Monday, March 30, 2015

Back to The Nightmare Frontier

You know, over the past 30-some years, I've built up a reasonably extensive body of written work. Short stories, novels, scripts, essays, even a bit of poetry. Would you be surprised if I told you I have no fondness for the stuff? Sometimes, I'm pretty sure I can safely say I loathe it.

Okay, that's not entirely fair. The work itself, I suspect, may be fine enough in its own right, at least on occasion. I mean, I get consistently good reviews. I have almost no unsold short stories in my inventory. I have at least one die-hard fan. I only rarely receive hate mail (trust me, I'm working on this). Perhaps it would more accurate to state that I detest revisiting my older work. At the time I wrote whatever it was I wrote, I had my say, and that was that. Going back into it usually just makes me cringe, and I suspect that part of the reason for this is that writing — especially good writing — is often born of pain. Emotional pain. Who the hell wants to go back and invite a rough time back into one's life?

Now, certainly, the vast majority of my tales were hardly the result of profound suffering. More often, even at its darkest, my work touches more on the whimsical side of life. However, I can scarcely think of a story I've written that doesn't draw on some pretty negative shit from deep inside. Putting it out there can be cathartic, and I imagine any number of accomplished writers can identify with this feeling. At the same time, my primary aim is to make the words you read entertaining. Engrossing. All about things that you, as an intelligent human being, can relate to, even when twisted into scarcely recognizable form.

Where am I going with this? Well, I won't lie to you. I want you to read The Nightmare Frontier. Yes, of course, for purely commercial reasons. I'll also tell you why — the other reasons, the more personal, cathartic reasons. They weren't painful. They were impressive.

The Nightmare Frontier may be the most fun, deep, gruesome, romantic, touching, funny, and dark piece of work I ever produced. And, perhaps most significantly, as related to the above, I recently went back and re-read a portion of it. I did not hate the fucking thing. That's rare, and that's my testimonial, which I will stand by. (Laugh while you can, monkey boy.) Here's a little about how the book came to be, and this does include stock footage from an older blog. If you've read it before, or already have the book, feel free to vacate the premises with all due haste; this is for those who have not or who don't mind a refresher.

The novel was inspired by a waking dream — for me a very rare thing, and in this case, one that gave me one of the most terror-filled moments of my adult life. It was late evening, and I was drowsing on the couch in the living room, dark but for a few streamers of light filtering in through the venetian blinds. I was aware that I was lying on the couch, yet I was beginning to see images creeping up from my subconscious. As I lay there, I noticed a pool of warm, golden light forming at the corner of my vision. I shifted just enough to peer around the arm of the couch, and then I saw the source of the light.

Creeping across the living room floor, perhaps six feet away, there was a gigantic centipede, five feet long, its body glowing gold and red, as if a flame were burning within it. Its head resembled a human skull, and as I watched, the thing slowly turned toward me, and I became aware of a horrifying, malevolent intelligence, observing and appraising me. It made no further move, yet my fear rapidly intensified until I jerked violently awake. The most disturbing thing at that moment was that I knew I was fully awake, yet I could see a circle of golden light on the floor, slowly fading, vanishing only after several seconds had passed.
The original cover of The Nightmare Frontier
by Chad Savage; Sarob Press, 2006

It took some time before my nerves settled enough for me to drag myself off the couch and retire to my bedroom. By the time I finally drifted off to sleep again, I had a rudimentary plot in my head for the novel that was to become The Nightmare Frontier. So, yes, in the novel, you will encounter the thing that crept out of my darkest imaginings to pay me a visit that night. You will meet the individuals responsible for calling up such a thing from the remotest depths of hell. You will find yourself trapped in a town cut off from the rest of the world by some inexplicable force, rendering you helpless before the advance of these murderous monsters, known as Lumeras.

The e-book edition of The Nightmare Frontier can be had for a mere $2.99 at The audio book, narrated by Basil Sands, is $17.99. Here are the links:

The Nightmare Frontier e-book

The Nightmare Frontier audio book

Thank you for your time.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bridges, Bottles, and Photobombs in Bethania

It was another excellent day on the geocaching trail with Robgso (a.k.a. Rob), Cupdaisy (a.k.a. Shoffner), and Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), this time primarily in Bethania, a tiny historical community a few miles northwest of the Winston-Salem. As often happens with caching, we ended up in settings that can inspire some of my best and creepiest horror tales. Not that the locations themselves are necessarily spooky, but they're isolated, dilapidated, and old, and they lend themselves to all kinds of morbid imaginings, at least when, as a writer, you specialize in the Frighten-Your-Neighbors-and-Their-Children-to-Death department. Of course, in certain company, it's pretty difficult to work up a good scare because shenanigans tend to overshadow all else. Witness the image just below. I'm trying to take a picture of a hidden, crumbling, overgrown old bridge above a watery gorge, and somebody up and photobombs it. I mean, that's gauche. Isn't that gauche?
This Old Trail Dawg photobombs "This Old Bridge"
Bethania was the first organized Moravian settlement in North Carolina, dating back to 1759, and it is currently designated as a National Historic Landmark. As soon as you hit the trails here, you are surrounded by an atmosphere of antiquity, the woods full of crumbling, rusting relics of days gone by — most not going back to the 18th century, but some of it certainly prior to my time on this earth. There are numerous old structures long fallen to ruin; bricks, stones, and fixtures from houses and buildings that collapsed or were demolished some untold number of years ago; impressive geologic formations; and dark ponds and marshes which one can easily imagine being inhabited by all kinds of mysterious, primordial entities. I expect that H. P. Lovecraft would have been quite taken with the setting.

Our favorite location — at least for some of us — was at a cache called "Fuse Box" (GC5MRW7), the search for which led us up a massive, rounded hill, where we found at the top a number of old, half-demolished structures that looked as if they had succumbed to an assault by the Dunwich Horror. We didn't find any bodies, dammit, though we did come upon a refrigerator — this of relatively recent vintage — bearing the spray-painted message "Fuck the World." I can only expect this was the last statement of some poor victim who was annoyed by the unknown horror's very rude rampage. The main house was a pile of wreckage, as seen below, while a few of the smaller outbuildings remained in relatively decent repair, although we didn't venture too far into most of them for fear they might be full of shenanigans. Kind of in that vein, a short distance from the wreckage, someone had lined up, in semi-meticulous fashion, a number of blue glass bottles. Collectible, for all I know, though I collected none of them, preferring to leave them in place for the next unsuspecting witnesses to enjoy.
I had nothing to do with this, I swears it.
Feeling blue?
As far as the caching itself went, we enjoyed it mightily. We got to climb gnarly old rotten trees, scale cliffs like mountain goats, and leaf-surf down frighteningly steep hillsides yelling "cowabunga!" At one cache, which turned out to be hidden in a tree trunk right about eye level, both Rob and I circled it several times without seeing it; when I finally did, I yelled, "Fucking snake!" because, if it had been one, I'd have been chomped but good. Speaking of snakes, Rob and I apparently walked right by a big black one without seeing it, whereas Scott and Shoffner took photos. I do like black snakes. Classy animals. And then, out there in the middle of the woods, we ran into some little statue dude coming out of the ground. Not sure why, but it struck me as kind of an asshole thing to do, to come up out of the ground like that. Scott agreed, as he rightly should; not sure about our other compatriots. Anyway, we passed the little guy by and went on about our caching.

We had a decent, rather late lunch at the Muddy Creek Cafe. All in all, it was good. A very good day — even with the shenanigans and little stone assholes.
We were really cooking today.
Someone was feeling pretty, witty, and wise.
A random little asshole we encountered in the woods

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Civil War Trail, Bigfoot, and More

Was that Bigfoot I heard back there?
Last night, I had to head up to Martinsville to help Mum with her taxes, but, fortuitously, this put me in the middle of some prime territory for new geocaches, including several in the recently published Civil War Trail series (see "Challenges, Stars, and Civil War Trails," March 8, 2015). My first stop was the Richard P. Gravely Nature Preserve, just east of town, where I have hidden several caches of my own. There was a new one there — GC5PR16 — which has yet to be found, and, unfortunately, I couldn't find the damned thing after a long and arduous search amid a massive forest of mountain laurel, on a hillside high and steep enough to potentially send me sliding, rolling, and/or hurtling a couple of hundred feet down to the Smith River. I didn't fall, though I did get bruised, beat up, and lacerated by the dense and overtly hostile foliage, and I'm thinking, from the mysterious sounds I heard, that some beastly, cryptozoological horror must have been watching me the entire two hours I was out there. No doubt I'll go back and torture myself again, and even if I don't find the cache, maybe this time I'll actually spot Bigfoot.
A wee spot of geocaching battle damage

Today's caching outing proved far more successful. I set my sights on Eden, NC, for several newer ones, including three in the Civil War Trail series. I've been quite enjoying these, as they take you to numerous historic areas around the state, and in the Piedmont Triad, many of them are quite scenic. Today I returned to the site of a couple of older, now-archived caches, the Leaksville Cotton Mill, originally built in 1839, of which all that remains is the stone foundation next to a small dam on the Smith River. Then I was off to the Wentworth Methodist Church graveyard, where many of the graves date back to the mid 1800s, with several prominent local figures from the Civil War buried there. Today, no DNFs, and some exceedingly pleasant hiking.

Soon, it will be wine time. Yes.
A view of the Smith River from the Gravely Nature Preserve
One of the many tunnels of mountain laurel along the Smith River at the Gravely Nature Preserve
Just above the dam on the Smith River at the Leaksville Cotton Mill in Eden, NC
A serene, picturesque graveyard behind the Wentworth Methodist Church on the Civil War Trail

Saturday, March 21, 2015

When the Stars Came to Town and Others

Suntigres on location
Over the past few decades, quite a few movies have been made here in North Carolina's Piedmont region — several being of the spooky persuasion — including the upcoming The Disappointments Room, starring Kate Beckinsale, Gerald McRaney, Michaela Conlin, and Lucas Til, directed by D. J. Caruso (Disturbia), and written by Caruso and Wentworth Miller (Stoker, Prison Break). Other titles include Hellraiser III, Children of the Corn II, and The Killers Three. The thriving film industry has been a boon for the state's coffers, countless businesses, and numerous otherwise economically depressed communities, but — most unfortunately — our current legislature, which is composed of some of the densest boneheads this planet has seen since the days of the Pachycephalosaurus, has opted to kill the tax incentive programs that brought so many productions out our way. My contempt for these vile cretins hardly stems from this issue alone, but thank your lucky stars, I have other reasons for writing this blog today. I'm writing because — you guessed it — a nice little series of geocaches recently came out that commemorates some of the eclectic cinematic treasures that have come out of the North Carolina's Piedmont, and today was the perfect day to go after them, and quite a few others, with my frequent caching partner, Ms. Suntigres (a.k.a. Bridget).

There are three caches placed around the little town of Ramseur, located along the Deep River River in Randolph County, where scenes from The Disappointments Room, Children of the Corn II, and The Killers Three were filmed, each cache bearing the name of one of those films and containing specific information that lead to a final cache called "When the Stars Came to Town" (GC5NZ2X). I've never seen The Killers Three, and I don't think I've ever seen Children of the Corn II, but you can bet I am now inclined to check out both of them — as well as The Disappointments Room when it comes out in September. Ramseur is a picturesque, tiny community that has retained most of the finest — and, unfortunately, some of the worst — aspects of mid-20th-century southern America, a situation too often brought on by prolonged economic hardship. However, The Disappointments Room promises to showcase the community's most atmospheric and character-laden side, which I have been fortunate enough to experience first-hand during my years of geocaching. It was a true pleasure to return there today and complete the "When the Stars Came to Town" series, which was put together by the classy and altogether mysterious lady known as "Sull427."

Our run through Randolph County today proved a good one in all respects, not only because of the "Stars" series — which was, in fact, the highlight of the day — but because we found a wealth of high-quality caches without a single DNF (Did Not Find) log, including a particular hide that took me into one of my favorite geocaching locations: the deep, dark pits of hell that run underneath the daylight world that most of you probably prefer. Throw in a fabulous Mexican lunch and, at the end of the day, drinks at a nice little place called The Smokehouse Bistro in Liberty. To me, this is pretty much what geocaching is all about.

See you at the movies.
Oh... It's just that dude.
Suntigres's screen test?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Neither Rain, nor Rain, nor Rain...

...can deter a devoted old fart geocacher from grabbing a couple of first-to-finds on Pi Day. There are umpteen 3-14-15 celebrations happening everywhere today, most involving serious amounts of pie, and for geocachers, there were numerous caching events to choose from. For me, the nearest was in Reidsville, and since a couple of new trail caches in the area had been published yesterday, it looked like the best target for the day. I decided the hell with the rain — which had been coming down non-stop all day — I will go hiking. (Sometimes I am known for being more tenacious than bright.) One of the caches is called "At Least It's Not a Stinking Puzzle Cache" (GC5PA44) and I have it on good authority that I'm at least partly responsible for the title. Well, yeah.... What with all the puzzle caches that have recently come out, requiring far more time deciphering shit on the computer than actually getting out there and geocaching, I made a few less-than-veiled threats to certain identical twin cache owners. You know, stuff like, "I'm going to kill the both of you in my upcoming horror story" (and even worse, "I'm not going to kill the both of you in my upcoming horror story"). To miss out on a first-to-find on this cache would have been lame, so I'm kind of glad all the other local geocachers were brighter than me and opted not to go hiking in the woods in the rain.

The event, hosted by the redoubtable 3Newsomes, turned out to be well attended and quite enjoyable. I won a pie at one of the contests. A great big delicious fresh apple pie. Kimberly's coming around for dinner soon, so if she's really nice, perhaps I'll share. But it's going to take some kind of nice.

I hope you got some pie too.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Challenges, Stars, and Civil War Trails

Lord have mercy, after several weekends of ice, snow, freezing rain, and frigid wind, we finally had a weekend suitable for getting back out on the caching trail. I didn't add a huge number to my total find count, but there were several miles of enjoyable hiking and some top-quality hides in the bunch. For several weeks, I've been trying to solve a monstrously challenging puzzle to get coordinates for a cache called "North by Northwest" (GC5MJ0T) in Reidsville, and I finally managed it on Friday. After work, I met 3Newsomes (a.k.a. Shannon), who had also solved the puzzle about the same time as I, and we finally tackled the beast. We won, by God, and yes, that is special. An excellent dinner at a lovely Irish Pub called the Celtic Fringe with Mrs. 3Newsomes and Ms. Brugger followed. The Welsh Dragon burger, with blazing ghost pepper sauce, was just the ticket for a Japanese giant radioactively mutated flying rubber reptile.
A big ol' tree, reportedly over 300 years old,
along the hiking trail

Saturday morning, it was back to Reidsville with Mr. Newsome and Tbbiker (a.k.a Todd) to find an enjoyable series of six caches at Lake Reidsville, each of which required having met specific criteria to qualify. Happily, I qualified for all. We were first to find four of the six; along the way, we ran into Cary Owl, a cacher from Cary, over near Raleigh-Durham, who had started at the opposite end of the loop trail and picked up first-to-finds on the other two. Always nice to meet friendly cachers out on the trail. Then, after I got home and was logging my finds, notifications for a new Civil War cache series that's been placed all around the state began arriving in my email. I expected they'd be popping up at some time or another, and — sure enough — one of them was only four miles from home. I knew exactly where it would be, so I buzzed down there and picked up another first-to-find. A right happy day of it, all things considered.

This morning, Team Old Fart — Robgso, Rtmlee, Diefenbaker, and old Rodan — headed out for Danville, a little bleary eyed after the frappin' change to Daylight Saving Time. We had a score to settle with the Virginia Star series caches, which we had completed — but for a couple of the 50 caches — back in January. I had returned for one of them, but this was the chance for the lot of us to pick up that last stubborn, devious little miscreant of a micro two miles down from the trailhead. Naturally, we walked right to it and found it precisely where we had searched so diligently the first time out. I won't say much about any old guys being blind as bats, although mention the cache name "Lost Your Marbles" to us, and at least one of our number will start frothing at the mouth and grumbling obscenities.

The day's favorite was probably "Zip Cache" (GC5MTFB) by a wonderfully talented cacher bearing the name "Klaussinator." Like most of his hides, this one was quite novel and involved not falling down a very steep hill, which some of us just barely managed. We also picked up an unexpected first-to-find at a new cache that was published while we were only a few miles away. That one required some extra work because the coordinates were off, but in the end, our signatures were in the log, the truth was in the box, and I came home looking like a porcupine, what with all the briers stuck in me.

I sleep now.
Scary writer-cacher dude, Cary Owl, one of 3Newsomes
Oh, crap, that chimney just ate Shannon's head.