Friday, March 24, 2023

Scares That Care AuthorCon II—March 31–April 2 in Williamsburg, VA

Next weekend! Scares That Care AuthorCon II, (March 31–April 2) at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Williamsburg (50 Kingsmill Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185). I’ll have the pictured titles and more for sale — and you know I’m always happy to devalue any and all of my books with an autograph. Brugger will be on hand to keep me straight and charm the crowds.

On Saturday, I’ll be sharing a reading slot with Ronald Kelly (most likely “Night Crier,” originally published in 34Orchard magazine), and participating on a panel (“Golden Years,” a look at the horror heydays of the 1980s and 90s — yes, I am old).

Hope to see a bunch of you there.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Purely Medicinal—Wicked Sick

Wicked Sick is a new anthology edited by Kristi Petersen Schoonover and Scott Goudsward, scheduled for release next month. The fantastic cover art is by Mikio Murakami. And this old man wrote the foreword!

Wicked Sick is a brilliant collection of stories by the New England Horror Writers, with something for every taste. A little terrifying, a little noir, a little lit, a little poetry, a little of the Poe-esque, a little of the Lovecraftian. All dark, all intense. And, as you can see in the pics, I've been taking my medicine in advance.

Ordering information to follow soon.

Table of Contents:
“They Come at Night” — Gregory Bastianelli
“The Cancer Ward at Midnight” — Lauran L. Soares
“Will’s Theory of Free-Floating Fat” — Peter Dudar
“Worry Wart” — Kurt Newton
“Toad in the Hole” — Gevera Bert Piedmont
“Moonsickness” — Jenna Moquin
“Irish Wake” — Michael Deady
“Happy Valley” — Howard Odentz
“Exorcising Attention Deficit Hyperactive Demons Requires an Order of Operations” — Trisha Wooldridge
“Author’s Note” — Rob Smales
“Body Work” — Nancy Brewka-Clark
“House of Tupper” — Meg Smith
“Eternal Prison” — Timothy Flynn
“Ghost Trains” — Tom Deady
“The Tall People” — Catherine Grant
“The Cancer Eaters” — Ken Vaughan

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Ain’t That the Shit, Part 2 (Finale, Hopefully)

After spending a full workweek installing a new sewer line at our house, the crew finished up late Friday afternoon, so Brugger and I headed back from our somewhat extended sojourn in Martinsville. The front yard overall is a bit of a muddy, mucky mess, but the guys re-seeded and put straw down, so I very much hope it will return to its former glory (read with distinct irony) in a relatively short time.

So, at long last, we are able to flush again. Oh, wait... no we’re not! Now the downstairs toilet does not refill after flushing. The water in the rest of the house seems okay. So, we immediately recall the guys, who show up again, much to our mutual chagrin. Apparently, during the job, they inadvertently cut (and then repaired) our main supply line, but somewhere in the process, the fill valve in the downstairs toilet blew. Anyway, since that was clearly a consequence of the work, they repaired it, and I so hope this insanely expensive job is done and we will never have to deal with such a thing again in our lifetimes.

They did have to saw off about half the concrete from the driveway where Brugger typically parks her car, so it would behoove us to restore that, I reckon. The big honking excavator should vacate the property come Monday.

And now I have a yucky cold. At least, I think (and hope) that’s all it is. The covidz test was negative.

For now, I is done.

It’s enough to turn some of us into a basket case.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Ain’t That the Shit, Part 1 (Probably)

Water troubles in the homeplace have always been the bane of my existence. Sometimes, I really hate the fact that water is among life’s critical elements because it has caused the single most financially crippling issues ever since I became a homeowner, way back in the dark ages. Flooding, clogged pipes, broken pipes, backed-up sewer lines, and — in this case — a broken sewer line.

The worst problem here is that, originally, the builders ran our sewer line run far onto the adjacent property, and the break is under our neighbors’ driveway. We had a couple of well-rated plumbing firms come out, and both told us we'd need a whole new sewer line cut on our property, as the code is now such that it can't extend onto the neighbors (and I suspect it might have been that way when the houses were built; of course, the builder is now long gone).

Because our house lies down a steep hill, the sewer line is very long and very deep where it connects with the city line at the street. The exact words of both companies describing this situation were “Worst-case scenario.” One company was somewhat less expensive, but they did not seem as thorough in their evaluation or as knowledgeable about working at the depth necessary. The current complication is that they’ve encountered a massive layer of bedrock between the surface and where the line has to go (which is probably why the builders routed it the way they did at the time).

In any event, the financial damage is monstrous, and the front yard — what remains of it — is currently a disaster. It will cost another small fortune to restore it to any sort of respectable state, since the work crew isn’t obliged to do much more than fill the (currently) hazardously deep pit that occupies the entirety of the upper eastern quadrant of our lot.

I’m certain there will be more lovely updates to come. Stay tuned, especially if you enjoy chuckling at others’ tribulations (no guilt here, for I have done so; well, sort of; maybe).

Till then.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Kolchak, Dark Shadows on Rondo Award Ballot

Although not solely for my own work, it’s mighty gratifying that two books to which I contributed are on the ballot for the 21st Annual Rondo Awards (for work published in 2022). First, in the Book of the Year category (#11 on the ballot), is Running Home to Shadows (Becky Books), edited by Jim Beard and Charles R. Rutledge; second, in the Best Graphic Presentation category (#22 on the ballot), is Kolchak: The Night Stalker 50th Anniversary Graphic Novel (Moonstone Books), edited by James Aquilone (this one has also been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award).

The Rondo Awards are cooler than fuck. Yes, they are! You can check out the ballot and vote here: The 21st Annual Rondo Awards

Monday, March 6, 2023

Evil Dr. Evil

In this case, “Dr. Evil” refers to a series of “extreme” geocaches, placed by a handful of local geocachers, deep in the subterranean labyrinths of numerous North Carolina cities and towns. Some of these hides are more difficult (read “potentially deadly”) than others, but all offer physical (and sometimes mental) challenges to geocachers who appreciate venturing into deep, dark underground culverts and catacombs to claim their smileys. I’ve found a fair number of “Dr. Evil” hides, and so far I’ve made it home in one piece (though inevitably filthy dirty).

Yesterday, the No-Dead-Weight IrregularsDiefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), Fishdownthestairs (a.k.a. Natalie), Old Rob (a.k.a. Old Rob), and Old Rodan (a.k.a. me) — decided to try our luck at “Dr. Evil Visits Sanford,” a relatively old cache (placed in 2010) by the late, lamented Moncure Bee Dude (a.k.a. Lonnie, may he rest in peace). No one had found it in something like six years, so we figured it was time someone made the attempt. As with many in this series of hides, the online cache page offered only minimal information about the cache and the challenges awaiting intrepid hunters. The first test was finding access to the underground route, since no starting coordinates were given.

A thorough study of the Google Maps aerial view of the location clued us into a likely starting point, and once we arrived there, we appeared to have hit the jackpot. Maybe too much of a jackpot, as we found not one but three culverts that led in roughly the right direction. A brief incursion into each dark maw convinced us that the middle of the three was our most likely suspect. Now, let it be known that Old Rob does not do tunnels. He is not a tunnel rat. He offered to spot us from above, as best as the series of manholes and drains on the surface allowed. So, we three brave (read “possibly insane”) members of the crew hunkered down and began a long, uncomfortable duckwalk into the pipe, from which a prodigious stream of water poured with unbridled enthusiasm.

After some distance, the concrete tubes changed to corrugated metal — and the diameter of the passage decreased by a good ten percent. The water made the metal surface very slippery, making forward progress even more difficult. Eventually, we heard Rob calling to us from a drain opening above, indicating we’d gone a couple of hundred feet. We now came to a series of brick-lined shafts that led up to manholes on the surface (the iron-rung ladders in these are frequently used to hang cache containers, but we had some distance to go before we reached ground zero). Almost 400 feet in, we heard Rob calling that he was standing above our heads at the posted cache coordinates — but there was no manhole there. We found this odd, but — sure enough — not far away, we saw another vertical shaft, where we assumed (and hoped) we would find our quarry.

It didn’t take long to determine why there was no manhole at ground zero — the vertical shaft had been blocked with concrete.

[Insert lots of heavy sighing here.]

By all indications, the cache no longer existed. We assumed that at some point during the past six years, for whatever reason, the shaft had been sealed. And so, we retreated in defeat, soaked with both water and sweat, covered with all kinds of muckity-muck, and just about tuckered out from the long, difficult duckwalk-slash-crawl. And that might have been the end of the story but for a note we received from a geocacher who had found this particular Dr. Evil back in 2010. He insinuated the posted ground zero might not be entirely accurate because, when he found the cache, the newer concrete and metal pipes gave way to old brick-lined tunnels — and there was actually a memorial plaque on the wall where the cache resided. The indication here is that we may simply have not gone far enough... if his description of the setting still applies after so many years.

Anyway. I don’t know whether I will ever return to this particular Dr. Evil hide in hopes we might find it by proceeding some unknown distance farther in the tunnel. From where we ended up, the corrugated metal tunnel continued as far as our lights could shine, and I’m not sure this old body is as up to so taxing a physical challenge as it used to be. In fact, these days, I’m more of a mind that if the tunnel is too small to stand in, it’s probably too small for Mark.

I shan’t worry too much, though; there are still a lot of taller tunnels out there with caches in them. Maybe even another Dr. Evil.

This morning, I went out and found a new, much easier cache (a first-to-find, at that), with friends Diefenbaker and Night-Nawk (a.k.a. Tom), and then I placed a new one of my own, this one called “The Spider.” It’s a little mean but nowhere near as evil as a Dr. Evil. Still, I’m betting that a few hunters will bitterly curse my name.

[Insert evil laughter here.]
The No-Dead-Weight Irregulars (Old Rodan, Old Rob, Old Diefenbaker, Relatively Young Fishdownthestairs)
relaxing after the Dr. Evil experience