Friday, June 21, 2024

Advance Early Warning! Book Signing at Magnolia & Main Books, Saturday, July 20

Heads up, local Southern Virginia Folks!
Magnolia & Main Bookstore is a brand-new, indie bookstore in Ridgeway, VA, a few short miles south of Martinsville. I am on the calendar for a book signing on Saturday, July 20, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

I will have copies of Deathrealm: Spirits, Fugue Devil: Resurgence, Blue Devil Island, and all five of my Ameri-Scares novels for young readers — West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman, Michigan: The Dragon of Lake Superior, Ohio: Fear the Grassman!, New Hampshire: Ghosts From the Skies, and Georgia: The Haunting of Tate's Mill.

Come visit Magnolia & Main Books, 810 Main Street, Ridgeway, VA 24148! My books may scare the pants off you, but I'm pretty much okay. At least on Saturdays.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Social Animals?

Dragon Glass Winery's mascot
Ms. Brugger and I may not be committed homebodies, but socialites we are definitely not. We occasionally go out and about to interact with other members of the human species, but rarely for lengthy periods and almost never without a few days' recovery time. Okay, I exaggerate, but we both lean far closer to the introverted than the extroverted end of the scale. So I dunno what the hell happened this past week. We ventured into the land of the living with frightful enthusiasm, looking damn-near respectable, and behaving like mere minor-league sociopaths. Wot?

There's a new brewery open in town — Renewal Brewing — which Ms. B. and I visited on opening night a couple of weeks ago, and we decided to give it another go this past Thursday with my longest existing childhood friend, Ms. Gretchen. Renewal's brewpub currently occupies the building's basement (known as the "speakeasy"), and the owner soon plans to open a restaurant on the main floor as well as a rooftop bar. It's a great spot, with appealing ambiance, excellent service, and some tasty brews. After sampling a variety of Renewal's offerings, Ms. B., Ms. G., and I headed to dinner at Wild Magnolia restaurant, which has been around for several years, with decent food and atmosphere. And an enjoyable evening this turned out to be.
Old dude, Ms. B., and friend Gretchen at Renewal Brewing in Uptown Martinsville
Saturday, we loaded up with picnic goodies and sallied forth to Gioia dell'Amore Winery (formerly Autumn Creek), where we met friends Joe and Suzy, enjoyed a serious picnic lunch, and drank some decent NC wine (no, "decent NC wine" is not always an oxymoron). Afterward, on a whim, we looked at the map to see if there might be any wineries other than the ones we knew about relatively nearby and discovered one called Dragon Glass Winery, which makes only sweet wines. Ms. B. and I rarely — okay, call it never — go for sweet wine, but since this was a second destination and an attractive location, we figured we could call it dessert. Here, neither of us could finish more than a glass because when I say this wine is "sweet," we're talking "cloying." Still, we enjoyed our experiences at both locations. A damned good day.

Sunday, The No-Dead-Weight Irregulars — this time consisting of friend Scott (a.k.a. Diefenbaker), friend Natalie (a.k.a. Fishdownthestair), and an old dude — gathered again for a Sunday outing and landed ourselves near Chapel Hill, NC, at a place I don't really know what to call. There's Fearrington, Farrington, and Ferrington, all clustered right there, and where one ends and another begins, I've got no fucking idea. Anyway, there are gamelands full of geocaches there, and we hiked after a bunch. The heat was hot, the hiking tough, and the bugs plentiful (including a bunch of ticks, the lousy little bloodfuckers), but we found some mighty cool caches. Sadly, several of the "Halloween" series we sought appeared to be missing, but assuming the cache owners put out replacements, the location will probably be good for another outing.

For lunch, we settled on the nearby Town Hall Burger & Beer, where we've eaten on numerous other caching outings. Damned good dead critter here — lamb for me, and cow for my compadres.

This week is shaping up to be kinda busy as well. Perhaps we'll survive it yet again with flying colors. Woot.
"Hobbit Hole" cache — open wide!
L: big bony spider; R: little bony dude
Bony bat!
Not a geocache, but a very large millicritter

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Wildlife at the Eno River

A nice little turtle we found on the trail

That wildlife was a trio of geocachers — Cupdaisy (a.k.a. Debbie), Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), and an old dude, commonly known as the No-Dead-Weight Irregulars. It was almost like old times: the nowadays all-too-rare gathering of several of us old-timers for a Sunday on the caching trail. Ah, for the days when every Sunday meant a gathering of old-timers on the geocaching trail.

Today, our target was Hillsborough, NC. I headed out bright and early this morning, bound for Burlington, NC, to replace one of my own caches that had gone missing and meet the other two reprobates in our party. From there, we hit the highway and in less than an hour began roaming little graveyards in the woods, big graveyards not in the woods, trails along the Eno River (which Scott and I forded at one point because the cache turned out to be on the other side and there was no footbridge), and up and down the Historic Oconeechee Speedway, where we've hiked on several previous occasions. We snagged all the caches we sought and hiked well over five miles, some of which were pretty rugged.

And to cap it off, we had a somewhat late lunch at Hillsborough BBQ Company, which is always a highly anticipated treat. It did not disappoint. For afters, we went next door for some frozen custard at Whit's Frozen Custard. That stuff is now officially a highly anticipated treat. That shit are good.

Hopefully, more geocaching later this week.
Into the Eno we go.
Little graveyard in the woods

Friday, June 7, 2024

Scary Things at Magnolia & Main Books

Hey, local Southern Virginia Folks!
Magnolia & Main Bookstore
is a brand-new, indie bookstore in Ridgeway, VA, a few short miles south of Martinsville. It's been a long while since there's been a physical bookstore in the area, so it's great to see this little boutique open its doors for business. It's a small shop, to be sure, but it's warm, welcoming, and easily accessible. Proprietor Traci Morton carries books by several local authors, including a bunch of mine, and I anticipate a booksigning happening here in the foreseeable future.

If you're in the local area and you'd like autographed copies of my books, Magnolia & Main is for you. They have copies of Deathrealm: Spirits, Fugue Devil: Resurgence, Blue Devil Island, and all five of my Ameri-Scares novels for young readers — West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman, Michigan: The Dragon of Lake Superior, Ohio: Fear the Grassman!, New Hampshire: Ghosts From the Skies, and Georgia: The Haunting of Tate's Mill.

Come visit Magnolia & Main Books, 810 Main Street, Ridgeway, VA 24148.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Geocaching Smith Mountain Lake to Alta Vista

Smith Mountain Lake Dam
Last week, I needed a geocaching fix in the worst way, and the nearest concentration left for me to claim was at Smith Mountain Lake, about an hour northeast of here. The caches resided along numerous different channels and inlets with no direct access between them, which meant a not-so-short trip. But on Friday morning, I headed out bright and early and commenced to driving and hunting and hunting and driving. I ended up at various points around the southern legs of the lake, including Smith River Dam, which I'd never seen, and it turned out to be pretty impressive. Plus there was a nice cache there. And a big honking turbine. I also found a cool little graveyard out in the middle of nowhere.
A big honking turbine
A cool little graveyard out in the middle of nowhere
Water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.

For lunch, I discovered an awesome bar & grill at Magnum Point Marina, where I had a killer BBQ sandwich, fries, and a very good beer (a local bourbon barrel brew). The almost day-long trip didn't put that many new cache finds under my belt, but I got my caching fix. Mainly, it flung a craving on me, and I still had a few caches not far away lurking on the map.

So today, I headed back up to the eastern end of Smith Mountain Lake, grabbed the lone cache in that area I needed, and then hit the road for the little town of Alta Vista, not far to the north. Here, I managed to find another handful, a couple of which turned out to be pretty challenging (one because I decided to see if I could park closer to it than the recommended location; it worked out fine, but it bumped the terrain difficulty rating up a few points). I survived it well enough, but it kinda wore this old man out.

Those two trips cleaned out another relatively nearby area, so... as is the nature of this activity... I'll be needing to travel farther and farther to get my geocaching fixes. Happily, it's worth every bit of it for the experiences and the exercise.
Lunchtime views from the Magnum Point Marina Bar & Grill
The library in downtown Alta Vista

Monday, June 3, 2024

New Short Story Complete: "The Foragers"

New story completed, submitted, and...accepted! The story, "The Foragers," will be appearing in an upcoming anthology — details will follow when the all-clear sounds — most likely early in 2025. It's set in the Revolutionary War, just before the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, which occurred on March 15, 1781, more or less in our backyard when we lived in Greensboro. Here's a wee excerpt.
The fast-flowing stream was called Alamance Creek, and now that darkness had fallen, it was easier to hear than to see. After so many hours, Lieutenant William Voss found it impossible to believe that he and Sergeant Thomas Landrake had yet to emerge from these deep woods. And that, somehow, they now found themselves alone.

Since breaking camp in Hillsborough—God knew how many days ago—General Cornwallis had pushed his army at a hard march, with no provisions other than what each man could carry, so hunger and thirst had begun to take a deadly toll. This morning, Voss and Landrake, along with eight hand-picked men of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, had departed their new encampment along the southern banks of Alamance Creek and followed the stream through the woods, expecting to come upon farms or villages where they might plunder food, water, tobacco, and whiskey. To their dismay and disbelief, the damned woods appeared to go on forever.
And then…

“Where in bloody hell did we get separated?” A burly, powerful man from Glastonbury, Landrake’s voice sounded like a bear’s growl. “And how? We were all together, and then we weren’t.”

With great effort, Voss kept his voice measured. “I wish I knew. But they can’t be far away.”

“Winters! Carlisle! Pryce! Where the hell are you?”

The stream’s gurgling voice could hardly have overpowered Landrake’s. But the otherwise silent darkness offered up no reply.
Hope that piques your interest. Stay tuned for more details and news about the book's release!

Monday, May 20, 2024

New Novel Complete — The House at Black Tooth Pond

After long, hard work for the past six months, I have finished my latest novel, The House at Black Tooth Pond. It's based on a story of the same title, which will be appearing in the anthology, Shunned Houses, edited by Katherine Kerestman & S.T. Joshi, this coming August (the launch is set for NecronomiCon 2024, in Providence, RI, which I'm planning to attend). Like many of my works of fiction, the novel is set in my fictitious version of Martinsville and Henry County, VA, called Aiken Mill and Sylvan County respectively. While the novel is not a direct sequel to any of my earlier works, it does feature recurring settings and characters from The Lebo Coven, Fugue Devil: Resurgence, and many others.

Here's an excerpt from the book I posted a while back: "Work-in-Progress Excerpt: The House at Black Tooth Pond"

The setting of the novel (and the original story), is based on a couple of places that actually exist in this area. The painting above, by friend and fine artist Charles Hill, is one he did based on some of our old visits out to the place. The drawing below is one that I did, back around 1990, which depicts an old abandoned house my brother and I discovered in the woods of Henry County way back when. In the novel, the two settings are combined to create what I think is an exceptionally creepy location at which terrifying events do happen, which I hope will scare the pants of of ye.

More news about the book's publication will follow at the earliest possibility. For more information on "Black Tooth Pond," the real location, check this out: "Black Tooth Pond"

Thursday, May 9, 2024

A Happy Brugger Birthday

Brugger turned older than the hills — again! — today. This past Saturday, we'd gone up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to celebrate both of our birthdays ("Blue Ridge Parkway Caching, Wining, & Dining"), but as always, we had our own mellow little celebration at home on the actual day. For her birthday dinner, she wanted her special "French Onion Burgers," which include mushrooms, onions, swiss cheese, garlic aioli, and lots of Worcestershire sauce, so I made us up some. They were delicious. Plus we opened one of our really good bottles of wine from last fall's trip to the Pacific Northwest (a Cabernet Sauvignon from Sigillo Cellars in Snoqualmie). And she got a couple of nice gifts from some old fellow.

Me, I headed out bright and early for Danville, VA, to set up a couple of new geocaches — a Virtual and an Adventure Lab — in the Historic River District. While I was setting up the cache stages, I happened upon someone's bank card lying in the grass in one of the small park areas, so, in keeping with the theme of rescuing things, which seems to have been my lot lately, I rescued the card and promptly went out and had sushi at Tokyo Grill. (Yeah, the bank was right there, so I did turn in the errant card first, heh heh.)

Anyway, a nice day all around for both of us. Yet another step in the walk to Last Day. Till the next one...

A few random sites around the River District in Danville:
Eldredge, the Red Elephant, which occupies the shell of the old Eldredge's Drugstore on Craghead Street
The old Pepsi Cola Bottling Co. building
Left: restored old water tower; Right: Hidden door in a haunted corner of the River District
Entrance to the old Worsham Street Bridge

Monday, May 6, 2024

Ugly Animal Rescue Inc.

It was barely over a month ago that I (with the help of a neighbor) rescued a turkey vulture caught up in some fishing line across the street from my house (see "O Ugly Bird," March 25, 2024). Today, it was a big ol' snapping turtle* out in the road in the wilds of Guilford County, NC. I'd had a doctor appointment during the morning, and then friend Scott (a.k.a. Diefenbaker) and I spent a good portion of the day geocaching around Burlington. On my way home, I took one of the backroads to replace one of my caches that had gone missing, and very nearby, I happened upon the critter pictured here. It was a great big 'un — over two feet from snout to tail. And, oh my lord, how very unhappy! Aggressive as hell, and those jaws, had they snagged one of my fingers, would have taken it clean off. Still, it didn't appear inclined to get out of the road. So, I presented the end of my hiking stick and let it bite the tip. Its jaws locked on, and so I was able to lift it and carry it well out of harm's way.

Now, I don't know whether yon critter stayed out of harm's way, but I hated the idea of a vehicle smushing it, whether inadvertently or on purpose. Anyway, I did what I could, and I hope it's still out there going about its turtle business in relative safety.

Anyway, Ms. Brugger said I should start a business called Ugly Animal Rescue since seem to have a knack for it. An idea to consider.

*When I posted the photo on Facebook, there was some disagreement over whether this was a common snapping turtle or a musk turtle. Now, I've seen plenty of musk turtles around, but I've never seen one that looked — or behaved — like this critter. This one's shell wasn't ridged in the way of most snapping turtles, although it did appear jagged around the back edge. At no time did it release any of the musk that annoyed musk turtles usually do. So, based on its behavior, its general physical characteristics, and how it compares to the images of snapping turtles in NC vs musk turtles, I've gotta go with the common snapping turtle. Whatever type it was, had it gotten hold of my hand during all this, I'd be in one helluva bad way right now.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Blue Ridge Parkway Caching, Wining, and Dining

Since my birthday fell on last Thursday, and Brugger's birthday is next Thursday, we decided to celebrate both by heading up to the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday, primarily to visit Villa Appalaccia Winery for wine (it's our favorite winery in the region), and Chateau Morrisette for dinner (plus some more wine). There are a couple of Aventure Lab caches on the Parkway with a handful of stages at Mabry Mill, so we stopped there on our way so that I might claim them. I did. It was nice to visit the mill, which was a long-running personal & family tradition for many years, but — very sadly — the restaurant has closed, possibly permanently, though hopefully temporarily. Mabry Mill is one of the most photographed locations on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and I've taken more than I can count there over the years. And I'm posting a couple of more here.

Near the Parkway, U.S. 58 is undergoing a massive construction project, and last year, we had the misfortune of being stuck on it for an exceptionally long time while the work was going on. Google Maps indicated there might be delays, so on the way up — which was rainy (and very foggy once we reached the Parkway) — rather than taking 58, the more direct route, I went up U.S. 57 to Route 8 to the Parkway. It's a bit longer, but it's somewhat more scenic, especially since the construction work has utterly destroyed the most beautiful scenery along 58. We did take 58 home since by then it was late evening, and we ran into no problems whatsoever.

At Villa Appalaccia, we encountered a large crowd, which we found surprising since the weather was pretty dismal. Regardless, Ms. B. and I sat out in our favorite location — a little walled courtyard set back from the main building in a scenic grove of trees. We met a couple of interesting gentlemen smoking cigars out there, so we buckled up and shot the shit with them for a solid hour. Turned out to be a lot of fun.

Then Ms. B. and I migrated to the nearby Chateau Morrisette restaurant, where we enjoyed a first-rate dinner (as we almost always do) — butter-poached filet mignon for me and a beet salad and French onion soup for the missus. To accompany dinner, we went with a bottle of Dry Dog red, which wasn't bad. Not bad at all.

So, it was a lovely birthday excursion. We even enjoyed the fog and rain because it offered us a somewhat haunted atmosphere. Not much could be better for a birthday celebration.

Yesterday also would have been my brother's 60th birthday. He and I shared a lot of times on the Blue Ridge Parkway in our younger days. Here's to remembering all the best times with him.

Friday, May 3, 2024

Another Milestone on That Long, Winding Road to Last Day

YESTERDAY: Another birthday, another day closer to death, blah-blah-blah. This is my first month on Medicare, so that's how many of these milestones I've passed on the long and winding road. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for every second that I still inhabit this planet; milestones just don't seem to mean what they used to. The main reason I even remembered this one was because I needed to make sure I changed all my old medical insurance information over to the new.

It was a mellow birthday, to be sure. I began the day with my usual long walk around the neighborhood. I've managed to put in at least three miles a day without missing a single one since early January, and, before that, missed days were few and far between. It's definitely made a difference in my physical strength and stamina, and, given the abundance of steep hills in this area, I expect the cardiac workout has been good for keeping the ticker on a healthy track. I could probably stand to focus on a more healthful diet, but at the same time, it could be lot worse. I've got a regular physical checkup coming up soon, so I'm hoping my doctor will give me a smile rather than a frown.

Ms. Brugger made me one of her classic birthday cards (see above) and, come dinnertime, treated me to one of my favorite desserts ever — a mascarpone and Irish cream whipped dessert with bitter cherries, a recipe she got from our friend Yvonne. I was craving Thai chicken & basil for dinner, and since it's one of my mostest favoritest things to make, I up and fixed it myself. Next week, it's Brugger's birthday, so we're going to have a fancier dinner outing tomorrow evening as sort of a joint celebration.

We've been on a WWII movie kick lately, so for our evening theatrical feature, we put on Tora, Tora, Tora, which she hadn't seen, and it's one of my favorite films. The Blu-ray has the extended Japanese cut on it, so we watched that version, which I think I prefer. That carried us pretty late in the evening, so before bedtime, I finished listening to the audiobook of Gateways by F. Paul Wilson, as I've been on a Repairman Jack binge lately. Paul has had some serious health issues, but I heard from him the other day, and it sounds like he's on the upswing. I very much hope so.

I received a ton of very nice birthday wishes from friends both online and in person, and every last one is deeply appreciated. Perhaps I can continue plaguing you with my existence for a long time to come. (Evil laughter...)

Laters, all!
My infamous Thermonuclear Thai Chicken with Basil
Ms. B.'s mascarpone & Irish cream with bitter cherries. Heavenly!

Saturday, April 27, 2024

A Really Big Shew

I wasn't sure what to expect at the local author booksigning event at Imagination Lavender Farm this afternoon, but I can safely say that, for me, it turned out to be all kinds of successful. Indeed, I believe all the attending authors did well, which was great to see. This area has a pretty active writing community, and — besides me — the event included writers Pam Cobler, Susannah Eanes, Betsy Rodgers Henny, Jim Mize, Melissa Rooney, Finley Turner, Brenda Strickland, and Ben Williams. Susannah Eanes and I were in high school together, and I've known Ben Williams, who writes editorials for the Henry County Enterprise, for several years (I share his columns regularly on social media because they are as spot-on as spot-on has ever been). His new book, titled Voice of Degeneration, is a compilation of his columns from 2019 through 2023, so I absolutely had to pick one up.

Several customers came out specifically because they wanted to check out my more horrific fare, and they made many purchases, which I appreciate no end. I also ended up meeting several folks who shared a common history with me back in the day, and author/publisher/friend Samaire Wynne, who joined Brugger and me last night for dinner and a bonfire in the backyard, also came around to socialize and provide moral support.

There's a good chance that this will become a regular event, probably annually, and I definitely hope so. It's great for the writers as well as readers in the community, and I enjoyed seeing old friends and acquaintances as well as meeting some new. Huzzah!
Let the show begin!
From last night: Brugger's photo looking up through the trees in the backyard

Friday, April 26, 2024

TOMORROW, 4/27/24: Local Authors' Book Signing at Imagination Lavender Farm

TOMORROW — Saturday, April 27, 2024 — a booksigning event at Imagination Lavender Farm in MartinsvilleVA1–3 p.m. Besides me, there will be a slew of local writers, so if you're in reasonable traveling distance, you otter come around, say hello, and buy my books (not to mention any others that strike your fancy). As far as I know, I'll be the only author of scary things, and you KNOW you need scary things. Of course, if you don't like scary things (what's wrong with you?), there will be all kinds of traditional, uplifting, non-scary things as well.

Hope you'll stop by. Directions below. More info here.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Ferrum, Krakens, and Caches

Beware the Ferrum College Kraken!
It's fair to say that my college days, in the late 1970s, found me at the pinnacle of experimentation with anything and everything that wasn't part of my prescribed conservative, middle-class, sometimes overly protected upbringing. I spent the first two years of college at Ferrum, a relatively small, Methodist-sponsored, at-the-time junior college set in the mountains of Franklin County, VA, about 30 miles from Martinsville, my hometown. Since I lived on campus, free of the shackles of small-town conservatism, for me, drinking, drugs, and debauchery became the order of the day. To this day, I wonder how the hell I survived it—and how I still managed to do so well academically (Dean's list each semester). Still, I can't say I don't hold onto some regret for having been a true jerk and adhering to that kind of craptastic lifestyle. Well, it was part of the learning process, and I suppose I'm a better person for it today.

You're laughing, aren't you?

Back then, Ferrum was an attractive campus, though perpetually in a state of "improvement" (read disrepair). At that time, the distinctly rural life—which could be appealing in moderation—grew old quickly, so on weekends, I often went to Roanoke or Richmond or DC with friends to seek more urban-based pleasures. Still, the picturesque setting, not far from Philpott Lake, held considerable allure for me then, and even more for me now. The campus has grown, which I suppose is an okay thing, but what strikes me is how beautifully refurbished and well-maintained the place is now. It's one of the prettiest campuses I've ever seen, and... there are geocaches.

Since the weather could not have been better for geocaching, I had intended to drive up to Smith Mountain Lake this morning to hunt a few, but as soon as I woke up, I found that several new caches had been published at Ferrum. Abrupt change of plans! And it couldn't been better timed because I'd really been wanting to head back up to Ferrum for a visit.
Looky that shitty geocache!

Three new ones lurked out on the very lovely nature trail in the woods along the campus's western border. Back in college, I'd spent a lot of time in those woods, inevitably partaking of substances and activities that would have landed me in a heap of trouble had I been apprehended. Still, hiking back there brings back some very pleasant memories (at least, what I can actually remember), and on this spring day, it really couldn't have been more pleasant out there. I managed to sign the coveted if actually meaningless First-to-Find space on the logsheet of all three hides, which were very well done, courtesy of Varunner7, a very nice young lady whom friend Scott and I had met on a caching outing to Boones Mill, VA, a couple of months ago. Then, there was an Adventure Lab cache with five stages that led me to some of the most distinctive locations on campus, none of which existed when I was a student (notice the Kraken in the photo above).

Although school is in session, at the time I was there (between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.), scarcely any students or faculty were out and about. I imagine just about everyone was in classes at the time I was skulking about from landmark to landmark.

After a lovely morning of it, I drove the backroads down to Bassett, VA (which proved very slow, thanks to a lengthy train creeping along at about five miles per hour), where I found a delicious lunch (steakburger) at the Railway Cafe, which I'd never visited before. I recommend it.

So, another special outing to Ferrum, and a bunch more caches under my belt. And many thanks to Varunner7 for drawing me back there yet again.
Schoolfield Hall. Back in my college days, they used to run "drive-in" movies out on the lawn here.
Franklin Hall, the dining hall, now with far more dining options than back in my day
Riddick, Chapman, and Susannah Wesley Halls. I lived in Riddick as a freshman, in Chapman as a sophomore, and got kicked out of Susannah Wesley, the girls' dorm, semi-frequently throughout my career at the college.
All that remains of The House Restaurant, where I often found relief from the school's near-deadly cafeteria fare. Far less remains here than on one of my last trips up this way
("Water Under the Bridge," Saturday, June 1, 2019)