Monday, May 30, 2022

A Graveside Chat with Samaire Wynne

Author — and now publisher — Samaire Wynne is known for writing compelling fantasy novels, particularly those in her Mad World series, Romanov series, Titania Academy series, The Paladin Princess series, and others, via her own imprint, Black Raven Books. A few years back, I discovered, much to my surprise, that she had moved, not only to my old hometown, but very near my house! So for this Graveside Chat, we’ll talk about what Samaire is currently up to and what’s coming down the pike.

GC: Tell us a bit about you — where you come from, where you're going, and what inspires you as both a reader and writer.

SW: I come from a California Marine Corps family based in San Diego. I am currently an east coast resident and I write fantasy and horror. What inspires me as a reader is an exciting story. If that story can make me squirm, all the better.

What excites me as a writer is exploring new corners of favorite genres. I love delving into the modern unknown areas of old fables. Remarkably, I have had some success at this, mainly in exploring the present day explorations of ancient faerie myths.

GC: You've written quite a few fantasy novels, particularly series novels. Are you drawn more to writing series than stand-alone novels?

SW: Yes, I prefer to write in series format. Mainly because I create long stories and there would be no other way to present them to the reading public. Each book is 80k-120k words. Each series has 8-15 books planned. These are long, involved stories full of magic and adventure. It takes a lot of storytelling to explore each corner of these worlds, and do them justice. I leave no stone unturned, my readers demand this and I am happy to oblige.

GC: Who are your favorite authors? How have they influenced your work?

SW: My favorite authors are the fantasy authors that like to make their readers at least mildly uncomfortable. The pinnacle of these is Neil Gaiman, who has honed his art to perfection. He and his stories have heavily influenced my work. His stories give examples of the kind of books I love to both read and write, and he himself, as a person, has strongly influenced both me and my writing. Neil has on numerous occasions encouraged me and uplifted me, sometimes through incredibly terrible times in my life. His advice — to write, keep writing, and pour myself onto the page — has helped me more than any other. His personal touch and how he cares have meant more to me than most other things, and he has never let me down nor given me bad advice.

GC: You've written for young adults as well as for us old folks. Do you find writing for a younger audience appreciably different than writing for... shall we say... more seasoned readers? In your YA work, do you tackle controversial topics or imagery? Do you plan to write more books for your YA readers?

SW: I tackle tough subjects in all my books. Bravery and courageous action are what propel my stories forward. I tackle life and death threats, environmental threats, threats to nations and threats to small beings. And in my last series, I tackle a threat to the entire planet. I find writing for a young adult audience very satisfying, because this audience can handle huge dangers and momentous journeys.

When I write for adults, I concentrate more on immediate perils to the characters, and their interactions with each other. Adult stories pull you in, and focus you on the people going through the experiences. They are a more personal experience.

GC: Insert your own question here. Whatever topic, have your say. Anything you want — or have wanted — to share, go for it!

SW: My question for readers: How do you support your favorite writers?

My answer is: Support your favorite writers by buying their books, reviewing their books, and following their recommendations to other books and authors. Expand your horizons to other genres, it can lead to fantastic discoveries.

GC: Thank you, Samaire!

Visit Samaire Wynne’s website at

Coming Soon: Graveside Chats with Brian M. Sammons, Maurice Broaddus, and more

Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Fugue Devil, Marky Stevie, and Signing Cooks

In May 1974, my hometown newspaper, The Martinsville Bulletin, ran a profile about me and my affinity for monsters and other scary things. At the time, I had sold what was to be my first published “story” — actually a filmbook of Godzilla vs. the Thing — to The Monster Times, and the first issue of my fanzine, Japanese Giants, was in the planning stages. The article, by writer Gail Dudley, was later picked up by the Associated Press and published in newspapers all over the US. How fun was that?

Over the years, I’ve maintained a lot of connections with my old hometown, including having notices appear in the Bulletin somewhat regularly, particularly when I have writing news to share. A couple of weeks back, in the Sunday edition — almost exactly 48 years after that first article — the Bulletin ran a nice profile written by Monique Holland, who came out to interview Samaire Wynne and me about Fugue Devil: Resurgence, now in release by Ms. Wynne’s Black Raven Books imprint. You can check out the article here: “New Book Fictionalizes Martinsville in Supernatural Horror Short  Story Collection

Now, I’ve never had a single profile run in any newspaper that got all the facts right; some have been fairly egregious, others have been mere quibbles. Fortunately, Ms. Holland did a nice job overall, though the gaffes, unfortunately, involve Ms. Wynne’s statements more than my own. The online version, linked above, at least does not call me “Marky,” as the print/digital version does (see below). This, I’m pretty sure, was not Ms. Holland’s fault.
(As a complete aside, back in my Chicago days, 1983–1987, several of the young women in my department at the office took great pleasure in calling me “Marky Stevie,” and I can’t help but wonder if they somehow channeled this epithet to a copy editor at the Bulletin. I wonder this simply because I know for a fact that these maybe-no-longer-quite-so-young women still take great pleasure in giving me good-natured shit. I’ve been known to return the favor.)

It is fair to say that copy editing has never been the Bulletin’s forte. Back in the early 2000s, when my books The Last Trumpet and Balak came out, I did a signing at one of Martinsville’s bookstores. The Bulletin’s headline read, “Local Author to Sign Cooks on Saturday.” After that one, I sent a little cartoon with a caricature of me brandishing a pen and chasing a terrified-looking chef, but the paper didn’t run it.

Note: The Bulletin allows readers a handful of free articles before asking you to pay, so you can probably access the link with no paywall. Also note: Do not look for cooks in the current article. You won’t find any.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Caching Kerr Lake

Despite having had mild to no symptoms, I was relieved to finally test negative this week for the covidz. Damn near three weeks it lingered, with occasional flareups of coughing and/or congestion. I’ve still got an annoying cough hanging on, but I think that’s because my throat remained somewhat irritated through that entire time period.

So, today, I joined friends Skyhawk63 (a.k.a. Tom) and Old Rob (a.k.a. Old Rob) for boat outing on Kerr Lake, about 90 minutes northeast of here, along the border of NC and VA. Tom has occasionally hauled Ms. B. and me out in the boat for wine and caching, but this was a full-on geocaching trip sans muggles. And a big day on the lake it was, at least distance-wise. I imagine we covered a full 30 miles or so traveling from cache to cache. The weather was perfect for it — temps in the mid-70s and mostly sunny.

Most of the caches we targeted were pretty old, and some had not been found in several years. Unfortunately, a handful of these were clearly missing. On one venture ashore, we discovered an outhouse built for two, complete with facing latrines — a novel idea, I suppose, though none of us particularly cared to test the facility... at least not at the same time. Skyhawk did individually verify that at least one latrine was usable.

My favorite of the caches — a twelve-year-old hide called “Spring Break at the Train Tressel” (sic) GC26883 — required no small physical effort to reach, and we discovered it in a location not quite in keeping with the original hider’s intent. At one point, it had been on a trestle beam high up on the bridge foundations at one end, but the beam had since fallen and shattered the container. We replaced the container with a new one, but unfortunately, we couldn’t put the beam back up where it originally belonged. Still, it remains a fun, classic hide, and future hunters should be able to retrieve it.
Old dude on old foundation, pointing out location where old beam fell.
By the end of the outing, we were pretty well pooped, a teeny bit sunburned, and shy of some blood, as each of us managed to lacerate ourselves to varying degrees in our numerous excursions into the woods. We did see lots of wildlife. In the plus column, Great Blue Herons, snakes, turtles, frogs, and toads; in the not-so-positive column, bugs of all varieties, many of which laughed off our layers of physical and chemical shields. Damned bugs. Anyway, this was another fine and fun outing, and thanks to Mr. Skyhawk63 for hauling our asses out on the lake. I hope to do this again soon — maybe next time with caches, muggles (well, at least Ms. B.), and wine.
L: A little frog; R: A little toad
Nesting platform for Great Blue Herons, this one with an occupant
Heading into a shady cove to hunt a cache

Friday, May 27, 2022

The Horror Zine Review: Fugue Devil: Resurgence

Reviewer and From Zombo’s Closet blogger John M. Cozzoli takes on Fugue Devil: Resurgence at The Horror Zine! It’s a detailed and perceptive view, particularly regarding the pivotal, interconnected tales from the book (“Fugue Devil,” “Threnody,” and “The Devil’s Eye”). Please check it out here!

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Old Dude at the NBC HOUSE OF MYSTERY Radio Show!

“At an early age, I discovered the only thing more exhilarating than being scared was scaring other people.”

Last week, NBC's House of Mystery host Alan Warren and I had a fun time talking about Dark Shadows, Ameri-Scares, Fugue Devil: Resurgence... and all kinds of other scary things. You can listen to the podcast here.

The HoM episode will air next week on 106.5 FM Los Angeles, 102.3 FM San Bernadino, 1050 AM Palm Springs at 9 p.m. Pacific Time or online at KCAA Live Stream. Listen to the House of Mystery Radio Show interviews at any time here:

House of Mystery Radio Show Interview

Saturday, May 21, 2022

A Nice Shout Out in This Week’s YES! Weekly

Local author, artist, and good friend Ian McDowell was kind enough to blurb Fugue Devil: Resurgence and the upcoming book release party at Rioja! A Wine Bar (June 4, 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.) in this week’s issue of YES! Weekly, our free alternative news publication here in Greensboro. Check it out:

Stephen Mark Rainey at YES! Weekly

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Greensboro Urban Adventure

Just the ticket for when one is on the rebound from the covidz but can’t yet gather safely with others: a new, multi-stage, physically challenging geocache that one can hunt all by one’s lonesome, courtesy of Ranger Fox (a.k.a. Christopher). Happily, this one, called Greensboro Urban Adventure, lies just down the road a piece, with six stages at various locations within a couple of square miles of territory. Each stage offers its unique challenges, with most requiring some measure of physical strength and dexterity. Fortunately, I still have a modicum of each. Ranger Fox recently challenged us locals with Nogitsune, a novel hide that required a coordinated team effort to spy, retrieve, sign the log, and re-hide as found. This one turned out to be just as challenging, if in an altogether different way.

Greensboro Urban Adventure posted on the geocaching website yesterday morning, and I set out shortly afterward to see if I might find at least the first stage, and more if time allowed. Stage 1 resides somewhere in the setting pictured above — a crumbling old railroad trestle over North Buffalo Creek. I’d have to classify it as moderately dangerous, as the structure is somewhat less than sound, and it’s a fairly long drop into the stream below (sure-footedness here is a virtue). I had no problem tackling the structure per se, but... holy cow... it’s one helluva target-rich location, and I spent a full hour getting to know every nook, cranny, crevice, bar, bolt, nut, beam, spike, and crosstie on the thing... except for the one that concealed the cache. Finally, I cried “uncle” and resolved to come back some other time.

Naturally, last night, friends Night-Hawk (a.k.a. Tom) and Cantergirl (a.k.a. Jeannie) went out there and not only found stage 1 but completed the entire multi. Well, two heads are better than one — or in my case, a half — but I figured that, this morning, I’d give it another shot on my own. So, bright and early, off I went, back to the trestle, where that distinctive sensation of deja-vu soon settled upon me. Where else could I possibly look that I hadn’t already? Well... hey... what do you know... HERE is the dad-blamed, bloody, ding-dong-blasted devious little stage... in a spot I had already searched with excruciating thoroughness, or so I thought. Apparently, not so much thoroughness.

At least I now had the coordinates to get to the next stage.

Stage 2 was a very traditional hide, easily located. But the coordinates I procured there led me to a location that had to be the one for which the cache description indicated a flashlight would come in handy. And did it ever. Fortunately, thanks to Sir Fox’s typically precise coordinates — even in a location where the sun never shines — I found the stage remarkably quickly. As in I walked... well, duck-walked, for the ceiling is low... straight to it. I took a few photos (below), recorded the next set of coordinates, and moved on.
I ended up taking a more roundabout route to the next stage than was really necessary, but I got myself where I needed to be with only a marginally taxing physical challenge or two. Here, I found myself peering up a steep, sheltered incline — (insert Red Hot Chili Peppers song title here). Quickly enough, way up yonder, I saw what I thought might be my quarry. Turns out it wasn’t, but it did put me right where I needed to be to spy my quarry lurking nearby. It also put me at eye level with a thing that, at first, caused me some confusion followed by consternation. It was about ten inches in diameter. Odd ceramic pot or bizarrely precise hornet nest? Before even stopping to think that, if it was the latter, the results might prove singularly nasty... I poked it. Yep. Hornet nest. Happily for all involved, no hornets came streaming out. This, I will add, might be called getting caught up in the heat of the moment, damning the torpedoes, allowing one’s enthusiasm for the hunt to overwhelm one’s good judgment. Or just plain dumb-assedness. Take your pick.
Okay, two stages left to go. It wasn’t far to the next, so I hoofed it to the location. Though much smaller in scale, this stage’s setting struck me as mighty reminiscent of the first stage’s. Well, yes and no. Spying and acquiring the necessary coordinates involved less actual danger but required far more agility to keep from tumbling into a creek and getting soaked. Happily, I ended up not soaked and in possession of the coordinates to the final stage.

Reaching the final required a short drive to what is likely to become a future leg of the downtown Greensboro Greenway. As yet, it remains undeveloped. So much the better — just a deserted cut through a stand of woods where the old rail line used to run. An easy hike out to ground zero... and thar she be: a by-now familiar-looking structure, which I knew concealed, somewhere somehow, the final container, which was listed as “regular” size — something around the size of a typical .30 calibre ammo can. No direct spoilers, but I will say that acquiring that container required more acrobatics than I had yet performed at any previous stages. Not particularly dangerous, but — again — the result of carelessness or mishap would be a pretty thorough soaking, if not injury.

No soaking, no injury. And my signature on the log.

I think, after all this description, this caching experience can be summed up with just a great big “WHOA!” Sir Fox has indeed earned another favorite point with Greensboro Urban Adventure.
A rickety road ahead!
Where the heck am I?

Monday, May 16, 2022

Fugue Devil: Resurgence at Uncomfortably Dark Horror/Red Rose Reviews

Hey! A nice review of Fugue Devil: Resurgence at Uncomfortably Dark / Red Rose Reviews (from the link, scroll down to the April 30 review).

“The pacing of these stories is damn near perfect – not too slow and not too fast, the author takes a good amount of time setting up his characters and their environments before bringing in the supernatural.... It works to connect the reader to both the story and the main character.”—Dark Rose Reviews

Fugue Devil Resurgence at

Sunday, May 15, 2022

A Graveside Chat with Glynn Owen Barrass

Glynn Owen Barrass is a hugely prolific writer and editor, particularly in the field of Lovecraftian literature and gaming. He graciously agreed to share some of his wit, wisdom, experience, and news with A Graveside Chat. Buckle up!

GC: You have an impressive body of work and have worn numerous hats — from writer of short stories to editor/co-editor of anthologies, to author of role-playing games. Do you enjoy any of these particular disciplines more than the other? Have you written any novels? Is novel writing an endeavor that appeals to you?

GOB: Why thank you! Many people don’t know that I’ve also written poetry. This was early in my career, and I found short story writing more enjoyable. In answer to your question, short story writing will always be my greatest love. The satisfaction of putting word to page, the completion of a story and seeing it published, it’s second to none. Not that I don’t love the other two mediums. Working on role-playing games is similar to story writing, but is a different kind of challenge. When writing gaming material, you have to consider what your protagonists will do, unlike with fiction where they have a clear path. And as they’re given life to by your players, they quite often do the unexpected! It’s great fun creating a world that players will experience, interact with, and quite possibly get killed by!

With the editorial side of things, there’s the excitement of seeing what the authors create from the anthology theme, the pleasure of reading their story, and in the case of an open call anthology (rather than closed), getting to choose the stories that fit the theme best, which stories complement one-another in the anthology as a whole. I’ve written some novellas, but nothing nearing novel length (yet). I guess one day a short story or novella will keep on going till I have to accept it’s going to become a novel!

GC: Much of your work either ties into or is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s work. What draws you to this particular sub-genre, if we should call it that? Do you tend to write tales that fit into specific Lovecraftian lore — i.e., the myriad conventions of the Cthulhu Mythos — or are you more inclined to draw on the concepts that inspired those conventions and veer off into your own territory? (Or both, perhaps?)

GOB: When I discovered Lovecraft’s fiction in my early teens, it was a style of writing and imaginative fiction the likes of which I’d never encountered. His fiction stuck with me as a reader, and years later, as a writer. I guess what really attracts me to the Cthulhu Mythos is the pantheon of strange and dreadful entities, the intricate, hidden web they created throughout the history of humanity and the aeons before that. I write a mixture of traditional lore and my own writing conventions, with primarily modern day Cthulhu Mythos tales, and some set in the Cyberpunk sub-genre. One creation I should mention is my female Occult Detective Cassandra Bane. Her tales are certainly a hybrid of the traditional and my own fictional territory. Noir-style adventures in contemporary, crime-infested cities, including of course, the eldritch horrors from beyond.

GC: You have collaborated with author/editor Brian Sammons on numerous occasions. Do you have a favorite project that you both worked on? What drew you into this collaborative relationship? Do you have more projects on the drawing board together?

GOB: Yes, Brian and I have done a lot together! We’ve co-edited anthologies, co-written short stories, and also worked together on the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game. As for a favourite project, that may be the most difficult question so far! We’ve co-edited nine anthologies together, soon to be ten, and written two large campaigns for Call of Cthulhu. My favourite anthology is either Steampunk Cthulhu or Eldritch Chrome. It’s difficult to choose! Both books were entirely unique at the time of release, the subgenres of Cthulhu Mythos/Steampunk, and Cyberpunk Cthulhu, untouched as anthologies. We put a lot of love into both, as did our amazing and talented authors.

Another project we worked on, for Call of Cthulhu, is A Time to Harvest. Brian created this huge campaign with in-depth information regarding one of the Cthulhu Mythos’s most sinister races, (the Mi-go) and asked me to help complete it. The publisher liked the campaign so much, they used it as an organized play campaign for Call of Cthulhu.

We met on social media, me being a fan of his gaming and anthology work. We began talking about themed anthologies we’d like to see, and our first book, Eldritch Chrome, was born. We are currently working on a Murder Mystery/Cthulhu Mythos anthology for PS Publishing, and also a new book, the details of which we’re keeping quiet, for now!

GC: Do you enjoy role-playing games yourself? Any particular favorite games?

GOB: I played a lot more games when I was younger, such as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Runequest, and Traveller. My favourite back then, and now, and this may come as no surprise, is Call of Cthulhu. When Call of Cthulhu first appeared in the game shops it was something else, so different from the fantasy and sci-fi games we were playing. Gangsters, molls, professors, and dilettantes battling alien god and monsters. It was amazing.

GC: Insert your own question here. Whatever topic, have your say. Anything you want — or have wanted — to share, go for it!

GOB: The Cthulhu Mythos has brought so many writers together, and we’ve formed grand friendships as a result. Cthulhu is everywhere now, in books and games, toys and TV and movies... I couldn’t be happier. In some ways, I guess Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Cult managed to take over the world just as he envisioned, with just a little less howling and madness!

GC: Thanks so much for sharing your time and news. Most appreciated!

Visit Glynn Owen Barrass’s website at

Saturday, May 14, 2022

2021 HWA Bram Stoker Award Winners

Congarters to the 2021 HWA Bram Stoker Award winners!

  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A FIRST NOVEL: Piper, HaileyQueen of Teeth (Strangehouse Books)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A GRAPHIC NOVEL: Manzetti, Alessandro (author) and Cardoselli, Stefano (artist) – The Inhabitant of the Lake (Independent Legions Publishing)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL: Waters, EricaThe River Has Teeth (HarperTeen)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN LONG FICTION: Strand, Jeff – “Twentieth Anniversary Screening” (Slice and Dice) (Independently published)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SHORT FICTION: Murray, Lee – “Permanent Damage” (Attack From the ’80s) (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A FICTION COLLECTION: Files, GemmaIn That Endlessness, Our End (Grimscribe Press)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A SCREENPLAY: Flanagan, Mike; Flanagan, James; and Howard, JeffMidnight Mass, Season 1, Episode 6: “Book VI: Acts of the Apostles” (Intrepid Pictures)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A POETRY COLLECTION: Sng, Christina; Yuriko Smith, Angela; Murray, Lee; and Flynn, GeneveTortured Willows: Bent. Bowed. Unbroken. (Yuriko Publishing)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN AN ANTHOLOGY: Datlow, EllenWhen Things Get Dark: Stories Inspired by Shirley Jackson (Titan Books)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN NON-FICTION: Knost, MichaelWriters Workshop of Horror 2 (Hydra Publications)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SHORT NON-FICTION: Yuriko Smith, Angela – “Horror Writers: Architects of Hope” (The Sirens Call, Halloween 2021, Issue 55) (Sirens Call Publications)
  • LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Fletcher, Jo; Holder, Nancy; Suzuki, Koji
  • SPECIALTY PRESS: Valancourt Books
  • THE SILVER HAMMER AWARD: Wetmore, Kevin J.
  • MENTOR OF THE YEAR: Knost, Michael

Friday, May 13, 2022

Fugue Devil: Resurgence Book Release Party:
June 4, 2022, 4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.

Folks in GREENSBORO, NC, & Surrounding Areas...

For my latest scary offering — Fugue Devil: Resurgence — there will be a book release party at Rioja! A Wine Bar (1603 Battleground, Greensboro, NC), on Saturday, June 4, 2022, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Rioja! has a fine selection of both wine and beer, and a small but excellent food menu. I’ll be doing a short reading from the book about 4:30 p.m. Copies of the paperback — and possibly the hardback — will be available, and I’ll happily autograph them (if you don’t mind your books being devalued).

This is not necessarily a full two-hour sit-on-your-ass-and-drink event (unless you want it to be). Jake, the owner, is making this a private event, and just hopes for folks to stop in to enjoy a friendly gathering and some lovely refreshments.

I'd be honored if y’all can make it. Mark your calendars!

Monday, May 9, 2022

The Lost Reviews

I understand Amazon’s desire to prevent false, agenda-driven reviews from dominating their product pages, but their policy of removing reviews just because someone is connected in some way, such as via Facebook, is extreme and unpractical — especially since so many writers and readers are connected on social media, as well as in person. Amazon has removed three out four of the reviews so far posted for Fugue Devil: Resurgence, simply because the writer is “connected” with me in some fashion. And those are just the ones I am aware of. Who knows if others I’m not aware of have been axed as well. Anyway, with writer Stephen H. Provost’s approval, here is his review, which Amazon removed:

If you read it, it will hook you.

“I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of tales that provide just the right mix of horror with suspense, interspersed with elements of science fiction and even whimsy. These stories have the feel of having been written by someone who grew up watching The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, which is just the kind of alternate-reality fiction I enjoy. These works aren’t just frightening in the moment; they’re thoughtful and well-crafted. They stick with you.

The first two entries and the final story are all connected, creating a tidy bookend feel to the collection — a notable and welcome distinction from most such compilations. They’re also among my favorites. The underlying premise that one’s fate is sealed if one chances to see the titular demon-monster, the Fugue Devil, is a powerful one that's been echoed to some degree in more recent sensory-based thrillers such as “Bird Box” (another favorite of mine) and “A Quiet Place.” But you’d be hard-pressed to find it more skillfully executed than it is here. And Rainey did it first.

Other highlights for me included:
  • “Somewhere, My Love,” which is more wistful fantasy than horror, and deftly done.
  • The disquieting “When Jarly Calls” (I may not go wine tasting again anytime soon).
  • The surreal “Escalation,” with its killer (literally) twist.
  • “Pons Devana,” which is set in Roman Britain and offers a troubling brew of sorcery, dark science fiction, and psychological horror.
  • “Messages From a Dark Deity,” which contained a particular scene that shocked the hell out of me.
Having lived in southern Virginia, I recognized the strong sense of place the author has created: The setting runs through many of these stories. At times, the fictional setting Aiken Mill itself conjures up the a sense of dread and foreboding that sets the stage for what’s to come. I highly recommend Fugue Devil: Resurgence for any fan of Rainey’s work and of suspense, horror, and psychological thrillers in general. You won’t go wrong with this one.

Stephen H. Provost

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Ghosts Appear and Fade Away

For years, I’ve been wanting to make my way back to Chicago for a visit, primarily to reunite with the Japanese Giants Guys — the right dishonorable Bill Gudmundson and Ed Godziszewski — both of whom were among my closest friends when I lived in the Windy City in the 1980s, as well as several other wonderful folks in the area. As far back as 2018, Ms. B. and I had tried to plan a trip northward, but finding the time off from work, particularly with other obligations we had, never allowed for it. Finally, in early 2020, we had things squared away and were all set to go in the spring. And then... WHAM! Here comes COVID-19. And in 2021, our long-planned trip to Europe took priority over everything else. Thus, we had to postpone Chicago yet again.

But now... at long last... we’re on our way. Chicago... by way of Nashville, TN.

Some months ago, Ms. B. discovered that Colin Hay, of Men at Work fame, was scheduled to play at City Winery in Nashville in early May, and since both our birthdays are in early May — and both of us love his music — taking in his show struck us both as a mighty fine mutual birthday experience. And thus did the plan come together.

Sunday, May 1, 2022 — GSO to CLT to BNA
Long before the ass-crack of dawn, we were up and at ’em for a 7:15 a.m. flight out of Greensboro. We connected in Charlotte after the briefest of layovers — one of those run-through-the-airport-at-top-speed-or-miss-your-fucking-flight kind of layovers. I feel almost bad for plowing into at least one person as we made haste from one end of the airport to the other; I might even feel some honest-to-goodness bad if the person in question hadn't been one of a row of slow-creeping numpties taking up the entire width of the corridor. We made it onto the aircraft with moments to spare — we were literally the last passengers to board the plane. We were worried our luggage wouldn’t make it on board, but once we arrived in Nashville... happily... our bags showed up on the baggage claim carousel. Literally, the last bags unloaded from the plane.

From BNA, we took a cab to the city center and checked our bags into a luggage drop, since we couldn’t check into our lodgings until 4:00 p.m. We'd had no food — or coffee! — on either of our flights, so we immediately sought breakfast, which we found at a lovely place called Frothy Monkey. Our vittles proved delicious: eggs over medium, taters, bacon, toast, a Bloody Mary, and most of a pot of delicious coffee (as black as midnight on a moonless night). Happily, in downtown Nashville, there are geocaches aplenty, and so, after breaking the fast, we wandered and geocached. As afternoon approached, we walked up to the big farmer’s market near the Capitol grounds, just north of city center, where some of us cached and some of us shopped. One guess as to who did what. 

At last, after a brief stop at the nearby Publix to snag a few staples, we wandered back into the city center, grabbed our bags, and checked into our AirBnB, an industrial-style, reasonably comfortable place called Sonder-Dovetail on Church Street. After freshening up and relaxing for a time, we decided to seek dinner, which we found at an establishment called Puckett’s. I killed some better-than-tolerable beef brisket and Ms. B. demolished a pulled pork sandwich. This might have been followed by bit more geocaching. According to our phones' health apps, we walked just over nine miles today.

I had come to Nashville a couple of times for World Horror Con — way back in 1991 and 1992, I believe — but my memories of the city are hazy, at best. It is safe to say the first day of this travel venture proved pleasant.
"It's wine... wrapped in plastic!"
Monday, May 2, 2022 — Who Can It Be Now?
Window washers viewed from our window.
Not a job for which I'd be well-suited

Whose birthday is it? Surely, not mine. But wait....

Ms. B. and I slept in for a bit this morning because we could. We had picked up some light breakfast fixins at Publix, so we braced ourselves on coffee and yogurt before hitting the streets (which, given our heavier-than-usual diets since leaving home, was just the ticket). More geocaches (yep!) and shopping (yep!) awaited us in the very touristy Broadway area, so we added some additional mileage to the soles of our feet (which eventually began to bother Ms. B., for she is old and frail). There's a big-ass place called Assembly Food Hall with tons of restaurants and bars, so we stopped a little spot called Smokin' Chikin for lunch. Relatively light fare (except for the french fries) and reasonably satisfying. Then... wine time! There's a large wine bar/restaurant on the upper floor of the Assembly building called Sixty Vines, and between Ms. B. and I, we checked out a good half dozen of said vines. Our sommelier was knowledgeable, attentive, and a great conversationalist, so we give Sixty Vines high marks.

We returned to Sonder-Dovetail for a while to mellow a bit before heading to City Winery, about a mile south, for dinner and the Colin Hay show. We hung out on their terrace for a while, where I tried a couple of Jalapeno margaritas, the peppers in which turned out to be hotter than your average jalapeno, so I was happy.

City Winery is a lovely venue, with dinner tables set up in a relatively small auditorium. Once inside, we ordered big honking burgers for dinner, and these were delicious. Again with the french fries! (I am now thoroughly potatoed out.) Our table was the closest possible to the stage, so our seats were fantastic. We got to watch Colin Hay go at it from a distance of fifteen feet, with lovely lighting and an excellent, very clear sound system. Hay is 68 years old and still in fuckin' top form — his vocals sounded better than ever, he told many engaging anecdotes, and he played a few Men at Work favorites as well as many newer compositions. The show went nearly a full two hours, and the experience was a joy. The crowd clearly loved every minute of it.

Adding an unexpected and very enjoyable twist to the experience was my running into a familiar face in the crowd — a fellow geocacher who goes by the moniker MonkeyBrad. Brad is a Facebook friend, and for quite some time, his mug was literally the face of His image was ubiquitous on the Geocaching site and in advertisements. Some time ago, he had purchased a copy of West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman — which I had autographed — for his son. I knew he lived in the Nashville area, but I had absolutely no expectation of running into him, especially at a non-geocaching-related event. We did get to have a couple of brief but pleasant conversations. So, Day Two in Nashville ended on an altogether satisfying note. Which, I suppose, is proper for a birthday I'm not really claiming.

By the time we hoofed it back to Sonder-Dovetail, we had put another seven-plus miles on our achy-breaky feetz.
View of downtown Nashville from pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland River
Old dude and Ms. B. sampling the fare at Sixty Vines in Assembly Food Hall
A delicious if junior-size jalapeno martini at City Winery
Tuesday, May 3, 2022 — Hurry Up and Wait
Our flight to Chicago was scheduled to leave at 10:45 a.m., and since we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get to the airport (during the morning rush hour), Ms. B. and I rose with the dawn. We had scheduled an Uber ride for 7:45 a.m., and our driver arrived right on time. Morning traffic did slow the ride, but we made it to BNA without undue delay. Naturally, about the time we arrived, a text notified me that our flight was delayed by 45 minutes. Well, at least we'd have plenty of time to get through security, have a leisurely breakfast, go pee, and such. About midway through breakfast at some airport restaurant, I received a text that the flight was now moved up to 11:00 a.m. Still plenty of time, so we didn’t rush to the gate. Once we did wander over that way, we discovered the incoming flight hadn’t even arrived yet. It didn't pull into the gate until after our “updated” departure time. So, not only was the altered flight time wrong, take-off was well over an hour late.

From there, our flight took a little over an hour to reach ORD. Lots of turbulence, but that’s not at all unusual for Chicagoland. The worst of it was being forced to listen to a boisterous know-it-all run his useless mouth at top volume for the entire flight, never once pausing to take a breath. He, I suspect, might have been responsible for the turbulence. We had reserved a car, and getting to the rental area required a long walk and a train ride. And once we got there... lord a’mighty... the place was almost empty except for our check-in counter, where a passel of very angry-looking people were gathered. It took a while to get things squared away at the desk, and we were told it would be twenty minutes or so before a car was ready for us. One livid, elderly woman demanded to talk to a manager because she’d been told twenty minutes but had been waiting for over an hour. This did not bode well. However, sure enough, twenty minutes later, the nice folks at the desk called us over, and... what do you know... they had a car for us. Getting to it required another fairly hefty trek, but at least things went more smoothly for us than they clearly had for most of those other folks there (I suspect they had not reserved their cars in advance).

We headed out of O’Hare into the afternoon traffic jam on I-90... wow, just like old times! Half an hour later, we arrived at our AirBnB, about three miles from the airport. It was the upper floor of a typical Chicago bungalow, with two comfortable bedrooms, a bath, and small kitchen. The only thing missing was a living room or other common area, but for the price we paid, one could scarcely complain. Once settled in, Ms. B. and I headed over to friend Bill’s place, just over a mile away. What a joy to see him again — and old friend Bob Scism was also here! After hanging out for a bit, we set out for Morton Grove, a few miles up the road, to have dinner at Pequod’s Pizza, which had been one of our favorite pizza restaurants way back in the old days. Here, we met friends Ed; his wife, Mariko; and Mike Paul. Another joyful reunion! And the pizza at Pequod’s was still as delicious as ever — unique even for Chicago, and certainly beyond compare of anything we have back home.

And there was a geocache on premises. Hell, yeah! Fortunately, for me, I snagged it quickly while we were waiting on the pizza.

Mike presented me with a copy of an old drawing (on a restaurant placemat!) of King Ghidorah that Bill and I had collaborated on sometime back in the 1980s. He had kept it on hand for all these years, and seeing that again brought back a flood of great memories. All in all, we had a wonderful little reunion in one of our favorite places ever. There are still more gatherings yet to come this week.

After another brief hangout at Bill’s place, Ms. B. and I made a supply run at the nearest supermarket and returned to our place. It was a long... LONG day, much of it spent in transit (or waiting for transit), but what a payoff at the end. A long-awaited homecoming, such as it was.
Pequods — the best anywhere
King Ghidorah, drawn on a placemat at Nancy's Pizza, by Bill Gudmundson and me, circa 1984
A ravenous bunch: Ms B, old dude, Bob Scism, Mike Paul, Ed Godziszewski, Mariko Godziszewski
Wednesday, May 4, 2022 — Our Shadowed Past
Hiding in the corner at Café Touché...

Ms. B. and I had a fairly early lunch date, out in Elk Grove Village, with old friend Bob Issel and somewhat newer friend Jeff Kenny. Our Shadowed Past — a collection of Dark Shadows memories — was Bob’s original project, but he, Jeff, and I became the creative team that put it all together back in the fall of 2021. We met at Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ, enjoyed tasty lunches, and hung out yakking for a long while. Bob and I have a considerable shared history in our respective Dark Shadows–related creative journeys. As with all my Chicago friends, it’s been too long since our paths have crossed. Jeff brings in new talent and perspective to the table, so it was a treat to meet him for the first time.

After we parted ways, I headed after a few nearby geocaches. Then Ms. B. and I hit the road toward the city proper, figuring we could partake of a drink or two prior to heading back to our lodgings. We found a lovely little neighborhood bar called Café Touché, which fit the bill nicely. Wine for Ms. B., a gin martini for me. After that, we returned to our home away from home to refresh ourselves and make Ms. B. more presentable. Then it was back over to friend Bill’s abode, where we met his lovely and charming wife Gari for the first time. Bill hauled us to dinner at Kalbi Korean Restaurant, where we met old friend Alex Wald, another good friend I probably last saw before the turn of the century. Dinner was fantastic — our courses were brought to the table, where we roasted them over a flaming hot grill in the center of the table. I’ve had plenty of Korean food, but never in this presumably authentic fashion.
The creative team behind Our Shadowed Past: Old Dude, Bob Issel, Jeff Kenny
Dinner at Chicago Kalbi Korean Restaurant
Thursday, May 5, 2022 — Chicago de Mayo
In front of the apartment building where
Bill & I lived, many years ago

Ms. B. and I didn’t avail ourselves to any Mexican treats today, but treats aplenty we did find. This morning, we met Bill at his abode and then had a delicious brunch at his favorite coffee shop — Perkolator, on Irving Park. From there, Ms. B. and I drove down to Logan Square, where Bill and I lived back in the 1980s. There was a cache just down the street — or should have been — but after a thorough search, I am confident it’s missing. Sad!

After roaming Logan Square for a little while, we headed downtown, for what turned out to be a consistently drizzly day of walking around the northern end of the Loop. Ms. B. wanted to check out a paper store to pick up some of the papers she uses for her arts and crafts, so while she did that, I hunted a nearby cache — again, sadly, unsuccessfully. Apparently, many Chicagoland caches have gone missing and aren’t being maintained, which is pretty disappointing. But I did find a handful of particularly nice hides as well, so that made me smile real big.

Eventually, we wandered into Harry Caray’s Bar on Kinzie Street, which, in all the time I’ve spent in Chicago, I had never visited. A most pleasant experience indeed. Martinis for me, vino for the lady. I never realized the building was once owned by Frank Nitti, Al Capone’s number one man back in the bad old days. From the bar area, there’s a “secret” stairway down to his old vault room, which has been turned into a mini-museum. Kinda fun, I will say.

Again, out into the rain for a handful of caches, and another wine bar stop — a happy little place called Good Funk, but where we actually found some bad funk (wine, that is). Happily, our top-notch server gave us a couple of tastes for us to see what we liked because, in her words, “some of this stuff smells like it came from the barnyard.” No exaggeration. We did end up with some really good wine, though.

From Good Funk, a walk along the river to an establishment called The Smith, which we sort of randomly selected for dinner. Not even a little bit inexpensive, but the food was incredible. I had spicy roasted duck wings, and Ms. B. went with Spaghetti Bolognese, which was red-wine braised chicken ragu, parmesan, and basil. I sampled some of hers and was literally stunned by how delicious it was. I hate to say it, but it rivaled or surpassed most of the Bolognese that we had while in Italy. Yeah, it was that good.

By the time were were finished, it was getting late, so we made our way back to the car and headed to our home away from home. This little venture into the Loop was, to me, invigorating, certainly among of the most satisfying times we’ve had on this trip. The crowd downtown was actually the smallest I’ve probably ever encountered there. Traffic wasn’t bad, we had no delays getting in and out of any place we visited, and parking was quick, easy, and not all that expensive. Once back at our AirBnB, we decided to watch a movie, so we went with U.S. Marshalls, which neither Brugger nor I had seen for many a year. It was, as I recalled, quite entertaining.

And now... one more full day in Chicago before heading back home.
A mighty drizzly day in the city
At Harry Caray's Bar
Down by the lazy river
There was supposed to be a cache at the Homeless Jesus bench, but he wouldn't give it up.
Friday, May 6, 2022 — Sushi Station, Mitsuwa, and More
Old dude, Old Mr. Bill in The Library

I’m glad our day of hoofing it around the Loop was yesterday and not today because today it rained real water. Not that phony stuff that came down yesterday. Happily, for the most part today, we had roofs over our heads.

Once up and going, Ms. B. and I drove out for a couple of caches and then over to Bill’s place. We piled into Bill’s car, picked up Gari, and headed out to the suburbs, to Sushi Station, a lovely little Japanese restaurant in Arlington Heights. After a most enjoyable lunch, we trucked the short distance over to Mitsuwa, a large Asian market (back when I lived here, it was called Yaohan). Here, we browsed the bookstore and shopped for groceries — mostly for our evening dinner at Bill’s Kitchen. Once done, we hit the road for our return to Bill’s, only to be stopped by a parked train blocking the road. So... alternate route! Anyway, once back, we hung out, drank some wine, and made googly eyes at Bill’s impressive library. Sometime prior to dinner, longtime friends Jeff Osier and his wife, Cathy Van Patten, arrived, and — again — coming to Chicago brings us to yet another happy reunion.

Mr. Bill and Gari set up the fixings for okono miyaki, savory Japanese pancakes, which we prepared as we desired and grilled at the table. I haven't had okono miyaki since visiting Bill on some previous trip — probably in 2007, when I was here for a G-Fest (the last one I ever attended, I do believe).

Afterward, Ms. B. and I returned to our AirBnB and started getting things together for our departure on Saturday. This trip to Chicago meant a lot to me; it’s been in the works for many years now, and I hope there won’t be so many years before our next visit here. Truly, I still have more good friends here than anywhere else in the world, and even after such a long time, when we’re back together, all those years just kind of melt away.
Okono miyaki in the works
Bill and Gari preparing to attack