Thursday, November 30, 2023

Deathrealm: Spirits — Brian Keene, Linda D. Addison, Larry Blamire, Eric LaRocca, Timothy G. Huguenin


Brian Keene — "Bloody Roots": The redoubtable Levi Stoltzfus confronts what may be his most fearsome, powerful, and heart-rending adversary...

Linda D. Addison — "As Below, So Above": "The dream ends and begins again and again; each time a different animal consumes dreadful beliefs I cannot release..."

  Larry Blamire — "The Murder Wagon": The ancient, shadow-haunted Callamo Mountains have seen countless horrors, and now a new menace rises to sow dread, nourished by blood and fear.

Eric LaRocca — "Even If Our Wounds Never Close": How much blood can personal atonement ever require?

Timothy G. Huguenin — "To Fear and To Rage": What are these hellish, eyeless things overrunning a small West Virginia community... and how the hell can they be stopped?

And much, much more!

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Deathrealm: Spirits — Meghan Arcuri, Kasey Lansdale, David Niall Wilson, Tony Tremblay, Jeff Oliver


Meghan Arcuri — "Fort Lonely": Is it a safe place born of a mother's love, or the den of some unspeakable horror from somewhere else?

Kasey Lansdale — "The Disappeared": Two young girls discover a body in a nearby creek, and the resulting dark cloud that envelops them swells into a mind-shattering storm.

  David Niall Wilson — "I Was Going to Tell You Tonight": A pair of pest exterminators. A terrible secret. A mind-bending collision of physical and spiritual horror.

Tony Tremblay — "Roadblock": An inexplicable gray wall appears, stopping cars on a remote, little-used road. But what of those few who are unable to pass through this mysterious barrier?

 Jeff Oliver — "The Devil's Bounty Hunter": "You can try to run, but it will always find you. You can hide in the dark, but it will always come through..."

And much, much more!

Monday, November 27, 2023

Give the Gift of Terror!

You want to be scared, right? And you want to scare other folks, right? Well, here you go, perfect for the holidays! My collection, Fugue Devil: Resurgence, and anthology, Deathrealm: Spirits, both available in paperback and ebook.

If you'd like autographed paperback copies, please contact me at mark-at-stephenmarkrainey-dot-com.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Black Friday at Black Tooth Pond

I needed to perform maintenance on a geocache out on the Dick & Willie Trail near uptown, so I headed out fairly and hiked out to it. Once I'd replaced the old, damaged container, on a whim, I decided to drive over to my old high school and see if I could get back to Black Tooth Pond, where I'd misspent countless hours back in my checkered past (you can read about an early adventure or two here,)

I gave Black Tooth Pond its name because, when I first discovered it, several hundred yards down a little dirt road behind the high school, a large number of old tree trunks protruded from the water at the pond's farthest end. (In more recent years, my dear, late friend Pete Wells, an expert in local history, informed me its actual name is Lester Pond; the Lesters have been a prominent family in this area for many, many years.) In 11th grade, circa 1976, my biology class hoofed it down the old road to the pond and took samples to test for water quality. Later, I furthered my education here with a select number of female specimens of the species. Not long afterward, I returned to the area to conduct experiments with certain chemical substances, the results of which are in mostly hazy.

I knew from looking at Google Maps that, some time ago, most of the woods around the pond had been razed, which pisses me off royally. (Around these parts, wooded areas no longer stay wooded very long. I'm assuming the motherfuckers want the trees solely for the wood, since, inevitably, only hideous scrub grows back in place of the once-healthy forests.) Thankfully, the pond remains back there amid all those now-desolate acres, though with only a thin ring of living trees surrounding it. Almost all the old trunks that once jutted from the far end of the pond have finally succumbed to the elements. Only a couple of very small, stubby trunks still protrude from the water.

Still, I very much enjoyed walking back there and taking a few photos. My latest short story, titled "The House at Black Tooth Pond," which is based both on this location and an ancient, abandoned house my brother and I discovered out in the county a good thirty years ago, will be appearing next year in a new anthology, titled Shunned Houses, edited by S.T. Joshi and Katherine Kerestman. Of course, I will post updates on the book as it gets nearer to release time.

Black Friday indeed.
View of Black Tooth Pond from 2010. As you can see, in those days, far more unspoiled forest surrounded it. More of the old tree trunks in the water are visible here, although even then, they were far fewer and smaller than when I first laid eyes on the location in the mid-1970s.
Another current view
A very old bench overlooking the water
A view of the current terrain, which up until recently was lush, beautiful forestland.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Big Bird Day!

About sunrise this morning, I hopped (read hobbled groggily) out of bed, grabbed a quick cup of coffee at the nearby Valero Station, and hit the road for a geocaching breakfast event at friends Tom & Linda's place in Browns Summit, back in the direction of our old homeplace in Greensboro. A number of local cachers showed up, and — as will happen at such events — many geocaching discussions ensued. Tom & Linda provided eggs, sausages, biscuits, coffees, and juices, but I fortified myself only a little, since, back in Martinsville, a massive feast awaited us, courtesy of Ms. B., who stayed home rather than venture out to mingle with a bunch of mad cachers.

We had planned on old family friends, Gretchen & Dick, to join us for the Big Feast, but sadly, illness had struck their household, and they had to bow out. My daughter, Allison, at least, graced us with her presence, so we still ended up with a lovely, compact family gathering. We enjoyed a massive, MASSIVE feast featuring turkey, stuffing, smashed taters, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, maple bars, and vino. Since we had calculated on additional bodies at our table, we had more leftovers than the law otter allow, so, after we were done, I drove up to the hill to Gretchen & Dick's place and delivered a big ol' care package of fixins.

Allison wanted to watch Child's Play, which neither of us had seen in about a century, so we settled in for an afternoon horror flick. I'd like to say I enjoyed it, but... Well, the experience was as fun as could be. The movie, not really.

Ms. B. had suffered a morning migraine, so as the day drew toward sunset, she retired to her chambers for a power nap. I set out walking around the neighborhood, which I do most every day, and put in about two and a half miles à pied. I probably worked off at least a few bites of dead bird.

The fall and winter holidays have always been a special time in my family, and now that I am the last of them, I treasure days like this. No, things aren't the same as in those wonderful old days, not by a long shot, but I love these times no less, and in some ways, maybe more than ever.

Whatever you and your loved ones celebrate, may it be happy, meaningful, and lasting for you.
Casa di Rodan
The view from the hill
At Lake Lanier, just down the street
The view toward home

Sunday, November 19, 2023

There Is Fire Where You're Going

Last night, friends Joe & Suzy hosted a chili cook-off with a bunch of folks, complete with awards for numerous recipe superlatives. Ten variations, with a wide range of ingredients, flavors, and spices. It may come as no surprise to most who know my tastes that I took the award for the deadliest heat (see the trophy at left).

I had cooked up a sizable batch of chili a few weeks ago and froze the leftover, which was almost a full pot in itself. The heat for this batch proved damned near inedible for some, and while I enjoyed its very rich, full flavor as much as any I've ever made, the fire was almost too much for me to handle. That, my friends, is some pretty special fire.

I rarely use a set recipe for my dishes — I tend to start throwing stuff together and see where it leads. Almost without exception, this method has led me to some fantastic dinners, the obvious problem being that reproducing it reliably is usually out of the question. Regardless, here's a recipe that I'd say comes about as close as possible to this most deliciously painful concoction.

Damned Rodan's Nuclear Fusion Chili
What You Need (serves four):
• 1 lb of ground Angus beef
• 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
• 16 oz. can mixed chili beans
• 10 oz. can diced tomatoes with habanero peppers (I use Ro-Tel brand)
• 2/3 cup Clamato juice 
• 7 oz. can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I use La Costeña)
• 6 oz. can tomato paste
• 1.5 oz. packet of chili seasoning powder (I use McCormick)
• tbsp chili powder
• tbsp cumin
• 2 habanero peppers, chopped fine
• juice and zest of 1 lime

For topping:
• green onions, chopped
• cilantro, chopped
• grated pepper jack cheese

What You Do:
1)  Brown the ground beef in a skillet and drain the excess grease.
2)  Move ground beef to large soup pot. Add onion, chili beans (drained or undrained, depending on personal preference), Clamato juice, tomato paste, chili seasoning powder, chili powder, and cumin. Cook on medium for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
3)  Add diced tomatoes, chipotle peppers/adobo sauce, chopped habaneros, lime juice & zest. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
4)  Serve with your choice of toppings.
5)  Break out the fire extinguisher.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Holy Turkey Buzzards, Catman!

I went outside to write on the porch to avoid the editorial efforts of certain young cats. You can't really see much in the photos, but the trees in the backyard are filling up with turkey buzzards. And they keep swooping down disturbingly close to me. I wonder if the buzzards know something I don't...

L: The writer seeking to escape R: the editor in question.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Monday, November 6, 2023

Ghost Train & Other Geocaches

I set out to do maintenance on a couple of the geocaches I own out on the Dick & Willie Passage, not far out of Uptown Martinsville this morning. I did maintenance, all right, but — rather unexpectedly — I also placed three new caches. I hadn’t really planned on doing so, but it was as nice a morning as we’ve had lately, and I’ve had it in my head recently that I really should hide a few new ones in town.

So... I bloody well did.
Due to the character of the terrain around the trail, two of the three are physically challenging (in fact, I called one of them “The Bad Place,” hinting at where you might end up should you lose your footing). Since the Dick & Willie is a rail trail, several of my caches out there are train-themed, and my favorite of the new ones is called “The Ghost Train.” A similar hazard awaits you here as well, for should you lose your footing, look forward to becoming a ghost doomed to wander the old rail trail from now till eternity...

The cache listings have been submitted to, so I hope they’ll be published quite soon, while the weather is still conducive to trail hiking. I got in several miles of walking, so with all the up and down of placing the caches as well, the old dude managed to get a bit sore. I reckon it’s nothing a little splash of the Old Infuriator won’t help with.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Tricks, Treats, Ghosties, Ghoulies, and Disembodied Heads

Ahh, there's nothing like some spooky Halloween (or in this case, pre-Halloween) geocaching. On Monday, I hauled myself up the thirty or so miles of scenic backroads to Rocky Mount, VA, primarily to hunt an Adventure Lab cache that takes you on a fun little ghost tour of downtown. Before hitting the town proper, though, I detoured over to some nearby woods to hunt a handful of caches I had yet to find. The first of these made my day — primarily because I did not expect what I found. Needless to say, the photo is a spoiler, so for the sake of the geocachers who follow this blog, I'll not reveal the cache name or its location. Suffice it to say that this one pretty well made my day.

After snagging a couple of more hides, I headed into town to hunt the ghostly Adventure Lab cache. It had five stages, each of which took me to a supposedly haunted location. None of these were particularly spooky, but I enjoyed visiting them for their historic significance. The most interesting to me was finding the original law office of Confederate General Jubal Early, under whom my great-great-great-grandfather and his brothers served during the Civil War. I hope that if any of these ghosts are roaming out and about, they haven't remained "unrepentant rebels," as Early himself was reputed to be following the war.

After the geocaching, I found a so-so lunch at a little Japanese place in Rocky Mount and then rode over to Ferrum College for a brief visit to my old alma mater. After that, home.

For the evening's entertainment, Ms. B. and I watched Hocus Pocus, which is one of her Halloween standards. Back when, I never thought I'd particularly enjoy this one, but it turns out that I very much do. Go figure.
Jubal Early's original law office in Rocky Mount, VA
The reputedly haunted "Farm at the Furnace"
Come Halloween morning, I was up early to fire up the crockpot for a big-ass pork butt. I had it cooking all day, seasoned it up nicely, and, come dinnertime, Ms. B. and I found ourselves with a damned good pulled pork feast. Our plan was to sit out on the front porch with the yard decorations blazing in hopes we might get a few trick-or-treaters. Since I hadn't spent Halloween in this house for many, many years, I had no idea what the turnout might be like.

It was considerably more impressive than I'd expected. We'd counted on a handful, at best, but we ended up with something like thirty. The weather cooperated nicely; it rained during the morning but cleared up by mid-afternoon. After the first couple of groups, I had to hie myself back to the grocery store to pick up more goodies. Happily, they'd already reduced the price on most of the chocolate treats, so I got a whole bunch of the good stuff (Reese's Take Fives). We still ended up with a wee bit left. But I found it very gratifying to see quite a few kids in costume — and all very polite. I understand the turnout was good just about everywhere in town. That makes me feel rather less curmudgeonly than usual.

To end the evening, we watched Disney's The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, which Ms. B. wanted to see. I think I saw this as a kid, but I can't be 100% certain. Anyway, it was fairly fun, with great animation. Then we put on Carpenter's Halloween just for shits & giggles, but by the time we got well into the film, the day's rigors and the evening's drink served to mellow me out a bit before the end of the film (as in snoring mellow, according to Brugger). Anyhoo, at least I know how the movie ends.

T'was a damn nice Halloween. I'll take it.
Appetizers on the porch prior to having trick-or-treaters (Mmm.)
Happy Horrorween!