Sunday, September 30, 2007
night, our friends, the Albaneses, came down from Martinsville for a big
old Thai dinner that I cooked up (one of my best, I have to say!) and
then we engaged ourselves in one of our favorite pastimes: going to the
drive-in theater in Eden, about a half-hour up the road.
No Reservations and
Balls of Fury were showing,
neither of which I'd have gone to see otherwise, but it was all about
the drive-in experience, more than the movies themselves. Got rather
chilly out there, but we had coats and blankets to bundle up, and there
were some good, hot cheeseburgers from the concession stand for dessert.
A fine evening all around.
For the last few years, it's been an office tradition for me to read one
of my stories at our Halloween "festival," so this year I think I'm
going to read "The Devils of Tuckahoe Gorge," which came out a while
magazine. Spent Sunday editing a thousand words
out of it so it'll fit into the 15-minute time slot I have. The end
result was a tighter and certainly better tale than what was actually
published. Wish I'd done it sooner. Also proofread the galleys of "The
Ghost Lens," which will be coming out next month in Elder Signs Press's
Horrors Beyond II. Is looking good.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Received a very
nice note from Brian Yount, editor of
Doorways magazine, that my story, "A Tale of the Terrible
Dead," will be appearing in issue #4 (December 2007). Looks like some
good company—Lee Thomas, Wayne Allen Sallee, John Everson, Stephen
Graham Jones, and Bruce Boston.
Frazier discovered his tail tonight. He flipped for it. Several times.
Monday, September 24, 2007
I reckon it's official now. A new addition to the household. A stray
tiger wandered around a couple of weeks ago and has been making himself
at home ever since. So we did the trip to the vet, got him checked out
and vaccinated, and now it looks like he's pretty much moved in. The
young lady next door thought Frazier was a good name for him, so it
stuck. The other cats are not overly thrilled, but they at least seem to be taking
things in stride.
Sadly, when Frazier was outfitted with a new collar and tag, someone had
the audacity to do a little outfitting on Chester as well. It's not
going over so great.
Sunday, September 23,
night was my 30th high school reunion, held at the Elks Club Lodge in
Martinsville, VA. There was a bunch of old people there. Peculiar, no? On the whole, I enjoyed it lots, as
I was once close with several of the folks in attendance; plus it was just plain
see many of the people I haven't had much, if any, contact with over the
years. A handful of people I'd hoped to see weren't there, but I did get
to spend quality time with some very good old friends. As my wife
observed, most of the women looked great; many of the men, not so much.
The FATZ band was very loud. Amusingly, many of the crowd who
were once headbangers were wishing for the volume to be lowered. And the
bartender was very serious about his drinks. The last few were somewhat
stiff, even by my standards...
Looking back, my high school years were generally good ones. Being an
introverted, creative sort, I didn't have many friends, and most in
school looked upon me as something of an oddity—though at some of these
reunions, many have been kind enough to tell me they respected my
artistic talent (which, when I consider it with some measure of
objectivity, wasn't all that remarkable). Most are not surprised that I
chose the path of a horror writer. Some of them have read my work and
decided they were right way back when—that guy is an oddity.
Typical of any teenager, I guess, a lot of the angst that drove me was
born of self-delusion and mistaken perceptions, but I remember numerous
episodes of sinking into pretty deep depression. But I also experienced
a lot of unadulterated joy in my school days—something that just doesn't
seem possible anymore, not with all the emotional and spiritual calluses
that nearly a half-century of life wears on one. Last night, I felt
some flashes of that old joy, and it's something I opt to treasure.
There's a bit of wistfulness mixed in as well, as, somehow, it seems
like this will probably be the last such gathering before the real
issues of age start setting in for many of us. Next time around, some
folks will have retired, some will be ill, and, inevitably, another
bunch will have passed on.
So while I'm here, I'm going to carry with me the happiness that one
night of interacting with the past can bring. It's a great way to feel
Sunday, September 16, 2007
I didn't mean to do it. Really, I didn't.
But yesterday afternoon, I blew a couple of hours browsing YouTube for
old television clips that I remember vividly from childhood days. I
looked up dozens and dozens of titles, and, only slightly to my
surprise, I found just about the lot of them. Perhaps the most
meaningful to me is the clip of Officer Don from The Popeye Club,
which used to run on weekday afternoons in Atlanta. When we took family
trips to visit my grandparents in Georgia, it was perhaps my most
anticipated show—at least until Ultraman came on the air,
a few years later, since no local stations broadcast it at home.
Just for kicks, here are links to a handful of my favorites.
Officer Don & the Popeye Club
Officer Don and the Skylift (This one is just beautiful.)
The Mighty Hercules
Milton the Monster Intro
The Banana Splits Intro
The Odd Couple Intro
Love, American Style Intro
There are so many more—not to mention old TV commercials, many of which
I found as well. And to discover that they're not all relegated just to
my rusting memory is somehow incredibly uplifting—perhaps even more so
when I realize how vividly I actually do remember them; in most cases,
my memory was spot-on.
If you're among the late baby boomers, you might find some of these
Friday, September 14, 2007
number of contributors to the
High Seas Cthulhu
anthology have posted "behind-the-story" entries on William Jones's
blog. Evidently, Library Journal is interested in using
the final blog as an article. Go figure that. Anyway, I wrote up a
little piece about "Signals" and posted it. You may find it here:
Monday, September 10, 2007
contributor copies of
High Seas Cthulhu (and that nice check!) from Elder Signs
Press, and, once again, I am happier than a puma with a cheeseburger
with the presentation—with the exception of one very ugly grammar gaffe,
which probably cropped up during proofing stage; it was a line for which
I had sent in a correction, but the wrong word was "corrected." Ah,
well, so it goes in publishing, and this volume is so well-produced overall that I
doubt the error will drive readers to go reaching for their seppuku
swords. I've only read the first couple of stories so far ("The Idol in
His Hand" by Darrell Schweitzer and "The Tip of the Iceberg") by John
Shire), but they immediately drew me into the book; they pulled
me completely away from the novel I've been slowly ploughing through, as
a matter of fact. So
now I'm stuck on the high seas, and looking forward to the rest of the
voyage. Schweitzer's fiction is generally good for hooking the reader,
so editor William Jones made an excellent decision to use "Idol" as the
lead piece. Mr. Jones has proven himself to be one of the best editors—if
not the best—working in the horror presses these days, and I urge
you folks reading this to go pick up any of the books he's edited, as
well as Dark Wisdom magazine. I'm oftentimes asked if I
would ever consider starting up Deathrealm magazine again,
and I always reply "no"—one of the main reasons being that I wouldn't
want to be competing for shelf space with the likes of Dark Wisdom magazine. I'd much rather support
Mr. Jones with my writing and my subscription dollars—especially since he gets to do all the grunt work.
September 6, 2007
Just back from a
five-day trip to Chicago, and now it's time to play catch-up. It's
looking like a big job.
Saturday morning, we flew up, met our friends Daryl and Melissa at
O'Hare, and headed back to their place to sort of freshen up. I say sort
of because dear Melissa does not believe in air conditioning. Probably
due to having worked in an office that is kept as cold as a refrigerator
for the last fourteen years, my body has become acclimated to
near-frigid temperatures, and heat and I simply do not get along. Well,
it was hot up north this week, and it rarely got below 80 degrees inside
the house. Needless to say, Mark was in misery.
Saturday evening, we headed out to the Schaumburg outdoor festival,
where Pat Benatar was playing at the local park. I'm not exactly a big
Pat Benatar fan, but considering the show was free (except for the cost
of a couple of beers), I had a great time.
Sunday, it was off to the horse races at Arlington Park (which is just
down the street from where my wife used to live when we were dating). We
had box seats right at the finish line. It was my first experience at
the racetrack, and I have to say, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Played
the horses on most races; won some, lost some, but in the end, pretty
much broke even.
They make excellent bloody marys at Arlington Park, by the way.
I can has a bloody mary pleaz?
(The mohito in the foreground belongs
to the photographer.)
On Tuesday, we were going to head downtown so the women could do some
shopping for glamorous crap, but my friggin' bifocals broke on me,
leaving me half-blind, so we ended up spending half the day at the
Woodfield Mall Lenscrafters getting them replaced. Not exactly what I
call fun, but at least I can see again.
We managed to get in a number of movies, including The Departed,
The Sentinel, Blood Diamond, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The New
Generation, Gladiator, and the recent Pink Panther
with Steve Martin, as well as several Cubs games. The women did some
antique shopping, and, yesterday, I treated myself to a big old Italian
beef sandwich, which was one of my favorite menu items back when I was a
Chicago resident. They just don't make those anywhere here in the south,
not even reasonable facsimiles.
Daryl and Melissa dropped us at O'Hare again yesterday afternoon—where I
discovered that O'Brien's pub also makes superb bloody marys. Not just a
shot of vodka and can of mix, but lots of spice, worcestershire sauce,
tabasco, lime, and fresh celery. It was a fine send-off.
We got in late last night, and while it was an excellent trip overall,
in some of the best company there is, I'm glad to be back home and in
working air conditioning.
August 31, 2007
brother was kind enough to lend me his DVDs of Season II of
Twin Peaks, so guess what. I've spent the past two
nights devouring the episodes, many of which are completely new to me,
and I've still got another couple of DVDs left to go. During the show's
first run, I saw all of the first season, but for reasons I cannot fully
recall, I ended up missing the latter half of the second season
altogether. So yes, it's about time I caught up—particularly since
Twin Peaks has always engaged me on a level that few other
television shows or movies ever have.
Even though I could use a refresher on the first season, it's been no
chore to fall right back into the setting and plot and get reacquainted
with the characters. The show's atmosphere was and is unique, and
there's something about it so alluring, so intimately familiar, it's
like falling into one of my own vivid dreams. And seeing it on DVD is
definitely the way to go. Even the show's slow moments, the dramatic
aspects that don't always work, the stumbling and wending its way into
unknown territory, when you don't have to sit through commercials, all
these things are not just made palatable, they make for intriguing side
The "Definitive Gold Box Edition" is supposed to come out next month, I
believe, so it's gone onto my Christmas wish list. Can't say as I really
care that I'll be done with Season II before getting back into Season I;
it's a treat to get back into it in any capacity.
August 25, 2007
A pleasant enough
weekend, mostly spent hanging around the house to stay out of the heat. We did
go out and about last night, as my brother,
Phred, came round, and we had a decent dinner at Ham's Restaurant. I tore
into some dead bird legs and killed a bison burger.
They Call Me Trinity, the Italian western-comedy from 1971, starring
Terence Hill and Bud Spencer? It and its sequel,
Trinity Is Still My Name, are at the top of my list of all-time
favorite comedies, but I haven't had a look at either in probably a couple of
decades. So late last night, I pulled out the old VHS tape, and Peg and I
watched the first
Trinity as a midnight movie. The fun hasn't worn off after all
these years, and, yes, I laughed like a stinkin' hyena through the whole thing.
I just discovered that restored versions of both movies are supposed to come out
next month as a boxed set, so it has been emblazoned upon my wish list.
I see that
High Seas Cthulhu, which features my story, "Signals," has just been
released by Elder Signs Press, so I'm hoping to see my contributor copy (and a
check) showing up at my doorstep very soon. From what I know of it so far, it
looks like it's going to be another damn fine ESP release. Please, Mr.
Tuesday, August 21,
Most of the reviews of
Invasion, the fourth version of Jack Finney's The Body
Snatchers, have been less than kind, but a few of them
highlighted enough positive elements to motivate me to visit the theater
to give it a look.
A wee bit of spoilage below...
Well...it was worth a look, I'll give it that. But in the end, it was
most unsatisfying—partly because, for a while, the film actually had a lot going for
it. However, the glaringly obvious "touch-ups," made at the behest of the studio
(which wanted it to be "thrilling") pretty much decimated it. I knew
they were coming, but that didn't make them even remotely palatable. I will
give the cast credit for doing a fine job with the material at hand,
particularly some of the supporting members—such as Veronica Cartwright,
Roger Rees, and Josef Sumner. Their strong performances helped add the
crucial aspect of human sensitivity to the film, something that seemed a bit
lacking from the main cast members. Nicole Kidman has always left me a little
cold, despite the fact she's done some exceptional work (particularly in
The Others, which remains my favorite of her films), but I
did find myself liking her in this movie—at least until the action-thriller
clichés came piling on one-by-one and damn near put me to sleep (which
would have been a Bad Thing, according to the film). By then, her character had
been replaced by a stuntwoman, and it suddenly became
a chore to give a shit.
The film's first half—the build-up of paranoia as people are replaced—gave me
a good case of that eerie feeling that the original Siegel film and the
Kaufman remake did so well. In fact, a few of the "changed" characters
were downright scary. Alas, the inclusion of a pseudo-scientific explanation for
the alien phenomenon fell deathly flat, particularly its bland delivery by Jeffrey "Felix Leiter" Wright—though
that seems more the fault of the script than
the actor. Then, as the resolution draws near, it would seem that, holy
cow, everything that has happened up to now isn't really that big a deal after
all; in fact, we come uncomfortably close to ending the movie on the "it was all
a dream" note. I mean squeaky close. In the words of Professor Henry
Higgins: what an infantile idea, what a brainless, wicked, heartless thing to do. If anything comes close to
salvaging the whole mess, it's an effective note of irony that plays as we see
things returning to "normal" in the world.
This one might be better than the virtually forgotten third version, which
starred Meg Tilly. But only just. Given the film's source material, comparisons
are inevitable, so I'll just say stick with the first two versions. In fact, at
this very moment, I'm getting a terrible craving to pop in my old VHS of the
1978 version, which is one of my all-time favorite scary flicks.
Sunday, August 19,
Since Thursday was a
bust, celebration-wise, Peg and I had a fine anniversary dinner last
Chateau Morrisette, on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia,
accompanied by our friends, Joe and Suzie Albanese. It turned out to be
a beautiful evening, at one of the most scenic areas around. We put a
nice dent in the Chateau's wine cellar, feasted on veal and other
assorted dead animals, and made much in the way of merriment, none too
shabby for a table full of old farts.
If I were wearing a hat, I'd tip it to the Chateau's chef and wait
staff, who really did a nice job and helped make the evening special for
us. Initially, we were a little miffed when we ordered prime rib, only
to to be told it was all gone. But in its place, they gave us a free
bottle of wine and a delicious dessert, so all turned out well. Major
thanks to the Albaneses for celebrating with us.
In the photo, Mark is somewhat bamboozled by Peg's boob flashing at the
Thursday, August 16,
And today is the 21st
anniversary of my marriage to Peg (nice hat, don't you think?), shown at left with some strange
character who still has a wee bit of hair. Not quite sure where all the
years have gone, but at least I remembered the day. Certain other
parties in the relationship, well, kind of didn't.
Unfortunately, I'm a wee bit ill with a sinus bug and
am staying home from
work today so as not to spread vile germs around the office. It may
be a futile gesture, since the office is almost certainly where I picked them up in
the first place.
Last night, before I started feeling much bug-ridden, I had a nice
dinner with writer
Gina Farago and
the Banes of my existence,
at Phoenix, one of our
reasonably good but overpriced Thai restaurants (two martinis cost more
than the crispy squid appetizer and very large Thai beef salad). Terry
brought along my contributor copy of her brand-new book,
Actual, Factual Dracula, for which I wrote the introduction.
It's a staggeringly large encyclopedia of the world's vampires, from
pretty much every culture throughout history. The book, beautifully
produced in hardback by
NeDeo Press, is not just informative reading, it's big and heavy enough to make for a solid weapon
against assailants who are not necessarily undead. If your life is in
imminent danger, you should pick one up right now.
Today would have been my
parents' 51st wedding anniversary, if my dad were still with us. Just
talked to my mom on the phone, and my brother was staying with her for
the weekend, so I know that will help bolster her spirits. The picture
on the right is one of my favorite of their wedding photos. I think it captures the
perfect moment for the two of them at their happiest.
I'm happy as a cat who just snagged a big bowlful of Fancy Feast Wild Salmon
Florentine With Garden Greens because I've gotten word that my latest short
story, "Sarcophagus" (which I finished last Monday) is being picked up for Magus
Press's as-yet-untitled winter-themed anthology. It's a nice-paying market, from
a publisher that looks to be putting together some fine-looking products. Visit
here for a look at their line.
Last night, we hung out at the palace of
Mr. William "Bill" Trotter and Elizabeth Lustig, for a dual birthday
party—both Lizzie and their son Michael were turning older this year. We
partook of some very refreshing beverages and had a feeding frenzy on
pizza and Mrs. Wimmer's Fabulous Fried Chicken.
I've got some disjointed ideas for a possible new novel, so this week, I
will probably be damaging my brain coming up with ways to make them
jointed. If you hear someone's brain exploding way out in the distance,
well, it's probably mine.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Woke up this morning to the sound of thundering,
thudding, rattling, and squalling, and I thought maybe the end of days had
arrived. Turned out it was just the cats, who'd found an ink pen to play with.
Finished up Robert Masello's
Bestiary the other day and thought it worthy of a few remarks. The
story is a series of plot threads that more or less converge, with only marginal
success. A mysterious Iraqi millionaire named Mohammed Al-Kalli possesses an
equally mysterious, ancient book called The Beasts of Eden, which
is a catalog of fabulous, monstrous creatures, including gryphons, gorgons,
manticores, and the like (which we know early on will turn out to be quite
real). Al-Kalli gives the book to Beth Cox, an expert in medieval texts, to
translate. Just so happens that Beth's husband, Carter, is a renowned
paleontologist and finds himself in a position to assist her—and eventually Al-Kalli—in
identifying the monstrous creatures illustrated in the book. Meanwhile, a
greedy, ex-army officer, who had indirectly worked for Al-Kalli in Iraq, gets
involved with a dangerous, radical militia, and the paths of all our characters
slowly begin to converge.
Bestiary is generally well-written, though Masello commits the
cardinal sin of frequently switching point of view from one paragraph to
another—something for which few writers would be forgiven—yet, to the writer's
credit, the prose is smooth enough so that it doesn't much distract. The
sprawling plot barely holds together, given all the disparate threads, but the
most noticeably out-of-place (and highly unsatisfying) element is a character
named Arius (from Masello's previous novel,
Vigil), who pops in briefly to light a fire under the
Coxes just when it's needed. It's a silly thing, and it seems to be there solely
for the purpose of goading the reader to pick up Vigil, if he
hasn't already. Well, I'm not all that likely to.
There's a lot to admire in Bestiary; for its vast size, the book
moves fairly quickly, the characters are well-drawn, and the action is vividly
rendered. Still, there doesn't seem to be much passion in the writing just when
it needs it most, and a few of the more cliched elements—such as the Coxes'
"perfect baby"—serve only to induce groans of frustration. I'm going to give it
three out of six beers, with maybe a shot of tequila on the side. Enjoyable
enough on its own, but it doesn't much inspire me to seek out more of Masello's
If you're here, perhaps you noticed, but I've been tweaking the Web site a
little over the past few days. Nothing major, mostly just touching up graphics
and such. Gives it a little extra pep, I think.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Finished a new short story called "Sarcophagus"
that's intended for a particular anthology; we'll have to see what becomes of it.
I did receive some good news on a project that I'll post about when the all-clear
Yesterday, had the pleasure of seeing an old friend from my post-college
days—some 25 years ago—and we yapped much about the old dark days
over a coupla beers. It's been a pretty good year for rediscovering old
friends and acquaintances. Next month, my 30th high school reunion is
coming up. Wonder how come all these other folks are getting so old
while I just keep getting sillier?
Speaking of old... Today, the day-job was such a bear that, tonight, I pretty
much turned into a vegetable. Get that salt and pepper out of here,
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Just returned from Trinoc*Con in Raleigh. I'm
lucky to have made it back, since my car started giving me trouble
before I was halfway home; engine skipping and lurching, and the
"Service Engine Soon" light flashing at me like a goddamn airlock
warning alarm. I managed to get it to a garage, so hopefully it'll be
all better come tomorrow. No doubt it will cost a number of dollars we
don't exactly have to spare, alas.
The con was fun enough; fairly good attendance, though I'm not sure what
the final numbers were. Sold and signed a few books, had a reading, was
on a few well-attended panels, and got to see lots of good folk, some I
already knew and some I didn't. I roomed with Greg Hill, owner of
Lazy Lion Books in Fuquay-Varina, and he was surprisingly tolerable,
for the most part. We got along famously, actually, as we're both aging
with no grace whatsoever and have many of the same aches and pains.
Really enjoyed meeting
George R. R. Martin,
Alexandra Sokoloff, and
Alex Wilson, who were also very good co-panelists, and it was a
treat to see old friends/acquaintances such as
Andreas and Luna Black,
Drew Williams, and
Was on a fairly lively panel about Heroes and Villains in F/H/SF with
George R. R. Martin yesterday, which was standing room only, and this
morning I moderated a panel on story construction, which wasn't a total
catastrophe—an especially good thing since I am about as adept at
moderating panels as I am at repairing cars. The North Raleigh Hilton really is a decent hotel, with
exceptionally comfortable beds and a good layout, so—apart from
consistently slow service at the restaurant—I found it a fine place to
hold a con. For once, my room was on the ground floor, just a short
distance from the lobby, so it was very easy to get in and out to do
I'll give a Trinoc*Con a decent recommendation; from a business
standpoint, not particularly valuable, but from a strictly social view,
a nice thing all around.
Thursday, August 2,
Goodness; and so another edition of the log retires to
Tonight's movie was
Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, from Larry Blamire and company,
who've been entertaining us recently with
Tales From the Pub on YouTube.
If you're visiting here, there's a better than average chance
that you've seen the movie, and that you're lousy with
Atmospherium. My bwudda
Cortney Skinner designed and constructed the very skeery
mutant that occupies a prominent spot in the filum. Suffice it
to say that Lost Skeleton is a not too terribly
silly homage to the great B movies of the 1950s and 60s, and if
you have even a slight appreciation for such treats, then this
movie is for you. There's a host of extra features on the DVD,
including an astounding cartoon short called "Skeleton Frolic,"
which is nothing short of masterful, rendered in the style of
the classic animated shorts of the 1940s.
On deck from Blamire and company is a new adventure called
The Trail of the Screaming Forehead, which I hope
will not be long in coming. The trailer does fling a craving on