Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A New Smorgasbord From Dark Regions Press

Dark Regions Press is officially announcing three new horror anthologies, including Return of the Old Ones (edited by Brian M. Sammons), which features a right scary little tale of the Cthulhupocalypse, titled "Messages From a Dark Deity," by this old man. Dark Regions is kicking off an Indiegogo campaign for all three books, with a regular smorgasbord of perks and extras, much like their highly successful campaign for World War Cthulhu (which featured another of my Cthulhu Mythos tales, "The Game Changers"). The other two anthologies are You, Human (edited by Michael Bailey) and The Children of Gla'aki (edited by Brian M. Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass).

"Messages From a Dark Deity," takes place during the days leading up to the eve of global destruction, seen through the eyes of an investigative journalist. As the world around him becomes increasingly more bizarre, he attempts to deny the evidence of his senses, attributing the horrors he witnesses to some kind of hysteria, but Nyarlathotep — the messenger of the Great Old Ones — refuses to allow him even this dubious comfort.

The fantastic cover work you see above is by Vincent Chong. For more details about all three anthos and their attendant perks, visit the Dark Regions Indiegogo campaign page. And here's the promo video — knock yourself out on these visuals.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Why the Female of the Species Is Deadly

Druid Hills School in Martinsville, VA, where I learned that females can be deadly
In nature, it's plain that the male members of certain species operate at a clear disadvantage. After mating, many female spiders turn around and eat the unfortunate chap that just did his part to help propagate their kind. Some male insects, the poor sods, will mutilate their own genitals to improve their chances of surviving an encounter with a female. Oftentimes, the human female has been known to up and stop the heart of an adoring male, simply with an approving word or touch of a gentle hand.

It was the mid 1960s, I was probably in second grade, and Mum and Pop had allowed me to ride the mile or so to Druid Hills Elementary School on my bike for the first time. Most of the kids in my neighborhood were already riding their bikes, and I was feeling the peer pressure to keep up. Now, I could already ride a mean bicycle. I could pop wheelies with style; ride long distances with no hands; go down steep hillsides, hit a jump ramp, fly out into the air, and land without mishap. A regular daredevil, I was.

Getting to school that morning was great. I was proud as a peacock as I turned my little red spyder bike into the school parking lot for the first time. I could just feel the eyes of every young lady on the premises watching me and bursting at the seams with admiration for my clear pedaling prowess.

But it was that afternoon, when the final bell rang, that my true chance to shine arrived. All the kids were coming out from their classrooms, some bound for buses, some for their parents' cars, some for the sidewalk to walk home, and some — like me — for the bicycle rack. Out there, I think I engaged in conversation with a couple of third and fourth graders who'd ridden their bicycles, confident they would no longer look down on me because, by god, I was on my bike. What a great feeling that was. But it was as I went pedaling out of the parking lot and down the street toward home that I saw my opportunity to impress not just any ordinary people but girls.

Yes, it was Ellen Hundley and Nancy Carter walking down the sidewalk, and my young heart went zooming into overdrive. If I pulled this off, I knew they would never again look on me as a wee little shrimp of a fellow.

So I pumped those pedals, picked up speed, and took my hands off the handlebars. I passed them waving and shouting, and I think they both smiled at me, which spurred me to pedal faster. Faster.

It was then I turned around and saw that, somehow, a parked car had gotten in front of me. I hit the brakes, but it was too late. BAM! BOOM! THUD! CRUNCH! Over the handlebars I went, up onto the trunk of the car, over the side, and onto the asphalt. Holy god, the pain. I saw more skin on the road than on my arms. My head felt like a cantaloupe that had split open, and probably looked like one, with what few brains I possessed spilling out onto the pavement.

Ellen and Nancy walked on by, giggling. I think a passing adult took a look at me and asked if I required medical attention. I just shook my head and motioned for them to go on because there was no way I was going to try to explain what had just happened to anyone. My bike's handlebars were bent and the chain had come off, so I worked everything back into place and pedaled on home, where my poor mom nearly had a heart attack at the sight of me.

Here is where everything gets really wonky. There was this kid named Bobby H., and he had frequently picked on me because he was a much bigger dude. So I told Mum and Dad that Bobby H. had thrown me off my bicycle. Infuriated, Dad said he was going to call Mr. H. and let him have a piece of his mind. Now, I was really terrified — I'd acted a moron and lied! Yes, Dad called Mr. H., who proceeded to grill his almost-innocent son, who then UP AND ADMITTED WHAT HE'D DONE. Pretty wild, considering he hadn't actually done anything. Not that day, anyhow. I'll tell you this: he didn't bully me anymore. Go figure that. 

In the end, I healed up, and I went on to perform all kinds of daredevil stunts on my bike, quite successfully as long as no women or parked cars got in my way.

But after that, you'd best believe I learned a healthy fear of the human female. Two of them had damn near killed me.

Friday, August 19, 2016

I'm Not an Idiot... Just Dedicated

Damned Dedicated, Dripping,
Demented Rodan

I suppose some might argue with the title statement, but in any event, it was like this (and yes, it is a geocaching tale):

I was heading up to Martinsville from Greensboro for my regular visit with Mum. Earlier this week, a new cache had been published just outside of Martinsville, and, much to my surprise, no one had yet claimed the first-to-find. So, never one to let an opportunity go to waste, I took the scenic route and ended up in a field behind a Dollar General store, under skies filled with swollen black rain clouds. And no sooner had I gotten out of the car when the bottom fell out. Big rain, folks, and Damned Rodan was out in it hunting a cache. Not only that, but plunging through a brier-filled pit full of all kinds of flora and fauna with which reasonable people rarely care to interact. This did not seem at all consistent with the cache description, which indicated the container was hidden in a location "accessible to persons of all physical ability levels." Not this spot, I can safely say.

It dawned on me then that the name of the cache — and some details in the description — suggested that the little beast was, in reality, hidden a couple of lots over. So I hoofed it on over to the business there, explained I was a geocacher, and that I understood there was a cache on the premises. The very kind gentleman, whom I assume was the owner, pointed to a spot on the map on my phone to indicate where I might actually find the cache — about .16 of a mile away from the posted coordinates.

Well, what's a little rain? Back out into it I went, and within seconds, I was as waterlogged as if I'd been dunked in a swimming pool. Nothing for it but to make the hike and hope the gentleman's description was good.

It was. Far better than the original posted coordinates.

Thanks to dogged determination (not stupidity), I managed a nice first-to-find on the cache. And if you're fond of golfing, I'd suggest paying a visit to this business — The MiniPar Driving Range & Par 3 Course — in Horsepasture, VA. Good folks there, beautiful area, and a geocache, whose coordinates will hopefully be corrected by its owner in the nearest of futures.

Wetly yours.... Damned Rodan

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hot Water

Holy cow, the water in Belews Lake, in Forsyth County, NC, is hot. Hot, I tell you. For years, I've heard about the hot water in Belews Lake, but I experienced it myself for the first time today, and it was uncanny. It's because of the coal-fired Duke Power plant on the lake, which uses the lake water for cooling, and then discharges the super-heated excess back into the lake.

Ms. B. and I received a very kind invitation from geocaching friends Tom (Skyhawk63) and Linda (Punkins19) to join them for a day of geocaching, wining, and dining on the lake in their motorboat, and we were not all that put out to oblige. We had each scheduled days off from work, so we headed out fairly early to meet them at the Piney Bluff access area near Stokesdale. Soon enough we were rip-roaring out on the water, bound for the first of a baker's dozen caches hidden along the roughly 88 miles of lake shore. Some we were able to snag without getting out of the boat, but the first time I dropped into the water, I just about let out a holler.

The air temperature was around 90 degrees today, and the water temperature was well in excess of that — even a few miles out from the power plant. No exaggeration, it was like stepping into a hot tub. The lake never freezes even in the bleak midwinter, when the water temperature averages about 60 degrees. These days, the water is relatively clean, with a healthy supply of fish, though it took roughly 25 years to recover from a massive fish kill around 1978 when selenium — a deadly poison — was found to be leaking into the lake from the plant. Still, when the water temperature is so abnormally high, it tends to make one wonder just a bit. Common wisdom is to keep Belews Lake water from getting on your car because it will permanently mar the finish. Needless to say, we didn't guzzle any of the stuff during our excursions off the boat.

But quite a nice day it was. We claimed a fair number of caches, which put my current total number of finds at 8,962. We enjoyed a bottle of decent wine, a picnic lunch on the boat, and some extra-fine company. There are still a few hides out there left to find, so it would be delightful to make another lake outing in the not-too-distant future.

Maybe in January, when a dip in the water is anything but a brisk polar plunge.
Big-ass water heater
Good refreshment to go with a picnic lunch
Skyhawk63 sometimes drives with his eyes open, facing the front of the boat. But not always.
All that remains of an old bridge from days of yore

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Evil Friends

Sheer madness at Silver Fork Winery
I tell you, Ms. Brugger and I have some evil friends. On occasion, certain of them will force us — or at least coerce us — into going out and doing things in public, social things, things that are fun, things like hanging out together, having decent food and wine, seeing cool places, even getting in some geocaching. How is one supposed to be successfully mopey, depressed, and hopelessly off-kilter when you've got friends like that? It's damned tough.

This time, it was Terry and Beth, and they made us go to Asheville, NC, with them. They did the same thing to us last summer, and I had just gotten around to forgiving them that one. Ms. B. and I departed Greensboro yesterday morning, bound for Lake James Cellars in Glen Alpine, out in Burke County, where we planned to meet. I had targeted a handful of geocaches along the way, but for reasons I will graciously decline to discuss, Terry and Beth ran a bit late, which meant there was time to kill, which meant more caching for me, which meant more torture for Ms. B. (so at least there was that). Passing through the little town of Valdese, we found ourselves in the midst of a massive street festival. According to the town website, "since 1976, on the second Saturday in August, Valdese hosts an annual festival to celebrate the 'Glorious Return' of the Waldensians from exile in Switzerland to their native valleys in the Cottian Alps of Italy in 1689." Well, I hope the return was glorious, and I will say that I quite enjoyed what I saw of the festival as well as a couple of the very nice caches there.

Onward to Lake James. Here, we finally confronted our nemeses and made them ply us with wine. Very good wine at Lake James, I will say, particularly their Cabernet Franc. The building has a great big front porch, perfect for picnicking, so we picnicked, all right. Then we ventured forth to visit the scenic Silver Fork Winery, not very far away. Also some good wine there, if a bit higher priced than most in the region. Their Four Dog Red Blend, made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot, is their standout dry red.
I saw her hanging out on a street corner with some
kind of strange thing, and I said, "Damn."

So, then it was off to Asheville with us. After we had settled in our respective hotel rooms and plotted and schemed, we Uber'd our way into downtown, where we immediately headed for one of our favorite haunts from our last trip: the Cork and Keg bar at The Weinhaus. There, we enjoyed a nice Tempranillo, alas, sans liver or other organs from unsuspecting victims. Since Terry and Beth have relatively recently discovered the joys of Thai food, we went for dinner to Suwana's Thai Orchid, which was quite good in general, though the Crying Tiger I had did not measure up to the Crying Tiger at a couple of our local Thai establishments. For afters, we wandered the town for quite a while before settling in for a bit of Garnacha at the most excellent Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, where they have books by the thousands and wines by the score. I, and probably Kimberly, could have spent more time there than most reasonable people would appreciate, but we didn't. Regardless, by the time we were done there, it was getting well into the night, so we opted to sit on a bench and listen to a trio of talented young musicians (a couple of whom looked to be about ten years old) cutting loose with guitar, drums, and upright bass. Eventually, the Uber man came back around to pick us, and we bid the day good-night.
A couple of the women-folk in the Grove Arcade

I was up fairly early this morning to grab a couple of caches near the hotel. Our gang went for the hotel's complimentary breakfast, and then we headed back into Asheville proper. Ms. B. and Beth had their sights on some shopping at the Grove Arcade, an architecturally spectacular public market full of eclectic shops and a couple of restaurants. Last year, we had enjoyed the fare and ambiance at Sante Wine Bar & Tap Room on the premises, so we opted to try it again for lunch today. They have these intriguing little pizzas there, and we tried several of them, our unanimous favorite being the Ham and Fig, which features figs, prosciutto, Holly Grove chevre, balsamic drizzle, and an olive oil base. We were also impressed by their selection of "Big Ass Chewy Red Wines," so we chewed our way through a few. And since Ms. B. and I have recently taken to making some mighty fine pizzas of our own, we may try our hands at a figgy pizza thing ourselves.

And, well, it wouldn't be the proper outing for the ladies without some antiquing. We discovered there was this great big-ass Antique Barn not far from Biltmore Estates, and the men were given little choice but to transport the women-folk there. Happily, there was a cache right on the grounds — aptly titled "Old Place" (GC3Q8E0) — and it was nicely done, memorable enough for me to award it a favorite point. Because it was a scorcher of a day, the giant antique barn, open to the elements as it was, could have doubled for a human BBQ smoker, so we decided not to stay long enough to become someone else's picnic.

It was all around a fine time, not that we would ever wish such a fine time on any of our friends. But then, we are not the evil ones.
The view from our table at the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar
Uggh. It's them again. At the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar
Interior of the Grove Arcade market
A particularly fine example of patriotic sculpture found at Big-Ass Antique Barn in Asheville

Friday, August 12, 2016

Back to the Bloody Pier

Three years or so ago, Lovecraft eZine published my story, "Beneath the Pier," and one of the nice things about Lovecraft eZine is that the contents are free for readers. The story is still posted at the site, so if you haven't read it, here's a little nudge for you. Or if you read it way back when but could use a little nightmarish horror to help get you through the night, I'd say have yourself another go at it. It'll be good for you.

The idea for this tale slapped me upside the head a few years back while on a trip to Surfside Beach, SC, with Ms. Brugger and a few friends. Late one night, Ms. B. and I went out walking and decided to hang out for a bit underneath an old pier, which turned out to be a right scary place. William Faulkner's "Delta Autumn" also provided a little inspiration, though my story is scarier. You can check it out for free right here:

Illustration by Leslie Herzfeld

Sunday, August 7, 2016

It's a Desert Out There

It's a dry heat!
Got up this morning, looked out the window, and couldn't see a damned thing, so what could I possibly think but, hey, it's a nice, temperate day to head out after some geocaches? Over the past couple of days, a few new trail hides had been published down Jamestown way, so off I went into the arid blue yonder. Note that at no time did I feel as if I might be heading down into an alien nest filled with a thousand eggs full of face-hugging critters, except maybe when I walked out of my front door.

First stop was "Happy Birthday, Dad" (GC6NR5Q), a new woodland cache hidden by Bloody Rob Isenhour's dog Bentley. Upon arrival at ground zero, I ran into the meaner half of geocaching team Ro & Donna Martin, whose acquaintance I was making for the first time, and the two of us spent the next forty-five minutes or so neither sweating nor swearing, until we finally turned up the very well-hidden ammo can. After that, we parted company, and I headed after several other caches in the area, including one at an old, rotting footbridge (GC6PNR5) that, happily, I didn't have to cross, and another one on the far side of a fallen tree over a deep creek that I did have to cross. Slickery, it was, and that last step was damn near a doozy.

I didn't fall in, but I somehow managed to come home soaked to the skin, not to mention shredded by briers and very likely covered in poison ivy. A good, satisfying day of geocaching it was. And hey, I'm so wet maybe I don't even need to take a shower.
Bridge to nowhere. You'll get there fast.
Makeshift bridge over the stream. Deep water!