Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Happy Halloween

Halloween is the one day of the year I really look forward to going to the office. We have trick-or-treating, a costume contest, jack-o'-lantern carving, and I get to read one of my scary tales. A good crowd today—most everyone there, as a matter of fact. I read my latest, "Demon Jar," which will be featured at HorrorWorld next November. It's kind of edgy for work, but it went over pretty well, and some people really did appear to be creeped out.

That's my kind of Halloween.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Another Trip to the ER

Since my wife, Peg, has the rare ability to injure herself in ways that most people don't, we ended up at the emergency room last night from about midnight to 2:00 a.m. after she slammed her own hand in our car door. Nothing broken, but numerous stitches were required, and there will be significant pain for several days.

However, the Andersons' Halloween party was killer, as you can see below.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Halloween MMVII: The Search for Buckwheat

Another long-standing Halloween tradition for the Damned Rodan gang is to hit the Blue Ridge Parkway and have breakfast at Mabry Mill, where buckwheat pancakes beckon like a pristine city to a giant radioactively mutated rubber Japanese monster. Our friends, the Albaneses, have shared in this tradition for many years now, and this morning, well before sun-up, we undertook the excursion into the mountains. After three days, the rain finally gave up the ghost, so we had a beautiful drive up, with nice purty leaves and not a lick of traffic to contend with.

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

Messages From a Dark Deity

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

Back From Book Em

Spent a really nice weekend with Elizabeth Massie and Cortney Skinner in Waynesboro, VA, and participated in Book Em on Saturday, which is a big benefit for literacy with lots of authors in attendance. The crowd seemed much smaller this year than last; I sold a few books, but only about half as many as last year, and, sadly, I heard the same from a number of writers. To the credit of the organizers, things were generally well-run and actually seemed a bit more streamlined than last year. I was on a decent little panel, along with Matthew Warner and several others, about how to get published, and I took part in a podcast for the Augusta Free Press, the local independent newspaper (which may be found here). There's another set for next year, and I'll happily attend, but I hope they can drum up a bigger crowd with better and more meaningful publicity, and perhaps change the venue to something more inviting than the local high school gymnasium.

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

We Loves Our BBQ, Book Em, and the Great Pumpkin

Last night on the local news, there was a notice about the Greensboro Police Club's annual barbecue fixin', and as I am a barbecue nut, it more than caught my attention. The cooks stayed up all last night roasting about a ton of dead animal and then sold it at the clubhouse today. So I drove up yonder after work, picked up a passle of it, and brought it home. Hoooey! I ate way, way, way too much. But I couldn't stop myself.

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

Walking the Rail Trails

I thank all the inhabitants of the Black Lodge that my old hometown in Virginia's piedmont is still a largely undeveloped, lushly wooded area, as yet untouched by vermin who would simply bulldoze it, drop some hideous and utterly needless complex into it, and take their money and run. Anyone who knows me or follows my exploits pretty much knows that hiking the woods is one of my favorite pastimes, and it's especially meaningful back in my old hometown, which still retains much of the character it's had since long before I was born.

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

A Birthday in the Mountains

Some days turn out rather special, and I'd count today as one of them. For my mom's birthday, Peg and I took her up to Chateau Morrisette on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we had a dinner that I'm pretty sure hit the mark of perfection (beef tournedos, rare, with the chateau's own red wine sauce), along with good wine and gorgeous scenery. The weather couldn't have been nicer, and the mountains were as beautiful as they can be—at least before the leaves turn for fall. Chateau Morrisette is one of my favorite places around; in fact, Peg and I celebrated our anniversary there, back in August. They were having a big music festival today, with the Embers playing, which we didn't know about when I made the reservations, so I ended up having to park about a mile away, but it didn't impact the service at the restaurant, which was excellent.

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


Spent the last couple of days pounding the keys for a new tale, which I'm writing for a specific market. For all the pounding, it doesn't seem to be moving very quickly, but at least it's heading in the right direction. It's been a rather ugly week, which I won't get into here, and certain situations have about left me quite spent, energy-wise, so I'll take whatever consolation in having made this much progress.

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

Eyes Without a Face, Part Deux: Roadkill

Evidently, yon possum who adorned our fence the other night (see October 4) was one of a family, as one of its relatives had a bad night tonight. This evening, Peg discovered an expired specimen—far larger than the first—lying on the road, right at the edge of our driveway...poor thing. We didn't want it to get mutilated any further by vehicles, so we packed it up in a garbage bag, and I sailed it over the fence.

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

Eyes Without a Face

There's something slightly heart-stopping about going out after dark to take out the trash, only to hear a sudden scrabbling on the fence behind the trash cans, and then see a big old pair of glowing eyes staring down at you.

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

HorrorWorld Fiction

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).