Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Smith River, a Haunted Island, and the Spooky Place


Almost every day, I walk somewhere between three and four miles around our neighborhood, which has done wonders for my physical and mental health. This afternoon, Ms. B. and I decided to go walking out on the Fieldale-Smith River Trail, which is my favorite of the trails in this area. In 2009 and 2010, I loaded up a mile-plus length of the trail with geocaches, and they're all still active. Yesterday, in fact, a group of geocachers found them all. Just for good measure, I decided to give each of the caches a physical check-up, and I was pleased to find them in decent condition. One of them (called "Haunted Island") involves a little tree climbing, and since that's one of my favorite physical activities, up I went (the view in the photo to the left is actually from up in the tree). I even managed to get back down.

My favorite of the trail's attractions is the view of the old Koehler Warehouse across the river on Route 57, which I've always called "The Spooky Place" because it was the site of the Martinsville Jaycees' infamous Halloween Haunted Castle when I was a teenager and a bit beyond. For a couple of tales of my sordid adventures in the Haunted Castle, you may visit my article at the Horror Writers Association Blog here. Don't be afeared... much.
A view of the Spooky Place without the spooky people in the way
A view of the Smith River from the trail
Tree damage!
A happy little community of mushrooms Ms. B. discovered

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Happy, Horrific Valentine’s Day and Damned Rodan’s Madre de Dios Spiked Salsa

While St. Valentine's Day might be a real "thing" in certain religious circles, neither Ms. B. nor I see it as much more than a typical "Hallmark Holiday." Still, we love having a handy excuse to get a little fancy, go out for dinner, and drink wine, that kind of thing. So, every year, Brugger gives me one of her beautiful hand-made Valentine's Day cards, we get a little fancy, go out for dinner, and drink wine, that kind of thing. Last night, we treated ourselves to Rania's uptown, which is our go-to restaurant in Martinsville when we're looking for something that resembles upscale. Their food is usually excellent, and it definitely hit the spot last night. A bottle of Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon (2018 vintage), which was decent; Veal Scallopini for me; and Baked Ziti with Meatballs for Ms. B. The place does have a lovely atmosphere as well.

This weekend, friends Joe and Suzy are hosting a gathering where folks bring their own homemade salsa, so I spent a portion of the afternoon conjuring up Damned Rodan's Madre de Dios Spiked Salsa, which gets its heat from a combination of cayenne, jalapeno, habanero, and ghost pepper in the ingredients. I'd post the recipe if I had one, but for this, I just gathered all the stuff that one puts into fresh salsa (Campari tomatoes, onion, green onions, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, cumin, chili powder, lemon pepper, and the various peppers; chopped everything up; and threw it together in what looked like reasonable proportions. I hit the mix with our immersion blender and... voilà! Damned Rodan's Madre de Dios Spiked Salsa. The heat is not trivial, but the stuff is fookin delicious. Needless to say, I'll probably never be able to duplicate it precisely.

Spent a portion of the afternoon on the Lovecraft eZine Podcast with host Mike Davis and author Jeff Thomas, which was a blast. I hope to be meeting them both face-to-face for the first time in August at Necronomicon in Providence, RI. And I managed a fair amount of forward progress on my current novel, The House at Black Tooth Pond.

Till whenever...

L: Brugger's homemade 2024 Valentine's Day card for the Old Dude; R: Damned Rodan's homemade
Madre de Dios Spiked Salsa

Sunday, February 11, 2024

DEATHREALM: SPIRITS at Lovecraft eZine!

Lovecraft eZine proprietor Mike Davis was kind enough to have me, authors Tony Tremblay and David Niall Wilson, and Shortwave Publishing's Alan Lastufka — on his weekly podcast to talk about Deathrealm: Spirits and the work within. It was a fun hour and a half, full of cosmic horror, harrowing adventure, and daredevil stunts. Plus, a nice bunch of memories of the legendary Brian Lumley, who passed away last month. Tune in!

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Number 1 and Driving High

What a day. What a freaking day. A mixture of the best and the worst rolled into one. It began last night when friend Scott (a.k.a. Diefenbaker) came up from Asheboro to spend the night so we could head northward today to do some serious geocaching. My daughter, Allison, also paid us a visit, and we had an excellent sushi dinner at Yamato. Afterward, we sat up fairly late with various drinks to keep us occupied until bedtime.

Up and at 'em early this morning. Allison and I made breakfast—she made her special scrambled eggs and I cooked up my Damned Rodan's Crematorium-Style Bacon. Then Scott and I hit the road for Rocky Mount and Boones Mill, thirty-some miles up the road toward Roanoke. We found several enjoyable caches, a couple of which took us out on the highest, narrowest, windiest, scariest fooken mountain road I have ever driven. You know those videos of single-lane roads along cliffs, with sheer drop-offs on one side and a high vertical wall on the other? This was kind of like that. Thanks be to Yog Sothoth no vehicles came from the other direction because I fear that might have been all she wrote for us.

At the end of the scary mountain road, we had the pleasure of meeting fellow geocacher, Varunner7, since she and her husband had placed a cache on their property. A very pleasant caching conversation followed, and after a while, off we went again, back toward Rocky Mount. We found lunch at a lovely BBQ joint called the Rocky Mount Smokehouse, where Scott and I both ordered brisket. We found it delightful.
Fun sign in the bathroom at the smokehouse

Several years ago, Brugger and I had gone after a cache on a huge, steep ridge on the outskirts of Rocky Mount. That cache has been long since archived, and a newer one took its place relatively recently. Since it was very close to the restaurant, Scott and I trekked up that remarkably steep incline and finally hit the summit. It's rocky as hell and covered with cactus, which isn't something you typically see around these parts. I indulged in all kinds of acrobatics in precarious settings as I set about hunting the cache—something I haven't been able to do much recently—but after a serious amount of time, we came up empty. Based on some intel we received from Ms. Varunner7, we concluded that the damned thing has already gone missing. Drat and alas.

Also in the "good shit" column, I received hopeful news about one of my recent short stories from a publisher (which I'll remark upon later, when the word is given), and, thanks to the big Bookbub promotion, which I detailed yesterday, Deathrealm: Spirits reached number 1 in sales on Amazon.com in three categories: horror anthologies (Kindle), horror anthologies (books), and fiction anthologies. It held onto that position for a full 24 hours, which is a fair achievement. It slipped a few notches for a couple of hours this evening, but then it climbed back into the lead positions.

It's the little things that make one smile, wouldn't you say?

In the "bad shit" column, which does not make me smile, Ms. B. got laid off from her job of 21 years, ignominiously and with a piss-poor severance deal. Out of respect for Kim—certainly not for the company, which gets absolutely none from me—I'll elaborate only a little. I hope this will prove a blessing in disguise, as leaving one position behind for another sometimes does. I feel horrible for her, though, because she loved that job and gave everything to it that she had to give. That she was shown no more appreciation and consideration than she was is disgraceful (note that this applies only to the parent company, not the wonderful local bunch that we both worked with for many, many years). Needless to say, this puts us in a bigger financial and logistical bind than we'd been prepared to deal with. Still, we're in a better place than many in similar circumstances, so I suppose there's that.

Anyway, tomorrow will bring what it's gonna bring, and we'll give it what for.
Looking down at Rocky Mount from "Rocky Top"
You might have to look carefully, but many of the rocks are covered in little cactus plants
One of the crevices I explored along the cliff face
Old Dude at "Rocky Top" on Christmas Day, 2011, photo by Ms. B.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

DEATHREALM: SPIRITS Bookbub Deal!

From Bookbub...
With terrifying tales from Bram Stoker Award–winning authors Brian Keene, Elizabeth Massie, Joe R. Lansdale, and other masters of the genre, this recently released anthology is filled with unsettling horrors that will keep you anxiously turning pages…
 
Publisher Description
Deathrealm: Spirits is a horror anthology, edited by Stephen Mark Rainey, featuring new stories from genre legends Joe R. Lansdale, Elizabeth Massie, Brian Keene, Eric LaRocca, and many others.

This is the first anthology of new Deathrealm stories since the original magazine ceased publication in 1997. Once called one of the most important horror lit magazines being published at the time by acclaimed editor, Ellen Datlow, Deathrealm presented a wide variety of dark fiction.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Pre-Dawn Muggle Madness and More

Since Ms. B.'s folks have reached that age where they need a bit more help from time to time, she heads to Michigan regularly to visit them. Sometimes I go along too, but this week, she made it a solo trip. Her flight out from Greensboro was at 6:00 a.m. yesterday morning, so we had to get ourselves up at 3:30 a.m. to hit the road by 4:00 a.m. We made it to the airport just before 5:00 a.m., and rather than turn right around and drive home, I decided to head eastward from Greensboro and snag a handful of geocaches.

My first stop was Burlington, a few miles east of Greensboro, where there is a newish Wherigo cache, courtesy of friend Ranger Fox. Despite the 25º-degree temp, I hoped  I might make my way through the stages without becoming an icicle. But after fifteen minutes, I still had a pretty good way to go, and even though I was reasonably bundled up, the chill and the brisk breeze convinced me that trying again at a later (warmer) time might be more prudent.

However, stopping here offered me yet another chance to experience the single-most inevitable geocaching experience of geocaching experiences: the fooking muggle sitting in his fooking car. At 5:15 in the fooking a.m., a muggle (one of the non-geocaching persuasion) drives into this otherwise totally deserted parking lot, parks his fooking vehicle, and proceeds to fooking sit while I'm going from stage to stage. It never fails when there is an otherwise totally deserted parking, does it? In this case, not necessarily a complication, since muggles will be present at this location on a regular basis. However, under these circumstances, it just reinforces the notion that there is no empty parking lot into which a muggle won't insinuate himself at precisely the wrong time. Go fooking figure.

From there, I headed farther east and snagged a handful of caches. My favorite was one in the woods along the Eno River, just east of Efland, NC. A lovely location just downriver from a dam, which was visible in the distance from the cache site. So despite the pre-dawn muggle madness, I enjoyed myself no end.

A now a week of bachelorhood, writing, and, hopefully, more geocaching.
Sunrise is imminent...

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Hellnotes Reviews Fugue Devil: Resurgence

Hellnotes reviewer Carson Buckingham gives Fugue Devil: Resurgence a big thumbs-up! A lovely review indeed.

"This collection from Stephen Mark Rainey is among the best ones I’ve read. Each story is a shining gem and if you enjoy Lovecraftian horror, there is much that will please you here...
5 stars—Highly recommended. Buy one for yourself and one for a friend."