Friday, May 24, 2013

Subterranean Salem

I've never been claustrophobic, but back when I first started geocaching, going into underground culverts, storm drains, caverns, etc., tended to give me a moment's pause. Conversely, climbing big trees, grain silos, old radio towers, etc., didn't really cause severe acrophobia to kick in. Oddly, the situation seems to have reversed. These days, significant heights are more problematic; the depths less so.

To kick off the Memorial Day weekend, I left work this afternoon, hopped over to Winston-Salem, and went down into a nice, relatively dry, easy-to-negotiate tunnel beneath Old Salem. I was thinking I might get first-to-find on the new cache in there, but as I was heading toward the entrance to the underground, I got a notification on my phone that someone had just logged a find. Interestingly, they indicated they were logging it from ground zero.

Sure enough, I had only gone a few hundred feet into the culvert when I saw lights dancing in the distance and heard voices echoing through the darkness. Yep, the first finders, on their way back toward daylight. My initial inclination was to scare the shit out of them, but anyone who knows me knows that I am too nice a rat bastard to do anything like that on a Friday afternoon. As it was, we had a brief but enjoyable exchange in the darkness. Two very pleasant young women, going by the team name Birdray, who had only taken up geocaching as of last weekend. Quite an initiation, getting first-to-find on an underground cache after having been at it only a week. I was happy to lose out on a first-to-find for that; I bet it's an experience they'll remember and enjoy for a long time to come.

Along the length of the tunnel, I occasionally encountered graffiti, indicating muggles also have their fun in the underground. Fortunately, the cache is pretty well concealed from non-geocaching eyes. Once I had my moniker on the log, I made my way back out toward daylight, only to encounter two more young women — these from Charlotte — about to head in after the cache. Kind of funny, a new cache sitting idle for a week, and then three separate bunches of cachers hit it within a few minutes of each other. Good stuff.

Anyway, sushi from Asahi rounded out the evening. For the rest of the long weekend, more caching, lots of writing, gathering with friends, and maybe a spot of caching just for good measure.

Off with you.
The Droid doesn't take very good pictures in the underground, but the effect
is kind of interesting in its own right.
In addition to a bunch of errant geocachers, I'm pretty sure there are shoggoths down here.
A nice view of the interior taken by Ranger Fox, from the geocaching website

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It's Business Time

No, not that business... well, not right now... but I suddenly find myself with more to write than I can shake a stake at. First on the slate is a fairly lengthy retrospective of Dark Shadows — not that this old man would know diddly about such a thing. Started it yesterday, making good progress. After that, a short story to compose — and possibly another one immediately following. Somewhere in there, I get to keep working on that novel in progress.

No time to lose, and all that. So, it's off to get cracking. Bye.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

THE MONARCHS Now an Audio Book

The Monarchs is now available as an audio book from! Narrated by the venerable Chet Williamson, The Monarchs is a tale of nightmarish intrigue, set in the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina. The audio production is unabridged, with a running time of 8 hours and 27 minutes. The novel is released by Crossroad Press and can also be purchased in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats. You may listen to a sample at or read an excerpt here at my website.

"I would recommend The Monarchs to anyone who enjoys their horror intelligently written, character driven, and bloody. Without giving too much away, I can say that The Monarchs has one of the most exciting endings to a novel that I’ve read in the last year. You really shouldn’t pass this one by."
—TT Zuma,  Horrorworld

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sorry About the Paint

Well, that was amusing.

Ms. Kimberly and I headed out to Yadkin County to visit a couple of wineries this afternoon, and — surprise, surprise — I stopped to look for a handful of caches. At one of them, you had to go under a bridge to get to the trail through the woods, and we came upon the message you see at left. It was to chuckle. And what not. Never did find that cache, alas. It's probably still there, but the place was poison ivy central, so I may go back when it's not in full blossom.

Our first winery stop was Flint Hill Vineyards, near East Bend, NC. It's a scenic spot along a little country road through Yadkin County. Last time we went, there were people skeet shooting across the road, which made it a wee bit less than tranquil, but this time we had no such disruption. Though it was a bit warm, we enjoyed sitting on the expansive front porch — though there was an abundant amount of wildlife, namely bumbly bees, that just would not leave us alone. Flint Hill has several dry reds that I'm particularly fond of; the Chambourcin and Cabernet Sauvignon were the standouts, and they had a red-white blend (Syrah and Chardonnay) called Synergy that was pretty fascinating.

Next was Hanover Park, about 15 miles southwest of Flint Hill. Kimberly and I had been there once before and quite loved it. The winery is in a hundred-some-year-old farmhouse, not very large, but picturesque and very comfortable. Their best wine is unquestionably their blend called 1897 (the year the farmhouse was built), though it's understandably a bit pricey for a bottle. They have several other standout wines, including a Mourvedre, a Chambourcin, and house blend called Michael's Blend, after the owner. I quite enjoyed the glass of Mourvedre I had there, but I opted to bring home a bottle of Michael's Blend. The folks there are very friendly, and we quite enjoyed talking with the staff as well as several other guests. The front porch here can't be beat for sitting and enjoying a glass or two.

Be good.
Ol' Rodan and nice lady rocking at Hanover Park
North Carolina's state plant

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Completely Random Chicago Story

For about half of the 1980s, I lived in Chicago, and on the whole, I really loved it. The traffic could be hell and the winters were frigid, but it was rarely dull. Before getting married and moving to Des Plaines, a northwestern suburb, I shared an apartment with my friend Bill Gudmundson in Logan Square, on the near northwest side of the city, in an aging, three-flat building on Kedzie Avenue. One night — or I should say morning, as it was about 3:00 AM — I woke from a sound sleep to serious hollering from somewhere outside. I went to the window and saw, pretty far down Kedzie, a white dude in a tuxedo stomping up the road in the direction of my apartment. He was yelling at the top of his lungs, "You all eat shit! Every last one of you! You all eat shit! This would never have happened to me in Cleveland! You all eat shit!"

I didn't quite know what to make of this, and in my neighborhood, a lone Caucasian dude issuing insults at an insensitive volume might find his troubles compounded. So, after a bit, I yelled out the window, "Hey! Shut the hell up!"

"Hey, you eat shit!" came the response.

The dude kept walking and hollering, and after a while, he wandered out of sight and out of earshot. I went on back to bed.

I've always kind of hoped he made it back to Cleveland and that it proved to be a happier place. As for me, I ate no shit but gave folks aplenty.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Binding Time and the Blustery Book Festival

Cold, cloudy, and windy. Just the weather for an outdoor book festival in Martinsville, wot? One might not think so, but a decent-size crowd actually did show up at Binding Time Cafe & Books for the event — even better than proprietors John and Bonnie Hale anticipated, so I was informed. The festival ran from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, with 20 authors, there or about, on hand to sell and sign books. I did quite well, I must say; I moved enough product so that my stock of available books is now running very low. Before any future events, I'm going to have to re-order some because I surely do not want to be shy of hellish scares for the unsuspecting.

My space beneath the sometimes perilously billowing tent was next to Dr. Stan Gravely, who grew up in Martinsville about the same time I did, though we didn't know each other well at the time. He was promoting his new book, This Is It!, which is something of a motivational guide to personal growth. I quite enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Stan a bit better, as we have a lot of shared background as well as ideas about living life (and the afterlife) in general. It was also cool that a few geocachers of my acquaintance stopped by, as did one of my most personally influential high school English teachers, Mrs. Linda Pulliam.

A fairly random sampling of some of the other attending authors include James Wayland, who wrote Trailer Park Trash & Vampires; Mary Helen Hensley, daughter of the late Dick Hensley — Martinsville High School principal as well as head coach of the Martinsville Bulldogs football team back in my day — who debuted a book of her father's wisdom, titled The Pocket Coach; former Ferrum College professor Becky Mushko, author of Ferradiddledumday, an "Appalachian retelling of Rumplestiltskin," who once had Elizabeth Massie — my writing parter on Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark — and I give a presentation on writing to some of her classes; Guy Andrews (whose wife Becky works with Kimberly and I in Greensboro) with his book, Dare to Summit, a guide to tackling the entire Bible, which he likens to "climbing Mt. Everest"; and Kristin Paige-Madonia, an award-winning writer of Young Adult fiction, author of Fingerprints of You, her first novel.

There will be a fall book festival at Binding Time in October, which I hope to attend as well. Guess I'd better get those books in....
Mary Helen Hensley autographing a copy of The Pocket Coach, a book of "her father's wisdom,"
for which she gives him writing credit.
James Wayland, author of Trailer Park Trash & Vampires, with books and two of his ex-friends
It's a dog's life! The Martinsville-Henry County SPCA's info booth, complete with mascots
Award-winning Young Adult author Kristen Paige-Madonia (center), author of Fingerprints of You.
To her left is Ms. Kerry Tillery, my 7th grade US History teacher.
Putting on the charm! Dr. Stan Gravely, non-scary, and Dr. Damned Rodan, scary.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Birthdays Suck, Except They Don't

Mum in front of The Third Bay Restaurant in Martinsville, VA
Mein Gott, how can another birthday have come and gone? I hate, hate, hate the ever-accelerating passage of years because, as each one falls away, the already complex tapestry of life grows only more complicated and often sad, as too many people close to me depart this life or suffer the inevitable infirmities that come with advancing years. Make no mistake, I'm still pretty damn spry for a middle-aged curmudgeon-in-training, and I have far more to be thankful for than to bitch, moan, and complain about; needless to say, this fact has never stopped me from bitching, moaning, and complaining, and I'm sure it never will. (And I don't care what you say, I happen to like my semicolons, so push the hell off.)

But even a grumpy old fart like me knows a good thing when he sees one. I tell you this, I've got the girlfriend to end all girlfriends, a fine family of cats, a mom that came straight from heaven, a roof over my head, and, at least for now, a pretty clean bill of health. All things considered, it was a mighty pleasant birthday yesterday. Most years, I take the evil day off from work, but I reserved that for today so I might have a slightly longer weekend. Last night, Brugger presented me with some nice presents and treated me to dinner at Sushi Republic on Tate Street — which proved why it's won best sushi in Greensboro for several years running — and, today, I geocached my way up to Martinsville so Mum could spend some time attempting to set straight the ornery cuss she birthed all those many years ago. Just for spite, she treated me to dinner at The Third Bay Restaurant, a very small but superb establishment that, back in the darkness of my youth, was actually a Sunoco gas station. As far as dining goes, it's the best Martinsville has to offer, though their hours during the week are sadly very limited — they're open on Friday nights but not on Saturdays, which has often knocked us out of going there for dinner. The meals I've had there I have rightly enjoyed, and tonight's was no exception. Their wine list is anything but extensive, though they do have a few decent dry reds; I was rather taken with the Shiraz I tried. I probably should have gone for the grilled halibut, like Mum did, but I opted for the filet mignon, medium rare, which was absolutely el perfecto. Hey, it's my freaking birthday dinner, and I'll filet if I want to. For dessert, The Third Bay specializes in chess pie, and if you haven't had The Third Bay's chess pie, then your dessert experience is dazzlingly incomplete. I'd go there just for a single piece of that stuff (but preferably more).

Tomorrow is the Spring Book Festival at Binding Time Cafe & Bookstore, just up the way, so I'll be there selling and signing books... as long as there's some poor schmuck willing to have his merchandise devalued with an old grump's signature. If you're that kind of brave soul, please do come on around.

Well, much as I hate them, I hope I'll have a few more birthdays coming round to punch me in the face. It's better than a slap across the belly with a wet trout.

I reckon.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

If You're Not Drinking From a Droolie Cup...

...then you're just not drinking! It's here: the official Designs by Droolie® coffee mug. With the merchandising push now on, certain young home decorators are dancing for joy in the streets... or at least in the living room. There's a whole array of stuff you can get with the Designs by Droolie® logo — T-shirts, drinking glasses, tote bags, water bottles, mouse pads, coasters, refrigerator magnets, and more — from Café Press. Your critters will surely be inspired. Visit Droolie's page here: Designs by Droolie at Café Press.

Here's how it it all started...
Stairs can be dull, boring, and strictly utilitarian — at least, until a creative mind offers a new take on the concept. That's our specialty at Designs by Droolie® — home decorating tips that are novel, inexpensive, and occasionally dangerous for Dad. Our line is sure to please the felines in your home and perhaps inspire them to try their own paws at adding new challenges to your life. That's us, here at Designs by Droolie®.