Sunday, March 28, 2021

It’s Lovecraft Kind of Sky

“It was just a colour out of space.” So goes the quote in H.P. Lovecraft’s classic tale, “The Colour Out of Space,” from 1927. That was my first reaction upon seeing the western sky at sunset, about fifteen minutes ago. We’d just had a pretty good dump of rain, and when it let up, a red-pink-violet light poured in through the living room windows. I took the photo above from the front porch, and it came out pretty cool, but it fails to quite capture the other-worldly quality of the light. I have seen tornado skies any number of times, and this was much like those, only more vibrant, more pervasive. It really was kind of weird. A good many folks on Facebook in the area remarked on it as well. No doubt it’s the result of specific atmospheric conditions and the timing — right at sunset.

Or maybe it was a harbinger of doom, a foreshadowing of the return of the Great Old Ones. Either way, it was pretty cool.

After a week-long trip to Michigan, my first full day back home was both invigorating and relaxing. First thing this morning, I met a gang of august old farts (Old Robgso [a.k.a. Old Rob], Diefenbaker [a.k.a. Scott], and tbbiker [a.k.a. Todd] — the latter quite coincidentally) at the nearby Haw River State Park to hike and hunt a few new geocaches placed by friend Skyhawk63 (a.k.a. Tom). We undertook a four-mile hike under gray, occasionally drizzly skies, found four very nice caches, and brought home a crapload of mud.

For the rest of the afternoon, I took care of some estate business; watched a few episodes of Dark Shadows, which I had started from its beginning a short while back; took care of several chores; and cooked up some fabulous, very hot chicken wings for dinner. If my eyes and brain can stand it, I think I will finish out the evening making a bit more progress on Georgia: The Haunting of Tate’s Mill. It’s gonna be a busy week coming up, with house renovation, more estate business, and — hopefully — quite a bit of writing.

Be seeing you.
Marsh-a, marsh-a, marsh-a!
I see old people.
Diefenbaker, Old Rodan, and ttbiker on the hunt

Saturday, March 27, 2021

From Midland to the Mothman

Brugger and I received our first COVID-19 vaccinations on last Wednesday, so we’re halfway there. Yay!

Saturday, March 20, 2021
At the ass-crack of dawn, we left Greensboro for a long-planned visit with Ms B’s folks in Midland, MI. Happily, Del & Fern got their rounds of shots several weeks ago, so, barring vile variants or other unforeseen complications, they’re well defended against death cooties. Regardless, Brugger and I isolated ourselves even more than usual for the past week or so. As on our previous trip this past September (see “Midland with a Twist”), rather than fly, we opted to undertake the long drive. This time, we took a slightly different route, which added a few miles but shaved some time. We stopped a handful of times for pit stops, a picnic lunch, and a scant few geocaches, and arrived in Midland just after 8 p.m. As is our custom, we sat up fairly late with Del & Fern watching programs about good food, this time, Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. Kimberly and I particularly enjoyed this one, as it showcased a number of locations we had visited on our trip there in 2019.
The Rodan Mobile arrives in Midland right at sunset
Sunday, March 21, 2021
A beautiful morning, and there are tons of new geocaches in and around Midland, many right in the neighborhood. So, after a pleasing breakfast of pancakes and bacon, I hopped on the bike and pedaled around to a few of them. Quick finds, the lot of them. Following this little adventure, I made revisions to a new short story for the anthology editor. And then... lunch from China Palace, a tasty and non-trivial quantity of food.

Meijer. Whenever we visit the Bruggers, it’s family tradition to hit Meijer to stock up on supplies for the week. No breaking family tradition this trip. I found a Life Magazine Godzilla edition, so on a whim, I bought it. It’s evidently from 2019. Anyway, I’m sure it doesn’t offer a word about Godzilla I don’t already know (if you know me at all, you know I have been a devoted Godzillaphile since the age of four), but it seemed novel enough to warrant picking up. It’s almost funny that, after collecting daikaiju memorabilia for years, spending thousands and thousands of dollars in the process, this is the first Godzilla publication I’ve picked up probably in 25 years or more.

After the shopping, I hopped on the bike again, this time with Ms. B. accompanying. We rode over to nearby Plymouth Park, hunted a handful of geocaches (and met some friendly local geocachers), and then put in a few miles pedaling around the neighborhood. Another mellow evening in the family room for some quality family time, and my blood pressure is probably at an excellent level tonight.
Ms. B. at The Labyrinth at Plymouth Park. She casts a mean shadow.

Monday, March 22, 2021
It was another beautiful morning fit for bike riding, but today I had a slightly different plan. I needed to return to Meijer to pick up a couple of items, so I headed out in the Rodan Mobile, snagged a half-dozen caches around the Midland Mall area, and then did my shopping. Another family tradition is for me to play chef for a day, and today was the day. Del and Fern had seen pics of my recent bout with Bolognese and decided it was only fitting I should treat them to some. So I spent the rest of the morning in the kitchen while they went off in search of a new toilet for one of theirs that had decided to go south. It’s possible I got the better end of this deal.

And the verdict is in: the Bolognese was some pretty good shit.

After letting the big dinner settle, I finally headed out on the bike. Put in quite a few miles this go-round, and picked up several more caches. Ms. B. got a new laptop, so once I returned, we spent a little while getting things set up. Lord, Microsoft used to be a pain in the ass. It’s now a fucking ludicrous pain in the ass, getting in the way of almost everything you want to set up that isn’t specifically Microsoft. There were words.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021
I have put in some lengthy bike rides in Midland, but I believe this morning’s pedal set a personal record. I covered the entire northeast quadrant of Midland and then some, snagging 19 caches (and failing to find several others) in the process. Most of these were of the typical park & grab variety, though a few proved a bit more interesting. One of them had reduced some poor, unfortunate geocachers to naught but bones. At another one, I felt I was being watched the entire time I spent looking for it. Near there, at a church where the cache was hidden, a churchy muggle accosted me and invited me to come for a visit on Sunday. On my long ride home, I saw Ms. B. and the family in the car heading the other way — out toward Clare to visit some antique shops.

Rarely has a shower, leftover Bolognese, ice cream, and fresh hot coffee been more welcome.

For the afternoon, I made some forward progress in my newest Ameri-Scares novel, Georgia: The Haunting of Tate’s Mill.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Although I woke to another beautiful Midland morning, there was no cycling on today’s docket. I had to deal with some of my brother’s estate business, which ended up taking more time than I expected (and I had expected quite a lot). Then our crew hit the road for Saginaw, the Brugger folk for antiquing, the old fellow for geocaching. Now, I would generally not associate a place called The Antique Warehouse with a fantastic Italian beef sandwich, but this place has ’em. We enjoyed an excellent lunch together and then parted company. Off I went for some caches. The first was right there on the store’s property — or, rather, it was supposed to be. After a lengthy search, I couldn’t find the damned thing. I did find ample evidence of severe flooding, so I suspect the container ended up in the Saginaw River or something such. However, from there, I went after several others, and succeeded admirably with these.

Once antiqued out in Saginaw, the gang wanted to visit Warmbier Farms, a big old gift store in Williams Township, about midway between Saginaw and Midland. I have cached around that area on other outings similar to this one, and I did the same again today. Only one cache required me to walk a significant distance. It was at this cache, when I had reached farthest point from the car, that the bottom fell out. Big rain. Big, BIG rain. Big, WET rain. Wet ME. Believe you me, I got wet.

Needless to say, as soon as I got back to the car, the rain stopped.
Before the rain: Old Rodan and the Zilwaukee Bridge over the Saginaw River
A fun fellow with ammo can we
discovered in the forest

Thursday, March 26, 2021
The morning turned out a bit gray and chilly, but Brugger and I went forth, as we had planned, to the Midland City Forest, a short distance north of Casa di Brugger. Over 20 miles of trails wind through the forest, and after a few trips out there, Ms. B. and I have set foot on quite a few of them. This morning, we headed for a section I had never explored before, so a good many caches awaited my attention there. I managed to find most of those I hunted. There were tough caches, easy caches, creative caches, fun caches. We found a man made of wood carrying an ammo can around; a meteorite; a diamond in the rough; a birdhouse that wasn’t; and a bridge with a troll under it. Well, there wasn’t a troll down there until I went under the bridge, but... well... there it is. Ms. B. got in a wee bit of nature photography, which she most enjoys. I tell you this, I have exercised on this trip like I haven’t exercised in a long while, and I can surely feel it — in a good way, of course, except maybe for the pain of it.

Afterward, we set a course for Mancinos, which is one of those places you do not fail to visit when you are in Midland. Brugger ordered her usual Italian grinder, which, as I can testify, is one of the best sandwiches on earth. And I opted for a Mango Habanero Steak grinder, which, as I can now testify, is also one of the best sandwiches on earth. A worthy rival to the Italian beef sandwich I scarfed down at The Antique Warehouse on yesterday.

A little forward progress on the creative writing endeavors, a final trip to Meijer, and what a fine penultimate day of our Midland trip this has been.
There are some rough-looking trolls in Michigan.
And the occasional meteorite lounging about in Michigan.
If you look carefully, you might see Ms. B. checking out real estate in Michigan.
And if you listen, you might hear a chorus of peeping frogs making a mighty racket in Michigan.

Friday, March 26, 2021
After a wonderful, relaxing yet invigorating week, our time at the Bruggers’ in Midland had come to an end. Ms. B. and I rose relatively early, loaded up the Rodan Mobile, said our farewells, and hit the road, now bound for Point Pleasant, WV, home of the infamous Mothman. I had visited Point Pleasant in September of 2018 while researching my Ameri-Scares novel, West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman (see “Lair of the Mothman,” September 30, 2018). I had loved the place, the lore, and... of course... the geocaching! It made for a perfect overnight stop on the long haul back to North Carolina. A while back, I had made reservations at the historic Lowe Hotel, where I had stayed on my previous trip. After a long and less-than-relaxing drive — traffic was bonkers all the way down — we arrived in Point Pleasant late in the afternoon. Pronto, we bolted for the Mothman Museum, so we might spend a little time there before it closed. I had explored it in depth on my last visit, but Ms. B. was keen on checking out the plentiful paraphernalia, especially props from the film, The Mothman Prophecies. Once done, we walked across the street to the Lowe Hotel and checked in. Since I was a return visitor, the proprietor was kind enough to give us a suite for the same price I would have paid for a single room. (As an aside, on the Lowe Hotel website, the header image with the room key is actually the key to our suite — which is officially what room 328 now is: OUR suite.) I can hardly recommend the Lowe Hotel highly enough. The place is exceptionally clean (as it ought to be during the pandemic); requires masks (as it ought to during the pandemic); and is, above  all things, haunted. As on my previous stay, I saw no ghosts, but this hardly means they are not around. They simply don’t care to be traumatized by the character of certain guests, whose names shall not be mentioned here.

Once ensconced in our lodgings — and feeling the great starvation — we ordered a pizza from Village Pizza, which has its own connection to the Mothman. In 1966, the first individuals to witness the Mothman in the TNT Area, several miles north of Point Pleasant, fled the site and stopped at the location that is now Village Pizza. Our pizza? Well, it was fucken good. Once we finished our dinner, just after sunset, we hit the road once again — this time bound for the TNT Area, which had provided me with a big day of geocaching on my previous visit. Last time, however, I had experienced the place only in daylight, and I was dying to experience it after dark. We drove deep into the heart of the forest, once the site of a massive ammunition manufacturing/storage facility. From last time, I recalled the location of an open TNT storage bunker (these are called “igloos”) and made tracks for it. Sure enough, there it was, its doors still gaping wide, its interior as dark and creepy as all get out, just as I remembered (see accompanying video).
Interior of the Lowe Hotel, Point Pleasant, WV
Point Pleasant sunset, viewed from our window at the Lowe Hotel
View from Tu Endi Wei park of the bridge into Point Pleasant over the Kanawha River
View of the railroad bridge over the Ohio River from the Point Pleasant river walk
Since Ms. B. is less a geocacher than a sometimes-almost-willing accomplice, on this night, I figured I really should refrain from geocaching in earnest. However, one nearby cache looked particularly promising, so, once we quitted the igloo, I set my sights on it. At GZ, I found a huge, flat rock, as mentioned in the cache’s description. I located an opening underneath the rock that appeared perfect for a good-sized container. Then, upon aiming my flashlight into this gaping maw, I discovered, not a cache, but... a possum! Possum gives me a pretty scary leer, for he clearly had not expected visitors. Fortunately, he quickly vacated the premises. Seeing he was gone, I shone my light back into the opening, and this time spied the cache. Using my hiking stick, I was able to extract the container from its cubby. And once done, I re-hid it in a nearby, equally secure opening so that Possum could settle back in his preferred surroundings, if that was his desire. I hated to disturb him, and I really hope he doesn’t hold a grudge.

From there, we drove back to the hotel. Ms. B. was particularly keen on watching The Mothman Prophecies, so we decided to stream it on my laptop. The film diverges considerably from the “true” events, but it’s an exceedingly well-done movie, engaging to both emotion and intellect, drawing just enough from the source material to tell a compelling, original story. I love it. Along with Night (Curse) of the Demon and John Carpenter’s The Thing, it rates as an all-time favorite fright film.

And thus ended our week-long respite from the world. Our drive back to Greensboro turned out to be a bear — almost non-stop raging rainstorms, generating roughly 600 billion metric tons of human stupidity on the highways. But we arrived safely home, and this trip goes into my personal history book as one of our best ever.

And so, for now, I shall bid you good night.
Inside the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Black Stone: Stories for Lovecraftian Summonings

The Black Stone: Stories for Lovecraftian Summonings is a new anthology of weird fiction, now hitting the streets. Edited by Raffaele Pezzella, the anthology features a reprint of “Threnody,” one of my earliest and creepiest short stories. You’ll also find tales of terror by 26 other noteworthy authors, including David AgranoffGlynn Owen BarrassRamsey Campbell, Edward Morris, Konstantine ParadiasPete RawlikBrian M. Sammons, Lucy Snyder, Sarah Walker, and more.

From the cover: “The tales of H. P. Lovecraft touched on primal fears of the dark unknown, with great effect, and now, nearly a century on, the spirit of the Lovecraftian tale is still with us, courtesy of a group of literary explorers willing to forge through the dark matter of our hostile home and write of their experiences and travails in the lightless places. These 27 epistles of horror and weirdness are presented as a testament to the fact that, as much as we’ve discovered since Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s time, there are still many more unknowns waiting to be discovered.”

The Black Stone is available in trade paperback and Kindle editions. Check it out here.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Dark Discoveries

Terror of Octobernomicon!

Golden Goblin Press announces the Kickstarter campaign for a new set of original scenarios for the Call of Cthulhu® Role-Playing Game from aspiring new authors. Among the stretch goals is a fiction anthology, titled Dark Discoveries, edited by Brian M. SammonsOscar Rios. This will feature new stories by Glynn Owen Barrass, Peter Rawlik, Edward Morris, Andi Newton, Joshua M. Reynolds, and... me. It’s a brand-new tale — completed only last week — titled “The Devil Flies in Strix.” Set in the Old West, the story showcases one of the creatures created for the RPG. No giving away the secrets here.... Not yet!

The cover has been designed, and here is a mockup provided by Golden Goblin Press. The final art will be in color.

Visit the Kickstarter page for the project here.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

No Burial Without Permission & Others

Don’t do it.

Geocaching has led me to a number of signs like this over the years. They're kind of disappointing because, sometimes, you just need to dispose of someon—er, something—quickly.

The weekend was busy, productive, mostly enjoyable. Friday evening, Brugger and I went to Martinsville and had friends Stephen & Samaire over for dinner and drinks. Given the agreeably mild weather, we were able to socially distance ourselves on the front porch at Pleasant Hill. We picked up dinner from Third Bay Cafe, which was, as always, first-rate. Yesterday, upon our return to Greensboro (by way of Danville for a couple of geocaches), Ms. B. and I spent the better part of the day working on our kitchen renovation. Tiring, of course, but highly satisfying.

This morning, Mr. Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott) and I got together to check out the trails and a number of caches at the Spruce Pine Lodge, along Flat River, just north of Durham. The weather was perfectly splendid for hitting the woods — clear skies and temperatures in the high 50s/low 60s. Prior to coming out here for geocaching, I knew nothing of this lodge, which dates back to the 1940s. It is available for meetings, events, and gatherings of all sorts. The nature trails offer scenic views and easy hiking, although most of the caches ended up taking us pretty far off-trail.

We found some good ones this trip. We discovered one container in the hands of a hopelessly malnourished fellow; a couple of well-stocked ammo cans; and a couple of smaller caches up in trees. Sadly — for me, at least — these did not require climbing but specific tools of the geocaching trade.
Scott appears bemused by this chap suffering from extreme malnourishment.
My favorite cache of the day, “Waterfall Overlook” (GCQE55), took us out to some high ground above one of the rocky, rushing creeks that flow into Flat River. Outbound, we found a narrow stretch with plenty of stepping stones to facilitate our crossing. After claiming the cache, we returned by a different route, which put us high above the stream, at a wide, rocky, and far more treacherous point. However, being the spirited, foolish daredevils we (sometimes) are, rather than detour, we decided to soldier on. Not far downstream, we found a big fallen tree above the deepest, rockiest part of the creek, so one of us (raises hand) unilaterally decided to use it as a handy-dandy footbridge. As we soon discovered, the log had a wee wobble, but neither Scott nor I fell off of it. Well, I didn’t. And it wasn’t so much a fall as a slide, which culminated in a relatively small splash. Not very spectacular, Scott.

On our way home, we stopped for a handful of other caches, including one at a very old church graveyard, where we discovered the sign in the image at the top of the page. Graveyard caches almost always elicit a smile.

Just don’t bury any bodies there without permission. Don’t do it.
The Spruce Pine Lodge in Bahama, NC, just north of Durham
View of Flat River from the nature trail at Spruce Pine Lodge
Outdoor amphitheater near the nature trail
One of the scenic little waterfalls we discovered on our hike
Our makeshift bridge across the stream. So it was a little wobbly. Scott and I both survived, though one of us
might have ended up a bit wetter than the other.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Ameri-Scares: Georgia: The Haunting of Tate’s Mill

Having put New Hampshire: Ghosts From the Skies to bed, I am currently plotting my next entry in Elizabeth Massie’s Ameri-Scares series. This one will be Georgia: The Haunting of Tate’s Mill.

In the mid-1950s, the US Army Corps of Engineers built the Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River and created Lake Sidney Lanier, which covers portions of Hall, Forsyth, Dawson, Gwinnett, and Lumpkin counties. Upon the dam’s completion, 625 billion gallons — give or take an ounce or two — of water submerged 56,000 acres of land, which consisted of several small communities, hundreds of farms, an auto racetrack, and innumerable graveyards. No one knows for sure how many dead bodies lie in those dark depths. In the intervening years, hundreds of people have drowned, died in boating accidents, or simply vanished in Lake Lanier’s waters. In 1958, a car plunged off a bridge into the lake, killing two young women. Since then, a ghostly apparition, known as “The Lady of the Lake” — supposedly, one of the women who died — has frequently been sighted wandering the roads and bridges along the lake (although I never saw her). In its six and a half decades of existence, Lake Lanier has earned its reputation as the setting for grim happenings.

From the early 20th century until the lake’s creation, my mom’s family — the Bell family of Gainesville, GA — owned a mill, called Bell’s Mill, just outside of Gainesville. Mom spent much of her childhood at the mill and told my brother and me many stories about her happy times there. And me, I experienced the best days of my youth in Gainesville at my grandparents’ place. We often went to Lake Lanier, sometimes to swim, sometimes for family reunions, and, on occasion, to visit the site of the old mill — or as close to it as we could get, since the lake had long since claimed that land. Several years ago, on a visit to Gainesville, Ms. B. and I hunted a geocache, aptly titled “Old Bell’s Mill,” close to the mill site. Plus I spent a couple of years at the University of Georgia in Athens, less than an hour from Gainesville. Indeed, I do have a long personal history in this area.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, a family named Tate lived across the street from my grandparents, and my brother and I enjoyed playing with the Tate kids whenever we visited Gainesville. They were a fun, quirky bunch, and it seems only proper that the Tate name should be woven into my upcoming novel. And thus, Tate’s Mill it is.

While the events of the book will be completely fictitious, they are very much inspired by the spooky legends that have arisen around the lake, as well as my decades of personal experience here. As of this writing, I have contributed four novels to the Ameri-Scares series, and I really, really look forward to developing this new one.

Do stay tuned.

Old author at the site of Old Bell’s Mill at Lake Lanier, Gainesville, GA

Sunday, March 7, 2021

“It Can Only Kill Us Once....”

First thing this morning, The Socially Distant No-Dead-Weight Irregulars, today relegated to only friend Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott) and me, headed out to the Horton Grove Nature Preserve, just north of Durham, NC. About twenty geocaches are hidden along the preserve trails, and we figured they would make for us a good day’s work. As it turned out, another cache, relatively nearby — “On the Face of It” (GC9742F) — was brand new, just published in the past couple of days. As yet, no one had logged a find on it. However, after some discussion, Scott and I decided to stick to the original plan of hunting the older caches in the preserve rather than go after the new one, which lay to the east, across the Flat River. The recommended parking for that one was a couple of miles south of the cache, and we rightly felt, for that much hiking, we could find considerably more caches in the preserve.

We made it several miles through the preserve on its well-traveled trails. Once we reached the northernmost cache within its borders, we paused and pondered the feasibility of getting to the new cache across the river. We knew there was about a 90% chance such an endeavor would fail, but that reality could hardly dissuade the likes of us, being so brave, dedicated, and foolish, don’t you know. I told Scott we might as well give the journey a shot. “It can only kill us once,” I said. Happily, one other cache — “Ceilidh’s Delight” (GC8MQA7) — lay along this most arduous route, so we stopped for it along the way (and it turned out to be our favorite of the day). At last, we discovered a small utility road, which led eastward through the dense forest, so we followed it — straight to the dam on the river that creates Michie Lake.

Here, though, our suspicions were confirmed. Massive torrents of water roared over the top of the dam, feeding a rushing, raging river. Given such prodigious rainfall over the past few weeks, this came as no surprise. Ever hopeful, we trudged a considerable distance downriver, looking for any potential crossing that didn’t involve being swept away to the Atlantic. Alas, no reasonably safe passage presented itself. So, we decided we would have to forgo that oh-so-tantalizing first-to-find opportunity, return to the preserve, and snag a few more caches along the trails before packing it in for the day. Frustrating, yes, especially in that, at one point, we stood only 85 feet from the cache; regardless, that trek through the thickest of woods out to the dam made for the day’s most enjoyable and stimulating experience. And we ended our outing with nineteen cache finds under our belts.

That, I would say, is far better than being killed even once.

A wee, trickling stream through the Horton Grove Preserve — far less violent than the nearby Flat River
A coupla old farts on the prowl for geocaches