Thursday, January 30, 2020

Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!
Now You Just Listen Here...

'Tis done — Ms. Massie and I appeared this evening on Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!, courtesy of hosts Tamara Thorne, Alistair Cross, and regular guest interviewer QL Pearce. A fun (for us, at least!) half-hour show, primarily about the Ameri-Scares Series for Young Readers. Fifteen minutes before the show began, I sent the manuscript of my latest — Ohio: Fear the Grassman! — to Crossroad Press. I'm not sure of a release date as yet, but so far, the Ameri-Scares books I've completed so far have been released fairly quickly after I've turned them in. Will keep you posted, of course.

Listen to the episode here — Elizabeth Massie & Stephen Mark Rainey on Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! — and then run for your lives. Or sit back and have a relaxing drink. Whatever floats the boat, and all that.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

It's a Wrap! Ameri-Scares Ohio: Fear the Grassman!

Yessir, a couple of days ago, I slapped "The End" on my latest Ameri-Scares novel, Ohio: Fear the Grassman!, and tonight I've completed my final edit before sending it out to Crossroad Press. Of course, there will be copy editing and possible revisions before publication. I'm not sure what the release date will be, but my previous Ameri-Scares releases have hit the street relatively quickly after I've turned them in. The image you see at left is a collage of photos and art I created, some of which may appear on the actual cover.

Fear the Grassman!
Five years ago, young Landon Shrewsbury saw something that scared him to death: a giant, shadowy figure lurking in the woods around his house. Something that left huge footprints in his yard. Now, at age thirteen, Landon has convinced himself he imagined the whole experience. But now, numerous people in Sugarcreek, Ohio, report seeing just such a creature. When his parents leave town for a week-long vacation, Landon is left in his older brother's care. And to his horror, the frightening, shadowy menace from his childhood returns. Landon, his brother Kevin, and his new friend Tami suddenly find themselves being stalked by the fearsome giant known as the Grassman. Now, the three of them must discover the reason for the beast's return — and find a way to stop its violent rampage — before they fall victim to its inhuman fury.

Tune in on this Thursday (January 30) at 8:00 PM EST to Thorne & Cross Haunted Nights LIVE, when Elizabeth Massie and I will take our turns on the air, talking primarily about the Ameri-Scares series. Ms. Massie has just turned in her newest entry, for the state of Montana.

The Ameri-Scares series is currently being developed for television by Warner Brothers and Margot Robbie's LuckyChap Entertainment.

You can check out a couple of excerpts from Ohio: Fear the Grassman! here:

Ohio: Fear the Grassman! Excerpt #1

Ohio: Fear the Grassman! Excerpt #2

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Monsters in Midland, The Bathroom Bomber Flight, & More

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Okay, so maybe the monsters is us. Brugger and me, that is. Since she and I have celebrated Christmas down south every year that we've been together, it has become tradition to have a late holiday celebration with her folks in Michigan in January. So, early this morning, we set out for Midland via United Airlines, by way of Chicago and then Flint. (No, we did not drink the water.) Coffee. I drank coffee. I will say the coffee on our United flight was somewhat superior to the coffee I've had on Delta, which has typically been our Michigan-bound airline, and shit tons better than the coffee on American and British Airways, which carried us back and forth on our relatively recent European outing. And United gave us Star Wars napkins. You seriously can't go wrong when you've got Star Wars napkins.

To my surprise — because I had not looked in advance — there is a virtual geocache inside Chicago's O'Hare Airport. It lay no more than half a mile from our gate, and since we had about a 30-minute layover, I figured I could hoof it to GZ, claim the virtual, and get back before our nice little Canadair CRJ550 left without me. Happily, I made it to the cache and back with almost fifteen minutes to spare. And so, I added another Illinois cache to my tally to start the day right. Ms. B. and I are hoping to visit Chicago and see a bunch of my old friends sometime later this year. I'm sure I'll get a few more Illinois caches under my belt then.

Del & Fern met us in Flint, and from there we drove the hour or so to Casa di Brugger in Midland. Also tradition is for Fern to prepare for us her famous kielbasa-vegetable soup and patented sandwich spread, which filled us up all nice and proper. We made the rest of the afternoon and evening pretty mellow. A shopping trip for provisions, and then a relaxing evening in the downstairs den with wine and TV.
Ms. B. and Old Dude, frigid at the Tridge
Old Rodan geocaching with an odd couple
Sunday, January 19, 2020
Some of us got up pretty early; had a decent breakfast, with nonstop coffee; and spent a good portion of the day working on his latest Ameri-Scares novel, which is coming into the final stretch. Somebody else (ahem... Kimberly) might have slept in very late. Later, Del brought us in a fine feast from China Palace. Then, Ms. B. and I headed out to do some geocaching in the snow. My main target was a relatively new virtual called "The Tridge" (GC88Z72) at....the Tridge, a three-span footbridge over the Tittabawassee and Chippewa rivers in downtown Midland. Why, yes, it was freezing cold out there. They grow the snow deep here. Yeppers, when I was an old dude, I used to go geocaching in the snow... uphill, both ways... with no shoes....

I picked up a few other park & grab caches, and tried for a couple of "non-winter-friendly" caches — which generally means they're on the ground and liable to be covered with snow. Indeed, the "non-winter-friendly" label applied in no uncertain terms.

From there, we fit in a bit of necessary shopping and went for coffee at a nice little shop near downtown called Live Oak. Ms. B. loved the Vanilla Latte, and I had a very good Chai. Back at Casa di Brugger, we scavenged dinner for ourselves and once again spent a mellow evening at home with the folks. Nice.
Enjoying hot drinks at Live Oak Coffee Shop after some mighty cold geocaching

Monday, January 20, 2020
Once again, the older of this monstrous pair rose relatively early and, after a spot of breakfast and coffee, set right to making forward progress on Ohio: Fear the Grassman! Apparently, the comfy chair and Ottoman in the Bruggers' basement is the place in the world most conducive to writing stuff. I blew through several chapters on my way to the finish — just as I had blown through the writing of West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman when I was working on it there last year. I'm down to the last couple of chapters of this one, so I may be able to finish the book while we're still in Midland. We shall see.

Noon-ish, Ms. B, Del, Fern, and I found lunch at Culver's, a decent little burger joint at Midland Mall. Ms. B. and I had come here on my first trip to Michigan in 2014, but I hadn't been back since; it was worth the return visit. From there, we hit the road for Coleman, about 20 miles up US 10, to visit Kimberly's Aunt Betty and Cousin Jeannie. We enjoyed spending time at their tranquil place out in the country. On our return trip, we stopped in Sanford, a tiny community about midway between Coleman and Midland, as the ladies wanted to see if the antique store there was open. It was not. However, in Sanford, there is a webcam cache ("Who Named the Best Little Town by a Dam Site?" GCJRV9) — a pretty rare type these days. Although it's technically a two-stage cache, in the interest of sparing the rest of the gang an outing in the cold and snow, I had tracked down the location of the webcam in advance so I could quickly capture my photo to claim the find. Then, while the other folks stopped back at Midland Mall to purchase a few necessary wares, I hunted a couple of the caches in that area. But of all things! I think one of them is just plain missing, and the other — a cache I had sought in vain on a previous visit — was just archived yesterday. Anyhoo, I certainly got in some below-freezing-weather caching today.
Old Rodan at the webcam cache (GCJRV9) in Sanford, MI
During the evening, after making a bit more progress on the novel, I ventured forth with Ms. B. to Whine, our traditional favorite imbibing spot when we're in Midland. We enjoyed far more wining than whining. Then we shopped for our upcoming Late Christmas dinner, which will be Chicken Marsala. Per our tradition, I will be playing chef.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Hey, it's Christmas! It comes a little late for the Brugger-Rainey cadre, but hey, better late than never. Last night at Whine, Kimberly and I were discussing the groceries we needed to pick up for "Christmas," which clearly confused the hell out of a guy sitting next to us, who couldn't help but overhear our conversation. Maybe he thought we were from Canada or some other weird place, I don't know. Anyway, Chicken Marsala headlined our menu, which is one of my favorite dishes to prepare. Perhaps I'll post a recipe for it sometime. Not just now.
Little Christmas scene — one of Del's holiday creations
Dinner in the works
Dinner on the table
The first cut is the deepest. How bloody rude!

Anyway, we exchanged a slew of loverly, loverly gifts. Ms. B. presented her folks with several items she had purchased while we were in Europe. A highlight was a metal-tipped, handmade walking stick she had picked up for Del in Montserrat, Spain (see "Mediterranean Sojourn pt. 7: Montserrat and Homeward Bound," November 8, 2019). At the monastery there, you can buy walking sticks made by the monks, and knowing her dad appreciated such things, Kim decided to get him one as a Christmas gift. A particular stick caught her fancy, but it was a hair too long to fit in her luggage to bring home. And, of course, there was no way we could have just carried it onto the plane. So, the night before we left, she found a serrated kitchen knife in our VRBO apartment, and the lot of us took turns sawing off the metal tip. It was one hell of an effort (that was some hard, hard wood), but we accomplished it. And so now, Del has a metal tip he can enjoy reattaching to his walking stick. (He does all kinds of such crafty things for enjoyment, I might add). Having a little story to go with it made the gift a bit more fun for all involved. Me, I got some of my favorite yogurt-coated pretzels from Holmes County, OH, where we regularly meet Del & Fern in springtime. That area of Ohio, I might add, is the setting of my in-progress-damn-near-finished Ameri-Scares novel, Ohio: Fear the Grassman!

The Chicken Marsala turned out to be one of my best efforts. Dang near perfect was the consensus. However, while slicing bread, Kimberly came perilously close to slicing off a critical finger. At least a slice or two of that bread would have made a nice appetizer for Count Dracula. And now she's stuck making gestures that people who don't know the story might consider a wee bit rude.

During the evening, Ms. B. and I met her old friend Darren at Bar Oxygen, an appealing, if somewhat overpriced lounge at the H Hotel downtown. They do have good drinks (including the Jalapeno Cucumber Gin Rickey, which I discovered there last year (see "More Midland Misadventures," January 12, 2019); it's like a hot and spicy salad in a refreshing drink), and the atmosphere is irresistible. After this, Ms. B. hauled me over to find a cache at a neat location just west of downtown ("You Shall Not Pass!" GC6NM88). Afterward, we spent more mellow times with her folks watching Chopped on The Food Network. This is one of those traditional Brugger thingummies. I actually enjoyed it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020
The Bruggers went out antiquing pretty early, so I settled myself in the basement in my favorite chair and worked on Ohio: Fear the Grassman! In fact, I ended up all but finishing Ohio: Fear the Grassman! I have only a few short paragraphs left to wrap it up — at least the first draft. I'll need to go in there and do some editing before I send it out to Crossroad. But getting to this point was way too long coming, thanks to one crisis after another back in the fall and early winter.

Unfortunately, a migraine set in just before dinnertime. Fortunately, it was such a mild migraine, it didn't knock me out. After the ocular light show was done, the headache never really developed.

For dinner, Ms. B. and I went to Villa D'Alessandro, which I had never visited, although Ms. B. used to go when it was in another (apparently less expensive) location. We quite enjoyed a bottle of Masi Campofiorin, a nice, not-too-pricey Italian red blend. For the entrĂ©es, I ordered the Capelli d'Angelo alla Bolognese (beef & pork Bolognese sauce over angel hair), which was excellent, although for the pasta I would have preferred tagliatelle, which we had in Italy on several occasions. Brugger really enjoyed her Portabella Ravioli — ravioli filled with Portabella mushrooms, ricotta, Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheese, served in a cream sauce with mushrooms, onions, and garlic. I tried some of hers and almost fell over, it was so good.

And finally, we ended up our last night in Midland watching TV in the basement again with Del and Fern. I don't know exactly when Kimberly and I went to bed, but it was pretty late.

sday, January 23, 2020
And off we flew for home. Well, eventually. I had predicted that, because we had blizzard conditions and no delays on the way up, today we would have delays because the weather wasn't bad. We did. Now, there was a bit of snow in Chicago, but that in itself didn't seem to be the holdup. I'm pretty sure overbooked flights lay at the root of it.

Anyway, our Flint to Chicago flight I have dubbed the CO2 Flight because it was the talkiest flight I think I have ever taken. The guys behind us never paused to breathe during the whole hour in the plane. Just emitted copious quantities of CO2, which would have registered damn near lethal levels had we tested the air. The Chicago to Greensboro flight I have dubbed the Bathroom Bomber Flight because Ms. B. and I sat at the back of the plane, just in front of the john, and from the time we boarded the plane until we landed, that bathroom was loaded. People stood in line to get in there for uncomfortably lengthy spells (uncomfortably for me, I should say). In fact, our take-off was delayed beyond the original delay because some bumpkin had to hit the head after we were all buckled in and ready to be pushed back from the gate. So, we missed that window, and thus had to wait another 20 minutes to roll. Damn, people!

Another fookin' migraine set in right at the start of the Bathroom Bomber Flight. It wasn't as innocuous as yesterday's migraine, but at least it wasn't killer. A relatively mild headache.

Anyhoo, I'm back home, the blog is writ, and I've got a couple of paragraphs to finish up in Ohio: Fear the Grassman!

I sure do wish I had that chair from the Bruggers' basement. Hell, I wish I was in the Bruggers' basement right about now.

That is all.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Ameri-Scares on Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! • 30 January 2020 • 8 PM EST

Authors Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross, in addition to writing wickedly weird novels, run their own interview show on Authors on the Air Radio. Every Thursday evening at 8:00 PM EST (5:00 PM PST), you can find them at their best, grilling authors of dark fiction (sometimes with hot sauce). On Thursday, January 30, Elizabeth Massie and I will take our turns on the air, talking primarily about the Ameri-Scares series for young readers. Currently, I am finishing up my third novel in the series, Ohio: Fear the Grassman! Elizabeth has just turned in her newest, for the state of Montana.

The Ameri-Scares series is currently being developed for television by Warner Brothers and Margot Robbie's LuckyChap Entertainment.

You can tune in to Haunted Nights LIVE on January 30 at 8:00 PM EST using the following link: Check out their Facebook page at

We hope you'll join us.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

An Evening with the Body Snatchers

Philip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) easily holds a spot in my top five favorite horror movies, surpassing even Don Siegel's excellent, original 1956 version. I saw the 1978 version when it first came out without having seen the original (that happened a few years later), so my sensibilities may be slightly colored by that fact. Still, evaluating both films as objectively as possible, I do believe Kaufman's film is one of those very rare remakes that improves on the original, especially the ending. Granted, Siegel's version, as written, would have featured a similarly downbeat finale but for the studio's insistence. Characteristic of studio brain trusts at the time, the executives at Allied Artists did not believe a horror movie that ended without a glimmer of hope could succeed. Still, even with the studio's revised, more hopeful resolution, Siegel's movie succeeds admirably, with a noteworthy performance by star Kevin McCarthy. And in the 1978 version, McCarthy delivers the perfect cameo. While I wouldn't call this scene whimsical, it can't help but bring a grin of pleasure if you know where it originated. The primary cast of Kaufman's film — Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum, and Veronica Cartwright — could hardly have been more perfect. The remake's setting, cinematography, screenplay, direction, special effects, and minimal score... all come together to create a masterpiece of horror. A moody, unsettling, suspenseful, eerie film. None of the versions that have followed can hold a candle to either Siegel's or Kaufman's films.

When I caught wind a short while back that the 1978 film would be coming to Greensboro for a theatrical showing, with Veronica Cartwright on hand to give a presentation, you can best believe I immediately went about scoring advance tickets — for $12 each, it turned out. Hell, outside a matinee, for that price you can't catch a crappy first-run film without any of the cast on hand.

Ms. Brugger and I, along with friends Terry and Beth, attended the presentation this evening at the RED Cinemas, which is easily my favorite theater in Greensboro. Although none of the auditoriums are particularly large, they are generally comfortable, with decent sound systems, and the concession stand offers a fair selection of food and spirits. Body Snatchers did play in one of the smallest. For the film itself, this might not have been so impressive, but it did allow for a more intimate Q&A session with Veronica Cartwright. She spoke at some length about the highlights of her career, her favorite experiences on movie sets and the stage, and about working with such legendary cinematic figures as Alfred Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren, Jack Nicholson, Richard Dreyfuss, and Shirley Maclaine (whom Veronica considers her mentor). My personal favorite of her recollections was of her experiences on the set of The Birds, as it was one of her earliest films and her introduction to the world of "movie magic."

True to my prediction, at the theater, I ran into Ian McDowell, longtime friend and contributor to Deathrealm magazine during its heyday. Afterward, Ms. B., Terry, Beth, and I went out for dinner at Sushi Republic, followed by a spot of wine at Tasting Room.

All in all, a fine way to spend a Saturday evening. Tomorrow, there is geocaching on the docket.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Sayonara, Sandy Level Creep

Why, yes, I am suffering the great sadness, for the Sandy Level Creep is no more. For the past five years or so, he — and, more recently, a handful of companions — stood alongside the Old Axton Road in southeastern Henry County, VA, happily greeting passing motorists. For some long while, I had seen a "For Sale" sign outside the house where he lived; it always brought on a twinge of sadness and apprehension. The Creep was a bleepin' Sandy Level fixture! But back at Thanksgiving, when I didn't notice that gaggle of scary folk hanging out by the road, I feared the worst had happened. Sure enough, my past few trips through Sandy Level appear to confirm that my good friend, the Sandy Level Creep, is indeed gone.

I first noticed him back in 2015, standing all by his lonesome, one arm raised in cheerful greeting. Occasionally, he would boast a new wardrobe. Eventually, he even made himself a friend: a cute little devil-horned fellow for whom the Creep appeared to display considerable affection. After a time, a huge, bearded, ghoulish-looking chap joined the pair. A frizzy, chapeau-crowned ape man followed shortly afterward (which was actually our devil-horned friend wearing a mask; he wasn't fooling anyone, you know). Soon, the lot of them began showing off various hats, regularly changing poses and clothes. For me, traveling the Old Axton Road through Sandy Level between Martinsville and Greensboro became something of a treat.
I can't say I ever learned anything about the ghoulish gaggle. I halfway suspect the Creep himself might have been a Halloween prop who decided to stay on past the holiday. His later companions appeared at seemingly random times. So, I've no idea whether anyone, other than their owners, might know anything about their surely colorful life stories.

In the midst of some of the most trying times of my life as I've constantly gone to and from Martinsville to care for Mom, the Creep and cadre have added a lovely sparkle. I shall quite miss his huge toothy grin, his happily outstretched arm, his wide array of hats, and his colorful companions.

Sayonara, Creep.

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Future Is Now

And boom... just like that, it's the year 2020. The fucking future, to my very young old brain. Back in tenth grade creative writing class, I wrote a ghastly little science fiction story called "Invasion From Space," set in this very year. To the best of my recollection, it was a cross between The War of the Worlds and The Mysterians. The tale featured an all-Japanese cast of characters, a thing I considered perfectly proper since, at the time, it seemed a certainty that Toho Co. LTD would one day want to turn all my stories into films. (Take note, Toho. I'm still waiting.) The thing I most remember about "Invasion From Space" was my teacher criticizing a scene in which a squadron of jet fighters engaged a gaggle of UFOs. "In the year 2020, there probably won't be any jet planes," she wrote in red ink. Rather than edit the jets out of the story, I added a note to the effect that, au contraire, jet technology would still be prevalent; it would just be several generations more advanced than the then-current 1974 models. And my prediction pretty much came to pass.

Of course, 2020 is nothing like my tenth grade self could have imagined. We have a half-witted, narcissistic, semi-literate baboon as a president who, consistent with his chronically egregious behavior, has set in motion a sequence of events that could mire the US in yet another prolonged and very dire conflict in the Middle East. The entire continent of Australia is a conflagration (see New South Wales: The Devil's Inferno), with no relief on the horizon. Venice — which Brugger, along with friends Terry & Beth only just quitted a little over a month ago — has suffered grave damage in the worst flooding it has seen in almost a century. Politically, the US is more divided than I've ever seen it in my lifetime, with the Brain Death Chorale from either political extreme singing loudly and proudly. I'm more than halfway convinced that the activation of the CERN Hadron Collider some years back opened a wormhole to the Bizarro world, and a portion of it bonded with ours. Really, it's the only explanation that makes sense.

On the personal front, 2019 was, almost from start to finish, a train wreck, with my family's medical issues front and center 24/7/365. Still and all, there were many bright spots: last year's New Year's celebration in Myrtle Beach with our friends the Nelsons and the Broadwells; going to Midland, MI, back in January to see the Bruggers; going to Berlin, OH, also to see the Bruggers; another trip to Myrtle Beach in July, also with the Nelsons and Broadwells; lots of geocaching with The Usual Suspects (Old Rob, Yoda Rob, Fishdownthestair, Diefenbaker, Shoffner, Suntigres, BigG7777), Skyhawk63, Punkins19, and others; hanging out with the Albaneses; the releases of my Ameri-Scares novels, West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman and Michigan: The Dragon of Lake Superior, from Crossroad Press; seeing my daughter, Allison, a couple of times, even if not under the happiest of circumstances; and le piece de resistance, the trip to the Mediterranean in October, which took us to Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, France, and Spain.

Me, myself, and I... well, when I turned 60 this past year, any number of niggling physical issues set in almost overnight, making day-to-day existence a tad more taxing. Sometimes more than a tad. Still, all things considered, I can only complain a little. There will always be those in better and worse places than I, and on the scale of life, it would be a lie to say that, at least for now, I occupy anything other than the "better" side of it. Taking the larger view isn't always the world's easiest thing to do, especially when the issues, some large and some small, pile up like a series of crashes on I-40 at rush hour. One thing is for certain: we came from the Great Beyond and will go back to it, and the only thing that matters in the here and now is how we live it. That's very easy to say, of course. Day-to-day reality sometimes has a tendency to cold-cock that lovely long view of life. It does for this old dude, anyway.

Finally, to Kimberly Ann Brugger: you remain the one human being in my life who keeps me sane and relatively stable. This year will make ten years together, all of which were made better — even damn near perfect — by your presence, your energy, and your love. At times in the past, I thought I knew what it meant to love, to be in love. Like hell I did. I wish I had, for it would have been fairer to all involved. Sometimes, I think it takes a rough ride, even a wrong ride, to get where one is meant to be, if such is even possible. Maybe it is.

Happy Bloody New Year to my readers, my friends, my peers, and all the rest of you out there. Well, most of you, anyway.