Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Summer With the Dead

In Sherry Decker's newest novel, A Summer With the Dead, a young woman named Maya Pedersen goes to spend a summer at her aunt Elly's farmhouse in rural Washington state, anticipating a relaxing few months following an emotionally exhausting break-up with her abusive husband. Complicating matters, Maya suffers an array of obsessive-compulsive behaviors as well as occasional hallucinations, which she hopes will vanish as her state of mind improves in the remote, tranquil setting.

Naturally, nothing is ever so simple. It isn't long before Elly reveals her own share of peculiarities, including the occasional personality swap with a gruff male Maya comes to call "Mr. Elly." A hired hand, a young man named Coty, appears to take delight in scaring the devil out of Maya, yet she finds herself strangely drawn to him. A fall down a dark well and a desperate crawl to safety through a tight subterranean passage do little to soothe her frayed nerves.

As Maya's dreams of an idyllic summer fade, strange apparitions, disembodied voices, and a disturbing sense of some dark presence—or presences—around the farm cause her to further doubt her own perceptions. Coty turns out to be anything but what he initially seemed. And as time goes on, Elly reveals her deepest, most secretive side to Maya, which at first repulses her but eventually comes to fascinate her.

As the dark torrents of Elly's life sweep Maya up, the fates of both women become inextricably entwined.

Decker's authorial voice is generally strong, especially early in the novel, with an appealing focus on the eeriness of the setting and the gradual deepening of the mysteries around the farm. Her portrayal of the characters leans toward the utilitarian, with dialogue being the primary conveyor of emotion and motivation, mostly to good effect, though at times the characters' laconic responses to increasing preternatural chaos challenge the reader's grip on the tale's internal logic. The climax, while almost cathartic, suffers from too skeletal a rendering of both external and internal conflicts.

Despite these occasional weak elements, A Summer With the Dead overall succeeds as an engaging supernatural mystery. Three and a half out of five Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetinis.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Fire in the City

From a song I wrote many years ago, titled "Fire in the City":

Pollution of the heart and mind
Runs rampant in the human haze.
And drowning in this sea of life,
How hard it is not to hate.

Human beings have always been a reeking mess, and I admit I find it difficult not to despise the entire species, the fact I belong to it notwithstanding. In the midst of this week's most publicized horror, I've found some damn good hearts among my friends and acquaintances, of all political affiliations, races, religious leanings (or lack thereof), and for at least this fleeting moment, I can say

How hard it is to hate.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Through a Mythos Darkly

I received my contributor copy of Through a Mythos Darkly the other day, and people, let me tell you, this is one big, beautiful monster. It's from PS Publishing in the UK, edited by Glynn Owen Barrass and Brian M. Sammons, and features my story, "Excerpts From the Diaries of Harold P. Linklatter" (no, not Art Linkletter, you great sillies), along with 16 other tales by the likes of Cody Goodfellow, Jeffrey Thomas, John Langan, Robert M. Price, Pete Rawlik, Don Webb, William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Konstantine Paradias, D. A. Madigan, Sam Stone, Edward Morris, Tim Waggoner, Lee Clark Zumpe, Nick Mamatas & Molly Tanzer, and Damien Angelica Walters. The gorgeous cover is by Tomislav Tikulin.

Within these pages lurk 17 stories of alternate history, set in the dark universe of H. P. Lovecraft, kith and kin. Indeed, here you'll find Great Old Ones, Deep Ones, Them Ones, All Kinds of Ones, woven into worlds that might have been or are yet to come.

"Excerpts From the Diaries of Harold P. Linklatter" begins in the familiar world of the late 1960s—the day of the Apollo 11 moon landing. And as time moves toward the present day, the world becomes something altogether not the one you see out your window today. It's something much different. Much stranger (and yes, might ought believe that).

I must tell you that this book is not inexpensive—£30, (just shy of 40 US. dollars)—but for real, this is just about a dark fantasy reader's darkest dream. In addition to a stellar list of contributors, the packaging is gorgeous and sturdy, with a glossy slipcover around the bound, illustrated cover.

You can pick up Through a Mythos Darkly direct from PS Publishing, and they do take Paypal as well as major credit cards. Dawdle not!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Da Nukular Family

"Da Nukular Family" (Team DNF) at some old ruins
not far from "Riley's Rest"

If one is to be coerced into geocaching by a bunch of ne'er-do-wells, one might as well be coerced on a beautiful August Sunday, particularly when it's Hiroshima Day. Today, I was essentially forced to venture out and about with my extended nuclear family—Yoda Rob, Cupdaisy, Robgso, and Suntigres—because there had been wishful blathering on someone's part (not mine... really) about a visit to Hillsborough BBQ Company, which is one of this group's favorite destinations for lunch when out on a geocaching expedition.

And so it was, left with little choice but to comply, I transported this crew into the wilds of Orange County between Hillsborough and Durham, targeting some caches in the deep woods, others along the not-so-lonely country roads. Our primary target was "Riley's Rest," GC3N27Z (Note: this web page is viewable only to premium geocaching.com members), a fairly compact little multi-cache at a tiny, ancient family graveyard in the woods not far from the Eno River. There are eight marked graves in this old boneyard, where members of a certain Riley family lie in repose. Five of the graves, marked with rough stones and crudely carved inscriptions, date back to the early to mid 1800s. Three of the graves, which have granite markers and more legible inscriptions, date to the late 1800s and early 1900s. To find the cache, one has to find information on the grave markers, do some math, and then go hunt the container, which we found in good condition.
"An Ode to Pork," posted at Hillsborough BBQ Co.

Another of the day's favorite locations we discovered just west of Hillsborough, on an overgown, all-but-abandoned trail at King's Highway Park, which Old Rob and I had visited some time ago hunting a number of now-archived caches. There was a relatively new one here—"King's Highway: Trestle View," GC6GWJ7 (Note: this web page is viewable only to premium geocaching.com members)—that took us to an aging, very high railroad trestle over the Eno. I believe the tracks are still active, but given the evident condition of the trestle, I'm not sure I'd want to be riding on a train passing over it.

Luckily for her, Cupdaisy made herself useful and provided us with a nice cache bar today. Captain Morgan's Long Island Iced Tea makes for welcome refreshment after a long, hot hike in rugged terrain.

And so, indeed, fulfilling the most ardent desires of this damned, depraved, and deviant nuclear family, we partook of a rather late lunch at Hillsborough BBQ Company. For me, the beef brisket plate, which is dang near unbeatable, and a refreshing concoction of rum, ginger beer, and lime called a Dark and Stormy something or another. It was good, yes.

At the end of the day, we picked up 13 caches, bringing my total find count to 9,561. Some people say I have a problem.

No. Just no.
A couple of views of the old railroad trestle
The little graveyard at "Riley's Rest"
Damned, depraved, and deviant Team DNF at Blackwood Farm Park
A view across the Eno River from "King's Highway: Trestle View"