Sunday, August 24, 2014

Wicked Weddings, Pants-Down Races, and More

Detail from the awful mob scene pictured below

Over a decade ago, at a singularly infamous, unnameable Necon event in Bristol, Rhode Island, our good friend, the well-known hack writer Elizabeth Massie, stumbled over this particularly fascinating, very sad, and very mean artist named Cortney Skinner. The two of them caught each other's interest and apparently wound up rolling through a darkened duct tape factory because it wasn't long before they had become quite inseparable. Before anyone understood what was actually happening, this nefarious pair was cohabitating, living in sin, doing devilish deeds by day and by night. Based on their frequent, frightening appearances together in public, whispers began to circulate that the two of them had murdered each other in their sleep. Then, back in June, all these years of abominable abnormality culminated, when the perverted pair, in full silly hat regalia, tied the marital knot — in the common vernacular, up and got hitched.

Finally, unable to limit the practicing of their devilish whims to only themselves, the despicable duo decided to throw a big-ass bash to showcase their disgusting deviance, even inviting people they actually knew and disrespected — including the lovely Ms. B. and me. Unable to overcome our fascination with public perversion, we accepted. So, just this weekend, yesterday through today, we found ourselves subjected to a degree of depravity that, until now, we never could have guessed existed on this planet.

It started out innocently enough. Kimberly and I visited the beautiful Barren Ridge winery just outside of Waynesboro, enjoyed some wine, grabbed a few geocaches, and then — admittedly with some trepidation — headed over to the hellish homestead. There were reunions with old friends, such as Jeff Osier; his wife, Cathy Van Patten; and her brother, John, with whom I had attended college a few years back. But these fair moments were not to last, for then the games began. Hideous, horrendous games, based on torture and humiliation. Things like "Pants-Down Races," in which even Ms. Massie's own daughter participated. To my shock, Kimberly was drawn into the evil circle, and I could only watch in despair as she, and numerous other inductees into this Satanic coven, raced around a blazing fire, pants down, tripping and falling and screaming and wailing. Never was there a more apt time for Jesus to appear and set things right. But he didn't, and so the heathens frollicked on.
Brugger was forced to walk the plank.

Next up, there were songs. And they drew me into it — me! Before I knew it, we were in a songwriting/singing competition, in which we had to compose canticles actually commemorating this demon pair's unholy union. I found myself singing along on a tune called "Bugle Whoo!" right smack in front of the couple, who looked down upon us from their camping chairs on high, nodding their heads in approval. And Lord, if that didn't sting. Except that... in a weird way... I almost enjoyed it!

Somehow, sometime later, Kimberly and I managed to escape. I'll never forget the sounds of agonized screaming, which — fortunately — receded quickly as we made our way into the night, seeking the nearest geocache with my trusty GPS.

The story would have ended there, except that, to our chagrin, we also accepted an invitation to breakfast with a select few of the coven, including the married couple. I should describe the beastly behavior during this smaller but no less traumatic event, but I doubt that repeating it would do my sanity — or yours — any favors. Suffice it to say that I am home now, writing this little missive, and constantly looking over my shoulder.

Should something happen to me, at least you know the truth.
A perfectly pastoral scene at Barren Ridge Vineyards, offering no hint of the trauma soon to follow.
Ms. B. and ye old writer, drinking away our cares before we even realized we had any.
Let the games begin. Grand marshall Cortney instructs participants in the rules of "Pants-Down Races."
Many celebrants, including this corrupt conquistador, crowded into the house to escape a brief rainstorm.
Hapless subjects serenade the vicious vizier and his bride, who look on with approval
After the party: Destined to walk the land of the dead.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Confusion on the Bigfoot Trail

Several years ago, geocaching took me out to what I call the Bigfoot Trail — a scenic and secluded hiking trail through the marshes along Long Branch, a few miles north of Greensboro (see "Return to Bigfoot Country," "Bigfoot's Libary," "The Great Blue Heron Nursery"). When I came upon the trail for the first time, it was undeveloped — not much more than a deer path through the woods, and human beings, other than the occasional geocacher, were happily never present. More recently, this extensive area of land has been made into the Richardson-Taylor Nature Preserve, and the old Bigfoot trail has been extended by a couple of miles and augmented by a bike trail that roughly parallels and occasionally intersects it. The preserve encompasses one of the most primitive, undeveloped areas in Guilford County, and since it is one of Greensboro's vital watershed areas, I am glad it has been acquired by an organization that will preserve it rather than rape it. All too nearby, acres upon acres of pristine woodland have recently been clear-cut to make way for yet more hellishly ugly, overpriced, cookie-cutter houses in poorly planned subdivisions that are steadily destroying the very resources that allow Greensboro to maintain adequate water supplies. The dreaded urban sprawl, don't you know. I hate it beyond words.

For now, while the trail is still unfinished, there is plenty of nature to be seen out there with virtually no sign of human intrusion. Near the trailhead, there are the remains of several old tobacco barns, for this area along Plainfield Road, which runs east-west near Greensboro's northernmost city limits, was not all that long ago completely rural, the forests broken only by a few farms and tobacco fields. The geocaching is good out here, and I was lucky to have been able to experience this unspoiled area before the inevitable influx of less environmentally conscious hordes. Today's hike was after a new, well-conceived multistage cache that required solving a novel field puzzle that involved dynamos and circuit boards (GC5B09K; "The Box of Confusion — I Wonder"). Mr. Rob "Robgso" Isenhour and I put in a nice three-mile hike and were able to log geocaching smileys after solving the puzzle and finding the final stage.

Yeah, Bigfoot is still out there, and I hear he's kind of pissed that the trail is now called the Bill Craft Trail, which may be fitting enough, but for crying out loud, how could any sensible soul not call it "The Bigfoot Trail"? Well, whatever its official name, to some of us, it's always going to be the Bigfoot Trail, and that will be that.
Old Rodan and old tobacco barn near the trailhead
They have these newfangled bridges out on the trail now. Not back in the good ol' days; you just got your feet wet.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

World War Cthulhu Has Begun

I know you've seen and heard me carrying on about it for some time, but today is the day: the official launch of World War Cthulhu from Dark Regions. Of course I gotta shout about it, I just gotta, because I have a story in it — "The Game Changers," a Vietnam-era tale about Really Bad Things in the jungles of southeast Asia. Plus there are plenty great Lovecraftian war stories, ranging in time frames from the fall of Troy to the distant future, by Neil Baker, David Conyers, Tim Curran, Ed Erdelac, Cody Goodfellow, Ted Grau, C. J. Henderson, David Kernot, William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Edward Morris, Konstantin Paradias, Robert M. Price, W. H. Pugmire, Peter Rawlik, John Shirley, Darryl Schweitzer, Jeffrey Thomas, and Lee Zumpe. I just delved into it and read the first story, "Loyalty," by John Shirley. Fine stuff, it is!

But wait, there's more! You can get World War Cthulhu just about any way you want it — as an e-book, in trade paperback or hardback, with autographs by contributors or buck naked. Cover art is by Vincent Chong, and M. Wayne Miller contributes 22 full-color interior illustrations. The one reproduced here is to my story. Beauteous, no?

Here's the official description from Dark Regions: "The world is at war against things that slink and gibber in the darkness, and titans that stride from world to world, sewing madness and death. War has existed in one form or another since the dawn of human civilization, and before then, Elder terrors battled it out across this planet and this known universe in ways unimaginable.

"It has always been a losing battle for our side since time began. Incidents like the Innsmouth raid, chronicled by H.P. Lovecraft, mere blips of victory against an insurmountable foe. Still we fight, against these incredible odds, in an unending nightmare, we fight, and why? For victory, for land, for a political ideal? No, mankind fights for survival.

"Our authors have gathered here to share war stories from the eternal struggle against the darkness. This book chronicles these desperate battles from across the ages, including Roman Britain, The American Civil War, World War II, The Vietnam Conflict, and even the far future."

For everything you could want to know about World War Cthulhu, including ordering info for all available editions, visit Dark Regions Press.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

In the Black at Binding Time

The disreputable contingent: ye old scary dude
with author/moviemaker James Wayland

Binding Time Café and Bookstore's 2014 Book Festival opened at 10:00 this morning to a fairly small crowd, but over the next couple of hours, business picked up with a steady flow of patrons coming and going, most leaving with a new book or several in hand. The majority of the authors in attendance brought works of local, regional, and general literary interest, but local writer and moviemaker James Wayland, author of Trailer Park Vampires and Dirty Southside Jam — not to mention writer/producer/director of the recent indie movie, Never Look Back Again — and I made for a shuddersome, thoroughly disreputable horror contingent. My table was set up next to Dr. Mary Helen Hensley, who has written a series of autobiographical volumes known as The Promised Trilogy (Promised, Circles of Light, and The Land Beyond the River), which details her near-death experience after a car accident in the 1991 as well as a children's book titled The Chakra Fairies. Her late father, Dick Hensley, was principal of Martinsville High School as well as head football coach when I was a student there (not quite a full half century ago). A few years back, Mary Helen published a little volume of her father's memorable sayings and wisdom, which range from entertaining to profound.

For a small town that fell into economic depression twenty-some years ago and has suffered seriously ever since, Martinsville, VA, does manage to retain an inviting, eclectic culture that has attracted and kept lots of creative individuals and small businesses reminiscent of its richer days in decades past. Binding Time proprietors John and Bonnie Hale do a bang-up job putting together these regular book festivals — and any time I attend such an event and leave in the black, then it's been a pretty good day. Like today.

Read, eat, drink, and be merry.
Authors and book dealers, start your engines!
Dr. Mary Helen Hensley, author of The Promised trilogy, The Chakra Fairies, and others.
Author Michael Howlett, channeling Mark Twain, with Binding Time proprietor John Hale

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Binding Time's 2014 Book Festival

Ye author at Binding Time's 2013
spring book festival

For the past few years, I've been a regular at the Martinsville, VA, book festivals sponsored by Binding Time Café & Bookstore, and this year's festival takes place this weekend — Saturday, August 16, from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. I will have copies of The Monarchs, Blue Devil Island, Other GodsThe Gaki, Song of Cthulhu, and others available for purchase, and I'll be more than happy to devalue them with an autograph. See if I won't. I will also have a handful of CDs of the Dark Shadows audio dramas that I wrote for Big Finish Productions, which feature several members of the classic ABC-TV series, including David Selby, Lara Parker, Nancy Barrett, and Marie Wallace.

Binding Time is a great little cafe that features a decent selection of books for sale, many by local/regional authors. The shop started out as a bookstore that offered a nice little selection of food and drink items, but over time, the dining side of the business grew until it became more a café with a selection of books offered as a bonus. Still, owners John and Bonnie Hale are very much devoted to the literary side of things and go all out to promote working writers. About twenty authors are scheduled to participate on Saturday; you can find a complete roster here.

Binding Time is located at 1115 Spruce St., Martinsville, VA 24112 — in the Druid Hills Shopping Center, which is very easily accessible from all points around town. Please do stop in, check out some of my most pleasant works of endless, raging, grueling horror, and have a really good sandwich and a coffee or espresso, or perhaps another satisfying beverage.

Eat, drink, read, and be merry.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Killer Cicadas Bash

The ultimate showdown between humans and giant, man-eating, killer cicadas took place last night at the Rives Theater in Martinsville, VA. The house was packed with folks eager to catch the latest from the delinquent Smith Brothers, Mat and Myron, whose previous effort, Young Blood: Evil Intentions, has just been novelized courtesy of ye old author dude. Earlier in the day, a strange-looking, upright cicada-type entity was reportedly seen around town advertising the movie. Ms. Kimberly, who has a small part as a mad professor's mistress, and I, who play the mad professor, arrived in town a couple of hours prior to showtime and had a very fine dinner at Rania's Restaurant in uptown Martinsville. When we got to the theater — which is where I saw the majority of my most beloved monster movies as a young'un — it was already just about filled up. Shortly, Mat and Myron were giving the audience a little introduction on what we were about to see, and then we were treated to a classic Betty Boop cartoon — which was, appropriately, all about a bunch of ornery bugs.

Invasion of the Killer Cicadas then rolled. It's a very short film — just under an hour long — and is all about the cheese. It's a genuinely funny comedy, with blatantly hokey special effects, lots of great quips from the characters, a wee bit of graphic gore, and some killer original music by The Directive, Smokey Miles, J.D. Hades and the Exterminators, Hyberborean Slumber, and others. The fun was infectious, and everyone in the audience looked to be having two and a half hoots. Ms. Kimberly and I certainly were.

After the show, most of the cast devalued lots of movie posters with our autographs, and then we headed over to Hugo's Bar & Grill for a few drinks and fun company. Quite the red carpet affair, this premiere!

Like Young Blood before it, Invasion of the Killer Cicadas will no doubt be making the rounds at other venues and eventually see release on DVD. Me, I can't wait. If your community is fortunate enough to be attacked by killer cicadas, I strongly recommend you don't miss them. Shoot first, question later.

Click here to watch the Jamie Walker Show about the movie from WYAT TV, which I participated in last week.
Meww Gomez and John Robert Price, stars of Invasion of the Killer Cicadas (photo by Rita Smith)
Writers, producers, directors, and Do-It-All Boys, Mat and Myron Smith (photo by Rita Smith)
After-party at Hugo's, featuring cast members Sarah Smith and Jenny Holmes
No mad scientist is complete without a beautiful mistress — even if she's looking a little blurry on camera.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Directive: Invasion of the Killer Cicadas!

Hey, hey... The Killer Cicadas song by The Directive features Professor Doctor Werner Von Schwartztotten's maniacal monologue at the beginning. How awesome is that?

The Cicadas Invade... This Weekend!

Here they come! This Saturday night, August 9, at 7:00 PM, at the Rives Theater in Uptown Martinsville, VA. Invasion of the Killer Cicadas, made by brothers Mat & Myron Smith, and featuring ye old dude playing wacky mad scientist Professor Doctor Werner Von Schwartztotten. If you've not gotten tickets yet, they may be available at the door, but the show is likely to sell out. Guaranteed to be great fun....

In the same but different department, I've completed the novelization of the Smith Brothers' first movie, Young Blood: Evil Intentions and turned it in for approval. There will likely be some revisions before it's all said and done, but it's been a dynamite, mighty fun project.

And the show goes on.