Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jon Gnagy — Learn to Draw!

If you're of the age that's too old to rock & roll but too young to die, perhaps you'll remember Jon Gnagy, the television art guy that came before Bob Ross. I had not forgotten he existed — not by a long shot — but I don't think I've consciously recalled his name or his art for many, many years. Then, today, my friend Lew "Moose" Hartman, a fair old artist himself, mentioned Gnagy on Facebook, which brought a tide of memories rushing to me. I couldn't have been more than five or six years old when I discovered Gnagy's show, Learn to Draw, on broadcast television. As early as kindergarten, I was cranking out drawings of monsters, dinosaurs, spaceships, airplanes, and such, and I naturally found Gnagy's technique and manner quite engaging. I specifically remember a couple of scenes he drew, one of which I found online — the old oak tree, shown above. Another was a rather lonely-looking house in a valley with the moon shining down on it. Gnagy's compositions and use of shadow and highlights fascinated me, as all my drawings were naught but simple line work. In later years, I became quite serious about producing art, even earning a BFA degree from the University of Georgia, and to this day I must give credit to Jon Gnagy for being my earliest influence in that direction.

My creative focus long ago turned to writing, and I've not produced visual art of any kind in more years than I like to think about, yet Gnagy's influence, however indirectly, may have extended to my writing as well. Early on, my interest in art and storytelling went hand in hand, and the scenes Gnagy created on television were textured and atmospheric — like snapshots of specific moments in the middle of unfolding events. His drawings sparked my imagination, my desire to know what was actually happening in the scenes he rendered. Some of my earliest stories, if one could call them that, were built around memorable images, and the one of that lonely house in a moonlit valley still stands out for me. I don't remember specifically what sprang from my young imagination then, but I'm quite certain it was dark and grim, the subject matter probably born of my fondness for The Outer Limits and such.

Looking at the videos of Gnagy's show now, it's remarkable how vivid and undistorted my recollections are of those programs from the early 1960s — testimony to the depth of their influence. I must seriously thank Mr. Moose Hartman for stirring up those old memories. And who knows, maybe one day I'll pick up some art materials again and really horrify my audience.

Gnagy's granddaughter, Liz Seymour, quite a few years ago, wrote a short, informative article about him that you can find here: You Were an Artist


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Another Dark Regions Special: THE GAKI

Okay, please do pardon this bit of follow-up promo, but I mean, damn! This is deeply serious, scary stuff! Dark Regions is offering the trade paperback edition of my fiction collection, The Gaki & Other Hungry Spirits, for just $12.95 (regular price $18.95). It's another beautifully produced Dark Regions release, featuring 17 of my most chilling short stories, along with some pretty disturbing cover art by M. Wayne Miller. (And if you're partial to signed, limited edition hardcovers, this one is only $23.45.)

You can read a free sample tale — the title story, "The Gaki" — at my website. You can read it online or download it as a PDF or for your Kindle. Go here to check it out: "The Gaki" by Stephen Mark Rainey.

"The sheer variety of settings and Rainey's remarkable command of appropriate styles of and voices deserves amazed respect. The flat-out monster story, the ooze-slime-blob invasion, and others rise with new and eerie life from Dr. Rainey's lab table." — Robert M. Price; editor of Crypt of Cthulhu magazine, Chaosium's Cthulhu Cycle line of anthologies, and more

Get The Gaki from Dark Regions here: The Gaki & Other Hungry Spirits by Stephen Mark Rainey

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

33% Off — OTHER GODS from Dark Regions

For a limited time, Dark Regions is offering the signed, limited hardcover edition of my short-fiction collection, Other Gods, at a discounted rate of $28 (33% off the $40 cover price). Of my various collections of fiction, this one is probably my favorite, featuring most of my tales of Lovecraftian horror.

"The 16 tales in Stephen Mark Rainey's Other Gods depict an alluring yet macabre world, rendered by one of the horror genre's most vivid imaginations. With settings ranging from the remote backwoods of Virginia to the urban wilderness of Chicago, the veneer of Rainey's world appears familiar, even comforting; yet, beneath its surface ancient, malignant powers lurk, ready to spring forth and destroy any who discover them whether intentionally or inadvertently. Laced with humor and recounted by a captivating voice, the tales in Other Gods wait for you with open arms but beware, for they are also laden with darkness. And in that darkness, danger waits."

"Writer Stephen Mark Rainey has done it again with this brilliantly scary short story collection... The stories and tone of the book put me in mind of Stephen King’s early short story collections."HorrorWatch
"Rainey populates his stories with characters that you may recognize, and not just because some of them appear, or are mentioned, in more than one story. No, they are recognizable because they are our friends, neighbours and loved ones. They are us. Whether it is facing the cosmic dread of the Other Gods, from whom this collection takes its name, or the sideshow atmosphere of Circus Bizarre, it is normal, identifiable, people who are put through the wringer, and it is to Rainey’s credit that he makes us care so much for them in such a short amount of time."HorrorWorld

Use coupon code HAPPYNEWYEAR2014 at

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Oddities at Shallow Ford

Rock cairn photobombing ol' Rodan — or is it
the other way around?

A beautiful but cold morning. A handful of new geocaches awaited me over in a remote corner of Alamance County, a couple of which had not yet been logged, so I headed over fairly early, figuring I might have a shot at first-to-find. My first stop was the Shallow Ford Natural Area along the Haw River, which has several miles of beautiful hiking trails and a passel of caches, a couple of which are mine from a few years back — "Owl Rock" (GC2HM9H) and "Shallow Ford Towers" (GC2HMAJ). Along one section of trail, I encountered the ever-mysterious cairns that have been built from the stones that cover the wooded hillsides. I'm fairly certain they are the work of Martians, who have clearly taken over this section of countryside, for as I hiked this morning, I could hear them in the distance, constructing their giant fighting machines. The entire time I was out there — just over an hour — the hammering scarcely let up, and when it did, it was only for a few brief minutes. It had to be Martians; nothing else sounds like that. Many of the rocks were arranged in manners that defied physics, leading me to believe they might be designed for communications of some kind. Beware — the aliens could be on the move at any time. In the video below, you can hear the hammering. It's outright eerie, it is! (Click on images to enlarge.)

The enigmatic rock cairns along the trail. Note that one of them is wearing a rather macabre hat.

On the video, you can hear the distant sounds of the Martians at work upon the fighting machines
they're building.... sleepless, indefatigable.

I did get first-to-find on the new cache. And on a slightly more mundane note...

After quitting Shallow Ford, I headed over to nearby Lake Cammack, to the dam at its southern end, where I managed another first-to-find. The cache owner had suggested that hunters might help remove some of the trash along the trail there, for the local fishermen are apparently too brain dead to carry out what they take in with them. Indeed, the area is absolutely beautiful but for the prodigious piles of trash that choke the woods. In fifteen minutes' time, I filled up a large trash bag, leaving at least a section along the river trail almost pristine. If every geocacher that goes in there were to do the same, the trail would be as scenic as nature intended, at least until the local pinheads fill it back up with crap.

Perhaps, if we're lucky, the Martians will simply eliminate them. They're coming, you know.
A nice view of the dam at the southern end of Lake Cammack
The result of just a few minutes' effort along the trail

Monday, January 13, 2014

Lovecraft eZine Talks With Old Rodan

An enjoyable conversation hosted by Lovecraft eZine editor Mike Davis, with Rick Lai, Peter Rawlik, Matthew Carpenter, and Joe Pulver. What a great bunch of folks to set the old man straight on just about every topic under the sun. Thanks to the lot of ye.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bee Afraid

A view of the Dan River, near flood stage, from along the Riverwalk Trail
I had seen on television last night that the Dan River around Danville had reached and surpassed flood level, which wasn't all that surprising after the heavy rains of the past few days. I was planning to pass through Danville this morning to hunt a handful of new geocaches, so I was hoping the Riverwalk Trail wouldn't be completely underwater. It wasn't, but the river had indeed risen higher than I think I've ever seen it, and as I walked along the bank, my immediate impression was that I had stumbled into the setting of H. P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward:

"The following spring, like that of the year before, had heavy rains... and a vague report went round of things that were floating down the river and flashing into sight for a minute as they went over the falls. Of course the Pawtuxet is a long river which winds through many settled regions abounding in graveyards, and of course the spring rains had been very heavy; but the fisherfolk about the bridge did not like the wild way that one of the things stared as it shot down to the still waters below, or the way that another half cried out although its condition had greatly departed from that of objects which normally cried out."

Yeah, there were all kinds of things rushing downriver this morning — a basketball, an angled wooden construct that might have been the roof of a child's treehouse, all kinds of mundane rubbish, and numerous unknown objects that vaguely resembled bodies or pieces thereof. The water was moving at great speed, so anything that went by remained in sight for only a few moments. In order to reach the new cache, after hiking some distance by the river, I had to bushwhack along Barker's Branch, a small tributary of the river that runs along the boundary of Dan Daniel Park. The branch, ordinarily a small, narrow stream, was swollen to many times its normal size.
My GPS led me a fairly short distance along a brier-choked cut for power lines before sending me down a hill into the woods along the stream. Though US Highway 29 runs close by here, the late morning air seemed unnaturally quiet, with little sound of traffic; only the rushing of the Dan River in the distance disturbed the near-silence. When I reached the cache's coordinates, I saw what appeared to be the perfect hiding place. As I went to investigate, virtually all sound ceased but for a strange, muted buzzing. Not to be deterred, I reached into the opening at the base of the tree, cleared away a pile of dead lives, and removed a flat rock... only to realize that something terrible was lurking beneath it. I had time only to sign the cache log and snap a photo before making haste away from that demonic ground zero.

I do hope that future geocachers will take great care when hunting this cache and bear in mind that, sometimes, unearthly torrents of rain such as we've been having may bring with them the truly unearthly.

Be wary!

Friday, January 10, 2014

This Sunday: Live Chat at Lovecraft e-Zine

This Sunday — January 12 — I'll be joining Lovecraft eZine editor Mike Davis for a live video chat at 6:00 PM EST. (Note that if you're in a different time zone, it will be at a different time!) We'll be carrying on about my dabblings in Lovecraftian horror, Dark Shadows, the world of geocaching... you name it.

Go here to get instructions to join the chat: Join the Lovecraft eZine Webchat

Hope to see you then— unless you come to heckle. If you come to heckle, you may find yourself being fed to a very fat house cat. Yes, seriously.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Polar Plunges and I See Stars

Night-Hawk, Cantergirl, RPStew, Cassiliz, and Damned Rodan rocking the Uhwharries
Fifteen degrees at the ass crack of dawn, and five of us are heading to Uhwharries National Park, south of Asheboro, to conquer the North Carolina Star — 50 geocaches laid out in the woods in a star pattern (these are known as "geo art"), each arm requiring just about a mile hike, so that at the end of it all you come in with just about ten miles under your belt. And this is some rugged terrain, with major elevation changes, and trails almost non-existent. Tom "Night-Hawk" Kidd, Bob "RPStew" Stewart, Carol "Cassiliz" Deschenes, Jeanne "Cantergirl" Allamby, and I met and conquered the beast — all but one of the little beasts, which we figured might be missing (only to find out later it isn't) — requiring just about seven hours in the field. A few mishaps along the way; Cassiliz took several tumbles, fortunately all minor, and ye old Rodan stepped onto a log to cross a creek, only to have said log break and drop Rodan into frigid, knee-deep water. My knees did get a bit banged up, but happily, this happened only a mile or so from the end of the hike, so I didn't have to suffer all that long.

There are stars such as this in several states, including California, Georgia (just a short distance from Gainesville, where my grandparents used to live and which I still enjoy visiting), Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and others. Eventually, geo artists hope to have stars in all fifty states.

Since it turns out that NC Star number 15 actually isn't missing, I reckon I'll have to go back and redeem myself by finding the sucker. Hopefully, this time without falling into a creek.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Home Away From Home

The Rockhill Vineyard Cabin, in Ararat, NC — our New Year's home away from home
Monday, December 30, 2013: After some excellent food and wine at Old North State Winery in Mt. Airy and stopping to claim a couple of geocaches — including a virtual at the grave site of Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous Siamese twins — Kimberly and I arrived at the Rockhill Vineyard Cabin near Ararat, NC. It was right at sunset, and after a long drive through open pasture land, we crossed a little bridge over a scenic stream and entered a shadowy, wooded passage. Within the trees, we saw glowing lamps lining the driveway, leading us up a steep, winding hillside to the cabin. A star-like array of solar lights surrounded the house and highlighted the walkway, and from the front porch, we could hear the mellow strains of soft, smooth jazz playing. When we walked inside to escape the biting wind, we found found ourselves in the warmest, coziest living room I think I have ever seen, Christmas tree blazing cheerfully, the rest of the room adorned with tasteful wine-themed decorations. An unopened bottle of the proprietor's own vintage awaited us in the kitchen. The bedroom was an upstairs loft that overlooked the living room fireplace.

I damn near fell over. I had expected a pretty nice place, not a perfect little slice of heaven.

We made ourselves quite at home and sampled the wine, which was a very pleasant dry red. A bit later in the evening, though it was quite cold, Ms. B. and I settled ourselves in the rocking chairs on the front porch to enjoy the wine and the absolute serenity of the location. After this, we returned indoors and watched Paranormal Activity 4, which we had brought with us, just to get in the proper spirit for spending a couple of nights in a remote, wooded setting. I've enjoyed the Paranormal Activity series, and though this one was unquestionably the least of them, it still set an enjoyably creepy tone for the evening. Before bedtime, the Jacuzzi got rid of any lingering chill.

You might have guessed by now that The Rockhill Vineyard Cabin immediately earned Damned Rodan's highest stamp of approval.
The living room of the Rockhill Vineyard cabin
If you ask me, Ms. B. warms up whatever room she enters.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013: We weren't exactly up with the sun — in fact, some might call Brugger a lazy bones (not that I ever would) — but we did spend a leisurely morning drinking coffee (or at least one of us adult-types did) and enjoying the sweet rolls our proprietor had left for us. Then we took off for Pilot Mountain, just a short distance to the south, to get in a spot of hiking and geocaching. Ms. B. had been to the park before, but though I've passed by it countless times, I've never gone up to the mountain itself. Pilot Mountain is a quartzite monadnock, rising 2,421 feet above sea level, and about 1,400 feet above the surrounding hills. The park features many miles of hiking trails, horseback riding, rock climbing, and a wealth of amazing views. And when the winter wind comes blasting in along its western face, it's all kinds of cold.

Afterward, I set about claiming several nearby geocaches. My favorite was one called "Haunted House" (GC24XG4), which — believe it or not — took us to a haunted house. Yes, you bet your ass it was haunted; or, if it wasn't before, it probably is now, as we surely gave the local spirits something to think about. We also ended up at an ancient dam on a prong of the Little Yadkin River that offered us a glimpse of numerous antiquated structures that at one time no doubt boasted great wealth.
For New Year's Eve dinner, we had made reservations at the Harvest Grill, at Shelton Vineyards, in Dobson, NC, about 20 minutes west of the cabin. We arrived a bit early so we could sample their wine before dinner, and we were pretty well taken with it, though for such an expansive operation as Shelton, we can't say we were any more enthused with those we tried than we have been with the fare at many of the nearby smaller wineries. Dinner was one of those budget strainers for which you sometimes just have to bite the bullet, but in the end, we decided it was worth it. The service was impeccable, the food very good to excellent. The portions appeared rather small, yet, at the end of it all, I have rarely walked out of a place feeling so satisfied. I ordered a petit filet mignon and lobster tail (their New Year's Eve special), and Ms. B. had a charred romaine salad with chicken, onion confit, roasted tomato jam, crumbled bleu cheese, and apple wood smoked bacon. We tried their Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Petit Verdot, and their vintage Claret, the latter of which was easily the best. The Petit Verdot was also decent; I might have taken it for a fair Pinot Noir. (Yes, go right ahead and smack me now. Go ahead, but I'm talking wine here!) I'm pretty sure Harvest Grill has earned a decent Yelp review from old Rodan.

About midnight, we put on the television to watch one or another New Year's festivities for a bit, and about this time, we heard a nearby "Boof! Boof!" Ah, the telltale sound of a dog outside the house. I opened the door to take a look, and — hello! — before I could even react, a large black and white mixed breed fellow tromped right on inside and made himself at home. I knew it was the owner's dog, as we had seen him at the main house the day before, so we weren't particularly concerned. But it appeared we had made a lifelong friend here, as Dog really, really wanted to stay and party with us. He hung out for a bit, ate a cinnamon roll, and finally ambled out on his merry way. An entertaining visitor, to say the least.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014: And a big ol' Happy New Year to you, whoever might be giving ye old blog a gander. I tell you, this morning, we took our time packing up to head back to Greensboro because... yeah... we pretty much didn't want to. For any of you local folks who read my ramblings: if you've any interest in getting away for an evening or a few, in rustic but extremely comfortable surroundings at, above all things, very reasonable prices, the Rockhill Vineyard Cabin is likely for you. I don't know when I've ever felt as unburdened and outright content in the moment as these past couple of days. The setting is gorgeous, the accommodations are anything but spartan, and the owners — Gray and Pam Draughn — are hospitable and personable. Mr. Draughn built the house himself, and it is obviously a labor of love.

This past year has had its extreme ups and downs, and quite frankly, I wouldn't even try to predict what 2014 might hold in store. To me personally, some indicators are anything but positive; however, for all that, I can at least say that this past year ended on as high a note as a year can end, and I'm grateful for that. In my ancient, ancient age, I am never one to take good fortune, small or large, for granted, and this holiday season has been one I will honor in memory as one of those moments of fortune that truly meant the world to me.

Bless you.