Sunday, January 27, 2019

I Warned Him...

This morning, three old farts—Bloody Rob (a.k.a. Old Rob, a.k.a. Bloody Rob, a.k.a. Rob), Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), and Old Rodan (a.k.a. yours truly)—ventured down to the High Point Greenway Trail to hunt ten geocaches placed fairly recently by friend fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie, with whom I enjoyed a nice day on the geocaching trail yesterday, in Rocky Mount, VA). We found all ten. Diefenbaker needed to do maintenance on stage 1 on his two-part multi-cache, "Because We Can" (GC3B662) which lurks near the greenway. While Scott set about fixing the first stage, Old Rob decided to see if he could make his way to the final stage. As you may see in the photo above, he got only partway. Then the pipe et his head. I warned him about taking that approach, but he was not to be dissuaded. Alas, poor Robert, I knew him, Horatio.

We ended our outing with a fine lunch at Basil Leaf in High Point. Until last week, it had been quite a long time since I'd seen much of High Point. On MLK Day, friend Natalie and I hunted three new one down that way. Then, last night, Ms. B. and I paid a visit to The Claddagh Restaurant & Pub for some fine fish & chips. And today, I headed back again with the old fart contingent (operating today as Team Three Stooges). Nice to see a few new caches in the Furniture City. There hadn't been any for years, and some of us hardcore geocachers were beginning to feel the despair and desolation.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

A Nightmare Revisited

I was rummaging through some bookshelves at my mom's this weekend, and happened upon her copy of the British edition of The Nightmare Frontier—a lovely hardback volume of my fourth novel, published by Sarob Press in 2006. I hadn't seen a physical copy of it in quite a long time, as my own personal copy is tucked away somewhere in the vault back home.

I've related the inspiration for the novel in this blog before, but seeing that image on the cover brought to mind, very vividly, the waking dream that inspired it—truly, one of the most terror-filled moments of my adult life. It was late evening, and I was drowsing on the couch in the living room, dark but for a few streamers of light filtering in through the Venetian blinds. I was aware that I was lying on the couch, yet peculiar images were beginning to waft up from my subconscious. As I lay there, I noticed a pool of warm, golden light forming at the corner of my vision. I shifted just enough to peer around the arm of the couch, and then I saw the source of the light.

Creeping across the living room floor, perhaps six feet away, there was a gigantic centipede, five feet long, its body glowing gold and red, as if a flame burned within it. Its head resembled a human skull, and as I watched, the thing slowly turned toward me, and I became aware of a horrifying, malevolent intelligence, observing and appraising me. It made no further move, yet my fear rapidly intensified until I jerked violently awake. The most disturbing thing at that moment was that I knew I was fully awake, yet I could see a circle of golden light on the floor, slowly fading, vanishing only after several seconds had passed.

It took some time before my nerves settled enough for me to drag myself off the couch and retire to my bedroom. By the time I finally drifted off to sleep again, I had a rudimentary plot in my head for the novel that was to become The Nightmare Frontier. So, yes, in the novel, you will encounter the thing that crept out of my darkest imaginings to pay me a visit that night. You will meet the individuals responsible for calling up such a thing from the remotest depths of hell. You will find yourself trapped in a town cut off from the rest of the world by some inexplicable force, rendering you helpless before the advance of these murderous monsters, known as Lumeras.

The e-book edition of The Nightmare Frontier can be had for a mere $2.99 at The audiobook, narrated by Basil Sands, is $17.99.

Monday, January 21, 2019

I See a Blood Moon Rising

That's not my own photo—my phone camera doesn't exactly take beautiful photos of blood moons (or much of anything at night with any clarity)—but that image is precisely what I saw last night, directly overhead, in a crystal-clear sky. About 11:30 p.m., I popped out into the icy, windy night; looked at the encroaching shadow of the earth on the moon for a bit; then hauled myself back indoors to watch a couple of episodes of Space: 1999 ("Mission of the Darians" and "Dragon's Domain," the latter being the best episode of the entire series). Several more times until well after midnight, I ventured into the frigid night air to gaze in awe at the spectacle upstairs.

It was nice to have Martin Luther King Day off today, although it seems to be at the expense of extra days at Christmas and New Years at the end of this year. Feh. In any event, despite it being a blustery, frigid day, Ms. fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie) and I went down to High Point to pick up three new-ish geocaches. All were relatively easy and quite fun. I also needed to do maintenance on my puzzle cache, Coordinate Crossing (GC2TC82), in Gibson Park. This involved climbing some ways up a tree to change out a waterlogged logsheet, an experience made unusually intense by the biting wind. Got it done, though. Yesterday, on a maintenance visit to Martinsville, I climbed the tree at The Tilting Terror (GC7VZND) to replace that wayward container. So it's been a fine couple of days for going up trees in very cold weather.

Today, had a post-geocaching lunch with Ms. fishdownthestair today at Thai Chiang Mai in High Point, which is actually quite close to the office, though I never venture over there at lunchtime because that area is a madhouse, and I'm not that bloody insane. Even today it was busy, though at least tolerable. Very good, very spicy pork larb for me.

And for the rest of the day, I'll be making forward progress on my Ameri-Scares projects, both writing-wise and promotion-wise.

Bless ye.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

More Midland Misadventures

"Welcome aboard Delta flight 2027, with service from Greensboro to Atlanta. We are excited you have chosen to travel with us today."

The flight attendant spoke in such a low monotone over the PA system that I was pretty certain she wasn't excited at all. In fact, I don't even think she liked us. But at 7:00 a.m. this past Tuesday, Kimberly and I took off on another trip to Midland, MI, to visit her parents, Del & Fern. Since we hadn't been able to see them at Christmastime, they arranged for us to come up for a slightly late Christmas in January. The first leg of our flight took us to Atlanta, where we landed at 8:30 a.m. The Starbucks coffee on the plane, proclaimed GREAT by Delta, really wasn't, but it did keep me going until I could get a slightly better cup on the next leg. Our flight into Flint, MI, arrived about 11:00 a.m., and there we met Del and Fern.

Midland is about an hour's drive north of Flint (and the town's water supply is just great). When we have a morning flight, it is Fern's custom to have on hand for us a lunch of sausage/cabbage/vegetable soup and her special, patented sandwich spread. And so she did. It is also custom to make a trip to Meijerbasically the anti-Walmart—for vital supplies and assorted goodies (read wine).

And hey, look here! There's a bunch of geocaches in the area that have been put out since we were last in Midland. Del & Fern were kind enough to allow me the use of their vehicle to go caching in the neighborhood. Most of these newer hides are traditional and not too difficult, although one of them provided an unusual challenge: it was a magnetic container stuck to a metal crossbeam on an old billboard, about 15 feet above the ground. The recommended "tool of the trade" to retrieve it would no doubt be a ladder. However, in the absence of said tool, I improvised something a little different, which allowed me to acquire, sign, and replace the cache exactly as I found it. However, on this outing I apparently discovered a mighty mudhole with the family vehicle, and I was unaware of the severity of its decorative qualities until Del pointed it out upon my return.

Oh, the shame of it! I did make appropriate amends, and Del & Fern had no qualms about allowing me to use the vehicle on subsequent caching outings. There were some decent ones.
Yeah, I found the cache, but that sucker was
hard-frozen in place

On Wednesday, Del, Fern, & Kimberly had a mind to visit Houghton Lake, a small community on a good-sized lake a little over an hour north of Midland. Their specific target was an arts-and-crafts outfit called Arnie's. My specific target was a bunch of caches. In Midland, there was a wee falling of snow, but as we drove north, the snowfall became a bit more enthusiastic. Houghton Lake, we found, was blanketed by a relatively deep fall of snow. But this is Michigan, and getting around in such conditions is no big deal—unlike here in Greensboro, where a couple of inches of snow results in a wholesale clearing out of all the bread and milk in town, as well as an accident on every other street corner. I managed to find a handful of nice caches, two in a snow-covered cemetery, which made for all kinds of fun. As in, "This sucker is frozen in place!" That kind of fun.

For lunch, following the recommendation of a kind soul at Arnie's, we chose a little diner called MJ's Eatery, which turned out to be more or less fantastic. Chicken & dumpling soup, fried fresh cod, and onion rings bigger than your head. Fine food and a good time all around.
A little graveyard caching in the snow at Houghton Lake, MI
And a virtual cache at a neat array of sculptures at a rest area near Clare, MI
One really ought not eat things bigger than one's head, but sometimes you just gotta.
That evening, Ms. B. and I ventured over to Whine, a nice bistro quite close to the Bruggers' place. There we spent a pleasant couple of hours with her old friend and classmate Darren, whom I've met on a few previous occasions. Wine, food, and good company all made for an enjoyable evening out. And hey—I found a few more geocaches. Shocked, you are.
Darren (a.k.a. D.J.), Ms. B., Old Rodan, whining away the time at Whine
Thursday, Kimberly and I had to run errands, including picking up all the necessary ingredients for the Christmas dinner I'd be preparing on Friday—lemon shrimp linguine, a dish to which I had done something akin to justice a few weeks ago. We fit in a spot of geocaching. For lunch, Fern fixed up what was very possibly the best bowl of chili I've ever consumed. And for our evening outing, Kimberly and I paid a visit to Bar Oxygen, a semi-posh little lounge in downtown Midland, which we had discovered on our previous visit. We downed a couple of fantastic little sliders as appetizers, and I discovered a hot, spicy drink—a jalapeno-cucumber-gin rickey—that was something akin to a liquid salad that burns. Delicious, I must say. Then we wandered a couple of doors down to Gratzi, another appealingly posh establishment. Now, here, Kimberly had a wonderful Polpete pizza, but my Fettuccine Pomodoro, with wild mushrooms, tomato, and basil—three of my favorite ingredients in the world—was not only nothing to write home about, the mushrooms and basil tasted like nothing, and the tomatoes were rather bitter. I did, however, discover a most wonderful cocktail with rye, amaretto, and hickory smoke, which was piped into the flask as the drink was mixed.

To Gratzi's absolute credit, because I was not satisfied with the fettuccine dish, they not only comped it, they offered us a meat and cheese plate to take home that was some kind of delicious. The manager and staff were beyond courteous, and I would not hesitate to return to sample other, hopefully more appealing dishes on their menu. I very much hope we can go back on a future trip to Midland. Hopefully, the not-too-distant future.

Geocaching, yes.
Young lady and Old Rodan at Bar Oxygen in downtown Midland. That's one SPICY drink in front of me.
One might think from reading this little chronicle that Ms. B. and I ate and drank perhaps a little too well over the course of our stay. You would be right, I fear. However, we were not yet finished....

Friday morning was our almost-month-delayed Christmas celebration. Kim, Del, Fern, and I exchanged some very nice gifts. Then I set about preparing our midday feast—the lemon shrimp linguine dish to which I previously alluded. Now this stuff did turn out all kinds of good. Would that the dinner at Gratzi been so all kinds of good. It's a simple recipe I discovered online, doctored up the way I customarily doctor up things.
One of Midland's multitudes of very black,
very fat squirrels

And then, to work off a couple of those delicious shrimp, I spent the rest of the afternoon out and about geocaching. Most of it was spent exploring the relatively expansive Barstow Woods a couple of miles or so from the Brugger homestead. I found half-dozen nice caches on this expedition. Now, there were several over the course of the trip that I hunted long and hard but never did find. At least a couple appeared to be missing; the others... who knows. They could be gone, or it may be that the old geocacher just wasn't able to turn up some well-concealed hides.

Last evening, Kimberly and I stayed home but were joined by her longtime friend whom we shall call Gordier, since her name is... Gordier. There's more to it than that, but I'm not sure Kimberly remembers what it is. A spirited and most enjoyable visit it was.

And today... it was up at 3:30 a.m. to get down to Flint for our 6:00 a.m. departure. I am now home.

Throughout the trip, I did manage to find considerable periods of time to make forward progress on my next novel in the Ameri-scares series, Michigan: The Dragon of Lake Superior (excerpt here). While the novel is set in the Upper Peninsula—and we unfortunately could not visit the UP this go-round—just being in Michigan, in a mellow, enjoyable setting, made for a very positive writing experience, much as it did when I was working on West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman on our last visit, back in September. That novel is due for release in just a couple of weeks (see my blog entry from January 10).

I may be due for just a bit of sleep. Sleep well.
"Christmas" dinner: lemon shrimp linguine a la Damned Rodan
The rigors of arriving back home...

Thursday, January 10, 2019

West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman e-Book Now Available for Pre-Order!

Pre-Order Now
—the e-book (Kindle) edition of West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman, my first novel in Elizabeth Massie's Ameri-Scares series for young readers, published by Crossroad Press. The e-book will be delivered on February 1, 2019, and the paperback edition is scheduled to follow shortly.

In the town of Broad Run, West Virginia...
Vance Archer and Marybeth Wilkins, a pair of adventurous seventh graders, have discovered an exciting activity called geocaching—a kind of scavenger hunt using GPS technology—which leads them after hidden treasures in the woods around their community. However, on one of their outings, they encounter a frightening, half-seen creature with glowing red eyes watching them from the shadows. Soon, Vance begins to receive mysterious messages on his phone from a caller named Indrid Cold. He learns that this name is associated with the legendary Mothman, a strange, unearthly being that is said to appear when some terrible event is about to occur. Believing that they—as well as their friends and loved ones—may soon face mortal danger, Vance and Marybeth try to solve the increasingly strange clues before disaster strikes.
* * *
In September 2018, I spent a few days in Point Pleasant, WV, where the legend of the Mothman originated (see "Lair of the Mothman," September 30, 2018). Those days provided me with a wonderful sense of the actual location's mysterious and alluring character, which I believe will deepen the reader's immersive experience in this book.

The novel's brilliant cover, composed by Crossroad Press graphic artist David Dodd, incorporates a photograph I took of an old munitions storage bunker near Point Pleasant, where the Mothman was reputedly seen; an enhanced rendering of a drawing of the Mothman I created (see "Completed! Lair of the Mothman, October 18, 2018); and one of the series' signature kids' silhouettes. These elements come together to make a striking and atmospheric piece of art that I think captures the air of mystery at the heart of this novel.

Each Ameri-Scares novel is based on or inspired by an historical event, folktale, legend, or myth unique to that particular state.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Excerpt #1 from Michigan: The Dragon of Lake Superior

Check out this little excerpt from Michigan: The Dragon of Lake Superior, my second novel in Elizabeth Massie's Ameri-scares series, now in progress and due from Crossroad Press in 2019. Look forward to some marvelously fun frights....
Jeff sped down the rough road, standing on the bike's pedals as he barreled over roots and rocks. Some of the earthen mounds made ideal ramps for launching his bike—and himself—into the air. Each time, he made a perfect landing on the rear wheel and sped onward. The farther he rode, the denser the trees grew. Soon, the road narrowed, becoming little more than a rugged path through the woods.

Ahead, he saw a large, dark mound in the middle of the path. It looked like the perfect jump ramp. He stood on the pedals and pumped them hard to pick up speed. The mound, he realized, appeared almost perfectly oval and rose at least three feet high. It was gray-black in color, with a texture like tree bark.

But it could not be a fallen tree, not shaped like that....

As he hit the mound, he pulled up on the handlebars to lift the front wheel. The bike flew into the air. But then, as if the mound had thrust itself upward, something hit his rear tire and threw him off balance. The bike lurched, and his feet left the pedals. The next thing he knew, the ground was hurtling toward him.


He hit the dirt hard, and his breath exploded from his lungs. He saw his bike above him, falling toward him as if in slow motion. It crashed down right on top of him. The end of one handlebar slammed into his stomach. For the first time in his life, he knew what it meant to see stars.

He lay there for what seemed like an hour, struggling to breathe. Once the stars dimmed and his vision returned, he saw his bike lying a few feet away. It looked okay, he thought—until he saw the chain hanging loose from its sprockets.

“Oh, no,” he groaned. If the chain was broken, he had a long way to push his bike.

Taking care not to move too quickly, he sat up. With a sigh of disgust, he brushed the dirt from his arms and legs. When he glanced back the way he had come, every blood cell in his body turned to ice.

“That’s impossible.”

The mound that had caused him to wreck was gone.


In its place, he saw a deep depression, roughly oval shaped, at least eight feet long and four feet wide.

“Impossible,” he whispered again.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Waylaid, Shanghaied, and Hauled Away....

Fog beginning to roll in over the Grand Strand, December 31, 2018, about 10:30 p.m.
So Ms. B. and I had figured we would spend a fairly quiet New Year's Eve with friends Terry & Beth at their place in Winston-Salem. Drink some wine, maybe lounge in the hot tub on a chilly winter night. Sounded like a fine plan. Up until Friday night, that was the plan. Then, friends Terry & Beth put Ms. B. and me on notice: "We are going to the beach."

All righty, then.

Dang if we didn't go the beach. Sunday noon-ish, we hit the road, bound for the Caribbean Resort and Villas in Myrtle Beach. Brugger and I had been to Myrtle Beach couple of times already this year, and the last thing we expected to do was spend New Year's there. The horror of it! Waylaid, Shanghaied, and hauled away from home against our wills. There was only a wee bit of geocaching involved. In fact, there was none on the trip down—a first for me, at least since I started caching in 2008. It was hard, but I survived. (Don't know if I could ever do that again.)
Shark, viewed from 18th floor balcony

Fortuitously for us, our friends Gerry & Bridget, with whom we visited the beach previously this year, were down at their place again, so we met for a delicious, if quite noisy dinner at Taco Mundo, near their beach residence at Barefoot Landing. The sangria we had was decent at best, but Taco Mundo's Baja fish tacos—tempura fried mahi mahi, red cabbage, cilantro & ancho chile yogurt sauce—are the best I've had anywhere. For afters, we made a brief stop at Gerry & Bridget's place, where Ms. B. and I had made a sojourn back in May ("Strange Magic," May 28, 2018). Then the lot of us trucked back to the Caribbean for some wine and horrifying fellowship until the wee hours. Fortuitous indeed.

Yesterday morning, we spent a while watching a shark from our balcony. Eventually, having found no children to feast upon, it headed northward. I hope it managed to satisfy its hunger... somewhere. Then, we Four Mooseketeers once again met Gerry & Bridget, this time for breakfast at Carolina Pancake House, just around the block from The Caribbean. Scambled eggs, smoked sausage, grits, toast, coffee. Perfection. Gerry & Bridget then departed for North Carolina, and the rest of us headed over to Broadway at the Beach to get in some much-needed shopping. Here, I finally managed to snag a handful of caches and thus preserve my sanity—not so easy when you've been waylaid, Shanghaied, and hauled away from home against your will. The shopping outing lasted until fairly late in the day, at which time we needed wine. We found this at the Coastal Wine Boutique in Barefoot Landing, a fine little establishment we had discovered back in May. Good, good wine indeed. And since we were by now hungry, we snagged a couple of pizzas from Ultimate California Pizza, just next door; brought them back over to the wine bar; and enjoyed a pizza-and-wine feast we figured might hold us until we could kill some larger game.
The Four Moosketeers
Broadway at the Beach
Scary ladies!
Good wine, great company
Back at the Caribbean, we suited up and headed for the indoor pool/lazy river/hot tub, which at first proved agreeably mellow. After a while, though, hordes of screaming, running, snotting miniature human creatures, which our shark friend had apparently missed out on, overran the place. We did enjoy the time we had there, though, so we were content to return to our suite and dive into the massive charcuterie arrangement Ms. Beth had so kindly and expertly put together for us. I will tell you, one could not have paid top dollar for anything better.
Fog shrouds the ladies on the balcony

By this time—nine-ish—we had been all around Myrtle Beach, but not on the beach. Fog was beginning to roll in, but the temperature was still nice—around 55 degrees or so. Terry & Beth opted to stay in the suite, but Ms. B. and I went for a fairly lengthy walk by the ocean. She found a trove of beautiful seashells, which, in my experience at Myrtle Beach, is pretty rare. By the time we turned back toward the resort, the fog was getting thicker (and Leon was getting larger). And when we arrived back at the 18th floor and went out on the balcony, the fog had become so thick you couldn't even see the breakers, a couple of hundred feet away.

Over the next couple of hours, the low clouds continued to gather, classic rock music began to blast from the neighboring quarters, and the previously sporadic fireworks started going up in earnest. From our balcony, we had a fabulous view of a lengthy, fairly extravagant fireworks presentation, which appeared to be the work of someone other than amateurs, but which we learned had not been contracted by the resort. We briefly checked out New Year's Rocking Eve on the telly, but since it really doesn't incorporate any rock, we deemed it superfluous. As the midnight hour drew nearer, the fireworks blasted away amid the heavy mist, and cheers rang out from all around the resort. The music director a couple of floors below began taking hollered requests for tunes from Terry, who was all about boogeying on the balcony.

At the stroke of midnight, a fantastic fireworks finale kicked off AD 2019.
The Caribbean Resort & Villas, seen from the beach as the fog rolls in, December 31, 2018, 10:15 p.m.
Fireworks in the fog, viewed from our 18th-floor balcony
Get on down and party.
Things wound down quickly after this, which suited us old people just fine. We'd had a full day on the go, with lots of exercise, satisfying food and drink, and exceptional entertainment. And what a surprise for Ms. B. and me. Of all the things I might have expected to be doing on New Year's Eve, hanging out at the beach with good friends really wasn't among them. I should be waylaid, Shanghaied, and hauled away places more often.

I did manage to snag one cache on the return trip today, so I guess I'll be able to sleep easy tonight. Unfortunately, the rest of this week is going to be anything but relaxing, so the timing for this unexpected outing couldn't have been better. Thanks to our friends who really enriched our lives this weekend. And to all of you out there, have a helluva great 2019. Something tells me we all really need it.
Some of the shells Kimberly found on the beach
By 9:00 a.m. this morning, the fog had broken and the temperature hit 70 degrees