Friday, November 27, 2020

Happy Fogsgiving

I think it’s safe to say I have never seen — or at least driven in — fog as thick as what’s out there tonight. I damn near got lost in my own neighborhood. I mean, I couldn’t even see my own driveway as I drove up to it. A fog advisory came in on my phone earlier this evening, and it was apparently no joke.

While Thanksgiving Day was mellow and relaxing, it wouldn’t have been any different for Brugger and me even if there were no pandemic. After several years of gatherings with Mom in the grip of dementia, which made for some measure of stress during the holidays, Ms. B. and I were all about enjoying some special time for the two of us. Last year at this time, we had just moved Mom into a nursing home, so it was the first Thanksgiving in several years that we were able to truly relax. And now, with Mom gone, it’s actually easier to feel some of the warmth we all shared during happier times in the past.

Thanksgiving and Black Friday tend to offer up geocaching opportunities, and today was no exception. A couple of newer hides on the university campus over in Elon awaited my attention, so I headed out mid-morning to see what I might make of them. One was a find, the other was not, which surprised me not at all, as the coordinates are apparently some distance off-target, and after having been live for over a week, no one has yet found it. I did enjoy the hunt, though, especially as the campus was deserted and I could search unimpeded in what would have otherwise been a very busy location.

Brugger and I shared dinner prep duties, augmented with some exceptionally good mulled wine she concocted. Dinner was the very traditional turkey, stuffing, smashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and Toblerone cheesecake. I fixed up some killer deviled eggs for starters. It were a damn fine feast, that’s what it were!

For the afternoon and evening, we entertained ourselves with a triple-feature film festival: 1917, The Hidden, and Return of the Living Dead. A fine progression it turned out to be — from serious brilliance to silly alien shoot-’em-up action to hysterically funny fluff. Believe you me, I will take it.

I hope your Thanksgiving Day proved as satisfying. I know many are struggling with the inability to enjoy traditional holiday gatherings with friends and family. But if you are, please know you are doing the right thing for yourselves and others. I know too many people who have suffered from the effects of COVID-19, either themselves or their loved ones. You must know I lost my mom to COVID-19. I personally know many health professionals who are on the front lines. My daughter is a medical researcher at Columbia University Medical Center in NYC. The people who understand this threat best, who are putting themselves out there to get us through it, deserve to be respected. To be honored. Do the right things. Protect yourselves and your neighbors. Please.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Borderlands 7 Is in the House

It is no exaggeration to say that placing a tale in Borderlands has been one of my longest-held aspirations as a writer. And this turned out to be the year. My surreal, grim, ever-so-cheerful (or not) tale, “Escalation,” can be found in Borderlands #7, hot off the press — my contributor copy arrived yesterday. It’s a gorgeous hardback edition, signed by all the authors in the anthology. For all its putrescence, 2020 can claim at least one shining moment (there have been several, actually, but those are not the point here).
Borderlands is a continuing anthology series that has garnered awards and praise for its contributors and editors for more than twenty-five years. Each volume is a non-themed gathering of stories that push the boundaries of genre fiction with provocative tales of the surreal and the weird. Edited by Tom and Olivia Monteleone, this edition includes fiction by the following authors:

Meghan Arcuri
Michael Bailey
Gary A. Braunbeck
Michael Scott Bricker
Cory Cone
Roby Davies
John DeChancie
Louis Dixon
CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan
Felicia Lee
Bentley Little
Lisa Mannetti
Richard Christian Matheson
Robert McCammon
Donna J. W. Munro
Stephanie Pendley Paul
Bill Pronzini
Stephen Mark Rainey
Lucy A. Snyder
Daniel Waters
Tim Waggoner
Paul Wilson
Leo Zaccari

For your consideration, here is a little teaser from “Escalation”:

The elevator doors slid open, revealing paneled walls the same dark color as the guestroom doors. Greg stepped in. After hesitating a moment, Hager followed.

Inside, there were only two buttons — one for up and one for down. None for individual floors.

The doors slid shut. The car did not move.

Hager glanced up, saw no floor indicator above the door. He pushed the up button. With a smooth whir, the car slid into motion, and Hager felt his stomach lurch. They were going up, all right. And fast.

“How many floors are in this hotel?”

“I’m not sure. Twenty, maybe.”

“Jesus. We're really moving.”

The car kept going, and Hager felt his knees going wobbly. "How the hell high can this thing go?”

“We can't be moving as fast as it feels.”

“But we are. We are.”

“This is fucked up.”

The car kept going.

Visit Borderlands Press here.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Divine Llama or Bust

Sometimes, you get et by the tree

For geocaching numbers, yesterday made for couple of fun ones. A pair of new caches published in Danville on Friday evening, while I was in Martinsville. I figured I could swing over to Danville and pick them up on my way back to Greensboro on Saturday morning. As luck would have it, a new geoart series came out near Reidsville, also close to my route home. One of the Danville caches lurks at a pretty awesome spot: a Monacan Indian burial mound. Chalk up another location I would never have discovered if not for geocaching. Anyway, I snagged the coveted first-to-find slot at 11:21 a.m. on 11/21, which I found kinda cool. And after grabbing a bunch of the new series, my cache find count came in at 12,345. Also kinda cool. WELL, IT IS FOR SOME OF US GEEKS! (Note that I am really not a geek. No. Really.)

Today’s Sunday geocaching crew wasn’t much of a crew — just friend Scott (a.k.a. Diefenbaker) and this old man. Bright and early, we set a course for Winston-Salem, figuring we would hit Bethania and C. G. Hill Memorial Park for geocaches, then wander toward Divine Llama Winery, a short distance northwest, for refreshments. Sadly, Bethania turned out to be a bust. Due to massive flooding from the heavy rains a couple of weeks back, it was clear the entire trail system had been underwater. All the caches there — four of them — had gone missing. By now, they may be floating around in Cape Fear or someplace. Most disappointing.
Scott finds a big honking
nano in the woods

However, at our next port of call — C. G. Hill Memorial Park in nearby Pfafftown — we experienced no such misfortune. All the caches there turned out to be present and accounted for. We also discovered an impressive work of nature: a massive poplar tree some 600 years old, hollowed out due to a lightning strike unknown centuries ago. That tree has seen a lot of history, including sheltering a farmer's livestock during a northern raid in Civil War days. Intriguing stuff.

We then set our sights on Divine Llama Winery, by way of a puzzle cache, the coordinates to which I had solved a few weeks ago, along the Yadkin River. At the cache site, however, we again met with ill fortune. The flooding here exceeded any I think I have seen in this area. A layer of sand and silt several feet deep now covers god knows how many acres around the river. The area in question is where a group of us, Scott included, put our kayaks in the river a few years back, when I went after my 7,000th cache (“No Acercarse,” May 18, 2014). Due to the flooding, the whole place is unrecognizable, and I wonder if the parking area will ever be restored. Or will it simply be allowed to return to nature? I can’t help but think that excavating the parking area would be prohibitively expensive.

Anyway, at last, we made it to Divine Llama. A crowd was already gathering, and it grew prodigious to what would have been a disconcerting degree had they not done such a good job spacing out seating and such. Everything was done outside, and people were very good about wearing masks and taking the proper precautions. As I always do, I kept plenty of distance between the Randolph County Rabble (i.e., Scott) and me.

We finished things up by grabbing a couple of newer hides in Bethabara Park, and I stopped for a lone  hide in High Point, not far from the office (which I hope to NOT have to return to once the pandemic subsides). Anyway, it’s been a fine weekend for geocaching, quality time with Brugger, writing, and getting some necessary business taken care of. Lordy knows, tomorrow it’s back to ye old salt mines. Happily, for a while yet, the salt mines are still just downstairs, rather than twenty freaking miles out Interstate 40.


About the ancient poplar

New sand dunes along the Yadkin River
Keeping a respectable distance from the Randolph County Rabble
Old feller at Monacan Indian burial mound

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Monster Stars, KVegas, and Korner’s Folly

The Socially Distant No-Dead-Weight IrregularsMs. Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), Sir Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), and a way-out old dude — managed to regroup today after too long a separation due to factors beyond reasonable human beings’ control (note that only one of us is reasonable). Since our last outing at Tanglewood Park, near Winston-Salem, NC, a few months back, a number of newer geocaches have been published, so we decided to dare the forecast for rain this morning and undertake a near-six-mile hike through the park. Hike we did, find caches we did, and get wet we did not. Well, not very, anyway. The only rain was a few drops that spat on us for about 30 seconds. Fortunately for us, that was the extent of it, for we had reached the farthest point of our hike when the dribble began.

A touch of fall color

Every year, Tanglewood Park puts on an extensive Christmas festival of lights, which draws crowds from all over the state and beyond. I have never experienced this spectacle for fear that the human multitudes would send me into a fatal apoplectic fit. However, as the show begins this coming week, the park has been fully decorated, the framework for bunches of impressive light sculptures erected. I can’t say I wouldn’t love to see the event as it was meant to be, but I would kind of like to survive the experience.

Following our scouring of the park, we moved back eastward to Kernersville, where a new-ish Adventure Lab cache — “The Hot Spots of KVegas” (GC923TV) — had come out a couple of weeks back. Kernersville is an attractive, pleasant community halfway between Greensboro and Winston-Salem — or would be pleasant if not for the goddamn over-saturation of humanity that has resulted in almost perpetual gridlock, even on off days such as Sunday during a pandemic. On the plus side, we got to re-visit some of the areas that Ms. B. and I have frequented over the years. When we were still working in the office, we were close enough to Kernersville to spend a fair amount of time there, since they had several nice dining/wine and eclectic shopping options (not to mention geocaches). Today, our hunt began at Korner’s Folly, Kernersville’s most notable historic building. From there, we hoofed it to several other stops in town before moving on to the final stage.

Triad Park, just east of Kernersville, turned out to be our ultimate destination. To locate the physical bonus cache, we had to gather information from the Carolina Field of Honor, which is an impressive tribute to NC veterans. We found the cache, all right, and that turned out to be a fitting end to the day’s adventure.

And what a week I have coming up, workwise and otherwise, as I am now going hard about the duties of being executor to my mom’s estate. For every hurdle I cross, two more pop up. A long, slow, frustrating process this is. But everyone warned me it would be. Everyone spoke truly.

Till another day.

Monster Moravian star at Tanglewood about to devour two unsuspecting victims
A charming little church at the park
An old graveyard in the middle of the park, which was built around it.
Another nay-sayer. What a poor attitude!
Korner’s Folly in Kernersville, one of the town’s most attractive historic buildings
A nice little corner behind Korner’s Folly

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Old Places, Old Friends

“It’s in the trees! It’s coming!”
Good friends and geocaching partners, Gerry (a.k.a. BigG7777) & Bridget (a.k.a. Suntigres), late of nearby Kernersville, moved to Florida last year, which certainly made Brugger and me sad, at least for our sakes. I know Gerry & Bridget couldn’t be happier with their place down there, and that’s what matters. But since they recently came back to Kville for one of their regular visits, Ms. B. and I spent an enjoyable evening with them last night — at a respectable distance! — with delicious appetizers, pizza, and a few bottles of excellent wine. The night was pleasantly chilly, so we sat around their firepit enjoying the company and goodies until the old people — one of them, at least — began to fade a bit.

This morning, I hit the highway and met the mad Floridians at a lovely little cache where we found a much-needed helping hand. This one earned favorite points for creativity, gruesomeness, and humor. From there, we moved southward a bit through Randolph County, which has seen a veritable explosion of new caches in the past few months, largely courtesy of one labchic1. The majority of them are park & grab hides — meaning they are quick and easy enough to park, jump out, grab the cache, sign the log, and move on in short order. Happily, today, we found ourselves in any number of appealing settings, several of them old and haunted (my favorite kind, believe it or not), including a nice old graveyard. (Sadly, we failed to find the cache at the graveyard; it is likely missing.)

As for settings, I was most taken with the remains of a gas station, which likely went back 50 to 75 years; the crumbling skeleton of an old mansion (oddly, with a decomposing truck trailer parked in front of it); and an old plant of some sort right on the Deep River in Coleridge, where Bridget and I had once unsuccessfully hunted a cache placed by Nefarious Beast Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott). I once returned to that plant at Nefarious Beast Diefenbaker’s behest and replaced his missing cache. That replacement eventually went missing, and the cache was archived. So, today, I quite enjoyed returning to the location to hunt a new cache, which we did find, though it took quite a dedicated search.

Gerry and Bridget will be returning to Florida this coming week, so it was great beyond great to spend some quality time with them, which has been in too short supply since they moved. I so hope that in the coming year the pandemic will subside sufficiently to permit less distance between us when we are in close proximity. Given the positive results of this past week’s election, I feel there’s somewhat more reason to have hope on that front.

And so let us hope.
Bridget: “I’m telling you, I SAW a dreadful apparition.” Gerry: “That was just Mark.”
Rest rooms are in the back.
I expect the trailer is haunted too.
One of us, at least, is very happy.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Coming in 2021: Tales From Arkham Sanitarium

Coming from Dark Regions Press in 2021: Tales From Arkham Sanitarium, edited by Brian M. Sammons. This one features my story, “Clicks,” as well as new short fiction by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., W. H. Pugmire, Tim Waggoner, Jeffrey Thomas, Christine Morgan, Cody Goodfellow, Glynn Owen Barrass, Orrin Grey, and more. Tales From Arkham Sanitarium features a stunning wraparound cover art by award-winning artist Vincent Chong. The anthology will be published as ebook, trade hardcover, and signed limited edition hardcover. The table of contents and more information will be revealed in the near future.


Here is a short excerpt from “Clicks” for your perusal:

The young Asian woman stopped on the dance floor and peered at him, unjostled and unfazed as the dancers swirled and swayed around her. Her dark, glistening eyes fixed on his, and he wanted to leap off the stage, grab her, shake the truth out of her, for she had to know the truth, whatever madness lay at its heart.

But this was not Tami, not Tami, not Tami.

“The man without a face is coming for you,” she said, her voice clear and undistorted, despite the distance between them. From behind her back, she drew a bright red rose and lifted it like a torch above her head.

Just behind her, the spindly black silhouette grew larger, a malevolent predator creeping up on her. Moments later, it was towering over her, as if the air itself were a backdrop upon which the shadow of something almost but not quite human were being cast.

Then she was gone, as if she had never existed.

Had her feet been touching the floor?

He didn’t think so.


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Halloween Horrors

Why, yes, the Halloween season is my favorite time of year. And also, yes, 2020 is surely the most fucked-up year of my 61-plus-year existence. So, I cannot say I was much surprised for Halloween 2020 to offer up its own share of royal fuckage. Now, altogether, nary a thing for Brugger and I proved all that horrible, but little about this past week has gone quite as expected or hoped. (I must be also be fair; on a couple of counts, things have gone better than anticipated.) Of course, most significant in the disruption of Life As It Otter Be are the Covid Death Cooties, which have thrown the monkey wrench into the works in general. My brother continues to face critical health issues. And my mom’s death during the summer has left me with far more lingering challenges than I might have expected, given her thoroughness over the years trying to organize her affairs to be as straightforward as possible. Regardless, things leading up to Halloween, in themselves, went pretty well. Brugger and I made it to Villa Appalaccia and Chateau Morrisette; there have been horror movies aplenty; the geocaching has been a little sparse but generally of fine quality (of particular note, the Guilford County Spooky Spots adventure lab cache, which I did on my own one night last week); and, so far, we’re doing pretty well health-wise.

Then, on Thursday, came Tropical Storm Zeta. Although the worst of it didn’t hit us directly (and some places I saw really did get hammered), we had damaging wind and rain that took out power at both Brugger’s house and mine for almost two full days. I had recently spent a few hundred bucks keeping the freezer stocked, so despite being frustrated by the lengthy outage, I was happy as a clam when the power came on in the nick of time to keep most of the frozen things from going bad.

Or so I thought.

Because the outage caused a series of electrical spikes, my refrigerator/freezer burned out. But I didn’t realize it right away because it did have power and appeared to be functioning. Eh. Not so much. Anyway, after considerable hunting, I have a new fridge on the way... but it’s going to be over a week before it can get here. Apparently, in the entire city of Greensboro, there is nary a refrigerator to be found that can just be delivered and plugged in. Today, I did find a mini-fridge at a good price, so I picked it up and got my surviving goods in there. I hope it will do the trick till the new one arrives. The old fridge wasn’t all that old — a little over eight years — but I guess these days, that is about what one can expect, especially when the power goes out with such frequency as it does here.

All that aside, I enjoyed spending a portion of Friday in Danville, VA, where I went after Danville Millionaire’s Row adventure lab cache. This one takes you on a tour of Danville’s historic Main Street, where one will find some of the town’s most elegant and imposing old homes from its glory days of tobacco and textiles. This was the best possible time of year to hunt this lab cache, since so many of the old homes were done up right for Halloween. And that evening, friends Terry & Beth came round for a pleasant, socially distanced dinner (burgers!), followed by a showing of The Exorcist, which Ms. Beth had never seen before.

Halloween itself turned out to be a fair mix of work and play. Ms. B. and I are in the opening stages of doing an intensive and much-needed renovation of Casa de Rodan. For a good portion of yesterday, we occupied ourselves stripping old wallpaper, mostly in the kitchen. There is still a long way to go. We’re looking at painting, replacing flooring, replacing the old, all-but-useless outdoor shed, all kinds of things that have languished for far too long.
Through it all, I have continued to make at least some forward progress on New Hampshire: Ghosts From the Skies, my upcoming Ameri-Scares novel. It progresses. Slowly but surely, it does.

Today, there had been geocaching plans with the usual suspects, but a big dump of rain forced a change of plans. However, the skies cleared late morning, and was yet another adventure lab cache awaiting my attention at nearby Gateway Gardens. So I went for it. I had gone geocaching there some years ago, but I had forgotten how attractive that little park is. There were five stages to the cache, each requiring the discovery of certain information to complete. All in all, it made for a nice diversion from the more prevalent pain-in-the-ass nonsense.

There is yet more to do regarding Mom’s estate this week, which I can only hope will go as painlessly as possible. I can’t say I look forward to it, but at least with every such step that gets done, the closer that little dim light at the end of the tunnel gradually comes.

And so. There it is.
One bad apple....
The kiddie area
Musical instruments in the woods?
Froggie went a-waterin’