Monday, December 31, 2007

The Inevitable Recap

These days, if there's any significance whatsoever to the calendar flipping over to a new year, it's nothing I particularly care for. I never make resolutions, I don't expect things locally or globally to suddenly get all better now just because it's not last year anymore, and I have to start compiling crap for doing my taxes. My next birthday, assuming I get to it, adds another number to my age; okay, sure, I'm thrilled to have gotten this far, but I'm certainly older in body than in mind. Aging really ought to stop somewhere between 33 and 41, and then you're good from here on out. Ha ha.

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

I Think It's Gonna Be a Long, Long Time

Mercy, I haven't seen this one in a long time. I remember when it first aired, and I asked my roommate to please drive nails into my head with a baseball bat.
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

I Loves Me Some Christmas

Always have. In fact, the time of year between Halloween and the new year is always my favorite. Well, Halloween being Halloween, it just rates anyway. But Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two times of year that my family comes together and renews its closeness.

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 Zero, 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

Musical Monkey Shines!

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

OTHER GODS Scheduled for Spring 2008 Release

Received the contract and check from Dark Regions Press today for Other Gods, and it's been added to Dark Regions' Web site, so I reckon it's about as official as official gets. It's scheduled for a Spring 2008 release. Sixteen tales to send you off in a fright by yours truly. Cover art by Wayne Miller, intro by Elizabeth Massie. Go for it.

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

Just What One Needs Going Into the Holidays....

A blasted cold bug.

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

I Love This Book

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

What Dreams May Come and All That

Not blogging so much lately, with all my energy going into a new tale, which I very much fear may end up novella length. Tough sell, a novella, but this one's dictating that it go where it will. Had a long, vivid, violent dream the other night—one of those very rare ones with an honest-to-god storyline, some gratuitous sex and violence, and very little of the funky nonsense that usually creeps into dreams and renders them unwritable, at least without major overhauling. None of that here. I woke up at four AM the other morning and started scribbling everything I could remember. Took me a good thirty to forty minutes, and I'm not sure I've gotten my beauty sleep back since then.

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

Crab Attack!

Turner Classic Movies ran Attack of the Crab Monsters last night, or rather, early this morning, at 2:00 AM. This is one of those legendary Roger Corman Z-movie classics that thrilled so many of us as children in the 50s and 60s—except that I never managed to see it as a young 'un. All these years, I've felt deprived, particularly since the stills that Famous Monsters of Filmland used to run convinced me that I hadn't lived until I had seen this movie. Well, now at age 48, I've seen it—sort of—so I guess I can go to my final rest satisfied.

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

I Lost a Friend Today.

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 mp3s 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.

Boo's little cat, Scotty, 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

Alexandra Sokoloff's THE HARROWING

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

OTHER GODS from Dark Regions Press

Dark Regions Press will be producing a new collection of my short fiction, titled Other Gods, scheduled for release in late summer 2008. It will feature 16 of my tales, spanning twenty years, including the never-before-published "Antidotes." This will be released as a signed, limited-edition hardback as well as a trade paperback, featuring cover art by Wayne Miller and an introduction by Elizabeth Massie.

• Fugue Devil
• Rapture in Black
• Sky of Thunder, Island of Blood
• Other Gods
• Antidotes
• Circus Bizarre
• The Lake of Shadows
• The Jack-o'-Lantern Memoirs
• Silhouette
• The Violet Princess
• Elegy
• Epiphany: A Flying Tiger's Story
• Signals
• 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).