Sunday, April 26, 2015

Young Blood: Evil Intentions — "Snack Attack!"

The Kickstarter campaign for the Young Blood: The Novel I wrote a while back has just over a week to go. Our illustrious producers, Mat and Myron Smith, have posted a sample chapter as a teaser, which gives you a fair taste of our lovely little tale. Myron Smith has done a series of wonderful illustrations to accompany the text, a few of which you see here. The perks for supporting the project include an autographed copy of the printed novel, a DVD of the movie, autographed pages of the actual novel manuscript, a signed copy of my novel, The Monarchs, and much more.

Here's a link to the sample chapter: "Snack Attack"

Please give it a look and feel free to comment. Hope you enjoy it — and, if you haven't already, do consider supporting the the project through one of the various pre-order options.

And here is the Kickstarter link itself: Project Young Blood: The Novel. Give 'er a go, friends.
Lloyd Kaufman as newscaster Lloyd Kaufman, enthusiastically reporting the latest startling news on the
hordes of vampire children that are taking over the town of Martindale. Illustration by Myron Smith

The infamous Count Smokula performing his original tune "Young Blood," as seen in the movie.
Illustration by Myron Smith

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Coming Soon: Black Wings IV

In the wake of an awful lot of sadness this month, I'm thankful to have a few nice things going on to help keep the balance. One of those nice things is that I received my contributor copy of Black Wings IV from PS Publishing in the UK — easily among the finest-looking books in which my work has been included, not to mention I get to share the contents page with some of the most illustrious names in the field. This one features a story I co-wrote with John Pelan called "Contact," which is one of my relatively rare forays into science fiction, with a deep, dark, decidedly Lovecraftian premise. This fourth installment of S. T. Joshi’s acclaimed Black Wings series features seventeen stories that "continue to elaborate upon the conceptions, motifs, and imagery of H. P. Lovecraft." The antho is available as a beautifully produced hardback, 339 pages, with cover art by Jason Van Hollander; the signed, limited edition (200 copies) comes with a slipcase.

Editor S. T. Joshi is the author of The Weird Tale, The Modern Weird Tale, and Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction. He is a two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, and has also won the Bram Stoker Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the International Horror Guild Award.

Black Wings IV Contents:
"Half Lost in Shadow" by W. H. Pugmire
"The Rasping Absence" by Richard Gavin
"Black Ships Seen South of Heaven" by CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan
"The Dark Sea Within" by Jason V. Brock
"Sealed by the Moon" by Gary Fry
"Broken Sleep" by Cody Goodfellow
"A Prism of Darkness" by Darrell Schweitzer
"Night of the Piper" by Ann K. Schwader
"We Are Made of Stars" by Jonathan Thomas
"Trophy" by Melanie Tem
"Contact" by John Pelan and Stephen Mark Rainey
"Cult of the Dead" by Lois H. Gresh
"Dark Redeemer" by Will Murray
"In the Event of Death" by Simon Strantzas
"Revival" by Stephen Woodworth
"The Wall of Asshur-sin" by Donald Tyson
"Fear Lurks Atop Tempest Mount" by Charles Lovecraft

Check out Black Wings IV at PS Publishing.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

R.I.P. Taco "Bell" Rainey

What an unbelievably horrible month for the loss of life April has become. My mom's little dog, Taco, had to be put down — on April 16, the eighth anniversary of my cat Charcoal's death — due to complications from Lyme disease. Mom only had him for eight months, but he was sweet, smart, and all around good for Mom's mental and physical health. Apparently, he began having nonstop, uncontrollable seizures, and he was clearly suffering, at which point Mom opted to see that he got relief.

I met Taco numerous times, and I was quite taken with him. A friendlier, more affectionate dog I don't think I've ever seen. He loved to be rubbed, and if you stopped, he'd boop you with his paw to remind you that it was not your job to stop rubbing him.

Taco had previous owner, who had given him his name, but when she passed on, he went to the local animal shelter. Mom adopted him in August of last year, and even though I don't think Taco is the name she would have preferred, she opted to let him keep it. She nicknamed him Taco Bell, and that just stuck.

With April apparently being the month for passing on — my dad, my cat Charcoal, my friend Lew Hartman, and my cat Chester — it sure has been a sad time for me. Fortunately, there have been plenty of positive things going on as well; but every death takes a little something out of me, and that is sad, as well as difficult. It's also just part of our journey toward our light being extinguished.

We deal. Don't have much choice but to deal.

R.I.P., little fellow.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Farewell, Chester: ~2000–2015

April continues to be the roughest month of the year. Today, I had to send my precious little Siamese, Chester, over the Rainbow Bridge. His health had declined somewhat over the past couple of months, but most acutely just within the past few days, to the point that I knew what had to be done.

Here's his story, more for me than anything else, but please feel free to read along, especially if you ever made his acquaintance.

Chester wandered out of the woods to our house in early 2002 and told us he was moving in, no ifs, ands, or buts. He was already a couple of years old at the time and needed some veterinary care, but before we knew it, he was healthier than a horse and ruling the roost. I recall having a hard time coming up with a name for him; for a good while, he was known just as The Siamese (or "The 'Mese"). But he could move faster than a cheetah, so "Chester Cheetah" came to mind, and the name stuck.

Chester was always smarter than a whip, talkative, and very possibly the most demonstrably loving cat I have ever seen. I don't think he ever missed a morning waking up in bed with me, and on weekends, when I'd customarily sleep in a bit later, he would make sure I didn't sleep too late by pulling the covers off me with his paws and singing the song of his people. He could maneuver just about anything with his little front feet; I'm pretty sure he thought he had thumbs, and that was sufficient for him to be quite dexterous. Our regular morning routine consisted of him accompanying me to the bathroom, and while I was in the shower, he would wait patiently on top of the toilet tank, occasionally peeking in to meow if I was taking a particularly long shower. Then, while I was drying off, he'd stand up on his hind legs and try to boop me in the nose with his front paws. Sometimes he got me.

Back in the early 2000s, our little black cat, Charcoal — who passed away in April 2007 — loved her buddy Chester, and she snuggled with him every chance she got. At first he merely tolerated it, but over time, he seemed to actually enjoy having another kitty to smush up with. Later, when Frazier came round, the two of them ended up becoming good buds, and especially during the cold months, they'd be smushed up tight as well.

The other night, when he first appeared to be in his most serious decline, both Frazier and Droolie came and sat beside him for hours, as if to hold vigil. Now that he's gone, they do seem to know the house is somehow emptier. And it is. A lot emptier. I expect it'll be a good deal quieter around here, since neither Frazier nor Droolie are anywhere as talkative as he was.

Chester was a very special buddy to me, and while his last few days were very hard, I expect he had about the most spoiled life any cat could have had. I'm no believer in reincarnation, but if I were to be reincarnated, I think I'd want to come back as one of my cats, because I know I'd have it mighty good.

Below, I have assembled a few pics — out of hundreds I have — that kind of tell his story.

Goodbye, my beautiful little buddy. I will miss you so much, always.
Chester in 2002, when he first arrived at our house
Charcoal and Chester in one of their favorite hangouts — my suitcase
He'd always be into one thing or another.
There was never any mistaking when it was time to eat.
He loved his buddy Frazier, who is ridiculous.
For 13 years, this was my typical morning wake-up view.
The dreaded Siamese Cottonhead, lying in wait
Farewell, my little guy, from your daddy.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

It Follows, and Too Good to Last?

Ms. Brugger and I went to see It Follows the other night at the RED Cinemas, formerly the Carousel, here in Greensboro. The owners of the Carousel sold the theater some time ago, much to the annoyance of many regular movie-goers in town, since it was  about the only movie house in the area that played indie and lesser-known current theatrical releases. The new owners, who own several eclectic restaurants in the area, have named the 15-screen theater the RED (for Restaurant Entertainment District) Cinemas. It was the first time Kimberly and I had been there since the changeover, and I have to tell you, I was impressed. Sure enough, they have numerous indie films in their lineup, the concession stand offers beer and wine (some pretty good red wine selections, at that), and — unlike at least one review of the place I saw — it was anything but filthy, overpriced, and poorly staffed. Quite the contrary, as a matter of fact. It was clean, the prices were comparable to any other theater in town, and the staff was capable and courteous. Once we entered the auditorium — the largest one in the building — we were not bombarded by endless advertising and interminable trailers; just a handful of previews before the movie started, and right on time.

Unfortunately, I must predict this theater won't make it, at least with its current setup, for the long haul. Any place that caters to an adult theater-going audience is just too damned good to be true. But you can bet that I'll frequent the place as long as I have the opportunity. I would love, love, love for my prediction to be proven wrong. Y'all local folk, please help me out here.

As for It Follows, I was quite taken with it. Directed by David Robert Mitchell, it's a quiet, not-at-all gory, well-acted little film, with a creepy, if rather bizarre premise, and an excellent musical score by Rich Vreeland, a.k.a. Disasterpeace. It's also agreeably quirky — loaded with apparent anachronisms, vivid local color, and some lighthearted set pieces (but which are played quite seriously). It's presumably set in the present day, since there are e-readers, scenery in Detroit that could only be from the here and now, and the occasional 21st century car model. Yet there is 1980s-style clothing and fashion in abundance, 20th century push-button telephones, 1950s horror movies on TV, and cars primarily of 1970s and 80s vintage. The story revolves around a group of teenagers, and only occasionally do adults appear on screen. Most of those that do, such as the two main sisters' mother, have no speaking lines and appear only from behind. Having recently visited Michigan, I knew from the opening frame where the movie was set, and I tend to favor books and movies where the setting, almost as much as the characters, becomes an integral part of the story.

From the plot, one can assume that, at some indeterminate time in the past, a curse was cast by someone, with some occult power, somewhere, for some reason, that has brought forth a thing that follows you with murderous intent — until you have sex with someone else, who then becomes the chosen victim. However, if the thing kills that person, it comes back to you, and works its way back down the chain. So, even if you pass the curse on to someone else, you'd better hope they get laid quickly, and that everyone from he or she on fucks his or her living brains out.

The story follows Jay (Maika Monroe), a likeable young woman who lives in suburban Detroit with her mother and sister, Kelly (Lili Sepe). Her boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary), takes her out to the movies, where he exhibits certain paranoid behavior. Things progress as things will progress between teenagers, and the two end up having sex (in a station wagon). But next thing you know, Hugh chloroforms Jay, and she wakes up in an abandoned building, tied to a wheelchair, where he explains himself — he suffers the curse of being followed and has passed it on to her. Worst of all, a strange woman appears and begins walking slowly toward Jay. Hugh then drives her home and dumps her off in her front yard, where Kelly and their friends Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and Yara (Olivia Luccardi) rush to her rescue.

From that point on, Jay is subjected to being followed by various strange individuals that only she can see — in reality, all the same entity wearing different guises. As horror movie aficionados, how often have we been pissed off by the slow-walking pursuer who still manages to catch the fleeing victim? Here's the movie where the slow, inevitable tread of the pursuer is truly the source of fear. Jay's neighbor Greg (Daniel Zovatto), who doesn't quite believe in the curse but understands that she is desperate, offers to help by taking her and her friends to his family's remote lake house, which she believes will at least buy her some time. It's not too much time, alas, for the pursuer appears, at least to her, but its handiwork is evident to all: it smashes a hole in the barn door where she seeks refuge and takes a fair swipe at Paul, who is thrown into the air and left with scars resembling claw marks. Jay attempts to flee in Greg's car, but in her panic, she crashes into a nearby cornfield.

She wakes in the hospital, alone. But Greg, being all noble and such, is willing to take the curse from her by having sex with her — which he does, in her hospital bed. Days pass and nothing happens, reinforcing Greg's attitude that, whatever Jay's problem is, it's in her head. Well, yeah — until the thing up and kills Greg, disguised as his mother in a horny state.

The friends decide to attempt to kill the pursuer, in novel fashion, at an indoor swimming pool in Detroit. Here, though the thing is still invisible to all but Jay, it does reveal itself to her friends. And now their plan to destroy it is put to the test....

All through the narrative, as dark as it is, there are moments of whimsy, particularly in the swimming pool scene. Jay's friend Yara proves particularly quirky and several of her scenes bring on a good chuckle. It's kind of humor that makes the characters appear as real teenagers — unlike so many slash-and-burn-the-obnoxious-victim horror flicks, where one's natural inclination is to jump into the killer's shoes and off the idiots just for good measure. One of the best things about It Follows is that, while the movie is about young folk, almost exclusively, it isn't juvenile. That is refreshing.

Yep, I liked it. I'll rate it four out of five Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetinis.
Maika Monroe as Jay Height, in a moment of relative calm
Greg (Daniel Zovatto) and Jay (Maika Monroe), trying to sort out the strange goings-on
One of the pursuers that only Jay can see

Friday, April 10, 2015

R.I.P. Lew "Moose" Hartman

I've dealt with the deaths of many friends and loved ones over the years, and when a death hits you so unexpectedly, as it just did with my old friend Moose, it's hard not to seriously resent those years as they march blithely on, their pace increasing as if they've been injected with caffeine, knowing one of them has got your number. I suppose it's better to treasure the time allotted; to be grateful to have had as many moments, days, years as I have; to consider that the alternative to watching their passing is to actually pass on. Sure, why not? For me personally, it seems that April is the month where the years gather up their meanest clout and just go to town. My dad died 14 years ago, on April 11. My sweet little cat, Charcoal, died on April 16, 2007. Right now, my oldest cat, Chester — the Siamese — is doing poorly, probably on his last leg. My mom's health has declined dramatically in just the past couple of months. And now the Moose is gone.

I met Lew at the University of Georgia in 1979, as I entered the BFA program there. He was several years older than me, pursuing his MFA. Lew was an artist, to be sure, with a special interest in fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Hard to fathom why we might have had anything in common, wot? We hit it off right away, and without even a moment's thought or hesitation, the Giving of Shit commenced. There were insults, epithets, threats, shaming, bullying, you name it. Never were two meaner people more meant to connect with each other. Quite by chance, in 1980, we ended up working the same rotating shifts together at the Dupont Nylon plant, and it was here, on our breaks, that we began to shoot the shit about our favorite writers, artists, movies, music... all things creepy and creative. It was Moose who introduced me to the work of Karl Edward Wagner, who, in later years, was to become a personal friend of mine and regular columnist for Deathrealm. Moose was perhaps the most die-hard fan of Roger Zelazny I was ever to meet, and he forced me, on pain of withholding bong hits, to read Zelazny's Amber series — which, to this day, is one of the single most memorable, pleasurable, and all-around inspiring pieces of fantastic literature I have ever read. At Dupont, we used to take smoke breaks perhaps a little too frequently, and we got called on it a time or two; but we didn't care. We didn't give a shit. We were talking about all things Zelazny, Lovecraft, Frazetta, Godzilla, the Atlanta Braves, Jethro Tull, the Moody Blues — you know, things that mattered.

After leaving UGA, I only saw Lew a couple of times, quite a few years apart. But he became a regular contributor to Deathrealm. He provided the cover art for issue #23 (Spring 1995). Somewhere around then, at one convention or another — I think it was in Columbia, SC — we met up with Karl Wagner, and the three of us spent an entire evening drinking bourbon, shooting the shit, and generally having the time of our lives. A decade and a half before, if we had known we'd ever be hanging out with Karl — who was such a profound creative influence on both of us — we probably would have had coronaries and never lived to see the day. I think, of all those bazillion times together with Moose, that was my favorite. Now, both Karl and Moose are gone. And just for a second there — a very fleeting second — I think I felt some real gratitude for those long-gone years we had in each other's company.

Back in the UGA days, I knew Lew had seriously high hopes, and I have to admit I sometimes thought his reach exceeded his grasp. I also came to find out that reaching was the only way to ever get to where you could grasp what you desired. Lew wanted to paint rock-and-roll stars he admired. Well, he went out there, met them, painted them, and sold them his work. He wanted to meet and paint his favorite sports stars. He did that. Lew reached and reached. Now, make no mistake, Lew was a decent artist. But his art paled beside his ability to inspire his friends and acquaintances. I heard that more than once tonight, just a few hours since he died. "He inspired me." "He was my mentor." "He reached out to me." Yeah. That's what that man did.

These past few years, Facebook allowed Moose and me to reconnect on almost as close a basis as we had when we lived just a few miles apart from each other, and — even recently — there have been any number of instances where the slinging of insults reached the intensity it had back in the late 70s and early 80s. We actually had a mini shit-slinging session a week or so ago. I never, ever expected those to end. Not yet. Not yet.

I think Lew may have told me how he came to be called Moose, but I don't remember. It's probably better I don't. All I know is that Moose is gone, and I'm going to have a drink to him. Probably several.

Goddamn, man, your life went too fast. Our lives are going way too fucking fast. But in that bloody race of time there was excellence. Not enough of it, but a lot.

Lew leaves behind his wife, Cathy, and his son, John, both of whom I knew to some degree back in the day. It's gotta be the hardest time for them, and my heart is with them. With them, and with everyone whose life Lew touched. It was a big, tough, wonderful...gentle... touch.

Rest well, old friend.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Kickstarting Young Blood

Some of you Blue Blaze Irregulars may recall that, last year, I wrote the novelization of The Smith Brothers movie Young Blood: Evil Intentions (see "Young Blood: Evil Intentions — The Novel," May 24, 2014). Our inestimable producer-director team, Mat & Myron Smith, have begun a Kickstarter campaign to help finance its publication as well as a number of attendant perks. Depending on the rate pledged, you can get everything from just the e-book of the novel to two DVD movies (Young Blood: Evil Intentions and the Smith Brothers' second movie, Invasion of the Killer Cicadas, in which I play the part of the mad professor), a copy of the printed book, an autographed page from the original novel manuscript, and an autographed copy of my most recent novel, The Monarchs.

Here's the story: "Raised in a torn home, young Anavey discovers she has the ability to make big changes, with even bigger consequences. She, with the loyal help of her little sister Anastasia, form an army of young, blood-thirsty vampires to kill all the adults. No one is safe, especially the girls' mother, Olivia (Rebecca Kidd), and their abusive, overbearing stepfather, Dale Buckmeyer (Myron Smith). Will Anavey’s dreams become a reality? Will Anastasia escape the cult before it’s too late? Will the angry mob put an end to the insanity?"

The novel, which I wrote in close collaboration with the Smith Brothers, takes the events from the movie and delves deeper into the storyline and characters, all while retaining the crucial element of fun that makes Young Blood such a gem. Visit the Kickstarter site and please do consider offering your support.

For a bit more info from ye old author, here are links to a few blog entries I wrote for the original release of Young Blood: Evil Intentions back in 2012:

Many thanks for your support!