Sunday, December 29, 2013

Kindle Countdown Deal: The Gods of Moab


Today is the last day to pick up my novella, The Gods of Moab, for your Kindle at the special discounted price of 99¢ (regular price $2.99).

"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 to stumble 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.

"The Gods of Moab is a chilling novella of Lovecraftian horror by Stephen Mark Rainey, acclaimed author of Balak, Blue Devil Island, Other Gods, The Nightmare Frontier, Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (with Elizabeth Massie), and former editor of the award-winning Deathrealm Magazine."

The Gods of Moab is just the ticket to put a little fear in your new year. Check it out from here: The Gods of Moab by Stephen Mark Rainey

Love it or hate it, reviews are always appreciated. Do enjoy!

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Christmas Sunset on the Red Trail

Christmas morning, 1968: it must have been around 5:00 AM; I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. In those days, at the height of the U.S. space program, the Major Matt Mason astronaut toys by Mattel were the big thing, especially for this nine-year-old science-fiction and space exploration uber-geek. I was anticipating receiving a Major Matt Mason space station, among other space-related goodies, and adrenaline had been coursing like magma through my weenie little body since early on Christmas Eve. We were at my grandparents' place in Gainesville, GA, and, as always, my folks slept on the pullout sofa bed in the living room — where all the toys lay waiting for us under the Christmas tree. My brother and I had strict orders not to set foot out of our bedroom until 7:00 AM, but come 5:30 or so, it became clear to me that something was wrong with the clock on the nightstand next to our bed. I had been lying there fidgeting for most of forever, and only a measly half hour had passed? WTF? Thinking only of being helpful, I ran the clock up about ten minutes, thinking this would be a much more realistic time of morning. I lay back down, confident I had done the right thing. For the next hour and something I lay there, my body still blazing with adrenaline, my mind constructing all kinds of great scenarios for Major Matt Mason and his buddies Sgt. Storm, Jeff Long, and Doug Davis. When I finally looked back at the clock, it showed that only fifteen minutes had passed. Clearly, this clock was defective! So I ran it up another ten minutes for good measure.

Several more times this happened. I'd lie back down, wait and wait and wait and wait, and only a few minutes would have gone by. Impossible. If I didn't get this clock set right, I figured, I was really going to be in trouble.

Finally. Finally, 7:00 AM arrived. I woke my little brother, and the two of us went tearing into the living room. There it was — the Major Matt Mason space station! Yahoooooooo! It was beautiful, stunning, glorious. Not only that, the whole room was absolutely jammed with fantastic toys and games. Santa Claus had outdone himself! Mum and Dad, of course, stood no chance remaining in bed with all this ruckus and racket, but after a bit, Mum asked me, "Are you sure it's seven o'clock?" Well, of course I was sure. I had fixed the defective clock.

Next thing you know, I'm being sent back to bed, this time till 8:00 AM, since, according to all the other clocks in the house, it was only 6:15, and my folks, in a rare display of poor judgment, believed them.

This was perhaps my most memorable Christmas. If I remember right, Mum and Dad did let us come back into the living when 7:00 AM actually rolled around because they always were, at heart, very sporting and willing to make amends for their errors.

This year, I didn't get any Major Matt Mason stuff, but if your Christmas was half as wonderful as mine was, I expect it would be ten times as wonderful as any other day of your year. The presents were great and all, but it was just a good day all around, spent in the company of Ms. Kimberly, my mum, and our friend Mary Clifton; alas, my brother couldn't be there. We slept in, exchanged gifts during the morning, had a big meal at midday, and then Brugger and I headed up to Rocky Mount, VA, to get in some hiking and geocaching at Waid Park, an extensive area of woodland a short distance out of town, with a decent network of trails and lots of elevation changes. By the time we got there, it was fairly late in the day, and we appeared to be the only human beings for miles around, which we both found quite pleasant. One of the caches was called "Red Trails in the Sunset" (GCH22K) which couldn't have been more apt, since we were, indeed, on the Red Trail, and the sun was setting just as I found the cache. Both peaceful and invigorating, this outing; it could scarcely have made me happier — well, except for not finding one of the caches out there, which I gather may just be plain missing.

From there, we drove around the campus at Ferrum College, where I went to school for a couple of years back in the dawn of man. Ferrum is the model for "Beckham College," which has been referenced in any number of my short stories and novels. I gave it that name, not so much as a play on Lovecraft's Arkham, as some have suggested, but after Ferrum College's founder, Samuel Beckham. Then things got a bit surreal. Kimberly and I didn't really care to have leftover ham for supper, so we ended up finding a Chinese buffet that was open. The food wasn't very good, and the clientele looked not unlike the Walking Dead, but damn, it was kind of a hoot. We quite enjoyed ourselves. To end the evening, we watched Insidious: Chapter 2, which turned out to be a lot of fun. I suppose "unconventional" would be an apt description of the day. And I'm all over that.

Peace be unto ye.

Click images to enlarge.

L: Mary Clifton & Mum; R: A not-so-welcome Christmas Eve visitor
Hell, yeah!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Beating the Devil and Haw, Haw, Haw

Old Rodan at the Devil's Tramping Ground

Any weekend is a good weekend for geocaching, and on this one, the caching was good indeed. Lots of high-quality hides — from Siler City to Sanford to Pittsboro, from underground to far higher than folks rightfully ought to put their feet. Saturday, Bridget "Suntigres" Langley and I got together and headed south toward the Devil's Tramping Ground, not far from Siler City. Several years ago, I had gone there in what proved a vain attempt to make the cache there my 2,000th find, and again the following year to hunt a most excellent night cache ("Hell on Earth," GC1GZNP). My target, "Devil's Caching Ground" (GC1GKYR), missing when I had previously hunted it, had been replaced, and yesterday's hunt proved successful, making it find #6,499. Thanks to some ornery briers, I managed to shed some blood at Tramping Ground, so there's no telling what evil may result. Beware. After that, we targeted several other well-conceived hides, such as "True Love Always" (GC3CEMX), a very engaging multi, and "Sanford's RbC" (GC2BM3B), which allowed me to enjoy some deep, deep shade on a ridiculously warm December day.

No sleeping in this morning. Up before dawn to meet Rob "Robgso" Isenhour to head over to the Haw River, near Pittsboro, where we joined a group of about 18 folks for a hike along the rather rugged, exceedingly scenic river trail. Rob and I had gone caching there several months ago, along with Shoffner (a.k.a. Cupdaisy) but had been unable to find four out of ten bison tube hides along the trail. This time, with all those eyes and tactile appendages, we were able to find those and make a clean run of the series. The Haw River in this area is wide and very rocky, the west side oftentimes very steep and strewn with giant boulders. The climbing is strenuous, but the views are often spectacular.

One of the caches we visited involved walking across a narrow dam for fifty or sixty feet to reach an old pump house. Audra "Homestyle" Webb and her son, Zachary, were frothing at the mouth to undertake this particular terrain challenge, so off they went, accompanied by Lonnie "MBD" Drain for moral support. It took a bit of time, but they finally managed to find the cache, and they made the crossing both ways without ending up as fish food. Good for them, bad for the fish. Sorry, fish.

The hunt for what turned out to be my favorite cache of the day — "TowerLand" (GC235TA) — took us to an old fire tower just outside Pittsboro. Posting here that the cache is somewhere on the tower spoils nothing, as the cache page itself gives you a fair idea of the sort of challenge you face. The tower has clearly stood there for many, many years, and it's seen better days. Just getting to the level where we might begin our ascent in earnest required some serious effort, and a few of our number inadvertently provided some entertaining acrobatics both coming and going. After finding the cache, some of the crew continued all the way to the top; I opted to forgo this particular pleasure, mainly because, every now and then, MBD would give the tower a good shake, and I was never quite certain the whole construct wasn't going to come crashing down. At any rate, it was on our party's descent that the real entertainment began. A couple of the climbers, whom I will call Karen "e-bird67" Grigg and young Homekid, absolutely could not find their way off the tower. Coaching, coaxing, cajoling, pleading, and threatening proved ultimately useless. These poor souls may yet be up there, soon to become mere skeletons swaying in the breeze to warn others from undertaking such frightfully energetic adventures.

Do beware, and have a happy and safe holiday season.

Click images to enlarge.
"Mom! Uncle Rob is getting high!"
Can Audra be trapped in this prison drain forever? Let's hope not!
L: Audra and Lonnie make their way across the dam to find the cache. R: Rocking the tower!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Here We Come, A-Geocaching

Front: Sunpoppy42, Spring1, Strikergirl, Keith; Back: Homekid, Bill, Homestyle, HDJP, Klaussinator,
Damned Rodan, MJ, Esddan Sr., Esddan Ms., JJ
The other day, I got a call from Audra (a.k.a. Homestyle), one of my good friends in the geocaching community, who informed me that another of our mutual friends, Norman (a.k.a. Spring1), had suffered a medical crisis and had been hospitalized for a time. Now he was back home, it was her idea that a bunch of us local cachers should get together and pay him and his wife, Lynn, a little visit so that we might regale them with Christmas carols. Splendid, indeed. So tonight after work, I booked on up to Danville, met the group at a little shopping center, near Spring1's house, and headed out to do this nefarious deed. Yes, Norman and Lynn's daughter, Robin, was a willing accomplice, having made sure her parents were at home for our arrival — she told them that UPS would be arriving between six and seven p.m. with an important delivery. Well, between six and seven, the delivery was made, but it wasn't from UPS. An even thirteen of us exploded into song, assaulting the senses of our poor victims and everyone else within about a four-block radius. Several were good old standbys, but Audra had composed a fun little geocaching carol, done as "The Twelve Days of Christmas" — twelve hide-a-keys, eleven piles of fake poo, ten rolls of duct tape, nine sets of batteries, eight lock-&-locks, seven phone-a-friends, six bags of swag, five ammo cans, four plastic birds, three trackables, two gel pens, and a film can in a holly tree. We did this, and Spring1 did not forcibly eject us from their property. That right there is class. Finally, several of us noisemakers headed off to Ham's for a slightly late dinner.

Norman and Lynn were among the very first geocachers I ever met — at one of my own caches, in Martinsville, in early 2008. They have been among the kindest, warmest, most thoughtful folks I've ever met, and I very much hope our little musical venture made for an uplifting evening for them. Here's hoping Norman will see some serious improvement in his physical condition.

Be well, my friends.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dark Intruder

Lovecraft eZine posted this today: a video link to Dark Intruder, an unsold TV pilot from 1966 with Lovecraftian overtones. It stars Leslie Nielsen as a rather suave 19th-century Carl Kolchak. You'll also see lots of familiar names from the era — it's produced by Jack Laird (Night Gallery), written by Barre Lyndon, with music by Lalo Schifin (Mission Impossible) — and also stars Mark Richman, Werner Klemperer, Judi Meredith, and Bill Quinn. I gave it a look tonight and found it quite entertaining; the Lovecraft influence is definitely there, and not done badly. Rick Lai gives a decent overview, as well as a link to the video itself here. Check it out if you've got an hour.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Horror in the Vines

Well, no, the photo over yonder doesn't really show horrors or vines or any such things. That's just my little fiber-optic Christmas tree, brightening up one dark corner of Casa de Rodan. The horrors and vines and such may be found in my latest short story, "When Jarly Calls," which I finished writing and sent out to the editor this weekend. It's about things that go amiss at a rather bizarre winery — for which I might say I conducted extensive research. If editor is happy with tale, you may get to read that sucker before you know it. It'll chill ye worse than an icy winter wind, it will.

Spent most of the weekend at Mum's in Martinsville, and the better part of that pounding out the story. I also helped her get her Christmas tree set up, the final result being a bit more impressive than little fiber optic tree shown here. Then it was writing the afterword for James Robert Smith's collection of short fiction, A Confederacy of Horrors, slated for release from Hippocampus Press in 2014. (Some of you may recall that Mr. Smith used to write reviews and assist with the fiction editing for Deathrealm back in the day, and a few years back, we co-edited the anthology Evermore for Arkham house.) It's a fine collection of horror, full of ghosts, blood, vengeance, and obsession, with numerous stories that linger long after they're put to bed. I'll post a note here when the book is in release.

On Saturday, I had intended to go geocaching in Roanoke with Todd "tbbiker" Briggs, but nasty weather prevented it. This morning, though, I hit Anglers' Park in Danville to grab a new cache on my way back to Greensboro, and who should I run into but Mr. Briggs his own self. Not quite the big hiking trip we had anticipated, but it was fun enough, and a cache is a cache. In fact, heading up to Martinsville on Friday night, I went up through Caswell County to replace a cache for Mr. Stumpwater Dunn, near Yanceyville, and while out in those rural wilds, I thought I might be witnessing the eye of Azathoth in the sky — a brilliant orb, far smaller than the moon but every bit as bright — burning through a thick layer of clouds. Turns out, it was the planet Venus, which I've seen countless times, but never so brilliantly as this. Quite the little spectacle on the drive along those lonely back roads, it was. And a delicious sushi dinner waited for me at Tokyo Grill in Danville.

Some stress about the day job put a little damper on some of my enthusiasm over the weekend, but by and large, it was a productive and generally enjoyable time.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Collinsport Horror

Author Rick Lai has written a pretty extensive article about connections between the original Dark Shadows TV series and H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, which covers in detail the crossover in some of my contributions to each property. It's an informative and entertaining piece, now posted at Lovecraft eZine. Give it a look here.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright

There is much to appreciate about Stonefield Cellars, one of the many wineries in this area, and the wine is just one of them. Noah, the owners' Bengal cat, always stands ready to greet you when you arrive, and even on a particularly chilly day, he has certain wily ways of keeping warm. Brugger and I hadn't been to Stonefield in a while, so yesterday we decided to pay it a visit for a tasting and a spot of wine in the scenic garden area. Happily, they had a fire burning in the fire pit, and we met another pleasant couple who enjoyed wine and cats about as much as we do. It proved an excellent way to spend a near-frigid afternoon — so different from the previous day when I worked up a sweat just by setting foot outdoors.

Stonefield Cellars features a decent selection of white, red, and sweet wines, all made from the grapes they grow at the vineyard. Brugger and I aren't much for whites or sweets, but their dry reds are distinctive, particularly their reserve wines — Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a pair of blends called Beneficence and Barrel X. Also noteworthy are their Sangiovese and a blend of all their grapes called Mountain Mama Madness. With rare exception, I am not overly fond of Merlot, but Stonefield's aptly named Gato, which features Noah on the label, goes down very smoothly. Today, Stonefield is having their holiday open house, with live music, warm mulled wine, and some special discounts; it's unfortunate there's freezing rain out there, making the weather not so conducive for getting out and about. I do hope they have a decent turnout. If you're a local oenophile and haven't been over to Stonefield Cellars, hie thee there at once. You won't regret it.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Eighty Degrees in December...

...and the snakes are out and about. I came upon a happy little black snake while after a cache at the Beech Bluff Trail today. Not sure whether he was a rat snake or a black racer, but he proved to be quite neighborly.

Today was our annual office holiday lunch gathering, which we was held at the Proximity Hotel, one of Greensboro's more upscale establishments. The food was okay — I wouldn't pay top dollar for it — and the event was pretty enjoyable. Per tradition, we got to leave early, and so I went geocaching. I'd had it in my head that I might head over to Durham to catch the original 1954 Japanese version of Godzilla at the Carolina Theater, but in the end, I opted to do the hiking. Sometimes, I am weirder than I realized. Forbidden Planet was also on the bill. Doubly weird.

Anyhoo, on a day like today, I'm quite glad I hit the woods. At least I got to visit with a reptile.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Occoneechee Speedway, Yuggoth VI: The Twisted Grove, The Stoned Poet, and Others

A long stretch of the old speedway, now
overtaken by the forest

What a great day for finding old things... even including a Great Old One or two. It was a day for geocaching with a fun group of local folks: Debbie "Cupdaisy" Shoffner, Rob "Robgso" Isenhour, Robbin "Rtmlee" Lee, and Sarah "Sssharkie" Stevens. Our target was Hillsborough, just west of Durham, NC. It's a small, picturesque town with a surprising number of historic and unusual sites. In the past, I've passed through Hillsborough any number of times, and even found a few caches there, but it wasn't until today that I got to visit just about every corner of town, by way of our quest for caches.

The thing that drew us there in the first place was the old Occoneechee Speedway (later known as the Orange Speedway), a former NASCAR racetrack that operated from 1948 to 1968. It has since been completely overtaken over by pine, sycamore, and cedar forest, and the track itself, as well as the auxiliary roads, have been turned into hiking trails — over three miles of them, and we covered just about the lot of them. The original grandstands and several other structures still exist, almost ghostlike amid these beautiful woods. Several high-quality caches are hidden along the trail, and our group found the lot of them while enjoying the unusual scenery.
There's nothing odd happening here.
Move along.

Adjacent to the speedway — just across the Eno River — lies the sprawling Ayr Mount Plantation, which dates back to 1815. A beautiful nature trail winds around the estate, and on this trail, we found a nice cache-letterbox hybrid called Yuggoth VI: The Twisted Grove (GC22VYV), based, of course, on H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. The grove itself was, indeed, beautifully twisted, and even though we successfully ventured into it, as far as I know, none of us have been beset by anything Awful. Of course, the night is not yet over. Also at the plantation was a fun puzzle cache called The Stoned Poet (GCXYQV), which required solving a daunting puzzle to acquire coordinates to the hidden container. One of our party, whose name I won't mention (Sssharkie), came up with a novel method of actually locating the actual hide, which I'd best not reveal on pain of death (intuition and guesswork). I am rather ridiculously pleased to have played a part in turning up the hide itself. (Laugh, you.)

We also visited a graveyard where slaves from the Civil War era were buried; an old one-room schoolhouse (Hughes Academy); the outhouse of an old girl's school (Burwell School, 1837-1857); a sculpture of an ass named Jack; and a big old cedar tree that required climbing. I didn't fall out, so what a good day!

A fine day on the caching trail, and I have to give Hillsborough credit for being the most charming town I have visited in a long, long time.

Back to work tomorrow. Grrrr.
Creeple people hauling ass down the old Occoneechee Speedway
Ayr Mount Plantation House, built 1815
Rob the Younger doesn't know Jack.