Sunday, December 25, 2022

The Christmas of the Winter Blast

Thanks to the Arctic blast that hit most of the country, yesterday was not only the coldest day of the year, it was one of the coldest days on record here in North Carolina. We woke up on Christmas Eve morning to no electricity; thankfully, it was restored after a couple of hours. Due to excessive power usage, Duke Energy began emergency rolling blackouts over the course of the day; fortunately, after that first morning outage, we didn't get hit with another one.

Today wasn't as cold as yesterday, though one could hardly call it warm. The high temperature didn't even reach freezing. Still, despite us keeping the inside temperature relatively low, Brugger and I stayed reasonably warm by bundling up and smushing with cats. Once we were out of bed and moving about, we set about preparing our Christmas dinner — turkey, roasted carrots, and Brugger's proprietary stuffing. It might have been less elaborate than some of our big family meals from days past, but it was without question one of the best I've had in I don't know how long. Between us, we basically got everything perfect, accompanied by a nice Pinot Noir.

We gave each other a slew of gifts, all of which I loved. Most appreciated was a new addition to the Toho daikaiju figures I've been picking up on occasion. Back in the 1980s, I collected anything and everything Godzilla, kith and kin, but since then, collecting of any sort has fallen by the wayside. However, a year or so ago, I got it into my head I'd like to snag the occasional Godzilla figure — as long as it was relatively inexpensive. (I've got to tell you, it's almost unbelievable how expensive some of the really nice monster figures are.) Anyway, there's a handful of monster sets by Mezco to which I took a shine, and, today, Brugger did her part to help me add to them. Eventually, I'll set up them up in some kind of honest-to-god display, but for now, they're hanging out on the shelves wherever I can find available space.

After our little Christmas celebration, Ms. B. and I packed up and headed to Martinsville to visit with Allison and share some gifts with her. There were a couple of newish geocaches to stop for along the way, which is kind of a rarity these days, so I enjoyed taking advantage of the opportunity to grab them. Now, I do not exaggerate when I say that, gift-wise, Allison's fur baby Cannoli may have made out best of all. What an excited little dude! We brought along the remainder of our Christmas Eve chili for dinner, and after enjoying it, we spent a little time with friend and Fugue Devil: Resurgence publisher Samaire Wynne. Nice company and nice refreshments.

Since Mom and my brother passed away, for me, the whole dynamic of Christmas has changed rather radically. I can't deny a certain sense of melancholy, now that I'm the last of the family I'd known all my life. But I would not change the new traditions that Ms. B. and I have created together for anything in the world. Although my Christmas spirit, such as it as, may not be full of the exuberance I once experienced — even as an adult — the somewhat quieter, more contemplative atmosphere, combined with moments of rip-roaring fun and comedy, suits me as much as anything ever has or could have.

I hope your holiday season is full of warmth, wonderful memories, and lots of love.

And why the hell not? Here's a few shots of the critters that have moved into the house in recent days.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas Eve Morn Slapjacks and More

The Arctic blast that froze most of the country yesterday spared us its worst — no power outage, no frozen water pipes, and no property damage (although some neighbors down the way were not so lucky, thanks to falling trees).

Well, back that up just a bit. Early this morning, with no rain, bright sunshine, and not a breath of wind, we lost our electricity for a couple of hours. That tends to be the pattern here anymore; we weather the bad weather, but then, when everything is basically fine... BOOM!... out go the lights. Anyway, on the upside, the power went off at 7:00 a.m. and came back on a little after 9:00. As long as it remains on, I reckon our relatively modest Christmas plans will go ahead as scheduled.

To kick off the day, I made a batch of Damned Rodan’s Scary Slapjacks, which were delicious. For the afternoon, Brugger and I went over to friends Mark & Kelly’s new place for an open-house gathering, with lots of food, drink, and fun. Once home, I cooked up a big pot of chili for our dinner, and then — following our long-held Christmas Eve tradition, Brugger and I watched A Christmas Story. I care not what others may say, but as for me, it’s one of those rare perfect comedies, and I always love watching it on Christmas Eve.

Come bedtime, thanks to a post by friend Bill Gudumundson, I listened to a portion of Algernon Blackwood’sThe Wendigo” on audio, which is an old favorite scary tale. A lovely way to bring Christmas Eve to a close.
And remember — just for the holidays, the Kindle edition of Fugue Devil: Resurgence is available for the special price of $2.99. Grab it for yourself to stay chilled well beyond the holidays, or as a gift for someone you’d rather not spend much money on. ’Tis here: Fugue Devil: Resurgence at

Friday, December 23, 2022

UFOs Over Greensboro

For at least a couple of decades, the residents of Greensboro’s Sunset Hills neighborhood have gone to town filling the sky with colorful balls of light for the Christmas season. These are essentially wads of chicken wire wrapped in strings of Christmas lights and suspended from the neighborhood’s many tall trees. In the early days, the display was mostly along a single road — Ridgeway Drive — but it soon spread to many of the neighboring lanes.

Last night, Brugger and I had to go out and about for supplies, and since we were in the neighborhood, we detoured down Greenway Drive, found a parking spot, and ventured into the chill night air on foot. Since the light balls have spread into nearby areas like a contagion — one far more agreeable than the covidz, of course — the night sky is full of them as far as the eye can see. We rambled to and fro for about a half-hour before returning to the vehicle, and then we headed to nearby WineStyles to enjoy a glass of wine each.

These are the UFOs over Greensboro.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Unhinged... Again!

It’s sad, but it sure feels like my old hometown is also home to a disproportionate share of unfortunate, not altogether stable individuals. A while back, my daughter encountered one who unnerved her mightily (see “The Tale of the Unhinged Door Bash Victim”). And there was yet another unsettling incident again today, possibly more traumatic than the first.

This afternoon, while here on one of my regular visits, I was out walking around the nearby lake area when Allison called and said a man had come up to the front porch and stolen her pack of cigarettes, which she'd left outside. I was close enough that, by stepping up my pace, I soon saw him semi-staggering in the middle of the road. I proceeded forth and expressed, with reasonable restraint, my disapproval of the whole trespassing and stealing thing. At this time he became quite belligerent. He proceeded to threaten me and suggested future threats. Now, at the time, I was not without means of self-defense, but I did not escalate the situation any further. Well... that's not entirely fair. Once he told me he'd burn down my house, I gave him a somewhat vivid description of the consequences, not necessarily legal. Then, however, I did disengage and called the cops to report the situation.

Shortly, I encountered an old friend from the neighborhood, who had heard the more heated portion of the exchange. Not long afterward, she actually saw him a bit farther on — still staggering down the middle of the road. By now, I had seen a couple of cops drive by, but they clearly had not interfered with his progress. However, after a while, they called me back to inform me that other people in the neighborhood had also reported him, and they'd be stepping up patrols, particularly over the holidays.

Obviously, none of this is about cigarettes. But someone brazen enough to come on private property and steal anything might well not stop there. At least the police are aware of this “gentleman,” and not just from me. (In the photo, that’s my daughter's cigarette lighter in his hand, not a weapon. As I mentioned above, at the time, I was not without means to defend myself.)

Now, as is my habit, I have second-guessed myself over and over, and I wonder if I shouldn't have simply acknowledged that he might be in a bad situation and offered whatever short-term assistance I could. Or simply let it go; maybe I should have reported him to the police without confronting him. But as my father’s brother once said to Dad, You might not remember this, but our father had a temper!” Oh, yeah, Dad remembered, all right. And so do I. For me, letting go of the anger over someone trespassing and stealing — even if it’s only a lighter and a pack of cigarettes — is challenging. Especially when my daughter is in any way involved.

And yes, once threatened, I threatened him back. But when I finally disengaged, I parted with, “Tell you what. Keep the smokes, but do NOT trespass again.” With that he waved and wandered away.

I really, really hope I never see or hear about this “gentleman” ever again. For both our sakes.

Addendum 12/22/22: This person’s name is Robert Wilson. He apparently has a history of mental issues.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas!

In the Gotta Do It Department: Plug my 2022 book releases for the holidays. These really are great gifts that will chill you year-round. My collection, Fugue Devil: Resurgence (Black Raven Books) features a dozen of my most frightening horror tales, including the original novelette, “The Fugue Devil” and its sequel, “The Devil’s Eye.” This one is not for sissies! NOTE: From NOW until DECEMBER 26, the Kindle edition is available for $2.99! Also available in paperback and limited hardback editions.

For the younger set — or adults who enjoy fun, creepy ghost stories — my latest entry in Elizabeth Massie’s Ameri-Scares series, Georgia: The Haunting of Tate’s Mill (Crossroad Press) is available in ebook and paperback editions. This one is set on the shores of Lake Sidney Lanier, long reputed to be haunted. Can these frightening stories of unexplainable things rising out of those deep, dark waters somehow be true?

Friday, December 9, 2022

Experiment in Terror

I always enjoy putting up the Christmas decorations at the old homestead, a.k.a. Pleasant Hill, in Martinsville, but this year is going to be a little different. With my daughter, Allison, and her best pal, Cannoli, currently residing here, things may end up... interesting. You see, this is Cannoli's first Christmas, at least as a member of this family. He's plenty young and plenty full of vim and vigor, so it's a toss-up whether the tree and household decorations will survive the season (or even the first night). So far, he has shown a little curiosity about the colorful additions to the house, but he hasn't indulged any destructive impulses. Whether this relatively tranquil state of affairs lasts... well, it's anyone's guess.

Initially, I was thinking it might be well to forgo putting up the tree, but as Allison and I talked over our arrangements for the holidays, we decided to chance it. It is tradition, after all; in my six-plus decades of existence, there has never been a Christmas without a tree in this house. Of course, in my six-plus decades of existence, only when I was a wee young lad did a feline also occupy this dwelling. To the best of my recollection from those days, we suffered no cat vs. Christmas tree disasters. Here's hoping for an equally positive experience.

Cannoli: "do i eat it, climb it, or knock it down?"

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

A Wild Western Adventure Rooted in Medieval Legend

Guns of the Waste Land: Departure
by Leverett Butts
The first of four books in author Leverett Butts’s Guns of the Waste Land series, Departure takes off at lightning speed, introducing in its opening chapters a set of fascinating characters, whose roots in Arthurian legend eventually become clear. The novel’s structure—the narrative sometimes unfolding in first person, sometimes in third, sometimes in flashbacks—at first might seem a little jarring, but it not only holds together, it deepens the vivid character portraits.

Butts's painting of characters is priceless, with engaging dialogue, aptly accented for the time period and setting. Genuine laugh-out-loud moments during the interactions of Percy Murratt, Gary Wayne Orkney, Boris McAllister, Ardiss Drake, and others, are not rare; nor are passages of deep poignancy, expressed by an assured authorial voice.

Departure is not a long novel, but it is rich and jam-packed with both action and character-driven drama. I'm now anxious to dive into the following books in the series—Diversion, Dispersal, and DesinenceDeparture feels very much like the prelude to an epic work, worthy of both admiration and study.