Friday, November 28, 2008

Caching Turkeys

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year. I've been fortunate enough to spend most of my Thanksgivings with family, and in my old age, that feels more and more important to me.

Today has been a mighty good one. Up with the sun, or close to it. Interestingly, the sky around Mom's house was filled with huge turkey buzzards for several hours, so I watched them from the window for a time. An impressive sight. Then went on a nice hike with my brother at the Gravely Nature Trail just outside of Martinsville and dropped travel bugs into a couple of my geocaches. Came back to Mom's and had a great big feast of dead bird and other goodies, including some of Mrs Death's exquisite pumpkin pie. Then, while everyone else succumbed to the lure of beds and couches, I worked for several hours on my current story, titled "Iron Heart," and made substantial progress. Had a small supper of leftover Mexican food from last night. And then...a new cache listing popped up on the Geocaching Web site. What do you know...it's in Fieldale, not too far from here. So Mrs Death and I took off into the chilly evening and went hunting for it. Yep, we got first-to-find honors.

After we found the new one, I kicked back and let Mrs Death hunt the caches that I had hidden in the area last weekend (The Spooky Place, Route 666, etc.). It's kind of fun watching her try to think like the old man while she's out on the hunt. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Heh heh....

The Great Turkey was very kind to me today, for which I am very grateful. I hope he was kind to you too.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Count Gore DeVol's OTHER GODS Review

Awright. Other Gods has scared the breakfast cereal out of another one. As you may know, Count Gore DeVol, perhaps my all-time favorite TV horror host (from the old days of WDCA Channel 20, one of the early superstations, out of DC) runs a nice horror-oriented Web site, and reviewer J. L. Comeaux was kind enough to give Other Gods a big thumbs-up. Here's an excerpt:

"These stories possess an elusive sense of heft and weight, like a stealthy, deep-running undertow that slips around you, pulling you down and down. The tales begin disarmingly, with familiar people inhabiting a familiar world, going about their lives and business. But then, just one misstep, one small mistake, and they find themselves entangled in the ever-present, unseen, horrific undertow of terror that lurks beneath the fa├žade of normalcy. Rainey's prose is muscular and confident, like a friendly arm around the shoulders ushering us down the cellar stairs towards what lurks in the darkness below. Other Gods is the perfect volume to snuggle up with on these dark and wintry nights. Sweet dreams!"

You may read the whole thing here: www.countgore.com/gore/tomb.htm (scroll down a short ways).

Thanks, Ms. Comeaux, and I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to give you the shivers again.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Joe, the Spooky Place, and Route 666

I'm seriously bummed this weekend because my friend Joe is in the hospital. By all accounts, it's not a life-threatening thing, but anytime a hospital is involved, I consider it serious. Joe and I were friends in high school; then our ways parted, and we didn't see each other again for twenty years. Once we got reacquainted — eleven-plus years ago — the two of us (and our respective families) have remained close ever since. Joe is one of those infectiously good people. I always feel better for having spent time in his and his family's company, and I have it on good authority that he only rarely projectile vomits after spending time in mine. That's not bad. Please send prayers and good thoughts out to the old dude.

I'm visiting me mum this weekend, so I spent most of this very cold day planting geocaches in and around Martinsville. Several of them have spooky themes. Yeah, I know, what a shock. One of them is at a place I've always called The Spooky Place. It's an old warehouse in Koehler where the local Jaycees used to have their haunted castle attraction at Halloween. Back in high school, and for a time thereafter, I helped them design the rooms and got to be one of the roving monsters that scared the bejezus out of you in the pitch-dark corridors. This was back in the good old days when you didn't get sued if you indavertently touched someone, so I really scared some folks. Probably scarred 'em for life, too.

Yeah, those were some of my favorite Halloweens.

And just up the road from there, we have route 666. You probably won't remember (I blogged about it somewhere), but a couple of years back, I went riding up that old country road to a little graveyard and scattered the pages of my homemade Necronomicon. As you may have guessed, there is now a geocache on route 666.

As there should be.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Such Deviltry


After an earlier false alarm, I understand the latest issue of Cemetery Dance (#59), which contains my story, "The Gaki," is now out. For real this time.

Is good news. What really made my day, though, was a nice note from Gary Braunbeck, who recently read "Fugue Devil" in Other Gods and found it unshabby. According to Gary, "'Fugue Devil' is a modern (if, alas, under-appreciated) masterpiece; the sense of place, the deceptively laid-back quality of the narrator's voice, the legend of the Fugue Devil itself, the hound, the familial disintegration, the feelings of alienation and guilt and helplessness, all combined to weave a genuinely...scary...story." I must say, there's something very, very gratifying about scaring Gary Braunbeck. After his work has engaged, jolted, disturbed, and kicked me the gut I don't know how many times over the years, I guess turnabout is fair play.

Take that, Gary.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

QUANTUM OF SOLACE


I went into Quantum of Solace not quite sure what to expect. I have purposefully avoided reading reviews because, particularly when it comes to Bond, I prefer going in with relatively few preconceived notions. The most I knew before seeing it last night was that it made a lot of money and many of the critics weren't terribly pleased with it.

Well, then. Overall, I must say I was pleased. Very pleased. It did have lots of niggling problems, a few of which were enough to make me more than raise an eyebrow (such as a building constructed with highly flammable fuel cells), but its strengths so far outweighed its shortcomings that I must give Quantum a very enthusiastic "Hell yeah." Reason number one being that Daniel Craig is so damned good. He is Bond through and through, and if it's possible, he may have done it better this time around than in Casino Royale.

No need to go into the plot, but one of the biggest critical complaints that I'm seeing is its lack of larger-than-life elements. Personally, I find it rather a welcome aspect of the movie; it's darker and dirtier than many of the Bond blockbusters because it's a tad closer to the headlines. Yeah, it's still high espionage fantasy, no doubt about it, but there's something more authentically creepy about Mathieu Amalric's malevolent leers than a scarred Donald Pleasance threatening to start WWIII.

The biggest issue I had was the rapid, dizzying jump-cutting during the action scenes (and sometimes even the more static scenes). This vehicle for sensory overkill has been too popular for too long, and rather than immerse you in the picture, it achieves quite the opposite effect. It's a pity Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale) didn't direct this movie, for his talent is far superior to Marc Forster's, with a true understanding of how to rhythmically blend quick cutting and lingering views to draw you fully into the scene.

One of the things I most admire about Quantum's script is that it gives Bond some real human depth. The most powerful moment in the film is the death of Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), in which Bond shows deep emotion, far more than he did with Vesper, with whom he had fallen in love in Casino Royale. Likewise, there's more dimension to the stone wall he erects around himself, which helps round out the character better than it ever has been. A lot of the credit goes to Craig's masterful portrayal, and I do believe he has proven himself the best of all the actors ever to wear Bond's dinner jacket. (Never fear, to me, Connery will still always be Bond. James Bond.)

I don't miss Q's gadgets, for their absence leaves Bond to handle deadly affairs with more "ordinary" high-tech acouterments. I do sort of miss the old, familiar byplay with Ms. Moneypenny and the traditional setting of Universal Export. Small things, though, given the darker, grittier drama of the new Bond universe. What I do miss, though, is a damn good, high-octane opening theme song. Good GOD, does "Another Way to Die" by Jack White and Alicia Keys suck. It sucks. It's pitiful. I think it may have topped Madonna's Die Another Day as the worst Bond song of all time. It. Sucks.

Happily, David Arnold's orchestral score rates very highly. Probably his best work to date, with numerous, distinctive themes and some atmospheric arrangements of the original Bond theme. When the soundtrack album to Casino Royale came out, I was rather put out that it didn't include the title song by Chris Cornell. This time around, I'm more put out that the soundtrack album does include the title song.

I expect I'll be returning to the theater to see Quantum of Solace a second time before it leaves, and when it comes out on DVD, it will most certainly be number one on the wish list. I do hope that for the next Bond film, we get to see more of what's right with Quantum and less of what's wrong. And hopefully, a few new tricks altogether. If nothing else, the last two Bonds show that they can still do it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

DARK SHADOWS: THE PATH OF FATE




Dark Shadows: The Path of Fate, the audio drama I wrote for Big Finish, is now available for pre-order. The very sharp cover art is by producer Stuart Manning.

Here's the official scoop:

Dark Shadows: The Path of Fate is a new audio production written by Stephen Mark Rainey, based on the classic Dark Shadows TV serial, featuring the talents of original series actors David Selby (Quentin Collins) and Lara Parker (Angelique). The hour-long drama will be available on CD or as an MP3 download. Due in December 2008 from Big Finish.

"Over a century ago, the first Quentin Collins built a stairway to traverse time, opening the way to countless, unimaginable realms of past and future. To prevent his family's destruction, he dismantled his creation, but now a new, mysterious stairway has appeared at Collinwood. The present-day Quentin finds himself drawn to explore the shadows at its farthest reaches, only to discover that the power lurking there holds no love for any members of the Collins family — Quentin in particular. To save himself — and his family — from destruction, Quentin forges an unlikely alliance with Angelique, herself a dangerous agent of darkness. But if she uses her powers to help him, she risks her own eternal damnation. Can the two of them prevail over this new terror before it destroys them both — and ultimately consumes the entire Collins family?"

FROM THE AUTHOR:
For me, it is a thrill to return to Collinwood and again visit with its most enigmatic and secretive characters, played so unforgettably by David Selby and Lara Parker. Dark Shadows: The Path of Fate ventures into strange new territory, at once ominous and alluring, yet it remains a familiar place, inhabited by people you know — just like old friends. After more than forty years, Dark Shadows continues to haunt its longtime fans and charm new ones. Like so many who were captivated by the show during its original run, my enthusiasm for it has never waned, and immersing myself in its unique world is always an experience to savor. I invite you to visit that world again with Dark Shadows: The Path of Fate. Enter with caution, for the shadows here are dark indeed — but know that you are welcome.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

DEAD BUT DREAMING...Again


Back in 2002, the short-lived publisher, DarkTales, released a nice little anthology of Cthulhu Mythos tales titled Dead But Dreaming, edited by Keith Herber and Kevin Ross. It was the original home of my World War II/Lovecraftian horror tale, "Epiphany: A Flying Tiger's Story," as well as stories by Ramsey Campbell, David Barr Kirtley, Mike Minnis, Lisa Morton, Adam Niswander, Darrell Schweitzer, and others. About 75 copies of the book escaped into the wild before the publisher popped its rivets and went toes up, and I've seen copies of the book selling anywhere from $100 to $300 per copy. Anyway, Dead But Dreaming is looking at the light of day again, courtesy of Miskatonic River, a new small press devoted to producing supplements to Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu role-playing game as well as stand-alone Lovecraftian fiction. The book has been nicely repackaged, closely resembling the original release, but with a few updated extras. I received my contributor copy today, and it's nice to have one that's in pristine condition, as my original is somewhat battered and dog-eared.

It's a tough time for publishers, small pressers in particular, but it would sure be refreshing to see MRP fly in the face of it. The original DarkTales release of Dead But Dreaming received considerable critical acclaim, and I've always felt it was a damn shame that it suffered such an inglorious fate before it could hit the ground running. My story has since been reprinted in Delirium's Dark Homage series and in my collection from Dark Regions, Other Gods (yes, there is a very dark theme about this one, isn't there?), but it, as well as the other tales in the anthology, now have another chance to swat readers clean upside the head and make a powerful impression. By all means, if you're keen on otherworldly terrors wrapped in a dark sense of wonder, then Dead But Dreaming is most definitely for you.

You can visit it at the Miskatonic River Press Web site here.

Speaking of Other Gods, I see from the latest HWA Stoker rec list that it has several. Many thanks to you who have read it and treated it kindly. I plan on checking out the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, with Other Gods cover artist, Wayne Miller, this coming weekend. While the movie itself isn't likely to be scary, the audience is obviously going to be....

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cedarock

Cedarock is a fairly extensive park south of Burlington, NC, with several miles of hiking and biking trails and about forty geocaches. Mrs Death and I headed over there at the crack of dawn yesterday for camping/caching trip with our friend Beth (a.k.a. UNCGBogTurtle), her husband, and a couple of her students. We ate and drank exceedingly well (last night's steaks were Godzilla-sized), so to make up for it, I put in quite a few miles of hiking and found about 20 caches.

One of the neatest things was enountering not one but two trained red-tailed hawks out practicing maneuvers with their owners. Such beautiful birds, and absolutely fearless amid a crowd of people. Alas, didn't have the camera on hand at the time.

Couldn't have asked for a nicer weekend. It got right cold last night, but we built a fire big enough to have to wave off a couple of airplanes.


Setting up camp


A view from the campsite


Another view


No, we didn't find him in a cache. Or leave him in one.


Story time, with accompanying orb

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wacko

Particularly here in North Carolina, there have been some really ugly campaigns during this past election. I've never been so glad for the business to be over and done with, at least until the next go-round. The hideous negative campaigns run by the candidates themselves are bad enough, but this year in particular, the polarizations wrought by politics have become so extreme — and it's usually so damned petty.

I was brought up to have at least an ounce of class, and I try my best to maintain it, even when my wits and my temper are stretched to their limits. One thing that damn near set me off, though, was a sign in the yard of a neighbor, about how we've GOT TO STOP THE WACKO ENVIRONMENTALISTS and DRILL, DRILL, DRILL, which is the only way to lower the price of oil and become energy independent. There's no need for me to go into detail about the fallacy of the statement; that's a whole separate issue. What burns me up is the strident tone and the automatic labeling of a contrary opinion as "wacko." Most reasonable people, even if they hold a contrary view, understand — at least I hope so — that such inflammatory rhetoric simply isn't true.

But it's hardly limited to this sign, this issue, this election. What I find myself becoming increasingly intolerant of in my old age is the wholesale intolerance of conflicting points of view, no matter how well-informed they might be. Most left-leaning folks of my acquaintance are not tree-hugging socialists who love to kill babies and for whom the very mention of God sends into apoplectic fits, and few republicans I know are greedy corporate thugs who earnestly believe the rich should get richer and the poor should get poorer, all in the name of the Lord, and who will blast with their shotguns anyone who disagrees. In my experience, most of us want something akin to the same thing but have different ideas on how best to get there. Yeah, some ideas (and individuals) are indeed wacko — and it goes as much for one side as the other — but this immediate, extreme demonizing of others who hold different views, far more so than the actual issues on which we have different ideas, is what really tears us apart.

After this election, I've never been so proud to see so many Americans coming together under an umbrella of hope. I'd love to see that hope be borne out; time will tell. I will even break with personal tradition and be guardedly optimistic on this count. At the same time, I've never been so ashamed of being surrounded by so many folks (particularly in an online area I frequent) spewing bitter venom about the black Muslim socialist from Kenya who loves terrorists, and how, four years from now, we'll all be living in Marxist state.

Please. This country is in a fair mess just now. The democrats blame the republicans, and the republicans blame the democrats, but the one sure way not to fix things is to continue this ridiculous, divisive bitterness that still consumes way too many of us. Yeah, we're going to disagree, sometimes strongly, and sometimes rightly so. It's all a part of being who we are. But — to quote the King of Siam — too many a man will fight to prove that what he does not know is so. There's so much of that around that it really does make me tired. Lots of negativity for its own sake, as if it's in any way constructive.

You know, anyone is free to disagree with me. People do it all the time, as they rightly should. I disagree with others, and more frequently than I like. I usually try to get past it and figure out a way to dialogue, because I know that if we're just going to call each other wackos, idiots, etc., etc., and so forth, we're going to get done a whole lot of nothing, probably become enemies, and likely alienate others in the process.

And I hate hearing stuff like, well, that's just the way big people play. Actually, it's not. It's the way kindergartners who haven't learned better play. Many is the time that a reasoned argument, delivered without venom, has swayed me to see a different point of view. Never once in my life have I been convinced to entertain a contrary view by a bunch of insulting noise.

For all of our sakes, let us all make like we graduated kindergarten way back when we were children.

P.S. If you've read this far, you are totally, fucking, apeshit wacko. But that's okay. I forgive you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween 2008 Party Pics



The gaggle. The Mrs is the pirate in the middle.


Trouble.


Bigger trouble.


What, you think I'm not gonna kill this?


Done and done.


Okay, so I might have overdone it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"Demon Jar" at Horror World


My short tale, "Demon Jar," is the featured story at Horror World for the month of November. It's free. It's scary. It's the story I read at our company Halloween fest last year and traumatized some former schoolteachers. It's the story I read at our friends' Halloween party last week and traumatized some former coworkers.

If you get the impression I enjoy traumatizing folks, you might be onto something.

I have no compunctions about traumatizing you, either. But you're not a weenie, are you. No sweat. For you, it's just a heap of fun.

So check it out.

"Demon Jar"