Sunday, May 27, 2012

This Old House

Not many things strike fear in the old dude's heart more than Rob "robgso" Isenhour saying, in reference to one of his new geocache hides, "Aw, it's an easy one." Usually, when he tells me this, I know I'm going to be hunting for quite a while. This one lurks out on the West House Trail, between Lake Townsend and Lake Jeanette. The trail is the shortest of Greensboro's watershed lake trails — less than a mile end to end — and leads to an old brick house, known as (believe it or not) the West House, which was built around 1820, though there's no surviving record of its actual history. Rob's cache, aptly titled "This Old House" (GC3M018), is hidden right at the edge of the meadow where the house stands. Sure enough, the hide took a fair bit of hunting, though, truly, by Rob's standards, it pretty much is "an easy one." The trail, short though it is, passes through some of the most scenic woods around the lakes, and, happily, I got out early enough to avoid the worst of the day's heat... which is beginning to crank up.

Next stop for the day... The Grove Winery. Yay!

Click on the images to enlarge.

(L) The spillway between Lake Townsend and Lake Jeanette
(R) Ground zero. Yep, the cache is in there....
 One of the little fellows sharing the trail with me today.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Music From the Shadows

I've been on a Dark Shadows kick lately, in case that hasn't been obvious to you who who've lurking in dark corners. (I know you're lurking; I've been watching you. While you're here, how about dusting those corners for me, thx.) Big Finish Productions, as you may well know, has released something in the neighborhood of thirty Dark Shadows audio dramas, of which I've written three. A while back, Big Finish compiled the scores from several of the productions (including those I wrote) in two volumes. I finally got around to picking up the first of them, and I must tell you, if you enjoy somber, eerie mood music, then this stuff is absolutely for you. The scores, composed by Nigel Fairs, provide effective ambiance for the audio dramas, but because the music is necessarily muted in favor of the actors' vocal performances, getting a true feel for its depth and quality is difficult. Listening to it all by its lonesome, it seems a whole different creature — oftentimes mesmerizing and occasionally unsettling. Fairs interpolates numerous motifs from Robert Cobert's original Dark Shadows scores, capably creating a sense of continuity with the original show, though, in the overall, his original work is in no way derivative. Several tracks from the various dramas bring to mind the dark, orchestral style of Dead Can Dance or Nox Arcana, which, though departing from the more familiar, minimalist flavor of Cobert's signature themes, still conjure an atmosphere apropos of Dark Shadows. All vanity aside, his score for Curse of the Pharaoh strikes me as the best of his work, at least on this album. It's relentlessly deep and throbbing, highlighted by reverberating choral passages that convincingly conjure haunting images of ancient Egypt.

Unfortunately, at least with the download version, the individual tracks are not identified by name or the story they accompany. I recognize the music from the three that I wrote — The Path of Fate, Curse of the Pharaoh, and Blood Dance — but without track listings, I can't differentiate the scores from The Skin Walkers, The Wicked and the Dead, Echoes of Insanity, Final Judgement, and London's Burning. It would be nice if the cuts were identified on the Big Finish website. Regardless, taken as a whole, this volume is an excellent addition to wealth of music available from Dark Shadows' various incarnations, from the original ABC-TV series of the 60s and 70s to Tim Burton's 2012 feature film, nicely scored by Danny Elfman. I'm more than a little inclined to go ahead and pick up the second volume of the audio drama music, which includes music by David Darlington, Nigel Fairs, and Mike Maclennan.

You can acquire these volumes, as well as the complete range of Dark Shadows audio dramas, from the Big Finish website. They're available on CD as well as via download.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

If You Can't Laugh at Yourself...

Damned Drowned Rodan

...God and the rest of the world can. I've a pretty strong feeling that, yesterday afternoon, God was looking down at me, shaking his head, and thinking, "What a dink." Had to do maintenance on one of my caches on the Bigfoot Trail, so, despite the weather forecast calling for scattered thunderstorms, I headed on out there. It's a good mile and a half to ground zero, but I rarely let the threat of rain keep me from a good hike. The closer I got to the cache, the darker the sky got, and — sure enough — the moment I reached my destination, the bottom fell out. I was under the trees, so I only got a moderate soaking as I took care of business. But right about the time I started back toward the trailhead, the lightning started popping. Close. Terrifically close!

Now, my hiking pole is made of metal, which clearly made me a walking lightning rod. I didn't want to just leave it out there because that pole and I have a long and sordid history together (yes, I know how it sounds, so STFU). To make forward progress, I started spear-hurling that pole down the trail, running after it, grabbing it, spear-hurling, etc., etc. I'm sure I heard God laughing his ass off, but... yeah... the pole and I survived. By the time I got back to the car, the skies were clear and sunny. Job done, no death by electrocution, and you, perhaps, get a chuckle. I say go for it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ah, Critics

Dark Shadows fandom is a relatively big, organic thing, encompassing several generations, and the new Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie has brought many an old fan out of the woodwork as well as gathered new ones — though clearly not as many as Warner Brothers hoped, since the first week's box-office numbers came in lower than expected. Regardless, the buzz has been significant, and, having kept up with the reviews, not to mention general fan reaction, there seems to be a pretty even split between those who loved it and those who hated it. Middle ground... not so much. For at least some hardcore fans, messing with the established mythos is something that ought not be done, while others have happily embraced Burton's new imagining. Some, such as me, don't care a whit that the new movie departs significantly from Dan Curtis's original product but find that, as a standalone cinematic work, it doesn't quite cut the mustard.

As with any subject matter that's near and dear to so many hearts (the original Dark Shadows certainly is to mine), enmity between those with opposing points of view is simply to be expected, and on this count my expectations have been fulfilled in Imax and 3D. Now, I've not been made aware of any particular grumbling about my review of the film (Moments of Shadow, May 12, 2012) — and if there is, who the bleep cares? — so I have no personal axe to grind with anyone. Rather, just for shits and giggles, as someone who has been in the trenches of the creative business for quite a few years, I figured I'd express a few thoughts on the subject of criticism, particularly as it applies to Dark Shadows.

Inevitably, in these clashes of like versus dislike, the typical reaction from each side in regard to the other is "what the hell is wrong with you?" To my mind, this is simply shallow thinking — or straight-up immaturity — which thus explains its prevalence (because, face it, deeper thinking hurts). In the case of Dark Shadows, there's a sizable contingent who were so put off by the trailer that they proudly boast they'll never watch the film and evidently find meaning in life by looking down their snoots at those who enjoyed it. However, the most prevalent misconception I've seen, particularly among certain longtime fans, is that if you didn't like the movie and — lord help you — publicly expressed the fact, it's absolutely, positively because you can't abide anyone mucking around with the original property, and maybe you should just shut up because, by criticizing Burton's movie, you're doing grievous harm to the entire franchise and all the people who've ever been associated with it. Now, indeed, there are plenty who do possess this attitude, and while to some extent I understand it, I think in the bigger picture it's misguided.

Whether you liked the film or didn't, if you present a fair case for your way of thinking and don't dismiss out of hand the positions of those who disagree with you, then you have my ear. If you're not interested in having my ear, or someone else's outside your own little choir, then why are you blathering?

Hand in hand with the above, the position that most chaps my ass is the fallacious notion that, if you haven't actually made your own multimillion dollar movie, you can't credibly criticize it; yet, if you do, your words are somehow influential enough to sway the minds of the masses against the movie maker. Let's look at it from a slightly different perspective. You know, I'm not a chef de cuisine, but I've had enough experience with well-made seafood dishes to know when I'm getting an inferior oyster and shrimp creole, even though I've never made it myself. If I publicly state the dish in question wasn't well made, then I'm doing the world a grave disservice, wot? Now, it may be that someone with different tastes will find said creole completely satisfactory, and that's fine, but that's sure as fire not going to dissuade me from voicing my opinion. Chances are, tending to be as objective as possible, I will also find some complimentary things to say about the bits that were done right. In my book, objectivity builds credibility.

Having put numerous novels, a hundred or so short stories, three anthologies, several audio drama scripts, and a long-running fiction magazine out in front of the world, I've had my share of critiques, running the gamut from "This Rainey fellow is some kind of Other God" to "He couldn't write his way out of a wormhole." As a creative person, you take the good with the bad, and it's healthier not to take either too much to heart. If you submit your work for public consumption, you might better expect to be trashed because, believe it or not, there's always someone who will find fault with it. Usually, however good the overall package might be, there are faults to be found. In the end, it doesn't matter how long you've labored, how many dollars you've spent, how much sleep you've lost to put your baby in front of what you hope is a receptive audience. The only thing that matters is whether it works or it doesn't. What works for some may not work for others. The credible critics, the ones who stand out from all the noise, the objective ones, are those who back up their opinions. They ought not be told to shut up, whichever position they take.

Again, this has nothing to do with any specific comments about my personal review; it's just my reaction to some of the general shouting out there. Yessir, Dark Shadows fans can be an emotional bunch. More power to us. But let's some of us not be quite so ugly and shallow. It really is unbecoming.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dark Shadows: The Labyrinth of Souls

Back when I had more hair, Beth Massie and I co-wrote our first novel together—Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark—for HarperCollins. It was a grand thing writing this book, being all kinds of Dark Shadows fans, don't you know. The book did well, and things looked promising for contributing future entries to the series. Once Dreams was finished, I immediately took to plotting a new one, titled Dark Shadows: The Labyrinth of Souls, this one overtly taking up the Dark Shadows storyline where the original ABC-TV series ended in 1971. As main characters, it featured Quentin Collins, Barnabas Collins, Carolyn Stoddard, Julia Hoffman, and a new antagonist, Dr. Maitland Karswell (if you've read a certain pair of stories by Robert Bloch and M. R. James, respectively, you know exactly where that name comes from). I completed a detailed synopsis, wrote the first three chapters for good measure, and packaged it up for HarperCollins. Then... the very next day... Harper dumped its media tie-in division, HarperPrism, and thus went the Dark Shadows novel series.

Sometime later, there were rumblings that Tor might take up the line, and indeed, Tor did pick up Lara Parker's follow-up to Angelique's Descent, titled Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch. At that point, I was pleased enough with the initial work on The Labyrinth of Souls to go full bore and complete the thing, hoping to have a leg up if things went well with Tor. S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders; Rumble Fish; That Was Then, This Is Now) had also written a new Dark Shadows novel, but the publisher declined it, and Ms. Hinton repackaged it as an original, stand-alone book and sold it as Hawkes' Harbor. Tor decided that, as far as Dark Shadows novels went, they'd proceed with Lara's work but weren't interested in looking at other potential entries. So much for that avenue.

At that point, I placed Labyrinth on my website, strictly as fan fiction, one chapter per week, making it a continuing drama, and it picked up a pretty good following. A few years later, Big Finish began producing their series of Dark Shadows audio dramas — I was fortunate enough to script three of them — and they initially took a serious interest in producing Labyrinth of Souls as an audio book. Thus, with that possibility open, I removed the novel from my website. However, within a relatively short span of time, the audio series developed its own continuity, and in Big Finish's view, attempting to shoehorn Labyrinth into it would prove prohibitive. So, yet again, the book fell by the wayside.

Since Dark Shadows fan fiction has been a thriving noncommercial enterprise for many years, and this novel is essentially unsellable in its current form, rather than go the route S.E. Hinton took with Hawkes' Harbor, I am once again offering Dark Shadows: The Labyrinth of Souls on my website, strictly as a work of fan fiction, free of charge. It can be downloaded in PDF or Mobi (Kindle) format. Fair warning: the novel never made it past first-draft stage, so the version you download is the first and only draft. I hereby offer the disclaimer that all characters and settings directly based on the Dark Shadows franchise are owned by Dan Curtis Productions, and that no copyright infringement is intended. The author does not and will not receive any remuneration for this work. That said, you may find this monster here: Dark Shadows: The Labyrinth of Souls by Stephen Mark Rainey

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Trail of Dark Shadows

The hollow between Sam Lions and Cherokee Trails, in Martinsville, VA — the beginning
of the Trail of Dark Shadows

That's what I used to call it — the old trail through the woods near Lake Lanier in Martinsville, VA, between Sam Lions and Cherokee Trails. As a youngster in the 1960s, back when Dark Shadows was in its heyday, I found those woods creepy because I was convinced they were inhabited by witches, warlocks, werewolves, and vampires. The trail ran behind my friend Frank's house, and he was the one kid in the neighborhood whose family had cable, which meant we could watch Dark Shadows at his house. (I took every opportunity to invite myself over there so we could be scared in the afternoon.) On occasion, we'd go back into the woods near dark, and there was a particular portion of the trail where, in my mind's eye, I could just see Barnabas Collins, vampire, standing there watching me as the sun went down. It was deliciously chilling.

Ever since then, to me, the trail has been known as the Trail of Dark Shadows. That portion of it in the photo to the left — just beyond the carpet of ferns — is where I often used to envision Barnabas standing. Those flights of imagination were so vivid that my brain can scarcely separate them from memories of actual events.

Beyond the Dark Shadows connection, I've had a near life-long history with that trail, and it's still one of my favorite places to go walking. Today, being Mummy's Day, I trekked up to Martinsville to visit Mum, and during the late afternoon, I went out for a little hike on the trail, as it's been awhile. With the taste of the new Tim Burton Dark Shadows not terribly pleasant on my tongue, this was just the ticket for reflecting on the real Dark Shadows and what an influence it was on my impressionable young mind. And how it has lingered.

In later childhood years, once bike-riding (and riding other friends' motorcycles) became my predominant pastime, I spent yet more time back on the trail, riding and wrecking with gleeful abandon. In my college years, it was a great place to find privacy for activities about which parents and law enforcement officers would have had uncomplimentary things to say. Since becoming an almost honest-to-god writer, I've brainstormed many a horror tale — not to mention the Dark Shadows audio dramas I've scripted — back in those woods. And during those tough recent years, they became a favorite retreat from the stresses of a crumbling marital relationship.

After I'm gone, perhaps I will haunt the Trail of Dark Shadows. What a treat to scare the living shit out of the next generation of kids taking delight in those woods, eh?

Click on the pics to enlarge.
Still haunting the trail after all these years.
The old clay banks of the creek along the trail, from which Frank and I could actually
sculpt Godzilla and other monsters.

Looking up through the woods to Frank's old place.
Beyond the trail was the steep hillside on which we used to play army and shoot at the legions
of dinosaurs that stalked through the forest. Oh yeah, they were out there.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Moments of Shadow

Imax definitely adds a little something to the cinematic experience, and I'm glad I saw Dark Shadows in Imax because the experience definitely needed a little something added.

I've enjoyed a lot of Tim Burton films. Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood, and his original Batman are easy favorites, and I'm pretty fond of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorshands. When, however, came Burton's Planet of the Apes in 2001, for the first time, one of his films about made me chuck some biscuits, to put it in the old Martinsville vernacular.

Sadly, Dark Shadows is more akin to Planet of the Apes than Sleepy Hollow.

There's little point comparing this Dark Shadows to the original franchise; from its opening moments, it quickly becomes clear that this film is its own animal, and that's as it should be. This animal's biggest problem is that it suffers the same malady as the Roger Moore James Bond films of the 1970s and early 80s: the blend of humor and seriousness is awkward, even schizophrenic, and the script is more about timed punches than solid storytelling. Dark Shadows has no idea whether it's a juvenile comedy, a dark fantasy, a tribute, or a parody. It could be any or all of these, but its individual components are all a-jumble, in strange and mismatched proportions. Time after time, scenes that open with all kinds of dark resonance, offering hints of character motivation or development of plot points, switch gears and go for the joke. This is not so much comic relief as comic overkill. With numerous vampire properties currently going strong, such as Twilight, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries, if comparisons are to be made, it's more apt to compare this film to them. It's not a happy thing that a major motion picture, helmed by numerous respected veterans, suffers so in comparison to even a weekly vampire series on CW TV. (Matter of fact, The Vampire Diaries does more credit to Dark Shadows' legacy than this film, and I'm convinced that Ian Somerhalder would make a perfect Barnabas Collins.)

Note: Here there be spoilers.

The film opens with a brief back story detailing how Barnabas Collins (Johny Depp) became a vampire. He's in love with Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote) but, in a terrible error of judgment, has a tryst with resident witch, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). Smarting from the subsequent jilting, Angelique smacks him with the vampire curse, sends Josette plummeting to her death from the cliff at Widows' Hill, and sees to it that Barnabas is chained in his coffin for the next couple of centuries. The prologue is superficial, at best, but — fair enough — there's only so much running time this part of the story can occupy. Moving forward to 1972, in a scene that sets up a tone that would have been admirable, had it been sustained, prospective governess Victoria Winters (also Bella Heathcote) makes her way by train to Collinsport, Maine, to the haunting, wistful strains of The Moody Blues' Nights in White Satin. Her introduction to the Collins family members and attendants is disconcerting, for they are an odd and initially hostile lot: Elizabeth Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer); her daughter, Carolyn (Chloe Moretz); her ne'er-do-well brother, Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller); his son, David (Gulliver McGrath), who enjoys conversing with his long-dead mother; alcoholic caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley); and alcoholic psychiatrist, Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter). One can sympathize with straightlaced-to-the-point-of-quirky Victoria as she comprehends the depths of the peculiar personalities with whom she will be forced to interact. However, before any of these relationships can be cemented, the point of view shifts to Barnabas as he emerges from his coffin in the 20th century, and for much of the picture, Victoria is all but forgotten.

Once Barnabas becomes the center of attention, we have a long, tedious run of gags involving his displacement in time and a bit of not terribly amusing sexual innuendo with young Carolyn. Clearly, Victoria Winters is a reincarnation of Josette, though this connection is never explained or even addressed. The Collins family is suffering financially, primarily due to their business rival, who turns out to be none other than the immortal Angelique herself. Barnabas, having the literal key to the hidden family jewels, swears to put things right and return the Collins family to its former prominence. There's some obligatory over-the-top sexual interplay between Barnabas and Angelique, most of which feels like padding. In a nod to the original series, Julia Hoffman takes it upon herself to attempt to cure Barnabas of his vampirism but, in an odd twist, attempts to reverse the process so that his blood will turn her into a vampire. He's not keen on the idea and resolves the problem in his own unique way.

So, how better to show the town that the Collins family is on top again than by throwing a ball (which, yes, does become fodder for more sexual innuendo) that includes Alice Cooper? Early on, I feared that Alice Cooper's inclusion would be superfluous, and in truth, it is; but, surprisingly, the ball scene is pretty good, and I rather enjoyed Chloe Moretz providing the vocal intro to The Ballad of Dwight Fry. Also in the ball scene, we get a few brief glimpses of original Dark Shadows stars Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, David Selby, and the late Jonathan Frid, who may pass unnoticed by muggles but will certainly stand out to fans.

Through all this, Angelique's temper is heating up, to the point that she blows up the Collins family's fish cannery in Collinsport and attempts to imprison Barnabas in a coffin yet again. This time, however, young David comes to the rescue (after Uncle Barnabas been down under for a full 20 minutes; here, our gag with Barnabas believing he's been entombed for decades is worthy of Gilligan's Island). The interaction between Barnabas and David almost becomes poignant; in fact, when Barnabas discovers Roger attempting to steal the family jewels for himself, he offers him a choice of owning up to his responsibilities as a father or leaving Collinwood forever. In a particularly ugly turn, Roger chooses to abandon his son. Here, Burton really misses the boat; had Roger come to his senses and actually shown some feeling for David, the scene might have been pivotal in evoking sympathy for the family's plight, thus deepening our connection to the drama as a whole. Alas, no. Just another wasted character.

At last, the final showdown. Angelique comes round and, using a recording of Barnabas admitting to killing several folks for their blood, whips the townsfolk into a frenzy and goads them to storm Collinwood. Barnabas reveals himself to all as a vampire and attacks Angelique. Special effects extravaganza commences, and Collinwood catches fire. David's ghostly mother shows up to fuss at Angelique. And — whoa there, partner — Carolyn reveals herself to be a werewolf. Mercy! Finally, Angelique literally loses her heart to Barnabas.

After things have calmed a bit, Victoria wanders over to Widows' Hill to throw herself off. This time, determined not to suffer a repeat of the tragedy with Josette, Barnabas flies off the cliff after her and changes her into a vampire before their bodies smack against the rocks below. Happy happy. Love is thicker than blood is thicker than water.

There's a final scene that I detested, which I'll not bother revealing. It seems another contrivance, potentially opening the way, I suppose, for more crap to happen in a subsequent Dark Shadows film.

The lavish sets; the Collinwood design, which satisfyingly hearkens to the architecture of Seaview Terrace from the original TV series; and the atmospheric cinematography do provide a great deal of aesthetic appeal. Danny Elfman's score borrows some of the motifs and the distinctive instrumentation of Robert Cobert's masterful compositions from the original series to good effect (I enjoyed the score enough to order the soundtrack). These, at least, are stylistic touches that are characteristic of Tim Burton's attention to detail. Sadly, style is not enough to imbue this movie with a lot of heart. Or cohesiveness.

It really needs more of both. Seriously.

Out of six Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetinis, I give Dark Shadows two. Maybe an extra olive for style and Bella Heathcote.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wicked, Creepy Critters

made me right happy. Kimberly had quite liked it when she saw it in London a while back, and she really, really, really wanted me to see it too. Being a good girlfriend and all (I might just keep her), for our respective birthday presents, she got us tickets to last night's show at the Durham Performing Arts Center. No argument from the ol' man.

DPAC is an excellent facility; I don't think there's a bad seat in the house. Ours were in the very first row of the third level, which had us perched at a dizzying altitude smack in front of the stage. Add a couple of glasses of wine, and the acrophobia set in with disturbing and strangely enjoyable intensity. The performance was excellent, the stage production easily the most elaborate I've ever seen (Brugger tells me it was even more so in London). Watching The Wizard of Oz on TV is one of my most profound childhood memories (and I was lucky enough to catch it on the big screen in the late 60s). My first two or three experiences with it as a wee lad were incomplete, however; I just couldn't make it past the initial appearance of ye wicked witch. Come that big old billow of smoke and Margaret Hamilton's cackling countenance, young Mark said, "Nope!" and went off to bed. When I finally did watch the film start to finish, I ended up stunned and absolutely in love with it (though I never got all the fuss about Judy Garland; so not a favorite). Wicked, by and large, made for a most appealing back story, though I confess, had they asked me — and why don't they, after all? — I might have modified a detail here and there, just to tighten the ties to the original tale. Overall, I enjoyed the music, and the orchestra at DPAC rocked, to say the least. I'll give this one five out of five broomsticks.

DPAC is located in downtown Durham, adjacent to the American Tobacco historic district, which in years past was a major Lucky Strike manufacturing facility. The old factories, warehouses, and train station have been converted to a picturesque shopping/dining/office mecca, which we wandered about for a while before the show (there are caches). After the show, we had a late outdoor dinner at Cuban Revolution, whose fare made us exceedingly happy. I had a delicious Ropa Vieja — shredded flank steak in a spicy tomato-based stew of onions, peppers, garlic and adobo over rice, topped with chopped lettuce, tomato, and onion — and Brugger had Crustini con Hummus and Spinach and Cheese Empanadas. I'll give 'em an A+ all around, for food, service, and atmosphere.

At the office, I've accumulated more vacation time than I can carry over past my upcoming anniversary (methinks I may be working too much!), so I'm taking a couple of days off for some belated birthday reveling. This morning, it was up early and out the door for Danville, where a bunch of relatively new caches have been calling me with some insistence. First, Anglers' Park, for a pleasant four-mile hike and half a dozen caches, then a few random locations around town for another half a dozen. I particularly enjoyed one called Creepy Creatures (GC3FP2G), which was full of... you guessed it... creepy creatures. Some of the big critters in the container are what I consider the optimum size to instill honest-to-god brain-searing horror could such things be real. Too real, though, were all the damned creepy ticks, which are out in force now — especially the near-microscopic baby deer ticks, which aren't any bigger than the head of a pin. At the end of it all, unfazed by the ticks and abundant poison ivy, I booked over to Ringgold for an excellent barbecue dinner at The Corner Cafe, owned and operated by caching compadres Laura and Keith McCoy. How you say... yummy.

I sleep now. After all, I'm a hell of a lot older now than I was last week at this time.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Brugger dressed for a serious night out.

A creepy critter?

Damned Rodan at a little graveyard in the woods near Anglers' Park

Yeah, creepy.

A happy little critter I encountered on the trail.

An unfortunate little critter, less happy than the other one I encountered. So sad.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Caching de Mayo

A day of hiking and caching along the Haw River, near Swepsonville, just south of Graham, NC. Here you see here the The Horror of Haw — a rather tubby lizard basking on a rock near the riverside, clearly well-fed on hikers and campers. I risked everything to get a fairly close shot of the monster; happily, I survived to hike another day.

Apparently, Cinqo de Mayo is the day of the Haw River Paddle, which includes a number of canoeing and kayaking events through Alamance and Chatham Counties, from Ossippee to Pittsboro. There were folks aplenty gathered at the river access points, and I passed several campsites teeming with  happy-looking campers along on my hike. I must say I enjoyed the festive atmosphere, even though, for the most part, the trail itself was empty — perfect for hunting caches. The horror, however, became evident after I came off the trail: it's freakin' tick heaven out there.

Though there was little action in this area during the War Between the States, in 1865, General Jumpin' Joe Johnston passed through on his retreat from General William T. Sherman's northward advance from Savannah. There's a historical marker — unfortunately, in poor condition — on the riverbank detailing events at the area known as Ruffin Mills. The foundations of some of the old buildings can still be seen in the woods here.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Gods of Moab...Preview

This is very close to happening. I'm going to be hollering about it. A lot. So better get used to it.

This is my new novella, The Gods of Moab, about to be released for the Kindle on I'm publishing this on my own, just to see how it goes — nothing ventured, nothing gained, and all that jazz. It'll be priced at $2.99 on No question, I've been reluctant to go this route, but clearly, many an established writer is making a good go of it. I figure... what the heck... I'll dive on in and see how well it works for me.

Here's a little teaser to wet your whistle:

"A pleasant New Year's Eve outing becomes an experience in otherworldly horror when two close-knit couples discover a shocking secret in the darkest corners of the Appalachian mountains. At an opulent mountain inn, Warren Burr, his fiancee, Anne, and their friends, Roger and Kristin Leverman, encounter a religious zealot named John Hanger, who makes it his business to bear witness to them of his peculiar...and His efforts rebuffed, Hanger insidiously assumes control of the couples' technological devices, leading them into unexpected, surreal landscapes...landscapes inhabited by nightmarish beings that defy explanation and rationality. To return to the world they thought they knew, Warren and his friends must not only escape the deadly entities that pursue them but somehow stop John Hanger's nightmare-plague from spreading to the outside world."

I hope you'll find this just the tale to blow your eyeballs right out of your head. I mean, that is just what you need, right? Anyhoo, stay tuned. Soon as the novella goes live, I'll be making a racket about it, guaranteed.

Addendum: As of May 5, The Gods of Moab is available for the Kindle, for only $2.99. Check it out here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fourscore and Umpteen Years Ago...

...Mrs. Rainey gave birth to Damned Rodan. Of course, she didn't exactly call me that, though in my younger days, my dad was known to call me damned something or another, and rightfully so.

This birthday, as in these recent past years since I've taken up geocaching, there was indeed caching in the bargain — though, in an unfortunate break with tradition, I wasn't able to take a full day off work to do it. I did, however, knock off a couple of hours early and head after a few in Randolph County. My favorite of the bunch led me to a piece of private property, apparently deserted — at least at the time I arrived. The quiet afternoon seemed rather foreboding, and though I knew I was on the right path, I felt a bit leery of venturing onto the old homestead; after all, folks out in the county do take their property boundaries seriously, and they expect you to, as well. The door to nowhere, which you see here, was particularly vexing. No telling where you might end up going through that thing!

Happily, I soon saw a sign — literally — indicating that I and others of my ilk were expected. Next thing you know, I'm turning up a nice little hand-crafted cache hiding alone in the middle of the woods. I so admire the creativity and the craftsmanship for hides like this one. I won't reveal its identity here, but you cachers in the bunch will surely enjoy going after it.

After this, it was off to meet Kimberly for dinner at Fleming's Steakhouse and Wine Bar at Friendly Center. She bought me an absolutely fabulous meal and gave me presents; clearly, she is a very good girlfriend. Perhaps I will keep her.

Rounding it all out, a mellow evening at home watching Absentia, which was pretty good, and a couple of episodes of Dexter. Although this passage of time thing sometimes just plain eats shit, at least some of the landmarks along the way are outright pleasant. This was one of them.

Out in the middle of nowhere... Do I really want to set foot on the property?
Well, sure, why not?
Nice to know there's a remedy if the woods catch fire! And Damned Rodan, lucky #13....