Sunday, March 30, 2014

Buccaneer's Beech, Big Bugs, and Gnome Homes

Andi "AndiMN" Newton and Chad "CJBowser" Bowser

After most of a week of feeling like warmed-over black death, it was nice to finally return to something like my normal state of abnormality this weekend. Happy enough it was that I spent today out on the caching trail with fellow writers/geocachers Andi "AndiMN" Newton and Chad "CJBowser" Bowser, mostly in the Winston-Salem area. Several miles of hiking, quite a few caches, no catastrophic accidents, and that's what I call a fine day. Highlights included a fairly lengthy hike and a prolonged search at a pirate-themed multi in Reynolds Park called Buccaneer's Beech (GCNNP6); a letterbox hybrid cache that ended with us finding a funky little gnome home in the woods; a garland of missile tow hanging up in a tree; and a giant spider (with a bison tube stuck in its abdomen) hanging out in a dank, dark culvert. Lunch at First Street Draught House also proved intriguing, not to mention pretty dang tasty: lamb sliders with basil mayonnaise and havarti cheese and a huge side of fried pickles, with a Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, which I quite enjoyed — though I rarely drink beer any more, when I do, I tend to prefer strong IPAs, which this definitely is.

Time to prop up the tired old feets (mainly so the cats will have a place to perch).

(Click images to enlarge.)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Freebies Are Nice, But...

A fellow writer's recent post on Facebook highlighted a situation that I encounter, not frequently, but with some regularity, and that's people requesting free copies of my books. Or, if not directly requesting, implying that a free copy is somehow expected. This usually isn't from close friends, since most of mine are informed (and classy) enough to realize that I am not sitting atop a huge stockpile of copies just waiting to disperse itself, without recompense, to the general public. No, usually it's an email from someone claiming to be a huge fan of my work but, due to one hardship or another, is unable to actually purchase my books, and wouldn't I feel truly great about providing them an autographed copy of my latest? And, hey, maybe they'll even review it! Or, if I can't provide a copy of the book itself, how about I just send a PDF? In a handful of cases, folks have wanted autographed photographs suitable for framing for their collections. Sometimes just an autograph on a piece of paper. Now, I suppose at one time as a fledgling writer I might have been honored beyond words to think that someone was actually fan enough of my work to want to read more of it, or was so enamored of my physique that they should like to gaze or even drool upon it at their leisure. When it comes to free books, sorry about your circumstances, but this is not how the business works. For one thing, it is poor economics. While I generally get a small number of free copies of my titles from publishers, I do not have an unlimited number to give out to the masses; most of those I do give out go to real reviewers the publisher might have missed or editors of "best of" anthologies. If I want more copies, I still have to pay for them. An alien concept to some, perhaps, but you must realize the publisher isn't in it only for the love, either.

These days, especially if someone requests an e-file of my work, the most likely reason is that it's to go on a pirate site. These things have proliferated in ways not unlike music sites in the relatively recent past. As for photos, lord knows, there's enough of me on the web to shock the world to its very foundation, and if you really want one, well, you just go look and find one that doesn't rupture your brain cells.

I don't usually attribute autograph requests to some nefarious identity theft scheme — not that such things don't happen, I'm sure — but when I receive one of these, I do request that the requester send me a self-addressed stamped envelope, which, really, is kind of the least you can do if you expect to receive something for nothing. Precious few SASEs actually follow.

I'm sure none of you reading this would exhibit any of the behaviors described above, so just indulge me a little venting here — right? — and all is good.

Right then.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nine Dawgs on Panther Creek

Old Rodan, stylin' and smilin'

As of some weeks ago, Rob "Robgso" Isenhour, Robbin "Rtmlee" Lee, Todd "tbbiker" Briggs, and I had made plans to hit the Panther Creek Trail, just northeast of Durham, today come rain, shine, hell, or high water. We ended up getting a bit of all of these. The trail is about 4.5 miles long, with 42 geocaches along its length. Rob the Older, Todd, and I left here bright and early, met up with Rob the Younger in Burlington and made our way out to Panther Creek. As soon as our band arrived at the southernmost trail head, we saw a familiar vehicle and a couple of ominous-looking characters — Matt "Wimseyguy" Busch and Grady "Shady Grady" Ormond, along with caching dogs Fred and Olive — who happened to have had the same idea as us. What timing! They convinced us to join them on the trail on pain of merciless heckling. Each party took one set of vehicles around to the north end of the trail so we could do the whole thing going one direction, and off we went on foot. The first hour was relatively comfortable, with a spot of sunshine, but then wind and clouds began cooling things down, and the anticipated rain began to fall. Certain of us, no names mentioned (Robgso), left his rain gear in the car, and was thus subjected to considerable watering. Fortunately, Robgso is quite sporting, and took it all in stride. Near the halfway point, we were joined by Christian "Vortexecho" Whittemore, who proceeded to tunnel from one cache to the other, while the rest of us remained above ground and wet. Early on, unfortunately, I was struck by another freaking migraine — I had just had one of the damned things on Friday — but, most thankfully, Wimseyguy had some appropriate headache meds and kindly shared them with me, which took the edge off.

About five miles, a ton of rain, 42 caches, one migraine, and four hours later, we were done. Robgso, Rtmlee, Tbbiker, and I parted ways with our unexpected caching partners, grabbed our other vehicles from the northern end of the trail, and then went out for some most gratifying Mexican food at El Corral in Durham. They actually serve up some mighty spicy goodies here; the tacos el diablo fixed my headache, fixed everything, and now all is well.

Awfully fine, all things considered.
Mr. Lee signing the log at "The Cat's Pajamas" (GC4WJRD)
Even before the rain began, it was difficult to stay dry.
The old rails running through the woods
Eight of nine Dawgs: Vortexecho, Robgso, Wimseyguy, old Rodan, Shady Grady, Rtmlee,
with Fred and Olive, cachehounds
Five miles, 42 caches, one migraine, and four hours later, we were all smileys and hungry as hell.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Black Man With a Horn at Cedarock

Not much sense of scale here, but I'm pretty
sure this was a big old shoggoth emerging
from a hole in this tree.

Woke up to a beautiful Saturday morning, so there was only one thing to do: yes, go straight out geocaching. Decided my target would be Cedarock Park over in Alamance County, since a few caches over that way were still waiting for me to claim them — a new one and a handful of older ones. Found a couple of them straight off, but one of them — "Retest," an older, very difficult multi-stage hide — proved to be at least as beastly as I might have anticipated, though, ironically, I found one of its stages quite by accident while hunting a different cache. After the recent ice storms, the pine forest out there has been just about decimated, and the massive numbers of fallen trees made getting from location to location rather problematic. Anyway, like quite a few finders of this ancient terror, I sought and found a little help from a previous finder, which led me to the final stage. On my way to it, I thought I heard a distant, rather eerie wail. Soon enough, I determined it was a hunter's horn, and it was drawing nearer. It wasn't long before I felt I might have fallen into a certain novella by T.E.D. Klein, so out came my phone video camera, just so there might be some evidence left behind in case I went missing. My phone, at least, could have been found at N 35° 59.166 W 079° 26.689. Happily, I escaped the woods unscathed, though pestered by a couple of ticks, which have already come out of hiding. I should not be broken-hearted if the freeze predicted to hit us this week takes the lot of the little suckers out.

Ground zero for one of the stages of "Retest." Never found the stage; maybe it's there, maybe it's not.
Looking down one of the trails. After all the ice damage, it was easier to bushwhack than hike the trail.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Godzilla at Geeksboro!

If were still a very young man, say, twelve or fifty four years old, I might get pretty excited over this. Last summer, the Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema here in Greensboro ran a couple of Godzilla movies outdoors — the original Godzilla and Destroy All Monsters, if I recollect properly — though I didn't manage to get over to see them. Coming up at Geeksboro, to celebrate the Legendary Pictures Godzilla looming on the theatrical horizon, we have a regular borgasmord of daikaiju. (What, you never saw that Underwood Deviled Ham commercial with Mason Reese way back when?) Matter of fact, I recently went on a bit of a Godzilla DVD binge, and the latter three of these here — Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla: Tokyo SOS, and Godzilla: Final Wars — were among those still in the queue to satiate the Godzilla craving, so I reckon I'll hold off watching them (for the 30th, 20th, and 10th times, respectively, or something like that). Now, I must say, I've yet to figure out why Ms. Brugger seems to think that a place called Geeksboro is just the ticket for a daikaiju enthusiast such as me, but... whatever. It's not as if I ever once pestered the owner of a drive-in theater in Martinsville to change the line-up of their movies so they'd run Destroy All Monsters first, so my dad would actually take my friend Frank and me to see it on my twelfth birthday. Really, I didn't. That story was a lie!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Geocaching and Shopping

Kimberly and I went to Durham this weekend to visit my former neighbors, Paul and Jamie (a.k.a. TravelinFarmFam), and you might be able to guess who did the geocaching and who did the shopping. Above, you see the Damned one hanging out in the nice cool underground at "Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit: Top o' the Month Challenge" (GC2EQ7W). Paul and I also put in a few miles hiking and caching on the American Tobacco Trail, a portion of which runs very near their house. We managed some might good eating as well — Jamie and Paul made some dynamite grilled chicken fajitas for last night's dinner; we had an excellent breakfast at Rise Biscuits and Doughnuts, which I'd never heard of before but would happily go back; and this evening's dinner was in Chapel Hill at Carolina Brewery, followed by an excursion for necessities at Trader Joe's. Ms. Jamie is expecting a young 'un in July, so there is a bit of excitement brewing in the TravelinFarmFam household. A fun visit all-around, but I sure do miss those youngsters living right next door. Great folks, great time.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Chambers of Horrors

I've been on a tear writing the short fiction lately, and most of the tales I've dreamed up have found respectable homes. Here are the covers to a few of those upcoming. The Monk Punk cover here is actually the original edtion, edited by A. J. French for Dark Discoveries; there's a new omnibus edition soon to be released that will feature a new version of my story, "Visionaire," an older tale that originally saw print in a limited-run small press volume called The End, edited by Jeffrey Thomas. World War Cthulhu, edited by Brian M. Sammons & Glynn Barrass, features my story, "The Game Changers," and will be released by Dark Regions in the next few months. My latest tale — "The Masque of the Queen," which is set within Robert W. Chambers' "King in Yellow" mythos — is slated to appear in Celaeno Press's In the Court of the Yellow King, edited by Glynn Barrass & Edward Lipsett, coming in July, there or about. I trust all of these will offer you enough to have a mighty pleasant fright. Stay tuned for more info.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ice In, Lights Out

The third significant winter storm in as many weeks here in the North Carolina Piedmont, this one resulting in over 400,000 people in the area losing power, over 100,000 of whom have yet to have it restored. It's been many years since I've seen so much damage from ice in this area. My electricity was out from early Friday morning until the middle of the evening last night (Saturday), and I was clearly one of the lucky ones; Duke Power is anticipating it taking until Wednesday or Thursday to get all power in the region back on. In only a few hours, over four inches of heavy slush accumulated at my place, and I knew it was going to be a rough one when I could hear trees cracking and falling with such regularity it sounded like a gunfight outside. I took the picture at left a few seconds after a pair of tall pines — from that bunch in the distance in the center of the photo — came crashing down (unfortunately, the zoom on my phone camera makes the image rather blurry, but you can click on the photos to enlarge them). I did lose one medium-size cedar at the corner of my house, which can be seen in the first photo below. That first day, I was pretty well stuck in my house, since I couldn't have gotten the car out of the driveway if I had wanted to (not that I wanted to). Once I got out yesterday, I got a first-hand look at how much damage there was. In places, there were still more power lines down than remaining up, and several roads were closed because of trees falling across them.

On the positive side, even though I had not intentionally stocked up on supplies before this storm, I had plenty of food, cats for warmth, and martini fixings to keep my spirits up. I rather enjoyed cooking breakfast and making coffee on the grill out on the front porch yesterday morning; it was just like camping out, only not. Since we missed work on Friday, Brugger decided to go into the office yesterday, so I went in as well and got some writing done on my current short story, which fits firmly into Robert W. Chambers' King in Yellow mythos.

Mess with Mother Nature, and she'll whomp you a good one, that's for sure. Stay warm, peoples.

But lord, I hate the onset of Daylight Saving Time....

Those low shrubs to the left aren't low shrubs; those ordinarily stand about 12 feet tall.
The cedar on the corner was uprooted, and I had to take it down completely today.
On Willowlake Road in Guilford County yesterday evening. There weren't many
power lines left intact along this stretch of road.
Another shot along Willowlake Road. That big tree is cracked about halfway up and
leans out over the road. I'd hate to be underneath it when it falls.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

R.I.P. Brandy Rainey

I received the sad news yesterday that my mom's little dog, Brandy, after rapidly increasing physical decline, had finally been put to sleep. Brandy was already a mature dog when Mom got her back in the early 2000s, but for most of the intervening years, she was active and in fine health, largely due to Mom taking such conscientious care of her. Brandy provided endless hours of good companionship, taking Mom for regular walks and engaging her in good conversation (mostly one-sided). I'm told Brandy fell the other evening and couldn't get back up, and was in considerable pain afterward. At her age — around 18, I believe — there wasn't really hope of recovery, so Mom had to make that terrible choice of having her put down.

I'll miss Brandy too — she was always there to greet me whenever I'd visit, and a critter of better humor one would be hard-pressed to imagine. Rest in peace, little dog. You will be missed.

Brandy in her younger days...a bit spoiled, as usual.