Monday, December 31, 2007
Make no mistake, I have much to be thankful for, and I truly am. In 2008, I have a new book to look forward to (Other Gods, due in the spring from Dark Regions), and a couple of other deals that, if they work out, should be sweet indeed. I'm writing fiction as prolifically as I ever have, and I'm selling it regularly and profitably. My family has always been close, and those of us who are left have only grown closer in the past year. And New Year's Eve is usually pretty nice because we spend it with good friends. Tonight, we're going to party with our friends the Andersons and the Vinsons. Better folk there aren't.
2007 has had more than its share of rockiness, particularly in its opening months. Peg had surgery right after Christmas '06 and had to function at far less than full capacity for many moons thereafter. In February, my mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer; thankfully, the resulting surgery seems to have taken care of it all. In March, my daughter suffered a blood clot in her lung and had to be hospitalized. Our little cat Charcoal, whom I loved dearly, died of a tumor in April. An unprecedented number of old friends of the family have suffered extreme health problems; a few have passed away. Just a few weeks ago, my good friend Bruce "Boo" Smith died. As we get older, death becomes a more prominent figure in our lives. It takes some doing to deal with him.
But the latter months of 2007 have been largely among the most personally satisfying times I've known for many years. I've been able to spend a good amount of time at the old homestead in Virginia, getting in long, meditative walks; exploring places I've never been; and spending quality time with my mom. Old friendships have been renewed and/or re-invigorated. Peg and I have had some great times of sharing. I got to see my daughter at Thanksgiving; missed her at Christmas, but our time together has reinforced how special she is to me—more than I ever realized when she was just a wee young 'un.
I think, in the overall scheme of things, 2007 made me a better, stronger person. Didn't much like the way life has of going about such things, but nobody ever said it would be a picnic. Still, I might just be happy to settle for a tad less personal growth in 2008.
If you've spent any time here at my blog or, even better, reading my fiction, you have my gratitude, and my hopes for a good year to come. Bless you.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
On a happier note: Of my story, "The Ghost Lens," which appears in Elder Signs Press's new Horrors Beyond II, anthology, writer Matt Carpenter had this to say:
"I have liked just about every short story of (Rainey's) that I've read. 'Ghost Lens' was another winner, describing a weird discovery that allows its user to see into the very fibers of a person's existence, making a mockery of modern medical imaging, and also allows the healing of all ills. But as you look through the lens, something looks at you, sizing you up...One thing I like about Rainey's stories is that the characters are so well drawn, coming to life on the page."
I'll take it.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
This year, things were a little odd for Christmas. My daughter couldn't make it home because of her work schedule. Then my wife came down with a nasty respiratory bug (which she did not catch from me, despite her claims to the contrary) and wasn't able to come to the old homestead in Virginia and celebrate with my mom, my brother, and me. So I came back home early yesterday to spend time with the sickie—who, thankfully, is feeling much better today (which is good, since she has to work).
Still, the quality time with Mom and me bro was truly fine. In the last few years, the channels of communication between us, which at one time were sometimes strained, have opened considerably, and their presence in my life is a true blessing. And last night, just being here alone with Peg was wonderfully revitalizing.
Gift-wise, we had a pretty good haul this year. For all my love of books, I find that movies still are my true excitement in the entertainment field, and some real gems arrived this holiday: the deluxe box set of Twin Peaks; the box set of They Call Me Trinity/Trinity Is Still My Name (a couple of my all-time favorite comedies); the box set of the Planet of the Apes movies; Count Dracula (the BBC production with Louis Jourdan, which is my favorite screen adaptation); Battlestar Galactica: Razor, and Latitude Zer0, one of Toho's damn cool SF flicks from 1970—and the DVD includes both the U.S. and Japanese versions, along with a bunch of cool extras.
And I got Peg the box set of American Gothic, which she really loved during its initial run on TV in the early 90s (as did I; in fact, for my Dark Shadows novel, Dreams of the Dark, I pretty much patterned the character of Thomas Rathburn after Gary Cole as Sheriff Buck in AG).
So, despite the absence of the young 'un and Peg's illness, we had a dang good Christmas overall. I really hope next year that we'll all be healthy and able to get together. I still love this holiday, just as I did as a kid; and these days, what with life being so tenuous and unpredictable, spending quality time with the family—whichever among us are able to gather—is all the more special.
I hope there were wonderful times for everyone. And that some of the special goodness of Christmas carries through for the rest of the year. Blessings to you.
Friday, December 21, 2007
I received a treasure today.
The first record album I remember listening to as a wee young 'un was Walt Disney's Musical Monkey Shines. A collection of "western, circus, and nonsense songs for children," it features selections ranging from the wistful (the ballad of "Toby Tyler") to the utterly wacky ("That Crazy Place in Outer Space," sung by Annette Funicello). Fess Parker, of Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone fame, croons a few winners, too: "Pecos Bill," "A Cowboy Needs a Horse," and "Good Night, Little Wrangler."
I don't know if there's even a handful of folks to whom these old songs would have any meaning—though I suppose there must be a few, since the rare copy of the LP on Ebay generally goes for an extortionate price. But I have vivid recollections of my dad rocking me in his arms in the evening while this record was playing. In fact, those may well be my earliest memories (apart from the most bone-chilling night-horror of my youth, which I think I've related somewhere in a past blog; no doubt, I'll relate it again one of these days). My brother also has fond memories of the album, as we've both been actively seeking a copy for years and years.
I have no idea what happened to the old record that we owned all those years ago; I suppose it got tossed out with lord-knows-what other old relics. I had pretty much resigned myself to never hearing those old songs again, since the album seems such a rarity. But then, a couple of weeks ago, a copy turned up on Ebay, in a lot of 20-some Disney records from the early 60s. What a trove! I put in a reasonable bid, expecting to be outbid more or less immediately.
Nope. I won the thing. And today, the albums arrived. So this evening, I made myself the king of hot-pepper martinis, turned out the lights, and put that sucker on.
To some, I suppose, just bunch of maudlin claptrap. To me, it was heaven. Some of the true delight of childhood came roaring back to me. I could see my dad again as clearly as if he were alive today. So much power in that silly old music.
I think that may have been the best gift I could have asked for this Christmas season.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The bug seems to be on its way out, so I think I'm all set to make merry for the holidays. Hope you are too.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Got the icky congestion, low-grade fever, achy joints, light sensitivity, the works. Came home early from work, loaded myself up with meds, got in bed, and stared at the ceiling.
Tried to hash out some details for the current story-in-the-works, but even that was futile. Some of the patterns in the ceiling are kind of interesting, though.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Got a royalty check today for my story ("Bloodlight") in Love in Vein II, a 1997 anthology edited by Poppy Z. Brite. Not a big check by any means, but a check nonetheless. Royalties have been coming in regularly for this book since its release, some of which have been rather sizable, making "Bloodlight" the short story for which I've earned the most money. In retrospect, it's only a fair tale; not one that's particularly representative of my work as a whole. But the antho is decent, and I'm damn glad to have had a piece of the action.
Here's to Poppy and vampiric erotica—a subgenre for which, at one time, I swore I would never write (mainly because I saw so much crap of that ilk submitted to Deathrealm back in the day). I'm so glad I changed my mind.
But...I swear...I will not write a zombie tale. Ever. Really.
Oh, crap. I just got an invitation to write a zombie tale.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
It'll be called Abroyel, after the demonic doo-thingy who was out to spill my blood. He very nearly succeeded—in fact, if I hadn't woke up when I did, I might not be here now to write about it.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
I say "sort of" because I dozed through bits and pieces of it, what with the late hour and all, but I caught enough of it to know that I really love this movie. It's a hootin', hollerin' super-fun monster flick, featuring semi-human-faced giant crabs that absorb the consciousness of their victims and speak in their voices to lure others to the dinner table. What's more, it features Russ Johnson, "Professor" of Gilligan's Island fame, playing a professor. There's a great opening title sequence; creepy crab sound effects; spooky, disembodied voices; and strangely mesmerizing monsters, so what's not to love?
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Many of you who read this know Bruce Smith, a.k.a. Boo, who has been a prominent figure on a few horror message boards for the last several years. He passed away today, and I have a hole in my heart that is somehow unexpected.
I knew he was ill and that in all probability, he wouldn't be around much longer. Yet, somehow, I convinced myself that he would rally; that because he was suffering so badly, he probably felt things were more dire than they really were. Rationally, I knew better, but my heart was not prepared to accept reality.
About three years ago, Boo posted a note on the Shocklines message board about Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark, the novel I co-wrote with Beth Massie, saying how much he really loved it — not knowing that either Beth or I frequented the forum. Well, it wasn't long before he was picking up everything I'd ever written and sending me long missives about how much he enjoyed them. The thing about Boo is that there was never one ounce of false flattery in his words. He was my "number one fan" and made no bones about it. I became a frequent subject in his gallery of PhotoShop funnies. I sometimes felt a little embarrassed, but I never for a moment doubted Boo's good humor or his genuine affection.
For the past three years, Boo has been a part of my life. Literally, every day, he would send me a funny picture he had made or found, or drop me a note wondering how I was doing, or tell me something about his own creative aspirations. Every Monday, he'd send me a photo of a bunny and tell me, "Here's your Monday bunny." One Wednesday, he sent me a picture of a bunny piled up on top of another, with the caption, "Sometimes two Monday bunnies collide, and you have hump day."
Boo loved the Partridge Family. Know what? When I was a young 'un, I loved the Partridge Family too. So he sent me some CDs of their songs. Then, a few months back, he told me all his Partridge Family mp3's had up and vanished. So I made him a CD of all the Partridge Family music I have (which is considerable, I'll have you know), and he wrote me back to let me know that he was in seventh heaven.
The photo at the bottom of the blog is Boo's little cat, Scotty, who died of leukemia a year or so ago. Boo loved that kitty something fierce, and I felt his pain deeply when Scotty crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Boo always wanted to hear about the antics of my own critters—Chester, Dusty, and Frasier. When our dear little Charcoal passed away last year, Boo sent me deep words of comfort because he knew exactly how much grief I felt.
Boo was a man of compassion and humor. In a world of cynicism and bitterness, his soul always seemed "innocent" to me. He felt things deeply, and he occasionally confided to me the hurt he felt when people spoke ill of him — usually because of a misunderstanding. Sometimes, I think he didn't quite know how to deal with people whose cynicism was alien to him. He sometimes retreated in depression, but he always bounced back, and he tried so hard to be someone that people would admire, rather than condemn because they failed to comprehend his heart.
I have always admired my friend Boo. I miss him so much. The hole in my heart is wide, and it's bleeding. But that's for me. For Boo, I have faith that he has found the peace and acceptance he always wanted. I hope, wherever he now abides, that he knows my acceptance, my respect, and my love are with him.
Farewell, my dear friend Boo.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Ever since Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House scared the living hell out of me at age 11 (even if I didn't completely understand it all at the time), I've enjoyed stories that involve supernatural nasties. I love gloomy old houses, spooky woods, creaking noises at night, and all those things that hint at the existence of unseen entities lurking at the edge of the real world. Something about ghosties and ghoulies can still hit a few vital nerves that the most awful of real-world horrors do not. It's a stimulating sense of awe rather than disgust and depression over the evil that men do.
The Harrowing, dare I say it, reminds me in no few ways of my own novel, The Lebo Coven. Cryptic messages from a Ouija board; a dark isolated setting; the Kaballah; rituals of summoning and banishment; something from the other side desiring to come here.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, rather than go home, five students at Baird College stay in their dorm—a rather forbidding, cavernous old mansion called Mendenhall—and discover a Ouija board, which, naturally enough, they begin using to pass the time. Soon, they are in contact with the spirit of a dead student named Zachary, who seems jovial enough, and is at first content to play word games with them. Or so it appears.
The five students are all social misfits, and in fact have very little in common with each other, at least initially. However, as the messages from the spirit world become darker and more personal, their lives become entwined in the most unexpected ways.
The narrative unfolds through the eyes of Robin Stone, a lonely, "invisible" young woman whose inner strength, if she ever possessed any, seems to have eroded past any conceivable reserve—at least until she finds that her survival, and the survival of her new companions, is at stake. Each of the characters suffers from personally blinding weaknesses; however, the surprising, dire threat from realms beyond begins to coax out strengths that none knew they had.
This is Alex Sokoloff's first novel, and it's mostly an admirable undertaking. The better part of the story moves relatively slowly, focusing largely on Robin's inner struggles and her attempts to not only understand the unknown darkness but to delve behind the opaque veneers of these people with whom circumstances have forced her to interact. When the action does begin, it becomes fairly breathtaking—so much so that it sometimes lapses into an orgy of literary "special effects," a potentially fatal flaw that has been the downfall of many a supernatural tale. Lots of noise and screaming and fire and smoke, spectacle taking the place of true drama.
The result is a climax that seems a bit rushed and less painstakingly crafted than all that has come before. In fact, in the penultimate chapter, one character, a young woman named Lisa, after an especially brutal encounter with the otherworldly menace, suffers a shattered arm, which the author describes as dangling "at a sickening angle." Two pages later, in the midst of a panicked ritual, Lisa raises her arms and presses her hands together—a movement that would seem pretty much impossible under the circumstances.
Not a fatal flaw, but a distraction that pulled me away from the intimacy I had been enjoying with the book.
Despite a few such problems, The Harrowing is, overall, a decent first novel. I have to give Alexandra a great deal of credit for her storytelling, particularly in rendering a believable, atmospheric setting (in fact, I can't help but picture Seaview Terrace, a.k.a. Collinwood in the original Dark Shadows, as Mendenhall dormitory in the novel—particularly since Seaview has for many years been a dorm at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island).
If you enjoy tense drama and ghostly goings-on in a gloomy, atmospheric old house, The Harrowing may be just for you. In hardback and paperback from St. Martins Press.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
• Fugue Devil
• Rapture in Black
• Sky of Thunder, Island of Blood
• Other Gods
• Circus Bizarre
• The Lake of Shadows
• The Jack-o'-Lantern Memoirs
• The Violet Princess
• Epiphany: A Flying Tiger's Story
• The Fire Dogs of Balustrade
• The Transformer of Worlds
• The Devil's Eye
Other Gods is not yet listed on Dark Regions' Web site, but updates will be posted soon. Regular updates will be posted at my Web site and blog(s).
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I don't usually wax political here, but nothing inflames the old temper more than the idiocy of radical Muslims. I'm sure you've heard about the British schoolteacher in Sudan whose class had a teddy bear named Mohammad (ostensibly named for a child in the class, not the Lawgiver). And thus—much as when Salman Rushdie wrote The Satanic Verses, and Danish newspapers printed cartoons depicting the Lawgiver—the fine apes of the world threw a temper tantrum and demanded that she be jailed, fined, and bequeathed forty lashes. Well, today, she was convicted and sentenced to 15 days in jail (five already served), followed by expulsion from the country.
The latter is probably the best thing that could happen. I am greatly relieved that she was not sentenced to the lashes, as that might well have been fatal for her.
I have to admire someone who willingly sojourns in the planet of the apes with the hope of building bridges between us and them. It's a noble thing, but I swear to God, Charlton Heston had a better chance of ironing out his issues with Dr. Zaius than any rational human being does with Islamists. They are kindergarten bullies who, sadly, are not confined to their own little sandbox, and who use the tools of civilized society to spread their unique brand of hatred and intolerance. Ironically, they charge Ms. Gibbons, said schoolteacher, with being "another ring in the circles of plotting against Islam."
No, Ms. Gibbons was trying to do right by her young charges and in the community where she worked. The only force fueling intolerance of Islam in the world is the radical Islamist mindset. And saddest of all, while there are still dissenting and reasonable voices in the Muslim world (a good example may be found here), the smoke is thick and the fire is spreading. At this point, I don't know whether those who were calling for the most extreme punishment for Ms. Gibbons have yet incited riots, but they sure as hell wouldn't surprise me.
What else can we expect from the planet of the apes?
A late addendum: Sure enough, the protests have begun.
Monday, November 26, 2007
There be spoilers here, so if that makes you unhappy, vacate the premises with all possible haste.
The novella is my favorite of all King's work, at least that I've read to date. The movie stays very true to its source, and where it does diverge, it's mainly in elaborating the characters. The creatures are quite chilling in appearance and execution; on occasion, the CGI is a wee tad less-than-perfect, but never poor enough to spoil the effectiveness of the imagery. The acting is first-rate across the board, and I was very happy to see Frances Sternhagen and Jeffrey DeMunn, who are a couple of my favorite character actors. DeMunn in particular has had a good run in several King-based films, such as Storm of the Century, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile.
Among horror fans—and non-fans, for that matter—the grim (some say cruel) ending is a point of some contention.
To me, the end felt a too-obvious exercise in irony; I saw it coming as soon as they got past the big critter of the novella's ending. Still, I didn't get the feeling that it was necessarily continuous narrative at the end—that the military was literally just a mile away. We're focused on Drayton, whose perspective by this point is probably skewed as all get-out. The moments shown in the last minutes of the film might have been minutes...or hours. Or more. Not that it particularly matters—just an idea that occurred to me as I was watching it.
I didn't hate the ending by any means, and it certainly didn't ruin the whole thing (as the ending of The Stand does for me). I didn't think it stretched credibility to think the military could have gotten as far as they did cleaning up the situation; the critters were quite mortal, after all. Still, I think I'd have been just as happy to see it end ambiguously, as the novella did. That was pretty damn grim in and of itself.
Some have said that moviegoers have ended up laughing at the ending. Where I saw it, no one was laughing. The only thing I did hear was from a group of folks going out who were shaking their heads and muttering, "He cowarded out. He just cowarded out."
Maybe. Easy to say when you're sitting in a movie theater that's not under assault by the unearthly (and you're not terribly fussy about proper English usage). Putting myself into that character, it's quite conceivable I might have done the same thing. Had I been there with my child, and I truly believed that the alternative was one of those things getting hold of her, well...I think I could. I've always believed there are worse things than death, particularly having lived through the long, lingering demise of my father. To spare someone such a horror... I think I could.
All in all, I'm very happy with director Darabont's rendering of The Mist. I'm certain I'll be hitting the theater to see it at least once more, and it'll be a keeper once it's released on DVD.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Nothing like spending time with the family at the old homestead in Virginia. It's a little gray today, but otherwise quite pleasant and probably good for a big old walk in the spooky woods this afternoon.
Making great progress on my upcoming scary project. Met with the cover artist on Monday to yak about graphic details.
Hope that whets your appetites....
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I've managed to get several writing projects lined up for the coming year—although I'd hoped a couple of them would be farther along by now. Alas, no, so I still can't announce them. However, at least one, which involves a new book, looks to be shaping up nicely, so that one, at least, I'll scream and holler about in the near future, gods and monsters willing.
We're in the midst of my favorite time of year—the period from Halloween till Christmas—and Thanksgiving is shaping up to be a fine time with family. Here's hoping, and hoping for good things for all of y'all too.
Yes, I do say "y'all". Don't like it? Lump it.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Last night, we watched 1408, which I generally enjoyed. Not at all a bad adaptation of King, though at times it did venture somewhat farther over the top than I could appreciate. Still, it did inspire me to dream about being in a haunted hotel, though the one I visited struck me as more annoying than traumatic.
Got back home this afternoon to find that two of the cats had managed to lock themselves in the bathroom overnight, and there was poop in the sink. Yeah, it was a stinky treat. At least their hearts were in the right place. Maybe next time they'll experiment with using the toilet.
I leave you with a shot of Dave and I making the best of it.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Didn't manage a lick of writing tonight, which ordinarily would bring me no joy; however, I did enjoy a fine dinner of boiled dead crustacean at Red Lobster with my good friend Gina Farago, author of Ivy Cole and the Moon and its upcoming sequel Luna.
Ivy is currently in release by Berkley, and it's a damn fine read. Go out and get it right now. Luna is soon to appear in hardback from NeDeo Press. When it comes out, get it, too.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
It's been a nice couple of days on the writing front. Earlier today, I sold a reprint tale ("Now I Lay Me Down to Dream," which originally appeared in the Terminal Frights anthology) to Shroud magazine; even received contract and payment within hours of the story's acceptance. The Web site makes it look like a very promising market, so here's hoping. I believe my story will be appearing in the January 2008 premier issue. Cool beans.
Received word today from Sarob Press (sadly, now defunct) that a nice royalty check for The Nightmare Frontier is winging its way to me. Money is never a bad thing, but it's a shame they had to close up shop. Sarob produced beautiful books.
Also—I've accepted a very kind invitation to be a Guest of Honor at Mo*Con in June 2008, which Maurice Broaddus hosts at his church in Indianapolis; don't have much in the way of details yet, but Maurice's intro for last year's event, which starred authors Wrath James White, Gary Braunbeck and Brian Keene, may be viewed here: Mo*Con II
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Authors David Niall Wilson and Bill Ferguson will also be signing.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
I did run up on a big old copperhead while going along the creek. Fortunately, it had the sense to slip into the water and swim away, and I had the good sense not to follow it.
Now, coming up here last night was deliciously spooky. After the trick-or-treaters were pretty much done (about 8:30-ish), I got in the car, headed up north of the border (yes, the NC/VA border, about an hour's drive), and decided to visit the old "Secret Place" that my brother and I used to frequent back in the late 80s/early 90s. It's an old dead-end road in the county where one used to be able to find the spooky ruins of some old houses, which we explored in depth. The way back to them is blocked off anymore, but the road itself is still pretty much the definition of creepy. Drove back there with the soundtrack to Night of Dark Shadows playing, got out, had a smoke, and savored the atmosphere for a while. It's pitch dark back there except for one opening in the trees where, many miles in the distance, you can see the lights of Martinsville. It was just the place to spend a little quiet time on Halloween night.
Perhaps I shall make a tradition of it.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
That's my kind of Halloween.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
However, the Andersons' Halloween party was killer, as you can see below.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Tradition also compels us on this excursion to purchase our Halloween pumpkins at a little store on U.S. 58, near Stuart, VA. So, with nary a complaint, we did this thing and, while browsing the pumpkin patch, were treated to the happy sounds of "Fire on the Mountain" and other tunes by a bluegrass band playing in the parking lot. Also nice—the pumpkins were half price.
We get our buckwheat pancakes once a year as kind of a kick-off to Halloween week. Well, it's here and officially kicked off. Tonight, it's Halloween parties. The costume is ready. It's time to get scared. Real scared.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I've received official acceptance of my short story, "Messages From a Dark Deity," for Elder Signs Press's Visages of the Void, an anthology devoted to ye gnarly old Nyarlathotep, the Messenger of the Great Old Ones, edited by Peter Worthy. Looks like it will be a late 2008 release.
In keeping with my long-standing tradition, I'm trying to fit in some scary flicks as we lead up to Halloween. Last night was my perennial favorite, House of Dark Shadows, and tonight, I put on the first half of the 1978 BBC production of Count Dracula, starring Louis Jourdan—easily my favorite adaptation of Drac. Louis Jourdan doesn't exactly fit Stoker's physical description, but he nails the role in every other way. Far as I'm concerned, his portrayal may be the best ever to appear on the screen (in this case, the small screen).
I still have to get to Curse (Night) of the Demon to make Halloween official; I'll finish Dracula tomorrow night, and perhaps get Demon in on Thursday. I've half a mind to hit the theater to see 30 Days of Night, but we'll see what the other half says over the next day or so.
It's a good week to make an escape into horror. Jeez, and it's only Tuesday. The weekend can't get here fast enough.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Naturally, the best part of the weekend was hanging out with Beth, Cort, Matt and Deena Warner, and Barb and Charlie Lawson, all of whom rate as friends of exceptional stature. Last night, we were treated to a viewing of Trail of the Screaming Forehead, for which Cort did a bunch of the creative work. It's the latest from Larry Blamire, who brought us The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra and Tales From the Pub. It was damn funny, very much in the same league as Lost Skeleton. They've got to get this one a general release very soon, if only on DVD.
Today, I went with my mummy to Winston-Salem to see my brother, Phred, in a production of Romanoff and Juliet (written by Peter Ustinov) by the Stained Glass Playhouse. Phred played one of the funny soldiers. Far as I know, he's planning to do some more work with them, which is a cool thing; he hasn't done any theater since high school, but you'd almost think he knew what he was doing. All of the actors were quite good, very professional. Enjoyed myself immensely.
Oh yeah—Beth's got a book trailer up for her new novel, Homeplace. Check it out below.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Tomorrow, I'm off to Book Em, the benefit book sale for literacy, in Waynesboro, VA. Lots of authors from the region (and elsewhere) will be there selling books, with a portion of the proceeds going to promote literacy in Virginia jails. If you're anywhere in traveling distance and care to drop by, please do. It's at Waynesboro High School. Writer Matt Warner is also slated be there; I expect the two of us will pretty much make up the horror contingent this year.
And in dire need of some of that Halloween spirit, I put on the DVD of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I think it worked. I'm starting to feel scary.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Today, I set out for a destination new to me: the Doe Run Trail, which is a series of trails on the land that borders the old DuPont plant site (where my dad worked for 30 years). DuPont is no longer there, but before the company closed down, it donated all that land to the city, which has taken the excellent step of putting in hiking trails. There are a number of trails in this area that have recently opened, and, eventually, they are destined to link up to create one long, scenic path, mostly bordering the Smith River through Henry County.
A portion of the Doe Run Trail goes along the old rail spur that went to DuPont. It runs through several miles of dense woodland, and is essentially the only sign of human habitation therein. Something about rail lines running through the forest has fascinated me since I was a little kid, and it was just damn cool to get out there and follow one for a ways today. There's a genuine sense of isolation out there, and the silence today struck me as profound. No sounds of animals, airplanes, traffic, breeze...anything (at least until the trail brought me close to the main road again). I had the Twin Peaks score playing in the car on the way to and from the trail, which was the perfect soundtrack for such an excursion.
I wish I had done a search on the Web before I went out there, though. I discovered that most of the trails around here are populated with geocaches, and an entry for the Doe Run Trail was made just today. People taking part in the activity leave hidden somewhere around the trail a container with a logbook and various other items, so that others, following latitude and longitude clues, can find them and add to the cache. I recognized a couple of clues on the Web site entry immediately, and it would have been neat to find the cache and add my name to the logbook. Next time...
And now, it's back to work on "Demon Jar."
Saturday, October 13, 2007
For the rest of the day, I've been hiding out in Dad's old den, still hard at work on my new tale, which is tentatively titled "Demon Jar." Progress still seems a bit slow, but it's relatively steady, and yeah, it's a creepy tale. I like that.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Possible (very) good news on another of the writing fronts, but I'm not at liberty to disclose details at the moment, so I won't. I shall happily keep you-who-really-want-to-know in suspenders.
The day's highlight was easily the batch of spicy clam chowder I made for dinner. Mine is a Manhattan-style concoction, which I devised just by throwing stuff in a pot.
Tell you what, I'll give you my recipe. Bear in mind, when I make it, all of the below are subject to much variation.
Four 6.5-ounce cans of minced clams
Four or five stalks of celery (diced)
Four or five carrots (or equivalent in baby carrots) (diced)
Whole white or yellow onion (diced)
Two jalapeno or habanero peppers (diced)
Two whole lemons
Two tbsp. soy sauce
Two tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
One tbsp. Tabasco sauce
Two–three tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
One tsp. salt
Dash of dill weed
Dash of garlic salt
Two 10.75-ounce cans Campbell's Tomato soup
32-oz. bottle of Mott's Clamato juice
Dump the clams, diced veggies, spices, and sauces into a large pot. Squeeze in the juice of the lemons. Heat on medium-high until liquid is bubbling happily. Stir in the cans of tomato soup. Once the liquid begins to bubble again, add the whole bottle of Clamato juice and stir vigorously for several minutes. Reduce heat to simmer, and let it cook for 30–40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes eight to ten servings.
I often add more in the hot pepper department, but I'm a masochist.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Last night's scary movie was Feast, from 2005, produced by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Wes Craven. I hadn't heard much about it—primarily a couple of negative reviews—so I went in with fairly low expectations. I actually ended up pleasantly surprised, for what we have here is a fast-moving, oftentimes gripping little monster movie, much in the vein of Tremors. Pretty damn gross and oftentimes funny.
Oh yes, there is gore aplenty. The movie starts with a car accident in the desert, and the survivors make their way to an isolated tavern. They explain that there are murderous things out in the dark, and "they're hungry." That they are, for within minutes, these ferocious, half-seen monstrosities with nasty great teeth launch an attack on the bar. Carnage abounds, and after the first bloody assault, the patrons realize they are trapped inside the building. For the rest of the movie's running time, the monsters devour some hapless victims, suffer a few retaliatory blows, then come round to do it all over again.
Unlike Tremors, however, Feast is handicapped by a cast of characters who are almost to the last one repulsive and, in some cases, as brutal as the monsters looking to kill them. While several of them display some entertaining wit, it's still exceedingly difficult to give a hoot about them, and only the movie's breakneck pace keeps the people scenes from ruining the whole business. Clu Gulager, one of my favorite character actors, manages to partially redeem the cast; with his typically easy-going and more genial demeanor, his role is marginally more engaging than the younger cast members'.
Humor abounds, occasionally falling flat, but succeeding just frequently enough to counteract the genuinely nasty taste of these characters. There's no earthly reason the writers couldn't have drawn people with more redeeming personalities; not everyone on the planet is a self-centered, foul-mouthed, lying, cheating piece of shit, and while tossing a few of them in the mix might suggest an authentic cross-section, populating the majority of the cast with them reeks of, at best, pandering to viewers' basest expectations ("They're gonna die, so they GOTTA be terrible, they just gotta!"), or, at worst, a genuine, lamentable tendency toward the misanthropic.
While the shortcomings in the character department are critical, they don't completely undermine the movie's entertainment value. So, with some reservations, I'm going to give Feast a B–. Had the filmmakers opted for more appealing people scenes, a la Tremors, it might have been a really terrific monster flick.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
I went to Raleigh today to do a panel on writing with Scott Nicholson and Alexandra Sokoloff, which was not exactly standing room only, but fun enough. Always good to see Scott and Alex, and we at least had a fairly enthusiastic little group of attendees.
Just on principle, I ordinarily will have absolutely nothing to do with American Movie Classics; way back in its early days, I loved that channel, but ever since they went to running commercials, editing films (for running time and content), and formatting them to fit my screen, I have pretty much boycotted the station. I don't know which "movie people" are into butchered films, but I am definitely not one of them. However, last night at 3:00 a.m., they frigging ran The She Creature, which I have not seen since childhood, and I have wanted to for years. So I recorded the thing and watched it this evening as one of those pre-Halloween treats I allow myself to indulge in. At least I could zap the commercials.
I knew this was no great film by any stretch, but I have to say, it featured the most sedate cast I ever saw. I don't believe anyone raised his or her voice over the course of the film, even when being attacked by the beast. Tom Conway gives a new meaning to the style of acting known as "wooden." In fact, I suspect he was supported by one of those T-bars you hang scarecrows from. Regardless, I enjoyed the crap out of it, cheezy monster and everything. It even had a couple of fairly eerie scenes as the critter emerged from its hazy past into the present. I'm glad I watched it, for sure, though it'll probably be another quarter century before I sit down to do it again.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Okay, well, they weren't that big, but they were glowing, and the opossum they belonged to didn't look like a terribly happy camper. He bared his great big long tuskies a few times and hissed a bit, obviously perturbed by certain thoughtless people making a racket when he was trying to sleep. I guess if our positions had been reversed, my eyes would have glowed too, and, certainly, if I had great big long tuskies, I would bare them.
The Halloween atmosphere is gradually beginning to settle in. I ordered the components of the costume for our friends' upcoming party. Just for good measure, I started up the 1991 Dark Shadows series on DVD this evening, and the annual craving for It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is beginning to build. I might be able to hold out a few more days. We'll see.
(Nah, I don't like Halloween, not one little bit.)
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Thanks to the intensely wicked Nanci Kalanta, unsuspecting readers will be subject to one of my horrific tales next year at HorrorWorld. I signed the papers today and will announce the details when there are details to announce. I think I have something up my sleeve that's just the ticket for this. Will have to meditate a bit and tug on the old winch that opens up the brain-flue, but given an opening in the schedule and a spot of good weather, I think we'll have a winner.
At any rate, you should be checking out HorrorWorld anyway for smashing fiction, interviews, reviews, news, and author message boards (including my own, sadly neglected one, which I really need to remedy). The site is updated each month. You can check out my HW interview from some time back right here: HorrorWorld Interviews Some Old Dude (archived at my Web site).
Sunday, September 30, 2007
OK, I'm here. Been blogging on MySpace and keeping ye olde journal on my Web site, but figured I'd give it a go here just for shits and giggles.
Saturday night, our friends, the Albaneses, came down from Martinsville for a big old Thai dinner that I cooked up (one of my best, I have to say!) and then we engaged ourselves in one of our favorite pastimes: going to the drive-in theater in Eden, about a half-hour up the road. No Reservations and Balls of Fury were showing, neither of which I'd have gone to see otherwise, but it was all about the drive-in experience, more than the movies themselves. Got rather chilly out there, but we had coats and blankets to bundle up, and there were some good, hot cheeseburgers from the concession stand for dessert. A fine evening all around.
For the last few years, it's been an office tradition for me to read one of my stories at our Halloween "festival," so this year I think I'm going to read "The Devils of Tuckahoe Gorge," which came out a while back in Dark Discoveries magazine. Spent Sunday editing a thousand words out of it so it'll fit into the 15-minute time slot I have. The end result was a tighter and certainly better tale than what was actually published. Wish I'd done it sooner. Also proofread the galleys of "The Ghost Lens," which will be coming out next month in Elder Signs Press's Horrors Beyond II. Is looking good.