette at the first available opportunity, and rather than a negative review at various online sites, they have a glowing one. In this day of the amazing power of the interwebz, I think that actually means something.

And then we returned to Mum's, visited a bit, and availed ourselves to a bit of The Walking Dead. It was kind of like watching Black Friday from a comfortable distance. Nice, it was.

I trust your day was as awesome or better.
An intense rock formation near the Dan River in Kibler Valley
Kibler Park stone marker, placed August 26, 1950
Ms. B. next to the rushing Dan River
Old Rodan with the logbook at "Trout Slayer" (GC102WQ)
A return to the Land of Happy — Villa Appalaccia, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Fat Thursday

Nice Thanksgiving Day. Ms. B. and I had procured most all the food for the feast and hit the road bright and early for Martinsville so we could begin the prep post-haste. Big ol' turkey, stuffing, gravy, smashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry salad, pumpkin pie, apple pie... enough vittles to feed a small army of the undead. Had a nice little gathering: Ms. B., Mum, Brother, and two Wickliffes —  Dick and Gretchen. Spent some quality time with all, drank a little wine, and then took a walk back on the old Sam Lions Trail, where I burned off two turkeys, a potato, and half a pie. Ahh, some much-needed exercise as well as tranquility.

Next up for the evening: a tad more wine and some episodes of The Walking Dead, which might make me start feeling peckish again.

I hope you had a happy one.
Back in the woods on the old Sam Lions Trail. No walking dead visible in the photo,
but they were out there, I tell you. One of them was stuffed with turkey.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Black Friday at Crossroad Press

Crossroad Press — publisher of my novels The Lebo Coven, The Nightmare Frontier, The Monarchs, and Blue Devil Island — has a nice Black Friday special for you: 25% off any single order, which means you can get all kinds of scared for less than the cost of a movie ticket and popcorn.

To get the goodies you see above, go to the Crossroad Press store, select the items you want, and at checkout, enter CPBLACKFRIDAY in the Coupon Code field. Note: As of this writing, Blue Devil Island is not showing up in the list of titles due to some site maintenance issues, but I understand it will be back in place shortly, if not already. Sally forth! No need to wait till Friday — the deal is good from now through 11/30.

You can check out the Crossroad Press blog here.

Have a happy, scary Thanksgiving and a horrifying Black Friday.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Why I Don't Drink White Wine


If you've ever read an entry in this blog or followed me on Facebook, you're surely aware I have some affinity for wine. Red wine, mind you. White wine has not set well with me since my college days. And since my previous entry was pretty gross, I think I'll stick to that theme here.

Fall 1977: I was a freshman at college, and a very fresh freshman at that. It was only a few days into the school year, and I had just joined the college newspaper staff. The professor who sponsored the paper decided to open the year with a nice wine and cheese party at his apartment.

I'm sure you can guess where this one's going.

Prior to the party, the sports editor for the paper and I went to the student cinema to see the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was the first time I had seen it — in fact, it was one of the earliest movies of its ilk that I experienced, and I have to admit, on that first viewing, Texas Chainsaw Massacre disturbed me a bit. It was quite the send-off to a hoity-toity wine party, I can tell you.

As I mentioned, I was a freshman.

I didn't drink much at all in those days, and when I did, it was usually beer. No one had informed me that, at a rather classy little soirée, one should not get into a race with the sports editor to see who could chug the most wine the fastest. For a little while, at least, I was convinced Sauvignon Blanc was nectar of the gods. I was a feeling great, and there was a lovely young woman who appeared to be taking interest in me. College life was going to be awesome! For some time, I sat comfortably at the dining room table with the young lady pressed close to me, the wine flowing, the almost-adult world looking finer than I might have anticipated.

Next thing I knew, a fellow named Gary was shaking me, telling me it was time to leave. I looked up, and the young lady was gone. In fact, most everyone was gone. Really? Seriously? Dismayed, I started to stand up, and as I did, I felt something moving about in the inner regions that really ought not move about. Yeah... up it came. All that wine, flooding the professor's dining room table, and sending people scurrying in panic. My buddy took me by the arm and dragged me out to the balcony, where I leaned  over the railing and urped onto the downstairs neighbor's terrace for quite some time. When I finally managed to take a breather, I drew my car keys from my pocket, handed them to Gary, and said, "You drive."

I have vague recollections of arriving back at my dorm, though I don't remember Gary recruiting another helper, which he apparently did, because when I hit the bed, I realized it had taken two people to drag me from the car to my room. Gary put some aspirin on my nightstand and said, "Take those now. You're not going to want to wait till morning."

Sound advice, I discovered in later days, but on this night, I was too far gone to get those pills down. I was out like a light and didn't stir again until sometime late the next morning. Upon sitting up, I swore then and there I would never, ever, ever drink again, and I realized that, just then, my life depended on getting some fluid into my dehydrated young body. I guzzled a bunch of water, but every move, every breath, every sound was a vivid sample of hell on Earth. Despite this agony, which was unlike any I had ever experienced, I was starving. I made my way to the cafeteria, a quarter mile across campus, every footstep sending blazing steel daggers into my brain, only to find that breakfast had just ended. No food for me! The cafeteria lady took one look at me and said I could have some orange juice.

Have you ever drank orange juice after a prolonged, violent urp?

If I'd had any voice left, I would have screamed. As it was, all that came out was a hiss and a ragged moan, and I staggered back to my dorm, sans orange juice, swearing again that my drinking days were done forever.

Much to my surprise, the professor whose table I had surely destroyed never mentioned the incident to me or in any way indicated that he considered me a damned young fool. Now, I don't know whether this is true because it's only hearsay, but I was later told that, during the fateful urp episode, he had already gone and passed out in his bedroom. He didn't know the culprit was I, and no one snitched. I sort of have my doubts, but, then again, that night was far from the last time I saw the good professor in his cups.

Since then, my fondness for wine has been limited to dry reds. Now, I had plenty of bad drinking experiences in my college days (though I did uphold my temperance pledge for three whole days, when I might have overdone it a bit with Miller High Life), but this being the first and most extreme example, I guess it had the most notable impact on me. Live and learn, you know? I certainly came to understand that white wine was not my drink of choice. I'll drink a little every now and then, mostly at wine tastings, and though I no longer have flareups of physical revulsion, as I did for many years afterward, the stuff just doesn't do it for me. So if you see me drinking red wine with fish, or some other vittles for which white wine should be the preferred accompaniment, It's not simply because my habits are gauche.

I don't drink Miller High Life anymore either — not due to any lingering aftereffects but because it's an affront to decent beer.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Bloody Youth

A totally random tale for you. And it's gross, so be warned.

One day in fifth grade — sometime in 1970, I expect — at Druid Hills School (pictured above), I happened to have tomato soup at lunchtime. I no longer care much for tomato soup, but in those days, I was fine with it. Anyway, it wasn't long after lunch that I went into the restroom to go pee, and the moment I stepped through the door, I knew something was rotten in the state of Denmark. All over the floor, there were numerous piles of poo, big old turds of obviously recent vintage, though surely more than a single human being could have produced at one time. Not only that, poo was smeared on the walls, on the mirrors, all over the backs of the toilets and urinals. Pretty damn gross. And it stank to high heaven. Still, I had to pee like a bear, so being a trooper, I figured I'd hold my breath and make the best of it.

For a little while, that worked. I got my business mostly done before I had to breathe again. But when I did — oh, my god — the stench up and did me in. Thar she blows! Major urpage, all tomato soup, redder than red, which just made it worse. I spewed all over the wall, all over the floor, all over those happy piles of poo.

My fifth grade math teacher, Mrs. Davis (who later died under mysterious circumstances) heard the gagging and retching and came rushing in to see what was wrong. When she caught sight of all that poo and me urping streams of bright red, she let out a pretty good holler, reached to grab me, and then drew back because I had not quite finished. Once I did, she was in a state all right, clearly worried my innards had exploded in bloody fury. It took some time to convince her it was only tomato soup and even longer to make her believe I was not the mad poo bomber.

To the best of my recollection, the mad poo bomber never was identified. I was pretty sure I knew who it was, but I could never have proven it. Bastard. Anyway, I reckon the statute of limitations for poo bombing has expired.

As I said, I don't care much for tomato soup or even tomato juice these days, though I confess I'm all about a good Bloody Mary now and again.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

GeoWoodstack III

Noisy Rodan
GeoWoodstack: the very name is sufficient to instill mind-numbing horror into the general population, but one to bring ecstasy to the hearts and minds of geocachers everywhere. This year was the third such conflagration, held last night in Oak Ridge, North Carolina, at the residence of the legendary Tom "Night-hawk" Kidd, an event featuring geocachers from all over the state (and beyond), food aplenty, fireworks, live music, and the biggest eruption of hellfire since Krakatoa.
A magnificent winged fire demon erupts from
unfathomable depths. Photo by Dan Flye

Initially, yesterday's weather appeared ominous, with rain coming down for most of the day, but by nightfall, the skies began to clear, and for the rest of the evening, there were no more tears. Ms. B. and I arrived shortly before the lighting of the twenty-some-foot stack of wood, which, no doubt due to the all the recent rains, was a bit more stubborn than its predecessors about catching fire. Several attempts to light her up by armed drone attack ended in failure, and so we resorted to the more traditional means of igniting the beast: a barrage of fire from several batteries of roman candles wielded by an army of fearsome, fire-starved geocachers. At last, success! The stack began to burn, sending  flames a hundred feet into the sky, lighting up the landscape so that it could almost certainly be seen from outer space. Shortly afterward, the fireworks began, and I'm not talking a bunch of little poppers. We had some explosions fit to make the neighbors think they had fallen into a war zone. At times, massive eruptions of sparks showered the landscape, so it is no doubt well the ground was saturated with water.

At the last of these events, two years ago — see "GeoWoodstack II," October 13, 2013 — Ms. B. and I performed a few musical numbers for a raging, bloodthirsty crowd from whom we narrowly escaped at the end of the event. This year, Kimberly decided to forego the personal danger and settled for making the requisite video of Old Rodan as, following a beautiful performance by Ms. Kristina Kidd (a.k.a. Little Night-hawk), he commandeered the stage and made a racket that forced the evacuation of several nearby properties and may have caused the demise of at least one fried chicken. If you're brave, check out the video of "Ride, Ride, Ride" below, or "Spring Hill Mine Disaster" on YouTube here.

This morning, Bloody Rob Isenhour came round for breakfast, and then we went geocaching. Not bad weekend for the caching contingent. The Old Man's total find count now stands at 8,287.
Bloody Rob, Damned Rodan, and Bonehead at Geowoodstack III, Oak Ridge, NC

Monday, November 2, 2015

Stonewalling for Halloween

Halloween weekend could hardly have been more perfect for Kimberly and me, as we returned to one of our favorite haunts in the world — the View Cabin at the Stonewall Inn, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Floyd, VA. Stonewall was our first getaway together, back in the very early days of our relationship, and we also spent New Year's 2012 there. For us, it's a place of pure magic: rustic, secluded, intimate, comfortable. No place could be better suited for us to celebrate our favorite time of year.
At "A Nice Place for Eternity" (GC248QW)

We even managed to start out on an ideal note, with one of the geocaches along our way taking us to a very old, scenic family graveyard out in Stokes County, NC. Here, while I sought the cache, Ms. B. made sandwiches for our lunch on the road. Cache log signed and lunch in hand, we continued on our trip into the mountains of Virginia. Upon arriving at the Blue Ridge Parkway, our first stop was Villa Appalaccia Winery, another of our favorite places for liquid refreshment, now blanketed with colorful leaves that the moaning breeze was plucking and tossing down from the trees with considerable enthusiasm. For my money, Villa Appalaccia's Aglianico is their standout red wine, and their Cabernet Franc comes in a close second.

Then it was on to Stonewall, which is owned by Scott and Sally Truslow, both hosts par excellence. Shortly after checking in, we were ensconced in the View Cabin, about a quarter mile up in the woods. When I say it's rustic, I do not exaggerate. There is electricity, but no running water. It's a single room with a bed, a wood stove, a TV with DVD player, a porch swing, and an outhouse for taking care of personal business. Now, down at the main house, there are two dogs and three cats, which make one feel very welcome and also help take the edge off missing our own critters during our stay. It's a step above tent camping, to be sure, but for the most part, it's pretty primitive. And I just can't imagine a better place to be than out there in the woods on Halloween night.
Heating up by the campfire
For dinner that night, we journeyed forth to Chateau Morrisette, about ten or twelve miles down the Parkway. Generally, it's another of our favorite dinner venues, and while we enjoyed it, there was a good-size crowd, and the staff didn't seem quite up to the task of managing it. Our dinner was a bit more than leisurely — Kimberly and I both had their specialty pasta, hers with chicken, mine with shrimp — but at the end of the day, to us, the lengthy wait proved inconsequential. Our server was great, the wine was superb (their Archival I red blend), and we didn't exactly have a deadline to meet. So we just enjoyed ourselves for the duration; returned to the cabin rather late in the evening; and, to honor personal tradition, settled into the porch swing with a bit more wine to commune with the Halloween spirits.
Ms. B. and a wee sapling we discovered in Floyd

Yesterday, we decided to visit the little town of Floyd, a few miles to the west. Back in the days when I attended Ferrum College, not too far away, I had a good many adventures in Floyd County, few of which I could relate with a clear conscience to the world at large. I've passed through the one-stoplight town many times over the years, but to the best of my recollection, never actually stopped there. Since there were four geocaches in town awaiting my attention, it was only proper to go on a little walking tour of the community. For the most part, I was quite taken with its character and some of the novel Halloween decorations about the place. Once I had found all four caches and signed their attendant log sheets, I followed Ms. B. into downtown Floyd's antique shop, which was enjoyable enough, especially since there were a few fun Halloween-themed items to be seen on display (note the photo below). Then we had a fairly late lunch at a rather artsy little place called Oddfella's Cantina, where the barbecue sandwiches we had equaled or exceeded in quality just about any we've found in North Carolina. The fries were pretty damn good as well.

Upon our return to the cabin, I spent some time on the front porch making a racket with the ol' guitarbox, getting my fingers and vocal organs geared up for Geowoodstack III, coming up Saturday next at the domicile of one Tom "Night-hawk" Kidd, where I anticipate horrifying the individuals in attendance with several less-than-uplifting musical numbers.
The office

Dinner last night was hot dogs and s'mores — hardly as elegant as the fare at Chateau Morrisette, but every bit as satisfying. And it just wouldn't do to spend another night in the cabin without a scary movie or two, so we put on Willow Creek, which I had seen a month or so again, but Kimberly had not. Say what you will about the movie itself, but it was apt entertainment for our dark, secluded little spot in the woods. We followed this with a few episodes of The Walking Dead. And there might have been a tad more wine in the bargain.

This morning, sadly, we had to take our leave of the place, after a weekend that zipped by so fast it really ought to get a citation for speeding. For me, there was scarcely a moment during which I wasn't feeling at least a smidgen of ecstasy, and while I shan't carry on about the many stressors that have recently seemed bent on doing me in, I can safely say that this particular getaway at this particular time may have extended my life expectancy by at least as many days as we were there — hopefully more.

And may there be far fewer years between this and our next visit to Stonewall than there were since our last.

Click on images to enlarge.
Villa Appalaccia Winery, viewed from our favorite spot in the courtyard
The author and his horny girlfriend, who drinks
Say hello to my little friend — a happy fellow we discovered in Floyd
A random corner of the antique shop we visited
Out in front of the Green Man Inn, Floyd, VA
A view of our front yard on this dreary morning, just before leaving

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Geohaunter of the Dark

Among local geocachers, it's fairly common knowledge that I write scary fiction. And lots of my readers are aware that I'm an avid geocacher. I've found that, when it comes to creepy, between geocaching and writing fiction, there can be quite a bit of crossover. To be sure, on my cache hunts, I've been taken to all kinds of eerie, atmospheric settings. But I've also placed over a hundred caches in the field, and it's safe to say the better part of them are horror- or dark fantasy–themed. Hey, if I can't scare you one way, I'll try for another. Most of my hides are either in Piedmont Triad of North Carolina or in Martinsville/Henry County, Virginia. If you're within shouting distance of the area, I'd encourage you to come check some of them out. Just for fun, I'll list a few that some of you intrepid treasure hunters would probably enjoy now that it's the Halloween season.

First off, I'll hit you with a little challenge: on Halloween night, hie thee after a night cache. Night caches are great fun, in that they're generally set up so that you use a flashlight to follow a trail of reflector tacks through the woods, often to several different stages before you reach the final cache. I own two night caches — a lengthy, Star Wars–themed cache called "Darkness Falls" (GC14WGB), which I adopted some time ago (see "Darkness Falls Restored," February 24, 2014), and "Dweller in Darkness: The Missing" (GC3G3N7), which is loosely based on my Lovecraftian short story, "Threnody." The latter is the one I'd most recommend for a Halloween outing. It's a fairly straightforward but hopefully disconcerting venture into the woods near Lake Brandt, just north of Greensboro, a round trip of approximately two miles. It can usually be completed in about an hour — so long as you avoid the fate of poor Professor Zann, whose secret you seek to find....

Very close to "Dweller in Darkness" — on the parallel trail on the other side of the lake — I have a cache titled "Hellraiser" (GC4D26T), and you can guess where the inspiration for that one came from. It's not a night cache, but it can be done relatively easily at night, as long as you have a good flashlight (and you don't try to work the Lament Cube you might find in the cache container). This particular cache is located near a large beech tree bearing the inscription "Hell Is Just Ahead," which was apparently carved there in 1962. I don't know whether anyone actually knows the nature of this particular hell, but it's an intriguing locale that was just screaming for a cache to be placed there.

Over at Northeast Park, along the Haw River in northeast Guilford County, you'll find "Day of the Dead" (GC371JE), a two-stage multi-cache, which I placed on the day after Halloween a few years ago. What makes this one personally memorable was that, apparently, there had been a haunted trail set up at Northeast Park for Halloween, and when I went out to hide the cache, all the props remained in place. I seemed to be the only human being in the woods that day, and as I went down the trail, I chanced to bump into the gentleman you see in the photo at the top of this page — not to mention quite a few other horrifying thingummies in the woods. To me, that was more enjoyable than actually going to the attraction as it was intended. The props may not still be there, but the trek out to the stages of this one might provide you with a shudder or two.

At the Richardson-Taylor Preserve in northern Greensboro, there's a trail named the Bill Craft Trail, but to me, and a few other local cachers, it's The Bigfoot Trail. Before the official trail opened, I was caching regularly back in those woods, and I frequently heard something quite large slogging through the marsh, which I naturally assumed to be Bigfoot. Out in those woods, you will find "Bigfoot's Library" (GC2XMG1), which was initially filled with a number of scary books, including some of my own. I don't know whether any of them remain, but the cache itself is still in place. Also out that way is "The Nightmare Frontier (Redux)" (GC3MNR6), which, as you might gather, gets its title from my novel of the same name.
For fans of Twin Peaks, I've placed a couple of different caches inspired by the series. The first is "Fire Walk With Me" (GC35QJY), located in Gibson Park, near High Point. This one poses some slight risk to life and limb, but no one has ended up wrapped in plastic after attempting it, at least to my knowledge. And just off the Beech Bluff Trail, near Lake Higgins in Greensboro, you can hunt "Let's Rock" (GC5W99P) — if you're able to figure out the cache coordinates from the clue on the web page.

One of my favorite but seldom visited caches, in Martinsville, VA, is "Sticks" (GC1WNG9), based on Karl Edward Wagner's well-known horror short story. Locating this one requires that you find and follow a trail of sticks woven into shapes such as the one you see in the photo below. Finding the sticks can be a challenge all its own, and a misstep in these woods might draw down from the stars the ghastly entity known as Nyarlathotep, the Messenger of the Great Old Ones. If this should happen, well... I shudder to think.
A short distance north of Greensboro, in the town of Eden, NC, hidden away from any of the main roads, you can find an old, abandoned, crumbling bridge over the Dan River. If you're willing to risk life and limb (again), you may wish to seek "Abandon Hope All Ye..." (GC325VM), which is not large enough to hold any swag, but may in fact contain more evil than many that, on the surface, seem menacing as all getout.
These are just the tip of the iceberg, as I have placed dozens of other spooky-themed caches in the area. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they may be located in deep woods; in long-lost, forgotten corners of the local landscape; in shadowed, ancient neighborhoods where you're as likely to find ghosts as anyone living. In any event, come on out and do some geocaching. Even if you're nowhere near my area, look around you — there are caches everywhere, and there's no shortage of hides with scary themes wherever you are. And you just never know where I might hide my next one. Or what you'll find when you go after it....

Visit www.geocaching.com for the answers to all your questions about caching. Go forth, have fun, and... beware.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Haunting Reidsville Again


This one is just a quick personal memoir. After returning to Greensboro from a nice visit with Mom yesterday, I set to work turning Casa de Rodan into a proper haunted house for the evening's supper club gathering — putting the jack-o'-lanterns (Ernst and Emilio) into their proper outdoor perches, laying out interior decorations to horrify the unwary guest, and getting dinner (authentic Mexican tacos with chicken and chorizo) underway. We ended up with the full gang in attendance, which made for a somewhat crowded house, but everything came together well enough. After dinner, we had the annual celebratory viewing of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which means that Halloween can actually happen now. It was clearly quite fun for Joe Albanese, who hadn't seen the show since childhood. Mortifying, I know.

After the gathering broke up, Ms. B. and I inaugurated the fire pit I had won at the office Employee Appreciation Day back in the spring. Very pleasant out there, to be sure, despite getting dribbled on by a bit of rain.

This morning, Bloody Rob and Bridget came round so that we could hit the road and snag a few caches up Reidsville way. I only needed three, which I found, but because I'm the nicest rotten bastard geocacher in town, I took them around to get a bunch of others I had picked up on past excursions. Happily, I was rewarded with a fantastic lunch at The Celtic Fringe, where I had chicken wings with their ultra-potent Welsh Dragon sauce.

Something tells me I'm going to be having leftover chicken tacos for dinner tonight.
Just a few goodies for anyone feeling peckish before dinner last night
Ernst, standing vigil as the guests began to arrive
A couple of ghouls searching for delectables around the old Governor Reid house in Reidsville

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bold Moon and the Sandy Level Creep


Last night, I headed up to Martinsville to take my mom out for a slightly belated birthday dinner — it was her 80th last week — and returned to Greensboro today, which I did, as I often do, by way of the back roads of Henry County, VA. The route takes me through a little rural community called Sandy Level, which I pretty much consider the southern redneck version of H. P. Lovecraft's Dunwich. There's not much to Sandy Level; just a few houses, a business or two, and a rather spooky old church — the Gospel Light Church, for which a relatively new building has been constructed, but the original still stands nearby. Not far from the church, an old fellow I call the Sandy Level Creep stands by the road side with an arm raised in greeting. This is not a Halloween prop (although he may have started that way); he's out there 365 days a year, and he always has a smile and a wave for passersby. Yep, that's him in the photo there. Today, he was accompanied by a tall, bony, shambling figure that sent me a long, hard stare as I drove by; almost certainly one of the local walking dead, of which I'm told there are many. I made it through without mishap, but this is not a place I'd much care to have my automobile break down.
Red oak and red maple trees growing as one
at the Bold Moon Preserve

From there, it was off to the Bold Moon Nature Preserve, where a new geocache had been published. I had been there last year (see "Bold Moon at Twilight," November 11, 2014), and I'd found it a slightly creepy and very endearing location out in northeast Guilford County. When I arrived at the trail head this morning, the place was deserted, mine the only car in the little parking area. It's an easy hike out to where the cache was placed, but just before arriving at ground zero, I had to cross Reedy Fork Creek, which in this area is fairly wide and fast-moving. I did so without mishap, but the briers on the other side did a number on my clothes and exposed skin. I was first to find the cache, which made me happy, but I had just signed the log when I heard the sound of someone — or something — approaching. My god, it was more of the undead! A pair of zombies, sometimes known as the McTwins, were having a time of it getting across the river, so I very cleverly goaded them into crossing at the riskiest point. And then — success! — a wee bit of a splash, and one of the carnivorous monsters uttered a few words of dismay, for there were now wet feet. However, because I can be sporting even when it comes to the walking dead, I offered to share in the first-to-find honors on the new cache.

On the way out, the parking area was no longer empty. More like full and then some, as there was apparently a grand opening ceremony about to commence, which struck me as a little odd since the trail opened over a year ago. No matter, it was kind of nice to be coming off the trail as those folks were preparing to get on it, especially since I had a couple of dangerous-looking zombies in tow. There's always a little spectacle involved with that.

A good morning it was. Tonight... our regular monthly supper club gathering, this time at my place, appropriately Halloween-themed, with It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in the lineup. Yay!
The old Gospel Light Church building in Sandy Level
Clearly the lair of an unearthly horror, not far from the cache. Possibly the McTwins' summer hideaway?