Sunday, January 28, 2024

Bad Behavior

Why not? I'm gonna step right up and post my thoughts sparked by the latest of the endless social media explosions because, for me, these go beyond just the immediate cases.

I dip into the social media pool fairly frequently, but I don't live on social media. I don't always see the latest kerfuffle in the literary world at the moment it happens, or block the latest persona non grata as fast as some people would like ("You need to do better!" [to be fair, not directed specifically at me, but apparently to those whose fingers don't perpetually hover on the block button]), especially when said PNG's page doesn't reveal diddly about what he or she might have done. At the risk of sounding defensive — not that I'm gonna apologize for handling my social media presence as I see fit — I use almost all my waking hours writing, editing, hiking, working at being a good husband, or doing something personally productive with my time and energy (why, yes, I am that self-centered); dealing with the perpetual weirdness of social media, while important in many ways, tends to be a lower priority.

That said, I do appreciate finding out that, yes, I should be aware of certain goings-on with so-and-so, and I'll weigh that info on its merits and act as I see fit. But I don't do that on your timetable, Mrs. Kravitz.*

Now, no one has come after me personally, but some of the vehemence among commenters I've seen implies guilt by association if you haven't jumped on the bandwagon fast enough for their liking. Transferring anger from the offender to the otherwise uninvolved does kind of chap my ass.

All that said, YES, OF COURSE, I condemn the behavior of Mr. JD Barker. He was on my friends' list, not that I can recall ever interacting with him. I hope that my own conduct online and in-person would never suggest tacit approval of deplorable behavior.

*It occurs to me that, for the younger set, you might wanna look up Bewitched.

Monday, January 22, 2024

One Guess Less

I saw in my online "memories" post that pops up daily that, on this day in 2012, I found the geocache called "The Curse of Samarra Morgan" (GC1QF2B), which, in the photo at left, you can see me about to dive after it. It was located not far out of Chapel Hill, NC (and there was a lovely little graveyard nearby, which might have been handy should the worst happen at the cache site). Then it occurred to me that I've been geocaching for sixteen years this month; I found my first cache ("Groundhog Lane," now long-archived) on January 12, 2008. I'm still hard at it on a regular basis—pretty much the same geo-addict I've been ever since Day One—although I can't get out after them as much as when we lived in North Carolina, simply because there are far fewer caches in this part of Virginia to hunt. That's kind of a bummer, but since I've placed a large number around here, I visit many of them frequently to keep them well-maintained for other hunters.
This morning, on my regular daily walk, I decided to head down to the former site of one of my old geocaches, along the Smith River a couple of miles from my house. Sadly, the host of that cache, called "One Guess," is no longer tenable for a geocache (and that area is not as readily accessible as it used to be should one be driving in from some other area). The cache was up in a big sycamore, and to say that tree has seen better days is an understatement. I've always enjoyed hunting more "extreme" geocaches, and I've hidden a good many that can challenge highly experienced cachers. There were once very few caches to which I could say "no," but I will admit that, nowadays, I'm not quite as physically able to handle certain terrain types—such as culverts and storm drains and such into which I'd have to crawl. Crawling and my knees and hips no longer get along very well.

Mind you, I can still climb some trees. I love me some trees. And another cache in the same vein as "The Curse of Samara Morgan"? Bring it on!
Left: The site of "One Guess," on the day I placed it in February 2012; photo by Ms. B. Right: The same tree, photo taken this morning (from the opposite angle). Notice that one whole trunk has gone missing, which was where the cache originally lurked. One Guess less...

View of the Smith River from the old cache site

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

WIP Excerpt: The House at Black Tooth Pond

Not very long ago, I wrote a haunted house story, titled "The House at Black Tooth Pond," for an upcoming anthology, which will be appearing later this year. I've made blog posts about the place I call Black Tooth Pond, which is inspired by an honest-to-God location here in Martinsville (the most recent blog being "Black Friday at Black Tooth Pond," Friday, November 25, 2023). For the story, I combined that real-life setting with another: an ancient, crumbling house my brother and I discovered not far from Martinsville in the early 1990s. I called it the House of Cabiness because, inside the place, I discovered a massive cache of old mail, all addressed to members of a certain Cabiness family. I suspect that place is long gone, since so little of it remained intact even then, but the memory of it has haunted me ever since.

The drawing above is one I did back when Brother Phred and I found the place.

I believe the story makes for a fine stand-alone tale, but the more I contemplated the idea, it felt like one that could be expanded into a full-length novel. So, quite recently, I set about scheming and plotting and plotting and scheming, and I came up with a workable novel project. At the moment, I'm roughly 30k words into the writing, so I thought I'd offer a little excerpt. Here she be:


As Martin sauntered along the walkway, mostly looking at his feet, he heard a deep, booming voice rising above the soft student babble around him. The voice was shouting, “Sinners, take heed! The end times are near! Take heed, all of ye!”

Oh, hell. One of the endless supply of proselytizers that seemed to target the campus more and more lately. They’d always been around, maybe even more so back in his university days, but there recently seemed to have been a resurgence.

The voice came from a huge, black-suited man, with wide, glittering eyes beneath a heavy brow. He stood on the walkway just shy of the stairs to Reynolds Hall. Unless Martin diverted around to the side door, he couldn't avoid walking directly in front of the fellow. In one hand, the man held a thick sheaf of papers—flyers or tracts, no doubt. None of the students passing nearby appeared to take even the vaguest notice of him.

Good for them.

As he approached, he kept his eyes down and walked by without the fellow taking any special notice of him.

Until he reached the stairs of Reynolds Hall. And then the deep voice bellowed, “Beware, Dr. Pritchett, the doom that came to Eden, the country of the snake!”

Martin whirled around, incredulous, and saw the figure standing on the walkway with one arm outstretched, pointing directly toward him.

“Do you not know what you have disturbed, Dr. Pritchett?"

He took a few steps back toward the towering figure. He’d never seen the man before in his life. How could he know his name? Maybe a former student? No. He didn't think so.

But those words. Martin knew them. They came from the pages he’d taken from the House of Cabiness. But no one besides his brother could be privy to what he’d done. No one else could have been out there to see him. Who could possibly know what was written on those ancient sheets?

No one.

No one alive.


Wednesday, January 10, 2024

THE FORT — A Short Horror Film by Alan Lastufka

"Teenage best friends Erin and Tim have their own hideout in the woods. It’s an old reclaimed trailer nicknamed the Fort. And it just grew a new door…"

Writer/Publisher/Filmmaker Alan Lastufka's short horror film, The Fort, is due for release in October 2024. A Kickstarter campaign has been launched to assist with the film's funding.

Alan Lastufka is CEO of Shortwave Publishing, which released my newest anthology, Deathrealm: Spirits, this past October.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Man the Pumps!

An hour ago, we received a tornado alert on our phones, the wind came roaring, and the tornado sirens started blaring. That all seemed fairly short-lived, and the wind has let up, though the rainfall is prodigious. There's usually not a creek with waterfalls here. The basement is a bit flooded, and that takes a LOT of water. Usually, it stays bone-dry even with a decent amount of rain.

This weather system is all over the region and beyond, so I hope everyone is staying safe.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Guns of the Wasteland by Leverett Butts

Mainly on my long daily walks, I've been listening to Lev Butts's Guns of the Waste Land series on Audible. It's Arthurian legend set in the wild west; stylish, with beautifully drawn characters, set in a colorful, immersive environment. Michael Hajiantonis's narration is masterful. The fourth and final part is due for release shortly. Y'all really need to check out the books, either in paperback or on Audible.

Lev is a hell of an author, and a while back, I met him on one of my trips to my old stomping grounds in Gainesville, GA (Tuesday, October 11, 2022 — "Sabbatical 2: Return to Georgia"). We hit it off nicely, and I consider him a valued friend and peer. I do hope we have a chance to get together again soon.

Monday, January 1, 2024

A Virginia Beach New Year's

These past few New Year's holidays, Brugger and I have gathered with our regular partners in crime, Terry & Beth, and this year, friends Joe & Suzy joined the mix. This year, we had decided on Virginia Beach as our destination and made reservations at the Dolphin Run condos on the waterfront. Since we were all heading from different places — and I had geocaches to stop for — each couple drove separately. Ms. B. and I left about 11:00 a.m. Sure enough... there were some cool geocaches to snag along the way. We hit a few spots of traffic, but overall, the trip turned out to be a mostly pain-free six hours.

Once ensconced in our lodgings, we opened some wine for pre-dinner drinks. Come the dinner hour, we saw a few nearby restaurants, so we walked up to an appealing-looking place called Waterman's Surfside Grill, but the wait time — about an hour — struck us as a bit much. So we ended up walking another partial block and found Mahi's at the nearby Hilton Hotel. They specialize in sushi, and I ended up with some of the best dead fish I've had in ages... maybe ever.

Then we returned to our lodgings and — scandalous, I know — we opened some wine. Our revels, debates, and mud-wrestling lasted fairly late. Brugger and I took a nice, late-night walk on the beach. Then there was some heavy-duty bed-crashing.
The Dolphin Run Condos by night

After plenty of coffee, I set out walking after geocaches. Found a few physical hides and stages of several Adventure Lab (virtual) caches. I ended up hoofing it about two and a half miles, which is fairly typical of my daily walks back home. The wind behaved brutally for much of the distance, so I was still rather glad when I made it back indoors.

For lunch, our gang decided to give Waterman's another try because the menu had appeared appealing. This time, we were able to get seated quickly. One of their daily specials was an Angus burger with brie and applewood-smoked bacon, and it hollered at me. No drinks but water for me because I'm certain there will be no shortage of such refreshments this evening. The burger was very good, a bit shy of great. Still, it's been ages since I've had a burger, so it hit the critical spot.

To my dismay, I discovered that our power back home had gone out. Apparently, it was a widespread outage in Martinsville, as people all over the city were posting about it. It lasted a couple of hours, and I don't know what caused it, but at the moment, all seems well again. We certainly did not want the cats and their sitter to get too cold!

Writer/editor/Crossroad Press CEO/good friend David Niall Wilson was apparently in town, and we'd had an idea we might try to get together during the afternoon, but circumstances didn't come together for it. However, come April, we'll be seeing each other at the upcoming AuthorCon III in Williamsburg, so we'll have a good time there to anticipate. 

There is a walkway along the beach that runs just below our eighth-floor balcony — the "boardwalk," it's called, although it's not so much boards as concrete. It's been all done up with a holiday light show, so, during the evening, a huge parade of vehicles rolls by to go through the show. It doesn't bother us at all, though now and again, we venture out to the balcony to hurl insults at the crowd and look at some of the visible lights.

Several of the gang were out and about for the afternoon, so they picked up vittles for dinner, including a couple of rotisserie chickens for the main course. Joe made us a lovely Italian concoction of beans and escarole to go with the bird, and so we were set. Once well-fed, we settled in for an evening of wine, games, and generally acting up.
Crazy white people!
The opening of the light show below our balcony: "Welcome to VA Beach!"
I'd hoped the weather might be a bit less blustery this morning to go walkies, but while the sun blazed brightly, that air remained frigid. So... no. I got some writing done. Finally, at about 11:00 a.m., the temperature pushed up to the 40-degree mark, and I decided to head on out. Joe & Suzy had a lunch date with her sister, who lives nearby, and the rest of us planned to eat leftovers, so I reckoned I could walk as far as I wanted to, and we'd be on our own time until later this afternoon. I went a full two miles outbound, grabbed a traditional cache and the stages of a couple of Adventure Labs, and I had just reached my farthest goal when Ms. B. shot me a message. Apparently, the gang had decided to check out lunch options than leftovers, and could I please get back pretty soon? Hoo boy... long way....

Fortunately, I walk pretty fast.

Our lunch destination was Firebrew Bar & Grill down by Oceana Naval Air Station, where Terry and Joe had been stationed back in our nation's earliest days. Terry and I started with a couple of bloody marys (quite good) and ye women opted for wine. Possibly the wrong thing to do because we're having a big New Year's Eve dinner, but I went for a half-rack of baby back ribs, and damn... they were delicious. There was a cache nearby, so I grabbed it... and ran into a local geocacher in the process. We had a brief, enjoyable conversation.

From there, ye women went shopping, and Terry and I headed down to Oceana to meander around his old stomping grounds. For me, the real treat was getting to view a fair number of "antique" Navy aircraft up close and personal. Due largely to my model-building days, which ranged from my wee childhood until post-college, I recalled the names and types of the majority of the jets. Fun stuff!
F4 Phantom
F2H Banshee
F14 Tomcat
The Lunch Bunch

For New Year's Eve dinner, we had reservations at Mermaid Winery. It was a three-course dinner with choices of pork belly, scallops, crabmeat-stuff lobster, filet mignon, and various sweets for dessert. They served really good wine with dinner — not their own, which turned out to be fortunate because Kim and Terry sampled some of theirs and came away with expressions that were not at all pretty. Regardless, the atmosphere, service, and food made the overall experience a great finish for the year.

Back at the condo, we sat up playing tunes and making merry. Brugger entertained us with nonstop dancing from the time we arrived until we crashed, well after midnight.

2023 has left the building...
Our Gang at Mermaid Winery for dinner
The final moonrise of 2023
Without question, 2023 has been one of the most eventful years of my life. It was my first full year of retirement and included a major move back to my old homeplace in Virginia. In Greensboro, Ms. B. and I went through some of the worst household issues ever, first and foremost being the downright monstrous expense of replacing our sewer line ("Ain't That the Shit!"). Once we decided to move to Martinsville, we simultaneously went through the processes of upgrading our Greensboro house to sell and upgrading Pleasant Hill to move. What a long, expensive, labor-intensive job ("I'm Getting Too Old for This Shit!"). Fortunately, we got a good price on the Greensboro place, and while there are still some things we need (and want) to do in Martinsville, the house and town have turned out to be — unlike Greensboro has become — a comfortable, peaceful place to settle.

Early in the year and into the summer, along with all the physical labor, I was immersed in editing Deathrealm: Spirits, which came out in October from Shortwave Publishing. As with any anthology, it was an involved process, but overall, I reckon things came together as smoothly as I could have hoped. It's a beautiful book that includes superb work from many of the biggest and best names in the business. I hope you'll avail yourselves to it if you haven't already.

One of the hardest events to deal with this past year was the death of my good friend and regular geocaching partner, Rob Isenhour. We had well over a decade of experiences together, and whenever our (mostly) weekend geocaching group, The No-Dead-Weight Irregulars, manages to get together (sadly, not as frequently these days, since we are far more spread apart), the gap that Rob left behind seems massive. We do so miss him.

Having turned fairly old, this year has hit me with a few health challenges — none all that severe, but numerous and just serious enough to become real, if mostly temporary impediments. This last round of dental difficulty ("Fun & Games with Tooth Extractions") was the icing on the medical cake for this year. I can't say I approve, but at least I've mostly mended.

All in all, I can safely say this year has been another positive, if bumpy step forward in the walk into the unknown. I suppose, to put it in the immortal words of Dr. Franklin Ruehl, it's better (at least sometimes) than being slapped in the belly with a wet trout.