Sunday, February 25, 2018

Back to the Bigfoot Trail

It's not really called The Bigfoot Trail — in official (but clearly ill-informed) circles, it's known as the Bill Craft Trail — but to me, it is and always will be The Bigfoot Trail. Because Bigfoot is out there. He's big, I tell you, and he's got feet.

The Taylor-Richardson Preserve is an extensive area of pine/deciduous forest and wetlands between Plainfield Road and NC 150 in Guilford County, just north of Greensboro, and the hiking/biking trail (The Bill Craft Trail, yeah, right, ha ha) runs about four miles from end to end. Many, many times during my now decade-long geocaching career I've hiked that trail, and I've placed several caches in the preserve myself. Nowadays, however, new hides out there are rare, since space that doesn't conflict with the existing caches' 528-ft. buffer zones is limited. Happily, though, now and again some determined soul will finagle an opening, and the redoubtable 2McTwins (a.k.a. Daniel and Dustin) who have placed numerous excellent caches, in the woods and otherwise, have done it again with a new cache along the Bigfoot Trail.

I spent the morning caching in Randolph County, south of Greensboro, with regular partners Robgso (a.k.a. Rob), BigG7777 (a.k.a. Gerry), and Suntigres (a.k.a. Bridget), which was most enjoyable, but after lunch at the excellent Compadres Mexican Restaurant in Randleman, I decided I needed to find another cache. For my sanity's sake, I desperately needed to find another cache! Happily, the Bigfoot Trail isn't far from home, and with that one new cache lurking out there, I decided it would be my target.

I'm especially fond of the northern end of the trail, as it's far less traveled than its southernmost reaches. Those woods are quiet and secluded, and today, beneath heavy cloud cover, the atmosphere felt just this side of eerie (which, as you probably know, or can deduce, "just this side of eerie" is damn near the best possible atmospheric quality, perhaps exceeded only by "absolutely fucking eerie"). True to time-proven tradition, as I hiked the near-silent woods, I occasionally heard heavy footsteps in the woods around me, and once, I discerned what might have been a big ugly hairy figure watching me from a distance (there is, admittedly, some chance this was one of the McTwins spying on me to pick up a few geocaching pointers). Several times I heard what I was sure might be the voluminous roar of a critter with huge feet, but each time it turned out to be a jet passing overhead on its way to land at Piedmont Triad International Airport. Bummer, some might say, but as I do enjoy plane spotting, watching them proved a pleasant enough diversion.

On another nice note, I've been informed that semi-frequent caching partner Cupdaisy (a.k.a Debbie) believes she has found yet more free space in the preserve for a cache or two of her own, and I shall look forward to these...hopefully. One can never venture deep into Bigfoot country too often.
Shades of Boggy Creek
View from little footbridge over the stream
There's not only bigfeet, there's beavers!
Little outdoor classroom in the middle of the woods
Near the trailhead on Simpson-Calhoun Road — alpacas!
Also on Simpson-Calhoun—wee little burro and big pale horse

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Test Patterns Is in the House

Happy, happy! Now in the house, my contributor copies of...

Test Patterns, edited by Duane Pesice, which features my story, "Red-Eye."

"For your approval: Test Patterns, a new, outré collection of short speculative tales in the vein of classic television SF/F anthology programs such as The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, and The Twilight Zone. These are the nightmares you wake from after staying up too late to watch that eerie midnight movie, only to find yourself bathed in the glow of the test pattern from the screen. Richly varied stories designed to impart a moral, inspire thought, give meaning, offer hope, or instill dread. Tales told in unique ways, employing provocative twists and revelations, while exploring the universal themes of humanity and self-discovery through the lenses of horror, fantasy, science fiction, the strange, and the weird."

Edited by Duane Pesice,‎ this new anthology features my story, "Red-eye," as well as tales by Scott J Couturier,‎ Rob F. Martin,‎ Joseph S. Pulver Sr.,‎ K. A. Opperman,‎ Ashley Dioses,‎ Philip Fracassi,‎ Peter Rawlik,‎ Brian O'Connell,‎ Sean M Thompson,‎ Scott Thomas,‎ Don Webb,‎ Nathan Carson,‎ John Claude Smith,‎ Cody Goodfellow,‎ Matthew M. Bartlett,‎ S. L. Edwards,‎ Frederick J. Mayer,‎ William Tea, and Russell Smeaton.

Click here to order from

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Day Mars Invaded Earth

Most of my favorite SF/horror movies from the 1950s and early 1960s became my favorites because I saw them during the most impressionable years of my wee little life and they positively warped my wee little psyche. Some of them are enjoyable to revisit for nostalgia's sake, while others actually hold up as dynamite films. Examples of the former might be 13 Ghosts, Teenagers From Outer Space, Not of This Earth, and The Sound of Horror; a few of the latter would be The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Time Travelers, Night (Curse) of the Demon, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It's somewhat rarer for movies from that era to become favorites if I discovered them later in life, but it has occasionally happened. I learned about Attack of the Crab Monsters in my childhood days (no doubt by way of Famous Monsters of Filmland), but I never got to see it until well into adulthood. Stupid movie, but damn it's fun. I love watching it. Likewise for Caltiki, The Immortal Monster. It's only been within the last decade or so that I found that one, despite having known about it since I was around eight. And then... there's The Day Mars Invaded Earth, which I only came across because my ex-wife had recorded it on VHS from some late-night picture show.

I recall when I first started watching it — probably sometime in the late 1990s — it initially left me cold, but I stuck with it. The thing I most appreciated was that it was filmed at the Greystone mansion in Beverly Hills, which doubled as Collinwood in the 1990s reboot of Dark Shadows, not to mention appearing in numerous episodes of the Mission: Impossible TV series, among others. As the movie went on, though, I found it becoming increasingly eerie, even a little unsettling. By the time I got to the end, I was pretty much loving this movie.
The Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills
The Day Mars Invaded Earth is a low, low-budget thriller, ostensibly a science-fiction film, but in mood, more akin to a spooky ghost story. It begins with a space probe landing on Mars — a dorky little motorized contraption — that bursts into flame and disintegrates within minutes of its activation. On Earth, the head of the Mars project, Dr. David Fielding (Kent Taylor) and his partner Web Spencer (William Mims) unsuccessfully try to figure out what the heck has happened to the probe. When Dr. Fielding is alone, a strange energy force appears to overcome him, but he quickly returns to normal. However, after he leaves his office, we see, seated in his chair... another Dr. Fielding.

The real Fielding leaves for a sabbatical in California so he may deal with pressing family issues. His lonely, restless wife, Claire (Marie Windsor) has about had it with his work schedule and feels it may be best for them to separate. However, the kids — son Rocky (Greg Shank) and daughter Judi (Betty Beall) — are blissfully unaware of their parents' strained relationship. In the interest of preserving harmony during their sojourn in the guest house at Claire's family's estate (the Greystone mansion), Fielding and Claire decide to make the best of things.

This tenuous state of tranquility turns out to be short-lived. Fielding sees his wife wandering the grounds, but she refuses to answer him when he calls to her and shortly thereafter vanishes. However, when he returns to the house, he finds her there, where she claims to have been all along. Later, an uncharacteristically terse Rocky tells his mother that the door to the main house is unlocked, so she goes to check it out. Once done, she hears slow, heavy footsteps that follow her all the way back to the guest house. Her pursuer turns out to be Dr. Fielding, but he is cold, menacing — and dressed in different clothes. After a visit with the Fieldings, Judi's boyfriend, Frank Hazard (Lowell Brown) is killed in a car crash. And late one night, Judi is visited by a strange figure that turns out to be her doppelganger. It's clear now that each member of the family has seen body doubles of the other family members.

When Web arrives for a visit, Fielding tells him of these strange events and that he's certain they are somehow related to the Mars probe. Then, inside the main house, Fielding encounters his doppelganger, who explains that the inhabitants of Mars — energy beings with the ability to assume the forms of humans — consider Earth's exploration of their planet akin to an invasion, and they intend to stop any further incursions by destroying the space program from within.

The Fieldings attempt to leave the estate, but find themselves locked inside. Web attempts to free them by jimmying the main gate, but before they can leave, he comes to a very bad end....
Dr. Fielding can't find his wife, Claire, who had just appeared to him as he explores the estate.
Seeing double —Judy encounters her doppelganger in the middle of the night
Doppelganger Dr. Fielding explains to non-doppelganger Dr. Fielding that Martians
don't much appreciate the Fieldings. Or Earthlings in general.
With a relatively short running time (70 minutes), The Day Mars Invaded Earth is a slow burn. For the first half of  the movie, we're getting to know the characters in considerable detail. Since Dr. Fielding wasn't able to be with the family for Christmas, they celebrate it late —  a distinctly touching and wistful scene. We find out that Fielding doesn't care much for his wife's family. And while the powers that be demand that he return to Cape Canaveral to sort out the disappearance of the Mars Probe, he continually puts them off, desiring to spend as much time with his family as possible in hopes of setting things right with Claire.

For a cheap little science fiction thriller, these characters exhibit some unexpectedly authentic nuances. In particular, Kent Taylor as David Fielding and Marie Windsor as Claire turn in thoughtful performances, never going over the top or phoning in their lines. The gradual build-up, the slow reveal that all is not what it seems, conveys a sense of paranoia reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, accented by little touches worthy of The Haunting (the slow footsteps of some unseen party stalking Claire through the grounds; Fielding wandering through the eerie, dark-shadowed interior of the vast mansion before he meets his doppelganger).

By the time the likeable Web Spencer meets his rather gruesome demise, accompanying the rush of impending horror is a genuine sense of tragedy, brought home in jolting fashion at the very end of the film. After investing a good hour-plus getting to know these people — who come across as real people — their fates are meaningful, emotionally. These characters aren't just ciphers; they have proven over the film's running time that they had lives, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses. They almost make you forget you're watching a damn-near zero-budget black & white science fiction picture show.

Now, don't get me wrong. The Day Mars Invaded Earth is not a cinematic masterpiece, or even a landmark film of its day. It's not a particularly sophisticated storyline (though the adult concerns portrayed in the script certainly make it more "sophisticated" than most of the teen-oriented monster mashes from that time period). No, The Day Mars Invaded Earth, for a fairly obscure little movie, pushes most of the right buttons and proves itself a solid bit of cinema that deserves some praise — which is exactly what it gets from me. Three and a half out of five Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetinis — with an extra shot of ghost pepper just for good measure.

The Day Mars Invaded Earth is available on DVD — order it from here.
As events become weirder and weirder, marital issues for Fielding and Claire no longer seems so important.
Too late the hero — Web meets a grisly fate just as he's on the verge of saving the Fieldings from disaster.
Never dive into a pool after the water has been drained!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Damned Rodan's Bacon Bloody Mary

I'm off work for Presidents' Day, and I made myself one of these because... why wouldn't I? So, guess what... it's recipe time again!

Damned Rodan's Bacon Bloody Mary
Make a Bloody Mary.
2. Put bacon in it.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Al Stewart Wins at the High Point Theater

I don't often get to concerts these days, but last evening, Ms. B. and I, along with friends Joe, Suzy, Tom, and Janice, headed to the High Point Theater to see Al Stewart, whose music was an integral part of life during my late teens and some years beyond. These days, for old times' sake, I'll occasionally put on "Year of the Cat," "On the Border," "Lord Grenville," and/or "Time Passages," which did and still rate as my favorites among his songs. I was most enthused about getting to hear the entire "Year of the Cat" album — one of the quintessential albums of my late teen years — performed live along with selections from several of Stewart's other albums.

The band The Empty Pockets, from Chicago — my old stomping grounds — opened the show and also played as Stewart's backing band. In those long-gone olden days when I was a frequent concert-goer, opening bands could wear thin quickly, but The Empty Pockets not only failed to wear thin, they proved themselves an impressive act, offering up melodious tunes, powerful vocals, and heartfelt lyrics. From the start, they displayed the ideal combination of technical prowess and sheer energy, with standout performances by lead vocalists Josh Solomon and Erika Brett. In fact, if I had any complaint, it would be that during Stewart's show, these two could have been given a bit more prominence, even in their roles as backing vocalists.

Stewart opened his show with the spirited “Sirens of Titan,” from his album "Modern Times," which was not among my those I owned back in the day (a situation I could and probably should remedy). Immediately evident was that Al Stewart, at 72 years old, sounds not much unlike Al Stewart in his 20s and 30s, although his voice doesn't quite reach the upper ranges at which he had excelled in those years past. "Time Passages" proved another of the concert's highlights, with particularly impressive musicianship by The Empty Pockets. The performances of "Lord Grenville," "Broadway Hotel," and "On the Border" about brought tears to my eyes, all so poignant and, for me, pleasantly nostalgic.

Providing the critical saxophone accompaniment (not to mention most every other instrument on stage, depending on the song) we had the multi-talented Marc Macisso, whose lungs must hold as much air as an industrial-size oxygen tank. His enthusiasm and energy was infectious, and at the end of "Year of the Cat," he came out into the audience and went to town on the sax, to thrilling effect.

Stewart's stage presence displayed class top to bottom. Between songs, he related personal stories about his music and his life, told with warmth, erudition, and humor, which made him one of the most endearing personalities I've seen on stage. His reminiscences on how his record company insisted on his writing a hit song and how he consistently foiled them — such as by composing a song "about an ill-fated admiral at the Battle of Trafalgar" — about brought the house down. Another favorite was his recollections of having grown up being friends with Robert Fripp, of King Crimson fame, who taught Stewart to play guitar but later lamented that Stewart had made it as a recording artist by "ignoring everything Fripp had ever taught him." One little self-deprecating moment that rang true was when Stewart  indicated he "just knew" some folks in the audience would have come accompanying someone else and actually knew nothing about him (Brugger raised her hand). "You said it was ROD!" such person would wail. I laughed a bit.

Al Stewart's songs encompass history, allegory, personal chronicles, and pure narrative, and thus resonate powerfully with me. Last night, he left the stage to a long, standing ovation, and I was as pleased as I ever have been to raise my hands in applause — for Al Stewart as well as the capable musicians who accompanied him.
The stage lighting — and my not-so-great phone camera — in most of my photos turned Al Stewart into an ill-
fated victim of The Invaders' disintegration weapon. In this photo, it's poor Marc Macisse disintegrating.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Again with the Jabberwock!

It's not just ugly tree — that is photobombing UGLY tree!
Too long it has been since Old Rob and I took a wee trip out of town to hunt geocaches, so since I was off work today, Old Rob and I took a wee trip out of town to hunt geocaches. The Lake Crabtree area, near Cary, NC, was our destination, for there one can find a plethora of trails and caches... or, as in a couple of instances for us, just trails.
Old man can't find geocache, commiserates
with ugly tree

We started out on a sour note, or two — a couple of long, ill-fated hunts, effectively tiring out the old men before we could even get started. Once we got moving on down the trail, though, the fairly rugged terrain tired us out even more. I had on relatively new boots that were still stiff, so my feet called me names for a while. And then...

Have you ever been bitten by a honey locust tree? Mother of Yog, these are evil trees. I described an encounter with a honey locust tree some time ago, here. I had another one today. Didn't even know the rotten bastard was lying in wait for me. At one point during a short bushwhack, I pushed my way through some spindly limbs blocking my passage, and as one of them whipped back toward me, it planted a two-inch long, molten hot spike in my leg.

Ask Old Bloody Rob whether I hollered. I might have hollered. I might have hollered ugly words. I don't know, I was too busy hollering. After a healthy round of hollering, I worked up my nerve and tugged the nasty little spike out of my leg and called it mean names. I'm pretty sure it came out cleanly, without leaving little fragments of itself lurking somewhere in my flesh (I should very much like to think the damned thing would have done nothing that hateful). Rob is the one who always says that, when geocaching, if you don't bleed you're not having fun. Today, at least one of us had fun.

We did find a fair number of fun little hides in the woods, so our day was tiring and painful but ultimately satisfying. At one point, I found an ugly tree with an even uglier head (see photo above), but there was no cache there. There should have been a cache there, as it was a pretty neat ugly tree. We didn't add a vast number of finds to our respective tallies — seven altogether; my find count now stands at 9,812 — but we had gone out looking to get some exercise, and I can tell you, some exercise we done got.

I sleep now.
A troll in the Upside-Down
Crabtree Creek to the north, with I-40 in the distance
Crabtree Creek to the south, with some dude wandering about in the water

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Win The Nightmare Frontier for Your Kindle!

Up to FIVE lucky — or perhaps unlucky — souls can win the Kindle of edition of The Nightmare Frontier just by following me at and entering the contest, which ends on Bloody Valentine's DayFebruary 14, 2018. CLICK HERE to enter! Then hold your breath and pray....

The Nightmare Frontier is one of my older novels — originally published in hardcover by Sarob Press in 2006, then as an ebook and audiobook by Crossroad Press in 2010. It's also what I would consider one of my most unsettling novel-length works. Reviews will be much appreciated!

About The Nightmare Frontier:
The town of Silver Ridge, West Virginia, has disappeared from the face of the earth. A vast chasm prevents any living soul from crossing into the community. From above, only an impenetrable layer of mist marks the spot where the town had existed.

Inside Silver Ridge, the nightmare is just beginning.

Confined by this unimaginable barrier, the townspeople find themselves confronted by the denizens of a distant dimension: horrifying creatures that intend to transform the valley town into an outpost hospitable to their existence. To these extra-dimensional travelers, human beings are nothing more than pests to be exterminated.

Russ Copeland and Debra Harrington are determined to resist… but as they face death to restore Silver Ridge to its rightful place on Earth, they find that their true enemy may not be the incomprehensible invaders, but an insidious evil whose origin is closer to home than they can imagine.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

At the Crossroad

Crossroad Press — publisher of my novels The Lebo Coven, The Nightmare Frontier, The Monarchs, and Blue Devil Island — has been upgrading its website and offering special deals on numerous of its titles, including The Monarchs. Crossroad Press offers my novels in the following formats:

The Lebo Coven: audiobook, ebook
The Nightmare Frontier: audiobook, ebook
The Monarchs: audiobook, ebook, hardcover, paperback
Blue Devil Island: ebook (paperback and hardback available on

You can also order from various third-party vendors, such as Barnes & Noble and, directly from the Crossroad website.

If you've not read my work before, now is the perfect time to check it out. I'll go on record as saying Crossroad Press is the most author- and customer-friendly publisher I've ever worked with, so I urge you to support them, either directly or via other online vendors such as

Tell them I sent you (and then duck and cover)! Well, don't worry about the ducking, necessarily....