Friday, August 27, 2021

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Yes, that tunnel you see right there. That was the No-Dead-Weight Irregulars' primary target on last Sunday's geocaching outing because, yes, there is a geocache in there. The team had a pretty full complement — Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), NCBiscuit (a.k.a. Linda, but just for this one cache), Old Rob (a.k.a. Old Rob), and this old dude. As far as tunnels go, it wasn't a particularly lengthy one, but it did present a physical challenge or two to conquer before one could access the cache. And there was, quite literally, a light at the end. Scott turned out to be our wade-the-waist-deep-pool-and-scale-the-ladder-to-grab-the-cache man, and he did admirably — until he dropped the cache in the above referenced pool, which required him to come back down, retrieve the cache, and climb back up. I'm sure it was all as much fun for him as it looked, and we each earned a smiley in the deal.
Diefenbaker signing the logsheet, moments
before he dropped it into the water below

After we emerged from the not-so-daunting darkness, Ms. NCBiscuit left us for different pastures, and the rest of us meandered Chapel Hill way, where we grabbed a quite a few more caches, most of them of high quality. A fine day of it overall, akin to the days of old, when the full gang could spend the better portion of the day hunting all varieties of caches, fit in all kinds of decent exercise, and lay waste to a passel of decent vittles. This time around, we found a fine feast at Casa Maria Latino Restaurant on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. We've been there numerous times, and it's always quite good, though for whatever reason, they weren't serving alcohol — a bummer because some of us had been craving margaritas. Don't know whether they lost their ABC license or what, but I hope it's not a permanent situation. More often than not around here, a restaurant loses is liquor license, and the next thing you know, the restaurant has ceased to exist.

On last Friday, after an early workday, I met friend Skyhawk63 (a.k.a. Tom) over in Pilot Mountain to hunt a newish Adventure Lab. It was enjoyable enough, and we completed it readily. I snagged a few additional hides afterward on my way to the old homestead in Martinsville. I hadn't been into Pilot Mountain in ages, and I did discover that, like Eden, NC, they also have their very own Bigfoot. It's a very flat Bigfoot — a piece of sheet metal on the side of a building in the middle of town — but I always do get a kick out of seeing him around as much as I do. To think so many people live their lifetimes never seeing Bigfoot and consequently not believing in him. Well, I've seen, and I believe.
Mount Pilot's very own Bigfoot

Apart from the geocaching, I've done precious little these past couple of weeks other than work like the dickens on a story for a new anthology. Due to so much happening on the homefront, I had missed the official deadline, but I still had a small window to get the story in. I trust it will please the editor. I found it, in the end, a most gratifying tale to write.

And I'll be back hard at the writing in the coming days, for I need to get back on the Georgia book for the Ameri-Scares series. I had started into it a while back but had to put it aside for a time while the wedding, the home renovation, estate business, and the regular day job ate up every hour of every day. I like to keep busy, but I really hope things don't build up to that beyond-intense pace for a long, long time... if ever.

Today, of all things, I did something I've not done in over a decade: I went out and played golf. Friend Terry invited me to go along, and I decided to do it. Years and years ago, I was quite the avid golfer, but these past few decades, it really hasn't been in my repertoire. Today, I scored about as well as one might expect after ten-plus years away from it. But I managed to nail a few beautiful shots, and I really did have a great time. I don't know that I'm going to become a habitual offender again on the golf course, but then... stranger things have happened.

And that's all for now, so sayonara and peace.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Fright Train Is in the House

I received my contributor copy (trade paperback) of Fright Train yesterday, and damn, what a gorgeous book! This one features my new short story, “Country of the Snake.”

The Switch House Gang consists of editors Charles Rutledge, Scott Goudsward, John McIlveen, and Tony Tremblay. Haverhill House is the publisher.

“Out in the darkness a mournful whistle howls, the ground shakes, and steam hisses as the Fright Train pulls into the station. From the Victorian Age to contemporary times, fear rides the rails in these tails set on and around trains of all kinds. Climb aboard and let 13 of today’s best and two classic horror writers take you on night journeys to destinations unknown.”

Fright Train features stories by: Amanda DeWees, Christopher Golden, Scott T. Goudsward, Bracken MacLeod, Elizabeth Massie, James A. Moore, Lee Murray, Errick NunnallyCharles R. Rutledge, Stephen Mark RaineyJeff Strand, Tony Tremblay, Mercedes M. Yardley, Charles Dickens, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; cover art by Makio Murakami

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Alas, Poor Yorick!

I spent last night at the old homeplace in Martinsville, working like the devil on a new short story that is past its deadline. I made good progress. But as I had managed to fit in very little strenuous exercise last week, the craving to hike after a geocache had settled heavily upon me. The complication here is that, over the past thirteen years, I have found almost every cache for fifty to a hundred miles in every direction. Still, I thought maybe I could figure out some place to go this morning not too far from Martinsville.

Well, I checked the map and saw a few in the Rocky Mount area, about thirty miles north of Martinsville, one of them in Waid Park, where I have hiked and cached several times in the past. This one, called “Alas, Poor Yorick,” has been live for a few months, resides a good ways out in the woods, and no rain was predicted for the morning. Temperatures are in the high 90s this weekend, but, regardless, I set my sights on Yorick for a relatively early solo outing. I figured while I was out there, I could make a little side trip to visit the Ferrum College campus, my old alma mater.

When I left Martinsville, the thermometer read 83℉, and the humidity hadn’t yet reach its oppressive heights. I ended up taking a back road I don’t believe I have ever traveled before, which turned out pretty cool. I always enjoy exploring unfamiliar backroads. Anyway, when I reached the park, the temperature had hit 90℉, and the air was just turning to soup. I set out on the trail, which, since it was mostly shady, proved not too uncomfortable. But the hike was lovely—not too long, not too short, and in places a bit rugged. I found the cache readily, and this made for a most gratifying morning, I can tell you.

Sure enough, afterward, I drove over to Ferrum, about five miles west of the park on Hwy 40. I cruised around a few of my old haunts, which I enjoy doing every now and again. I must say, the campus is considerably more attractive and well-maintained than it was then—not that it was ever not picturesque. I did happen by the site of my first alcohol-related disaster, which is the reason I don’t drink white wine (see “Why I Don’t Drink White Wine”). Actually, I do drink white wine on rare occasion, but it’s not my favorite. Oftentimes, far from it.

Anyhoo, I got in a lot of writing, got in a bit of caching, and there must yet be more writing. So much time, so little to do....

Wait, reverse that.

Now, who do you suppose that is watching me from over yonder?
Why, it's Yorick! As Yorick is not looking so well, I figured I'd help keep him from spreading
so much death around.
A view of the Pigg River from the trail. I spent a lot of time at the Pigg River in my Ferrum Days,
mostly engaged in unfamily-friendly activities, about which I shall say no more.
Old fellow on the trail. Almost as old as Yorick.
Ah, memories. It was on that very landing, on a frigid cold night in 1977, that I lost the contents of my almost
virgin stomach after chugging massive quantities of white wine. I blew the first salvo on Dr. Ward's dining table,
which would have resided somewhere behind that door there.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

A portion of the new look at Casa de Rodan
The house is still a mess, to be sure, but it is slowly and surely coming together. Brugger has moved most of her stuff in, we've junked more stuff than either of us realized we possessed, and life in general is topsy-turvier than it has ever been. Today, I had to serve on a jury — the first time ever, though I've been called numerous times over a lot of years. It was tedious and exhausting, but we acquitted the dude, and it felt like justice was done. Writing deadlines loom, as do estate accounting deadlines, the day job keeps me hopping, the weekends are busy, and I have no idea whether I'm coming or going. It's all for a good end, to be sure. The light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter slowly.
Kitchen backsplash being installed. Almost done.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Attack of the KC88

Old fart in a jon boat. Photo by Linda Enders Roberts
Earlier in the week, the No-Dead-Weight Irregulars had plotted a geocaching outing for today — a challenging tunnel cache in the Raleigh-Durham area. For various reasons, that plan fell through. However, fortuitously, friend NCBiscuit (a.k.a. Linda) gave a shout and asked if any of us would care to go join a little group going kayaking after a bunch of new caches on Lake Holt, over near Butner. Friend Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott) and I, being the only two available from our initial gangsome, decided a day on the water might be just the ticket. So, off we went.

Partway there, I received a message from Linda that kayaks at Lake Holt had gone scarce, and I might better call to see if I could reserve one. As it turned out, all the kayaks were accounted for. My only option was a motorized jon boat, so I decided to go for it.

When we arrived at the lake, both Scott and I were quite surprised by the magnitude of the caching group that had gathered — a total of twenty folks, I believe it was. Mostly, it was friends and familiar faces. I made a handful of new caching acquaintances, which is always fun.

Someone suggested the team name KC88 — for Kayak Crew, August 8 — and it stuck. The jon boat, with its little trawling motor, could barely keep up with the fastest kayakers, but while our numbers spread far and wide over the lake, no one got left behind.

Well, not entirely, anyway.

By the time we had conquered 16 or so of the caches, the jon boat's battery decided it had had quite enough of this functioning business. Little by little, it began to wind down, until...finally...I was moving so slowly that kayakers were circling me at high speed, trying to whip up a current sufficient to keep me going.

Somehow, the boat made it all the way to the end, for a total of 21 caches — ten of which the team claimed first-to-find honors, since the cache listings had been published only yesterday. Fortunately for us, no one had yet gone after those on the west side of the lake.

Anyway, Scott and I finally hit the road for the return trip to the Triad — hot, exhausted, and a little sunburnt. Maybe the No-Dead-Weight Irregulars’ next outing, though, will be that challenging cache in the cool darkness of the underground. That's a whole different kind of cool.
Heading out on Lake Holt
Friend Skyhawk63 (a.k.a. Tom) claims his 17,000th geocache find on the lake.
I wonder whether friend Tom goes geocaching a lot.
Friend Colleen84 (a.k.a. Colleen) whizzes past poor schmucks in jon boats
Friends CJZimmie (a.k.a. Cheryl) and Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott) about to get lost
in the tall grass surrounding one of the lake’s islands
About half of Team KC88

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Ameri-Scares New Hampshire: Ghosts From the Skies!


From Crossroad Press — my latest entry in Elizabeth Massie’s Ameri-Scares series for young readers: New Hampshire: Ghosts from the Skies!

Late one night, a brilliant, blood-colored light wakes thirteen-year-old Heath Sutton from a comfortable sleep. Outside his window, he sees a huge, brightly lit object hovering over the nearby woods. The saucer-shaped craft lowers something into the trees and then, in an instant, vanishes without a trace. To his shock, Heath realizes that he has seen a UFO — an actual flying saucer!

The next day, Heath and his friend Patrick venture into the woods, hoping to discover whether the UFO left behind any evidence of its existence. What they find is a shining metal rod jutting from a tree stump, as if it has somehow grown there. Suddenly, the rod emits an unearthly musical sound, which causes the boys to feel dizzy and disoriented. In terror, they rush out of the woods. Heath recovers quickly, but Patrick seems different — more like a cold, menacing stranger than Heath's best friend.

Now fearful, Heath visits his grandfather, who claims to have once seen a flying saucer himself — a saucer that carried his younger brother away into the skies. As his grandfather relates his disturbing story, Heath believes he sees a shadowy figure lurking outside his grandfather's house. And when he returns home, he receives the greatest shock of all: something weird — something not human — is waiting for him inside!

Order New Hampshire: Ghosts from the Skies from here.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Lake Mike Hike

It has been too long since the No-Dead-Weight Irregulars all got together for a geocaching outing. Today, at last, the usual suspects — Ms. Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), Old Rob (a.k.a. Old Rob) and I — headed over Mebane way to Lake Michael, where a couple of relatively new caches awaited our attention. The temperature wasn't as awful as it often is this time of year, though we still had plenty of heat and humidity to go around. We found our two target caches, failed to find a lonely puzzle cache (the last find was in 2014, so it's probably missing), successfully completed a very nice multi-cache at a very old graveyard, happened upon what might have been some kind of Lovecraftian monstrosity lurking along the trail, and knocked out a newish hide in Burlington on the way home. For lunch, we opted for our customary Mexican fare, this time at La Fiesta in Mebane. Pretty danged good, it was.

Seemed like old times, it did. Next week, we're hoping to target a fairly new tunnel cache in Hillsborough. Been a long while for one of those, as well.

A few shots of today's sights follow.