Sunday, May 28, 2023

The Restoration/Updating Continues

View of the living room as Mom had it for many years
The restoration/updating of the old homestead hits another milestone — the removal of wallpaper, repainting of rooms, pulling of carpet, and refinishing of the original hardwood floors is finally complete. Not to mention all new plumbing (the old galvanized pipes were had reached the last of their death throes) and a new roof. We still have a ton of stuff to do before the final move, especially prepping the Greensboro house to go on the market, but from this end, there's something akin to light at the end of the tunnel.
I was all set to keep the work going at a strong pace, so I came up on Thursday to get a head start on the weekend. Then... boom... I get hit with a miserable stomach bug that is just now beginning to abate. No food other than a half bowl of soup and a piece of bread over the past three days. I'm feeling better, and I've been able to eat a little today, but I'm so weak, just going from one end of the house to the other about does me in. If I can keep getting a little nourishment into me, maybe tomorrow.

The walls painted (courtesy Standalone Kustoms), the carpet removed. The original hardwoods were deeply stained, but the refinishing (courtesy Macarena Hardwood Floors out of Madison, NC) worked wonders.

Before and after the floor refinishing, viewed from the opposite end of the living room.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The Canterbury Nightmares

Now Available for Pre-Order from Crossroad Press:
The Canterbury Nightmares... a new anthology of terror tales, all of which combine the essence of Chaucer’s pilgrims on their journey to a shrine with the apparent climax of the recent global COVID-19 pandemic. These stories were born in a time when personal connections were few, breathing the air in a grocery store felt unsafe, and the country all but dissolved into divided and seemingly irreparable factions.

The Canterbury Nightmares: Eleven travelers head out to visit The Grand Canyon, all motivated by their own powerful, personal reasons. All have suffered profound losses; all harbor secret but consuming agony. An old man taking a long-promised journey with his wife. A congregation that has lost its way. Individuals of different backgrounds and cultures, all dealing with grief, loss, and isolation. In The Canterbury Nightmares, you will be led not only to the soaring precipices of the Grand Canyon but also into deep, dark, unimaginable recesses.

This one features my story, “The Secret Place: A Knight’s Tale,” as well as ten more chilling works by some of today’s most compelling—and perhaps prophetic—storytellers. The book is due for release in September 2023.

“The Old Man’s Tale” – Steve Rasnic Tem
“The Liberation of Brother Buffalo” – Michael Boatman
“Think of the Family” – Ai Jiang
“To See Her in Sepia” – Scott J. Moses
“The Preditor's Tale” – Terence Taylor
“The Wife of Wrath’s Tale” – John B. Rosenman
“The Secret Place: A Knight’s Tale” – Stephen Mark Rainey
“The Sacred Clarion” – S.A. Cosby
“The Tour Guide's Tale” – Anna Tambour
“Every Form of Person” – J.A.W. McCarthy
“Vending Machine Girl”– Eric LaRocca

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Conquered Hurdles and a Frenzy of Wild Beasties

The estate sale that Ms. B. and I held this weekend is now done, and though we still have a passel of leftover stuff, we moved a decent quantity and made a respectable few bucks in the process. For me, it’s been a full week of both DIY home restoration/upgrading and prepping for the sale — 12 to 15 hours a day—and in the words of our perpetually fatigued felines, I haz a tired.

My crowning achievement for all this, I believe, has been categorizing and organizing ALL my old books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, and LPs and putting them on reasonably respectable display. This little chore been on the docket for years upon years, but I had pretty much reconciled myself to not living long enough to complete it. The books, as you might expect for a writer/avid reader, proved the biggest challenge, simply because of their sheer number. A few years back, I had downsized the book department to a considerable degree, but that was kind of like emptying a few buckets of water from an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Yesterday, after the estate sale,  Ms. B. and I provided pizza as well as a variety of munchies and adult beverages for friends Terry, Beth, Bob, Yvonne, and Samaire, plus my daughter Allison. The weather was decent, so we made it an outdoor party, which may have prompted our neighbors to wonder whether a gaggle of wild beasties had somehow taken over the property.

Happily, the sale — and subsequent celebration — marked the successful conquering of several of our most daunting hurdles. There’s more to come, to be sure, but at this point, it feels like we’re getting closer and closer to seeing the downhill run to the finish line... whatever the hell the finish line ends up being.

A feeding frenzy of wild beasties! Allison, Old Dude, Samaire, Beth, Terry, Bob, Yvonne

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Back in the Shadows Again

I recently wrote on this blog that I’m getting too old for this shit, and I’m thinking I might swipe that line from Danny Glover on a more permanent basis. Whew! Brugger and I are well into getting the Martinsville house restored, although there are still weeks and weeks’ worth of (expensive) work left ahead of us. Today, it’s the new roof. Concurrently, we’re trying to whip the Greensboro house into saleable condition, which is also anything but a small (or inexpensive) job. Since all this restoration work began back in April, I’ve been going to bed each evening mostly satisfied with the progress we’re making, but so sore of muscle and bone that getting a solid night’s sleep is possible only occasionally.

Still, there’s so much cool stuff happening. It was nice to get some of my old books—all the James Bond novels (and certain associated titles), the Dark Shadows novels (and certain associated titles)—back into the old homestead where they and I grew up together. The Bond books, at least all the old Signet editions, are back on the same shelf in the den where I discovered them as a youngster, when they belonged to my dad. It was in that same den that I first started watching Dark Shadows on a regular basis (right at the start of the Leviathans storyline in 1969), so I’ve put all the Dark Shadows books together on the shelf below the Bond books. And, for shits & giggles, I’ve started rewatching the Dark Shadows Leviathans episodes on Freevee.

The other day, I dug up an envelope, which I feared had gone forever missing, of old love letters (as well as a few that expressed something distinctly other than love) from certain young ladies in my junior high and high school years. Marybeth, Gretchen, DeeDee, and Courtney... it’s so nice to read all those lovely sentiments again, haha.

We’re holding an estate sale this weekend, Saturday, 5/20 and Sunday, 5/21, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Here’s the Facebook listing for it: Estate Sale, 5/20–5/21. If you’re in the vicinity, stop on by.
Some of the James Bond novels, the original Signet editions of which now re-reside on their original shelf
in my dad’s old den

Sunday, May 7, 2023

More Discoveries

I never thought I would grow weary of finding keepsakes from days of yore, but the sheer number of keepsakes that keep turning up at the old homestead has about done me in. Some of them, at least, are absolutely agreeable, especially the occasional old photo I didn't know (or had forgotten) existed, lots of half-forgotten toys, and scads of my artwork. I discovered a couple more pen & ink drawings from the late 80s/early 90s, which you see above. The critter is Gaira from War of the Gargantuas, my favorite of Toho's non-Godzilla daikaiju flicks. The haunted house is a place my brother and I happened upon while exploring the wilds of Henry County back around 1991. I took quite a few photos of the creepy old place and then made a drawing of it.

I'm reasonably fond of these, so I appreciated actually seeing them again. I remembered them, but I had no idea where they lurked or whether I'd ever see them again. So... yay!

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Yours Sincerely, Wasting Away

I guess you could call it a landmark birthday, basically by way of a Beatles song. That look of the dude in the photo is when your body turns 64 but the rest of you is something like half that. That's the lord's truth.

It was a pretty pleasant day, which helped blunt some of the stress I bitched, moaned, and whinged about about in my previous blog entry. Geocaching on my birthday is a longstanding tradition, so I headed solo over Burlington way to pick up an even ten that have been lurking over there for a little while now. Some of them were considerably more than a walk in the park, so I had a nice time of it. On a somewhat sad note, my old friend and longtime geocaching partner Old Rob is more than a little under the weather, and it has the potential to remain an issue for some time to come. I'm sending out every good wish for him, and I hope you will too, whether you know him or not. He's several years older than I, but I remember like it was yesterday when he turned 64 and placed a geocache titled after that same Beatles song. I believe it's still out there in the wild, so it's almost tempting — almost, I say — to revisit it for old times' sake. I've been revisiting quite a few older caches lately, some of my own to perform maintenance, and some others just for the sake of hiking.

After Brugger got off work the afternoon, we ventured over to State Street Wine Company for a few celebratory drinks. It's become one of our primary go-to establishments since it's so close to home and the folks there are very personable. Rather than go out to dinner (we have dining-out plans with friends Terry & Beth and Joe & Suzy on tomorrow night), Brugger and I made Thai spring rolls, which was my dinner request. They were awesome.

All in all, a mellow day, and under the circumstances, that was just what the doctor ordered. We'll see how it goes in the coming days and weeks. Peace out.

Monday, May 1, 2023

A Perfect Storm

A much-needed evening oasis at friend Samaire’s place

Sigh. I was going to sit here and elaborate on how stressful and even traumatic some of the snowballing issues that have beset Brugger and me over the past month or so have been (I did, in fact, compose a considerable number of words on the subject). I deleted the bulk of them because it all began to sound like a great big whine. Still, I can’t help it; here is a bit of that post, abridged.

For me, April has historically been the worst month in existence, since it’s in April that I lost my dad, more good friends than the law ought to allow, and the majority of my many beloved pets. Beyond that, it’s in April that the universe, with perverse glee, releases the storm of misfortune it has saved up for us over the course of the preceding year with a great big “BLAM!”

This year, the horrendous sewer line issues that hit us, beginning in March (of which some of you are at least aware, since I did whine a bit), seemed to set off a veritable freight train of new and damn near catastrophically expensive issues.

However, as I wrote this little treatise, it all began to sound like a big whine. Now, on occasion (sometimes on frequent occasions), I have been known to vent. Anyone who has heard me vent will almost certainly testify that, to the chronic pessimist, my vent is a thing of rare beauty. Conversely, to the blissful live-for-today-first-world-problems-mean-naught-zen-is-good kind of soul (or simply the uninitiated), more a display of explosive horror (or perhaps amusement, in the way that a spectacular self-inflicted injury can make one chuckle). All that said, there is little more I hate than coming across as a fucking crybaby. Life can be a goddamn bitch, and I know damn well that many, MANY folks would trade places with me in an instant. I’m not without some degree of self-awareness.

Still, in the spirit of my original post, suffice it to say that I’m gonna call this April a pilgrimage to the summit of Fuck-This-Goddamn-Motherfucking-Bullshit-Fucking-What-the-Fuckity-Fuck Mountain. To the more level-headed, even-tempered souls among you (however deluded you might be), this was a mere uptick in the severity of pretty-damned-severe first-world problems.

There were good things. In fact, many good things. Most recently, Scares That Care AuthorCon II was one of the best events ever, as far as affirming my life choices as a writer. Similarly, Shortwave Publishing announced what I feel is one of the most important creative projects I’ve overseen, the next chapter in the history of Deathrealm, a brainchild of mine from almost four decades ago. I sold a couple of short stories. And this April saw some lovely times with good, GOOD friends, which helped me realign my sights on what’s really important.

Well, okay, yeah, I’ve still whined (and I’ll do it again, maybe soon). But this one is fucking done. At least April is, until next year, history.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Monstrous! Part 2 — Night of the Firebeast, 1979–1983

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about some of my old artwork I turned up while turning my old homestead inside out for renovations (Monstrous! Part 1 — The Ultimate Godzilla [or Not]). If you were willing to slog through that, I reckon you might be willing to slog through this as well.

In the early 1970s, I composed a silly but fun little SF monster story called “Night of the Firebeast,” which featured a giant winged reptilian critter (see illo above) from the planet Venus called Damiron (or Damarron, in at least one of the tale’s numerous revisions). I drew a ton of pictures of the monster, and friend Bill Gudmundson, who regularly constructed detailed, articulated models (and animated them, à la Ray Harryhausen), built a couple of different versions of Damiron for me. I still have one of those models, a bit worse for wear, but still holding together.

In my final year of college (1981), having discovered the writings of H.P. Lovecraft — and by now entertaining grandiose notions of becoming a famous horror writer — I rewrote “Night of the Firebeast” as a weird hybrid of daikaiju and Lovecraftian lore, still featuring Damiron but under the name “Pachacutec” (the actual name of a Peruvian king, which I considered apt, since the story was now set in Peru). I went full bore illustrating scenes from it, mostly in pen and ink. Although the tale was hardly the masterpiece I had envisioned in my budding little brain, it felt pretty solid (and at some much later time — early 2000s, I believe — I sent a copy of the tale to J.D. Lees, editor of G-Fan magazine, who up and published the thing). “Pachacutec” became the first chapter of my first honest-to-god novel, again titled “Night of the Firebeast,” which I finished in 1983 — just after I moved to Chicago to live with Bill G. The novel rightly never saw the light of day, but I have long considered it a valuable practice run for my novels that eventually did come to fruition.

In later years (2006), Pachacutec appeared again in a short story, this one entitled “The Transformer of Worlds,” published in an Australian anthology of giant monster stories, simply titled Daikaiju, edited by Rob Hood.

Again, for the sake of future history — if any — I am posting the complete set of drawings and paintings I created for Night of the Firebeast, if not for your entertainment then for mine, as I do find these personal chronicles useful for looking back to figure out what the hell I was thinking at any given point in time. These are pretty much in the order of events in the novel, so feel free to draw your own conclusions regarding the context. I don’t have it in me to compose a synopsis for the old beast; as it is, I’m not sure I could even remember, as these go back forty years and more. Click on these little fellows to enlarge.

Please note that I warned you yesterday that this might happen!

Friday, April 28, 2023

Monstrous! Part 1 — The Ultimate Godzilla (or Not)

As Ms. Brugger and I continue our renovation of the old homestead in Martinsville, we continually dig up intriguing relics from the days of yore — well, my yore, anyway. Tucked away in the corners of the house, I have scads of old art portfolios, and this morning, I came upon several pieces I haven’t seen in years. I knew these beasties lurked up in the attic, as I have periodically excavated some of the ruins, but seeing them again brought a lovely onslaught of nostalgia for all things daikaiju.

In junior high school, I created Japanese Giants, a fanzine devoted to Godzilla, kith & kin, more or less patterned after my dear, late friend Greg Shoemaker’s renowned Japanese Fantasy Film Journal. For me, Japanese Giants was a one-shot, but the title lived on, first via editor/publisher Brad Boyle, who took the reins until issue #4, and then by way of friends Ed Godziszewski and Bill Gudmundson, who kept the magazine going for several years into the 21st Century.

By high school, I had grandiose plans of becoming a writer/illustrator, and sometime in my senior year — 1976 or 1977 — I drew up a few pages of what I considered the ultimate Godzilla story. However, around that time, I found myself increasingly distracted by young women of the opposite sex, and my dream project never progressed beyond that initial sample.

For the sake of future history — if any — here it is. Later, if you’re not really good, I’ll post a bit about my other ancient original daikaiju endeavor, Night of the Firebeast. So you just watch yourselves.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Dark Corners of the Old Dominion

I’m pretty excited about this one! My new short story, “Doom at Dragon’s Roost,” will be appearing in Dark Corners of the Old Dominion in the fall of this year. Edited by Joseph Maddrey and Michael Rook and published by Death Knell Press, Dark Corners is an anthology of stories set in Virginia, the proceeds of which will go to the Scares That Care charity organization. Author Brian Keene, who heads up the wonderful Scares That Care AuthorCon event, provides the foreword.

Monday, April 17, 2023

I’m Getting Too Old for This Shit

After the horrors of broken sewer lines, hellishly expensive reparations, and restoration done improperly (which the provider must address) at our primary residence in Greensboro, Ms. B. and I have taken on a whole new, somewhat unexpected endeavor: restoring my old homestead in Virginia to livable and/or salable condition, since the issues mentioned above have necessitated the selling of property.

Before dementia crippled Mom’s cognitive abilities, as a housekeeper, she was beyond conscientious. The house always appeared immaculate, and she took care of its routine maintenance to the best of her ability. Still, she was either unaware of, or unable to address, some of the larger issues that beset the house over a long period of time. The place dates back to the mid-1950s, and a remarkable number of the house’s appliances, fixtures, and systems are original. Well, were, considering that Ms. B. and I have set about the updating with a vengeance.

Currently, the interior is a mess, as this overhaul is no trivial matter. I never realized that my mom was an honest-to-god, card-carrying pack rat, for there is virtually no corner of this outwardly immaculate house that doesn’t conceal miles of piles of stuff. Massive amounts of that stuff have gone to meet their maker or been set aside for an estate sale; but after days and days and days of clearing things out, the piles don’t appear very much smaller. Plus, we’re having all the walls dewallpapered and painted, the kitchen and baths totally redone, and the wall-to-wall carpets removed, for there is gorgeous hardwood hiding underneath. The plumbing was older than Noah’s ark, so we’ve had the waterworks redone — and just in the nick of time, as some of those old pipes were on the verge of giving up the ghost and flooding the earth.

We’ve still got a ways to go, and I can tell you, I am thoroughly exhausted. It all sort of reminds me that I might not be as young as all that anymore. On the other hand, when it comes down to it, I’m faring better than an awful lot of far younger whippersnappers, so y’all just watch yourselves, or I might hang around a while longer. You may take that to the bank.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023


Alan Lastufka, of Shortwave Publishing, has made the official announcement! Deathrealm: Spirits is in the works and is scheduled for release in October 2023.

From Shortwave’s news release: “Deathrealm was, for a decade, the leading small-press horror magazine in the United States. In 1995, it won the International Horror Critics Award for best horror magazine. And in the Spring of 1996, issue #27 was ‘banned’ in Canada when it was stopped by customs on the grounds the cover art (by Ian McDowell) was too ‘disturbing.’ Deathrealm was edited by Stephen Mark Rainey and published from 1987 to 1997.”

For decades — literally! — the question “Will you ever resurrect Deathrealm?” has come at me on countless occasions. Many, many times after the final issue (#31, Summer 1997), I toyed with the idea of continuing the title by way of an anthology (or series of anthologies), but I knew I would never go back to editing a magazine on a regular release schedule. A decade of that was enough. Over the years, I pitched the anthology idea a couple of times, and just a few short years ago, things were actually moving forward on that front. However, due to various circumstances, things ultimately didn’t pan out. However, fairly recently, the stars seemed to come right for another go at it, and now... it’s a-coming!

We’ll be making regular announcements regarding contributors and any relevant news all over social media. I guarantee you this: Deathrealm: Spirits features a killer line-up of authors.

This time around, I can tell you that Joe R. Lansdale, Brian Keene, and Eric LaRocca are on board. There are many more, to be revealed in time. Much like the magazine, the anthology will feature tales of deep, personal dread, whether rooted in the supernatural, the cosmic, the purely psychological, or other.

Do stay tuned...

Monday, April 10, 2023


Some years ago, writer/director Damien Leone’s All Hallows Eve (2013) introduced me to Art the Clown, and I think it’s fair to say I found Art one of the most disturbing horror characters in existence — particularly those of the clown persuasion. Clowns have never frightened me per se, but I can readily admit that some have unsettled me (my daughter once had this cast iron clown coin bank that “ate” coins, which did none of our sensibilities any favors). With All Hallows Eve, Art kind of messed up my head because, in the situations in the movie, he was simultaneously funny as hell yet altogether terrifying. Knowing that his appearance to someone was a harbinger of personal doom — a horrific doom, at that — effectively creeped me out.

The first Terrifier (2016) followed along the same lines. It felt a little more over-the-top, but it still disturbed me on a level that most horror/slasher movies do not.

Last night, I took the opportunity to watch Terrifier 2. It offered quite a few brilliant, scary moments/scenes, such as the Clown Café dream scene with its catchy, whimsical tunes. (In fact, I quite enjoyed the music throughout the movie, particularly the techno dance stuff.) Art provided several horrific moments worthy of his earlier film appearances. And the introduction of Creepy Little Demon Girl made for an entertaining touch. For the sake of continuity, I appreciated the references to Art’s first two adventures.

Overall, though, I didn't much care for this one. First and foremost, the running time is way too long — 138 minutes vs. 83 minutes for both All Hallows Eve and the original Terrifier. All those extra minutes added nada, zip, absolute jack shit, and — worst of all — introduced the element of boredom. Bzzzt, wrong! The movie’s surreal, dreamlike moments worked well enough, yet almost all of the “real-life” events dragged on to the point of tedium and frequently dove straight into the realm of the asinine rather than the frightening.

No. No, thank you.

So, Terrifier 2 is a mixed bag, and its most effective moments might be considered classic Art. Sadly, though, the crap weighs too heavily in the bag, and thus it gets a rating of only two out of five Damned Rodan’s Dirty Firetinis.


Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Fugue Devil: Resurgence: A Breath of Fresh, Foul, Fetid Air

With the kind permission of author Katherine Kerestman (, I'm posting her review of Fugue Devil: Resurgence in its entirety, which prompted an uncharacteristically wide smile from the old dude.

"Reading Stephen Mark Rainey's Fugue Devil: Resurgence (Black Raven Books, 2022) was a breath of fresh (foul? fetid?) air for this voracious reader of dark literature. I had approached this new collection of horror stories hoping for an above-average sophistication of style, a deliciously morbid atmosphere, and some enthralling plots — and what I found exceeded my wishes. Rather than relying on the usual blending of graphic violence and the cheap thrills of gore with supernatural elements, Fugue Devil: Resurgence faces the unutterable horror of human existence in a malevolent universe, Rainey's compelling style drawing the readers into the gaping jowls of a dismal world.

"Fugue Devil: Resurgence is an outstanding work, in that it achieves this outcome with a singularity of grace and style. Throughout the collection, a sustained dread of our most evil imagined outcomes is contrasted with Rainey's melodic prose. In 'Threnody,' you can almost hear the strains of the cosmic music beyond the spheres, which conjures horrific beings. I found myself breathless as I read 'Masque of the Queen' — I had literally been holding my breath, unawares — a tale which takes place in a deadly dimension of mystical beauty, strange gods, and weird planets. 'Fugue Devil' left me physically numb with fear. 'Hell’s Hollow' carried me into a world of rural woodland terror.

"Tinting a Lovecraftian world view with a psychedelic patina, Fugue Devil: Resurgence is the most original volume of horror stories I have read in a long time. The alluring quality of its description magnifies the horror of the dark and rapacious void it depicts. I read most of it in one sitting, unable to put it down."

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Scares That Care AuthorCon II — Blow by Blow

Friday, March 31, 2023
Brugger and I set out bright and early for Scares That Care AuthorCon II this morning, loaded to the gills with my various books and old copies of Deathrealm to hopefully foist on the unsuspecting populace. We had good weather and mostly good driving conditions, at least at first. Just west of Durham, NC, some moron damn near collided with me in her ridiculous zeal to zoom across three lanes of traffic. Then, just north of Durham, NC, we ran into a two-mile, hour-long traffic jam due to both highway construction and accidents (the accidents clearly being the result of idiotic judgment on someone's part in the highway construction zone). Happily, we survived these ugly setbacks, and the rest of the trip went swimmingly — particularly our stop at Indian Fields Tavern in Charles City, where we both found burgers of the most heavenly persuasion. I grabbed a nearby geocache. From there, driving was a breeze, and we sailed into Williamsburg in good condition and tolerable spirits.

I immediately ran into a few authors/good friends — Brian Keene, Dave Simms, Ronald Kelly, Maurice BroaddusTim Waggoner, Dave & Trish Wilson, David Dodd, Rich Dansky, Mark Sieber, Bridgett Nelson, Jeff Strand, Lynne Hansen, Sidney Williams, and numerous others. Brugger and I set up our dealer table in our designated conference room, and it wasn't long before the opening ceremony kicked off the event.

As we sort of expected, with so many areas full of vendors and ugly weather setting in to dampen prospective attendees, the first night of the show was a bit slow. Still, we managed to make a loverly time of it. I picked up dinner from the nearby Emerald Thai restaurant and brought it back to our table. After the closing bell, Brugger and I hung out for a while with drinks, Dave & Trish Wilson, and Crossroad Press's David Dodd. Before retiring, Ms. B. and I ventured to the grocery store to snag some staples.

We didn't get wealthy on the first night of the con, but we sure snagged a bunch of free-floating joy.
The monstrously delicious Charles City Burger at Indian Fields Tavern
Mr. Keene and Mr. Deathrealm
"Menacing" Maurice Broaddus
Richard Dansky and David Niall Wilson
Saturday, April 1, 2023
After a quick continental breakfast at the hotel, Brugger and I headed to the convention area, only to find our designated conference room had been all but cleared out. A couple of tables remained in the room, ours included. Apparently, since traffic in the outlying rooms had been sparse, the wonderful con folks had moved as many vendors as possible into the main convention area. Brian Keene oversaw getting our table into a higher-traffic area, and this move paid off from the moment Brugger and I sat our asses down in our chairs. Before we knew it, business was booming, and books were moving. It was all the merrier for us, too, because friend Dave Simms settled into the adjacent space, and we shot some serious shit at each other throughout the weekend. Although I spent most of the day at the table, I did wander a bit so I could seek out some writers and editors I hadn't previously met in the flesh. Kenneth Cain, James Aquilone, Red Lagoe, Jonathan Janz, and a few other folks couldn't hide from me, despite their best efforts...

Midday, Ms. B. drove over to a nearby Subway for a couple of subs, which she brought back for us to eat at our table. Shortly after lunch, I participated in the "Golden Years of Horror" panel: a look at the horror-lit boom of the 1980s and 1990s, mostly from the perspective of those of us old enough to have participated in it. Yeah, that would be me. Also on board were Jonathan Janz (moderator), Sherrilyn Kenyon, James ChambersTim Lebbon, Mary Sangiovanni, Maurice Broaddus, Tim Waggoner, Ron Malfi, and Ronald Kelly. It was a great discussion, though with so many participants, time for detailed discourse was limited. Still, thanks to Mr. Janz's effective moderating and so much talent smushed together in one room, it was a sharp, informative, and all-around fun panel discussion.

At 4:15 p.m. Ron Kelly and I shared a reading slot. I read "Night Crier" (originally published in 34Orchard magazine and reprinted in Fugue Devil: Resurgence), and Ron read a tale that will be coming out in a new fiction collection. It wasn't the biggest audience ever, but it was a very receptive audience. As "Night Crier" came to its conclusion, a chorus of gasps filled the room, and that was a perfectly gratifying response, particularly for this story. Happily, some of those audience members came around later to buy books. Ron also drew the audience in, so this turned out to be one of my favorite public readings in recent years.
"The Golden Years of Horror" panel. L–R: Ronald Kelly, Mr. Deathrealm, Ron Malfi, Tim Waggoner,
Maurice Broaddus, Mary Sangiovanni, Tim Lebbon; outside the frame of the photo: James Chambers,
Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jonathan Janz
After the reading, Brugger and I somehow found ourselves in the hotel bar, where I ended up with a smoked Old Fashioned. A delicious drink, and just the ticket for concluding the con business day and kicking off the con fun time. For dinner, Dave Wilson rounded up a crowd of ten, including us. We settled on Maurizio's Italian Restaurant, which was a short walk from the hotel. Our group was split among a couple of tables; Brugger and I sat with Ron Kelly and his wife, Joyce. Now, I've known Ron for years, but I believe this was the most time we've ever spent together in person. As a writer, he's a machine; his catalog of written works is so massive it humbles me. And Joyce is a fun, lovely lady, full of vigor and antic-dotes of no small amusement.

David Sims, David Dodd, and David & Trish Wilson were among the other diners (I suggested that everyone in the party change their names to David to avoid confusion; for some reason, I don't think it took). The Pappardelle Mavarico was delizioso, although it would have benefited from a better balance of Mavarico to pasta; that was a lot of pappardelle on that plate. The Valipolicello Ripasso hit the spot — a fine complement to the entrée.

Dave, Dave, Dave, Trish, Brugger, and I had all sworn off karaoke this year, so — needless to say — we ended up in the karaoke hall. By this time, think most of the con folks were at the gross-out contest, so there wasn't a huge crowd. Still, there was racket to be made here, so we whooped out some noise. I gave 'em "Eyes Without a Face" (Billy Idol) and "Sweet Caroline" (Neil Diamond). Brugger joined in on the latter tune to whip up audience participation, plus she sang a few songs on her own. And Mr. Wilson hit us with some spirited soul music. It was all a hoot, to be sure.

I can't be certain what time we finally broke up and returned to our respective quarters, but it wasn't early (well, yes, it was early morning). Brugger and I had determined that we'd only spend a relatively short time at the con the next morning because we wanted to explore Historic Williamsburg and possibly seek a few geocaches.

Once our heads hit the pillows, we were pretty well out.
Joyce and Ron Kelly at their table in the main ballroom
David Simms doing his best to look unmenacing
Sunday, April 2, 2023
Ms. B. might have been a little hungover this morning...

Sure enough, we spent only an hour or so at our vendor table before packing up, but I did sell a few more books in that time.

Once we'd loaded the car, we headed into Historic Williamsburg, found a parking garage, and set out walking. I've been to Williamsburg a goodly number of times over the years, but I haven't actually gone deep into the historic quarter since I was a young teen with my family. A nice Adventure Lab cache led us on a tour of some of Williamsburg's most noteworthy locations and also offered us a couple of miles of much-needed walking. Among my favorite highlights were the horse and buggies carrying tourists along the old lanes; the ubiquitous smell of smoke, which would have been much like in Colonial times; the shopkeepers, employees, and other folks dressed in Colonial garb; and the Colonial architecture in general. Just a beautiful place, and unlike yesterday, the weather wasn't ugly.

We'd made reservations for lunch at a joint called DoG Street Pub, so once we'd completed the Adventure Lab walk, we headed for the pub. Their fish & chips were awesome — and the portion was huge! Brugger had a turkey-BLT wrap, which she enjoyed. Neither of us indulged in any spirits, as after last night, that might have been a bad idea.

Then we hit the road. Yes, I stopped for a couple of caches. We also damn near got killed — again — by another blind moron who did exactly the same thing as the dumb fuck on the way to con on Friday: they switched lanes without even looking, which put them on a collision course with me, and when I laid on my horn, the idiots just kept coming, forcing me to take dangerous evasive action. I thank Yog that my reflexes were fast enough to avoid what would almost certainly been serious accidents.

Despite having to deal with certain superlative citizens of Planet Moronica, we made it home safely.
As for Scares That Care AuthorCon II... what can I say? I'd previously been to the now-defunct Scares That Care Charity Weekend, but I wasn't able to attend the first AuthorCon last year. My thanks and compliments to Brian Keene and all the con organizers and staff. Their priority — their mission — was to make the event a superlative, inclusive experience for guests, vendors, and attendees, and by all accounts, everyone involved went above and beyond with every aspect of the con. I hope to be there for AuthorCon 3.

Here's a few shots of the sights along our walk through Williamsburg.