Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Joining the Ameri-Scares Team

It's official! I will be writing at least a couple of new novels for Elizabeth Massie's Ameri-Scares, a series of spooky books for readers ages 8–13. The series will comprise 50 novels, one set in each state, each based on or inspired by a historical event, folktale, legend, of myth unique to that particular state. My first book will be set in West Virginia and involve the legend of the Mothman. Beyond that, I will likely set the next in Maine and chronicle the very scary "Pocomooshine Terror."

I'm set to turn in the first book at the end of the year, so it will likely appear in early to mid 2019. After that, who knows where the series will take us....

Books already published in the Ameri-Scares series include:
North Carolina: Mountain of Mysteries
Illinois: The Cemetery Club
Virginia: Valley of Secrets
California: From the Pit
Maryland: Terror in the Harbor
New York: Rips and Wrinkles

Here are a few links where you may read more about Elizabeth Massie's Ameri-Scares series:
Ameri-Scares on Facebook
Ameri-Scares novels by Elizabeth Massie at Amazon.com

Saturday, July 21, 2018

If You Weren't at The Daily Grind Last Night...

 ...you weren't where you should have been. There was a fine crowd for the Daily Grind's Ninth Songwriters Showcase in Martinsville, VA, with near a dozen individual performers, including the old Geocaching Noisemaking Horror Writer. Songwriters came from all around Virginia and North Carolina, including Martinsville, Chatham, Richmond, and beyond. For my set, I played my original songs "Scan in Progress," "My Love Goes On," and "Paranoid Schizophrenia." And at the end of the show, a bunch of us got together and raised a ruckus with a freestyle jam the likes of which I haven't experienced since my college days. It was great too, since these young guys were playing The Rolling Stones, ELO, Bob Dylan, and such with enthusiasm like I haven't seen in forever. A nice beer tasting ran along with the show, which, for the audience, helped make even the old dude sound reasonably sweet.

The Songwriters Showcase is the brainchild of musician-Daily Grind proprietor Danny Heiss, who played an impressive solo set as well as an intense duet with guitarist Angus Hobson. The event is held on a quarterly schedule—more or less—and there should be another one coming up in the fall, which I hope will work out for me time-wise. Last night's was among the best ever, and those of you who weren't there (you know who you are) missed a helluva treat.
Danny and Angus going to town on one of Danny's original compositions
Old Rodan and Young Angus getting in tune for the jam
Today, Ms. B. and I made a day of it in Danville, as she had wanted to visit the Woodwick Candle Outlet in Blairs, a few miles north of town. We caught some sushi for lunch at Tokyo Grill, one of my regular Danville haunts; grabbed a few Geocaches; enjoyed a spot of wine at the always pleasant 2Witches Winery & Brewing Co.; and check out Vintages by the Dan, a nice little wine/brew shop on the fringes of Danville's historic district.

One of my Geocaching targets was close to the historic Grove Street Cemetery, which Brugger particularly enjoyed exploring. In it, there are graves dating back to the Civil War, including a section for local slaves, who were, of course, not individually identified. A somber yet peaceful and scenic location. Here, I ran into old Geocaching friends esddan (a.k.a. Stokes and Joyce), who were among the very first cachers I ever met, back in early 2008, at one the first caches I ever placed. A full but relatively relaxing day of it all around.

Till the next.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Songwriter Showcase at The Daily Grind

As you diehard regulars here have surely deduced, scary fiction and music are among my passions, and while I work at creating the former almost daily, it's less common for me to break out the git-fiddle and make a scary racket. Still, now and again I am known to do this thing and inflict some lovely pain and suffering on an unsuspecting populace. So shall it be this coming Friday, July 20, at The Daily Grind in Martinsville, VA. From 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM, The Daily Grind is hosting another Songwriters Showcase for local musicians to perform some of their original compositions. Now, I haven't written music in decades, but there was a spell back in the 1980s and early 90s where I composed a fair number of guitar-and-vocal tunes, many of them — I'm sure your shock is palpable — featuring scary themes. Come Friday, I'll be performing a few of them.

You folks in the area, please come by and feel free to hurl, heckle, and chuck things. It's all appreciated. The Daily Grind is located at 303 E Church St, Martinsville, VA 24112 (see map below).

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Friends, Wine, History, and Geocaching

Old Geocacher dude and Ms. B. at Delfosse Vineyards near Covesville, VA
Friends, wine, history, and Geocaching, all in one weekend, and for me, things don't get much more special. In the summertime, it's tradition for Ms. B. and I to get with our best friends and travel to some place of interest or another, and this time, it was Charlottesville, VA, with Joe, Suzy, Terry, & Beth, as we've all known each other pretty much since the Cretaceous Period (well, we gentlemen, at least, have known each other that long).

Friday midday, the lot of us converged on Chatham, VA, a very small town some miles north of Danville, where we discovered the Public House, which offers fine food and cordial, attentive service. I also discovered a Geocache — Pitts Bookworm (GC5GHZ8) — as well as a big honking (deceased) female Hercules beetle. Despite being dead, beetle put in an entertaining guest appearance on my dashboard after lunch, at which point Ms. B. vacated the car with heretofore unseen haste and agility. It would be fair to say I am lucky to be alive to tell this tale, and I will say I have behaved at least reasonably well since.

From Chatham, we headed to Delfosse Vineyards, located in a lovely mountain setting near Covesville, VA. To get there, one must leave US Hwy 29 and ascend a long, narrow, gravel road that is strikingly similar to the fictional location I described in my as-yet-unpublished short story, "When Jarly Calls" (which I hope will be seeing publication in the not-so-distant future).
The full crew at Sal's Caffe Italia on the
Downtown Charlottesville Mall

A handful of Geocaches later, we arrived at The English Inn, and here, I must sadly report, things took something of a nosedive. Rather than relate the tale in its entirety here, I invite you to read my review of our direful experience on here on Yelp.com. Suffice it to say Ms. B. and I, along with Terry and Beth, successfully sought other accommodations for Saturday night. Apart from that, Friday night proved an enjoyable time as we all caught a Lyft ride to the Charlottesville Downtown Mall, which offered lots of food, drink, music, shops, and Geocaches. For dinner, we found ourselves at Sal's Caffe Italia, which we chose more or less at random, and it proved beyond satisfactory. Excellent wine, and most of us had varieties of pasta. Ms. B. and I both selected Bolognese on rigatoni, which, despite the huge portions, refused to allow us to stop eating it. Seriously. Halfway through it, I was thinking "I gotta stop eating this." Two-thirds of the way through it, I was thinking "I gotta stop eating this." Three-quarters of the way through it, I was thinking "I gotta stop eating this." When I had a few bits of rigatoni left, it finally allowed me to stop eating.

Afterward, we wandered a bit, found a little more refreshment, and went after two very satisfying Geocaches. We all retired relatively early — Ms. B. and I, unfortunately, to a most uncomfortable room (again, see above). Still, we were determined to make the best of things. Saturday morning, I was out of there at the crack of dawn so I might work in some serious Geocaching, which included not one but two underground tunnel hides (GC3AM81 and GC2YXZ2). The first was short and sweet, the second quite long and, though not too physically challenging, so deep and dark it convinced me that a deep dark culvert is not the place to be should a Deep Dark Culvert Monster go on the attack. Now, I've been in many a tunnel, and I know how sound carries and becomes distorted in those winding stone and metal passageways. But about the time I reached the cache, I heard sounds I had never heard before — some kind of groaning, grating noises, almost like an old man snoring at incredible volume, some unknown distance away. I was far enough in that when I switched off my flashlight, it was that profound void you can only experience within the bowels of the earth — which Ms. B. and I had once discovered together while caving near Johnson City, TN (for that chronicle, see "The Darkness Out of Time," Sept. 5, 2011). I dunno what I was hearing here, but when I made my way back into daylight, I was maybe just a little bit glad.

Following these adventures, I joined our group for our daylong winery tour, which included Blenheim Vineyards, owned by musician/artist Dave Matthews, where the stunning mountain scenery exceeded the wine quality — which I would call satisfying but mostly fair-to-middlin'; Cunningham Creek Winery, which I believe was our favorite of the day, due to its decent wines, exceptionally friendly and courteous staff, and relaxed atmosphere; and Jefferson Vineyards, where we found the biggest crowds and reasonably good but somewhat overpriced wine. I complain not one bit here, as the day proved enjoyable (though stifling hot) and mostly relaxing.
Ms. Beth at "the writing wall" on the Mall.
"Supper Club was here."

For the evening, we found excellent burgers at a place called Zinburger near our hotel(s). I had a thing called the El Diablo, comprising Kobe-style beef, pepper jack cheese, fire-roasted jalapeƱos, braised onions, lettuce, and chipotle mayo. I liked it, I did. Then we returned to the Downtown Mall, where in seeking a particular cache — "Number Nothing" (GC69WC1) — we heard Celtic music and stumbled upon a most wonderful little Irish pub called The Tin Whistle, where a trio called The Severed Heads of Guion Pond was performing in an appealing little courtyard outside the pub. Well, damn, this was fun. So we settled in for the evening and listened to some melodic, bawdy, rowdy, soothing Irish tunes until our aging bodies could no longer stand it, at which time we retired, again via Lyft, to our respective hotel rooms.
The Severed Heads of Guion Pond at The Tin Whistle Irish Pub
This morning, Joe & Suzy hit the road early, so Terry & Beth and Ms. B. and me decided to have breakfast somewhere, and that turned out to be The Pigeon Hole, near the University of Virginia campus. It's a quaint old house on a cobbled side street off University Avenue, and the breakfast proved superb, with eggs over medium, crisp bacon, coarse-ground grits, and plenty of good hot coffee. Afterward, we spent a bit of time wandering about The Rotunda on campus, where I found a virtual Geocache and where, in the early 1980s, I had occasionally spent time in the company of my then-girlfriend Allison Ferrill (who has since gone on to become a high-ranking official in the US Navy). Had we gotten married way back when, as we sometimes half-seriously considered, I can't help but think that today, either I would be much richer or she would much poorer.
The Rotunda at UVA
We parted ways and returned to our homes. I received reports from the cats that there wasn't much point in me coming back since they were quite taken with Hailey, the young lady who often looks after them when I am gone. Not that I feel useless, or anything.
You think Imma going in there? You dang right.
The long darkness, filled with eerie sounds
And you spent your Saturday morning... how?
Don't go into the light. Just don't.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

From York Hill and Rostau to Belews Lake

One couldn't have asked for a much nicer weekend to go Geocaching, as the murderous midsummer heat has largely subsided for a couple of days. Yesterday, Bloody Robgso (a.k.a. Robert), Skyhawk63 (a.k.a. Tom), and Old Rodan (a.k.a. me) headed down Lexington way to go after a new series of caches as well as several older ones, a journey that led me to a few of my favorite settings in the world: old, damn-near-creepy ruins, a perch high above the rest of the world, and the darkness deep beneath the earth.

The Watership Down Run, recently placed by Rick247 (a.k.a. Rick), proved pleasant enough — 16 caches along a winding, 3-mile road through a pleasant woodland neighborhood — but the day's highlight came at a place called York Hill, just outside of Lexington, near the site of the last battle of the Civil War in North Carolina. Here, along what at one time was the main highway but that's now a little-used side road, we came upon the remains of an old hotel and restaurant, which included a massive, foliage-covered sign, some fifty feet high; the concrete and brick walls of the structure itself; and a precarious parapet that overlooks US 29 and the Yadkin River (see the old fart in the image above). There were two caches here, both of which we quite enjoyed.
The old sign for the York Hill Restaurant/Supper Club. It's about 50 feet high,
and all but hidden from view by the encroaching foliage.
Ain't they cute?
Looking down from the old York Hill overlook
From there, we proceeded to "The Entrance to Rostau" (GC7NX91), a venture into the cool subterranean darkness beneath the convergence of several major highways south of Lexington. "Rostau," in ancient Egypt, referred to a hidden, mystical region, locked in darkness, where the corpse of Osiris resided. Here, we had to determine the correct path into the mystical depths, as there were several entrances to choose from. Inside each passage, as we learned from cache owner Pharaoh9500 (a.k.a. Daniel), one might find a clue indicating a right or wrong choice — if one can determine what to look for. Fortunately, we chose wisely and located the well-placed cache without undue difficulty.

For lunch, we decided, more or less at random, to try Smokey Joe's BBQ Restaurant near downtown Lexington. Now, I've had a fair sampling of Lexington barbecue over the years, and for the most part, I've always found it fair-to-middlin'. But our dead pig at Smokey Joe's turned out to be downright heavenly, as was the fried squash I had on the side. Absolute top marks go to Smokey Joe's, and I may need to revisit Lexington to snag the remaining Geocaches in town and tear into some more Smokey Joe's. What a treat!

Today, more or less on the spur of the moment, I undertook a solo run over to Belews Lake, just this side of Winston-Salem, to hunt a couple of hides that are meant to be reached by boat but that can be accessed by land, albeit with considerable difficulty. One was at an old, abandoned, overgrown marina, which proved enjoyable and relatively easy; the other was just across the lake from the huge Duke Energy plant, and required a strenuous hike up and down long, steep, rocky hills that just about did me in, even in the less-than-severe temperatures. This cache, "Celebrating Pharoah's 8,000th Find" (GC79GH4), proved difficult to find, but find it I did, and after that, I was quite done for the day.

And now... damn, I really want some more Smokey Joe's.
I'm glad people take the time to leave these public service announcements, else we would
never know what actually goes on in the world.
The image doesn't begin the convey the size and steepness of the hillside. Gods, what a monster!
Old Rodan with Belews Lake and the Duke Energy plant in the background

Sunday, July 1, 2018

On the Death of Civility

In the wake of The Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, VA, giving Sarah Huckabee Sanders the boot a week or so ago, the big question seems to be "What has happened to civility?"

So I made the graphic above. Little more needs to be said.