Thursday, December 29, 2016

It's Time Again — Put Some Fear into Your New Year

JUST FOR NEW YEAR'S...

STARTING TODAY — 12/29/16 — 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 appreciated. Thanks!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Krakens, Krampuses, and Krankies

It was a fairly low-key Christmas for the Raineys, mainly due to Mum's ongoing health limitations. But it was generally good family time, with plenty of vittles, nice presents, and even a spot or two of exercise for the old man. For me, Christmas vacation began on Friday, which I spent on the hunt for a couple of caches in Burlington/Alamance County. Once home, I spent most of the rest of the day wrapping presents and preparing a big old pot of chili for Christmas Eve dinner.

Saturday, Brugger and I made our way to Martinsville by way of the nearby Grove Winery, same as we did last year on Christmas Eve. However, we didn't realize that they were closing at 3:00 PM this year, and it was 2:45 when we arrived. The proprietor, however, was kind enough to give us a couple of glasses, and I picked up a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon for later. Nice lady and I decided to proceed to M'ville and enjoy a couple of glasses of wine at the bar at Rania's, which, as I have no doubt indicated in this blog before, served as the inspiration for the bar in my novel, The Lebo Coven way back when. Once at Mum's, Ms. B. and I discovered a special visitor on the back porch — a Christmas bat, which was hanging on the wall beside the back door. I suspect the poor little guy was old and/or infirm, as he remained back there the whole weekend, alive but seemingly only just. Kind of sad, as I do like bats. Anyway, Ms. B. and I at last proceeded to get the chili fired up, which turned out perfect, and then we worked off a calorie or two on a long walk through the neighborhood around Lake Lanier, during which time I regaled the lady with endless stories about my childhood, most of which she had heard umpteen times. But taking these long walks does bring forth many vivid memories, and most are entertaining, at least to one of us. To continue one of our favorite annual Christmas Eve traditions, we finally planted ourselves in Mum's sunroom and watched the 10:00 PM showing of A Christmas Story, which still turns both of us into madly laughing fools. To be sure, this year, we're needing as many mad laughing fits as possible, so this was time well-spent. Some Kraken rum with eggnog made for the perfect nightcap, and finally something akin to Christmas spirit managed to settle in.

Christmas morning came a bit dreary but not cold, and I spent some time listening to Christmas tunes and sending scary, animated images of the Krampus to friends on Facebook before returning to the kitchen to help Ms. B. prepare a big dinner of chicken-ham-swiss cheese roll-ups with cheese and mushroom sauce, fresh asparagus, smashed potatoes, and assorted pies and cakes for afters. Brother Phred arrived late morning, and we proceeded to hurl gifts at each other. Made out nicely, with a new shirt, a CD collection of Ennio Morricone western scores, Lara Parker's newest Dark Shadows novel, a Michigan-shaped cutting board, and lots of other items both necessary and fun — some Krankies coffee from Brother Phred being among the most necessary.

Following the feast, naps overtook at least a couple of the troops, while I went out on walkabout through the woods and about wore myself out going up and down many of Martinsville's rolling hills, which have apparently gotten considerably longer and steeper than they were just a few years ago. Then came one of the day's true highlights — a visit from Todd and Gretchen Wickliffe, of whom I see far too little these days, since they rarely make it up from Atlanta, at least when I'm at Mum's. We spent a good couple of hours talking about life here and there, then and now, and shocking Mum with stories about how certain of us barely survived our childhoods. Of course I'm referring to the Wickliffe kids, as I would never have taken brazen risks or done anything monumentally foolish when I was a youngster.

For our evening's viewing pleasure, Ms. B. and I settled in the den and streamed Don't Breathe and Insidious on Amazon.com, which kept us occupied until well past midnight.

We arrived back in Greensboro early this afternoon, and I immediately headed out after a new cache over at the Laurel Bluff trail head on Lake Brandt Road. Retrieving this one required a fun terrain challenge, which I made doubly difficult by attempting it the old fashioned way — by climbing the tree — before playing it the way it was more or less meant to be played: by getting a boost from an appropriate elevation-increasing device, in this case, my car (see the sequencing diagram below).

Later this week, I anticipate a bit more geocaching and probably an enjoyable evening or two with Ms. B., but there is more than plenty of work to keep me busy, including a new piece of fiction I'm laboring over. Overall, it's bound to be better than this time last year, when Mum's health situation reached a crisis point. It's still very, very difficult for me, and knowing that she simply will never get better is both emotionally and physically taxing. The past few days have been more melancholy than truly happy, but there were many transcendent moments, with Mum, Brother Phred, Kimberly, and the Wickliffes. It's these times of recharging that keep me going, I think.

And I'll keep going, as there are people to see, stories to write, and caches to find.
Christmas lights at Lake Lanier. What the L?
The cauldron of Christmas Eve chili
Our little Christmas bat, who seems to have seen better days. Poor chap.
The bonny swans down at Lake Lanier. They came to see if I had any goodies for them. When they
determined that I did not, off they swam.
The emblem of our Kung Fu club when I was in ninth grade, circa 1974, carved in a beech tree back in
the woods behind the old homestead. "Marakumo no Tsurugi," it says, which I think means pretty much
nothing, although I had intended it to mean "Sword of Swords" or something such.
Krank up the Krankies, men!
How to find a little cache out on a long, narrow limb, step 1
How to find a little cache out on a long, narrow limb, step 2
How to find a little cache out on a long, narrow limb, step3

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Wretched Canticle


It's a rare and pleasant surprise when I learn that a band or musician has recorded a song based on one of my works of fiction, and last night, guitarist and vocalist (and former editor) Steve Sommerville, of the band Gates of Endor out of Raleigh, informed me that they had recorded a song inspired by my tale “Sabbath of the Black Goat,” which originally appeared in the Chaosium anthology The Shub-Niggurath Cycle (1994), edited by Robert M. Price. My story involves the discovery of a coven of witches in a remote area of North Carolina, and — naturally enough for one of my stories — these are not benign practitioners of Wicca or any such business but malevolent followers of the Lovecraftian title character. The Gates of Endor song is titled "A Wretched Canticle," and it takes the malevolence portrayed in my story to a whole new level. It's a heavy, driving heavy metal dirge that forgoes any of the quiet build-up of the story and skips straight to nerve-shattering terror, with pounding percussion; growling, screaming guitars; and coarse, raging, animalistic vocals by Mr. Sommerville. Now, make no mistake, I've never been a knocked-out fan of heavy metal, but once in a spell I enjoy a good dose of decibels, and there's a sense of sly fun about this piece that I find endearing.

You can can listen to "A Wretched Canticle" using the embedded link below, and visit Gates of Endor's Bandcamp site, featuring several of their compositions, here.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Orchestra of the Antisemite


I just chanced upon a kind review in a blog — from 2014 — of my story "Orchestra," which appeared in CD Publication's October Dreams some years ago. It's the same story that led at least one reviewer to conclude that I must surely be antisemitic because "only someone who harbors a hatred of Jewish people could come up with such a story." My character was an exceedingly nasty entity who sprang from Old Testament days; he did despise the Jews and acted on his hatred in unabashedly brutal fashion. However, attempting to psychoanalyze an author based on a single work is, to my mind, an exercise in futility, not to mention less than professional. In the case of "Orchestra," my delving into the character's deviant mindset was neither easy nor pleasant, yet in the context of the story, it served a crucial dramatic purpose. It's natural enough for readers to attempt to glean what they can of writers' personalities based on their writings; however, If authors — particularly those in the business of horror — were to be defined by the actions of their characters, most of us would have to be chained up and locked away. In my experience, many writers who've portrayed the worst possible human beings in their work are themselves individuals of the highest caliber. I'll not necessarily make that claim, but I think it's fair to say I'm anything but antisemitic. I'm actually a fairly well-rounded misanthrope. I'm pleased that this particular reviewer "got it."

Read the review here: "Orchestra" by Stephen Mark Rainey

Order October Dreams from Amazon.com

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Nightmare Music and More

This one goes out to my author friends, particularly those who specialize in works of the scary persuasion and who enjoy writing with something other than silence in the background. When I'm hard at work, I actually find silence distracting, so I generally write with music playing at low volume — preferably mellow tunes, with few or no lyrics, and that are rich in atmosphere. I listen to lots of smooth jazz, lounge music — samba, bossa nova, et. al. — and dark, ambient compositions that evoke the spirit of Halloween, regardless of the season. Relatively recently, I discovered the perfect writing companions on YouTube: several collections of moody, nightmarish music on the Cryo Chamber label, known as the Atrium Carceri project. Several videos are available, each running over an hour, with titles such as “Nightmare Music” (embedded above), “Ambient Winter Music,” “Alien Abduction Music,” “Dark Gothic Music of Abandoned Castles and Forgotten Temples,” and many others. For me, these provide the ideal soundtrack for whatever dark piece happens to be forthcoming from my brain at any given moment.

From the Cryo Chamber website:

“Atrium Carceri is a Swedish musical project by Simon Heath. Atrium Carceri’s albums incorporate cinematic themes that help make the sound that much more haunting. The perfect soundtracks to untold horror movies.... Atrium Carceri is typically described as dark ambient and industrial ambient music. Similar to projects like Lull and Lustmord, Atrium Carceri uses synthesizers, sound effects, field recordings, piano and other instrumentation to create 'slow rhythms, bitter melodies and complex textures' generally based on themes of desolation, loneliness (especially solitary confinement) and environmental decay.”

Naturally, one mustn't be a writer to enjoy these works — I figure they're bound to please about any aficionado of the outrĂ©, especially when played with the lights out. Hell, I'd happily write in the dark listening to this stuff if my eyes wouldn't think the rest of me was stupid. So listen to some Atrium Carceri for yourself, check out the many other offerings at Cryo Chamber, and have yourself some pleasant little nightmares.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Nothing at BuzzyMag.com

My investigative report of ghastly paranormal activity in your area... er... rather, my short story, "The Nothing," is now live at BuzzyMag.com. It's a tale I wrote a couple of years ago about a nothing that is actually something, and if you don't watch out, it might just do you in. Very scary.

Check it out for free right here: "The Nothing" at BuzzyMag.com

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Poor Ellen Smith, Haunted by the Grue, and Others

A fine and fun bunch of diverse geocaches I turned up in Winston-Salem yesterday, I can tell you. Everything from an unexpected venture into subterranean darkness; to a couple of healthy trail hikes; to navigating over bodies of water via rocks, logs, and pipes; to finding the site of a Victorian-era murder; to ascending trees. That right there is seriously good geocaching. Ms. B. and friend Beth had gotten together for a day of crafting in Winston, so my plan was to spend the day caching and then meet up with Terry, Beth, and Ms. B. for wine and dinner in the evening. The plan proved perfect.

The most enjoyable cache of the day was surely one called "Haunted by the Grue" (GC6AYAY) which took me to a restaurant near where my brother used to live. To my surprise, I found that the building had been constructed over Silas Creek, which flows beneath it, and the cache itself lay somewhere down below. The hint on the cache page gave me an idea of where I'd need to look, but I made the mistake of going underneath the building on the wrong side of the river. Once I determined my error, rather than take the long way around by clambering back up to ground level, I found a handy-dandy pipe to cross — only slightly precarious — and then managed to lay eyes on the cache readily. This is one of those that may not be for the claustrophobic or those who fear dank, dark spaces and/or subterranean monsters.
Handy-dandy bridge across Peters Creek
Although the cache itself was hidden in traditional manner, "Poor Ellen Smith" (GC6BV1C) took me to the reputed scene of a murder back in Victorian days, the story of which goes roughly as follows: Ellen Smith was a young woman who worked at the Zinzendorf Hotel (which itself had a brief, tragic history) and became enamored of a reckless, hard-drinking, pistol-carrying rake named Peter DeGraff, who may have also worked at the hotel. During their relationship, DeGraff may have fathered a child with her. Predictably, things went south for them, and at one or the other's request, Ellen went to meet DeGraff in the woods behind the hotel (now the site of the cache). DeGraff shot her at close range with his pistol and left her there to die. At first, the authorities did little to apprehend him, until he was reportedly seen in the woods, attempting to bring Ellen back. Supposedly, he was heard to exclaim "Ellen, if you are in heaven, arise. If you are in hell, remain there." DeGraff was eventually captured and sentenced to be hanged. He protested that he was innocent until the end, yet as he went to the gallows, he proclaimed, "I stand here today to receive my just reward. I again say to the people here, beware of bad women and whiskey. Don't put your hands on cards, bad women, and dice. Hear my dying words."
The famous Walking Tree of Dahomey

The hotel Zinzendorf was a massive, four-story wooden structure, completed and opened in early 1892, only to burn to the ground later that same year.

More information about Ellen Smith and Peter DeGraff may be found at "Murder by Gaslight." There is also a recording on the site of a folk song about the murder by Estil C. Ball.

Horror of horrors, at one cache, I lost my pen, which resulted in me having to scratch my initials in the log book of the next with a mud-covered stick. However, on returning to the previous cache, I found not only my original pen but another stuck in the mud along Silas Creek, so, as that pen still worked, I not only came out to the better, I avoided a lifelong loss-of-writing-pen trauma. At another cache, I found what I'm certain must be the famous Walking Tree of Dahomey, pictured above left. And while strolling along a roadway near Winston-Salem State University, I happened upon a single reindeer antler lying in the gutter, the ghastly remains of some hideous crime, almost certainly the work of a grandma, driven by vengeance after Rudolph's merciless mowing down of one of her aged compadres.
Someone call the fire department, please.

The last cache of the day found me up a tree. Not all that high up a tree, but somehow at an angle that made it difficult to twist around that I might lower myself gracefully back to earth. While I pondered my situation, I sat in the limbs typing out my cache notes and online log, all the while watching the sun go down and wondering whether I might ought to call the fire department to rescue me. After some time and effort, I managed to extricate my foot from the branches that were causing my dilemma, and with a stylistic flourish, I dropped to the ground, only to catch my arm on the limb that had caused my foot to hang, abrading my forearm sufficiently to elicit a very minor naughty word. But as my friend Robgso says, "No blood, no fun," so this little bloodletting just meant that the fun was flowing.

The only damper on the day was discovering that some useless piece of shit masquerading as a human being got hold of my bank card information and had been attempting to make a significant number of purchases between here and Durham. Fortunately, the bank caught things pretty quickly, and I'll get the missing money back. I'll be without a bank card for a few days. But it's been scam-and-theft central lately, and I'm of a mind that setting these motherfuckers on fire is way too good for them. May they burn for extended periods, no ifs, ands, or buts.

May your holidays be merry and scam-and-theft free. Don't fall out of any trees.
Reindeer got run over by a grandma.