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Wednesday, July 26, 2006
One of the more routine drudgeries of my day job is entering into an online database the contents of our in-house library's weekly selection of educational magazines. Today, as I was entering the data for the July issue of The School Library Journal, I found that it contained a fairly nice little presentation about horror literature for young adults, titled "The Brood of Frankenstein." It puts a relatively positive spin on the genre and offers a list of recommended titles by authors old and new, and many of the names will be familiar to those who frequent these parts.

Although the authors add the disclaimer, "It's not great literature," I find it refreshing that the genre is considered, not just viable, but potentially positive for young readers. Sure beats the hell out of so much hoopla about so-and-so calling for the banning of Harry Potter and anything else that doesn't fit neatly into the confines of some know-it-all's agenda.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Finished my latest tale, which is called "Messages From a Dark Deity." It's for an anthology of the Lovecraftian persuasion, and this tale was a real pleasure to write. Since I'm right happy with it, ten to one the editor will not be.

In any event, X your fingers that this one will hit the target.

I've been frequenting MySpace over the last few months, hawking my wares and interacting with some really cool folks, but it's been so hosed lately that it's more trouble than it's worth. Another  classic example, I think, of aiming to draw as much volume as possible without having either a plan or the resources to handle it. Kind of like the local city planners.

Get a clue, jerkoffs...

Sunday, July 23, 2006
Just back from Trinoc*Con in Raleigh. A decent enough time; managed to sell a few books and hung out with some great folks — Mark and Tanya Sieber, Steve Savile, Alethea Kontis, Ed Schubert, James Maxey, among others. Not a major con by any stretch, but the hotel (the North Raleigh Hilton) was actually fairly posh and quite reasonably priced. Last night, after the day's programming, a bunch of us went for some Thai at a restaurant called Shabashabu; a satisfying dinner, though even the "hot" grade of spice wasn't very (super-hot and spicy being my one masochistic tendency), and the techno music went on endlessly at too high a volume for comfort.

Was on a panel called "Sex for Writers" (to which I could only answer "Yes, please"), which was fairly well-attended and reasonably entertaining, but on the whole, the literary guests and programming in general didn't attract much attention. From the socializing standpoint, it was a fine enough time, I'll give it that much.

Sunday, July 16, 2006
Last night's creepy flick was The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972), another old favorite from my movie-going youth. I've never picked this one up on DVD, so I had to settle for my ancient, crappy-quality VHS, but I'd been feeling such a hankering for this old flick, I couldn't resist. It's about a supposedly real beast that wanders the bogs around Fouke, Arkansas, made in the faux-documentary style that was popular for movies about cryptozoological wonders back in the late 60s and early 70s. I remember so well seeing this one for the first time when I was about 12 and being thoroughly creeped out by it. The atmosphere is distinctly eerie — when it's not inspiring some pretty serious chuckles. It's the only movie that comes to mind that has a theme song for a character who does essentially nothing over the course of the movie except fish ("Hey, Travis Crabtree...Wait a minute for me..."). And the beast's melancholy theme ("Perhaps he dimly wonders why...there is no other such as I...To touch, to love before I listen to my lonely cry ...") is such sweet schmaltz you can't help but about be moved to tears...for whatever reason.

I gotta hand it to director Charles B. Pierce, who managed to make some of nature's most beautiful scenery appear outright sinister. The beast itself is never seen very clearly, mostly in silhouette, and is thus all the more effective. Much of the atmosphere comes from the sound effects — often the barely heard grunting of the creature along with the chirping of insects and the sounds of birds. And the monster's roar is truly hair-raising. Its nocturnal attacks — particularly the climactic one, where it tries determinedly to get into a house full of panicked young people bearing shotguns — are beautifully staged, so authentic you feel like you're right there.

As much as anything in this movie, I've always loved the ending, where the narrator returns to his childhood home and says "I almost wish I could hear that lonely cry one more time, just to be reassured that some mystery still remains in the wilderness." Amen to that, brother.

Friday, July 14, 2006
Today was Peg's birthday, as well as her friend Davina's, so tonight the party ended up at Green's Supper Club, a nice little joint not too far from here (as it happens, the basis for my short story, "Last Show at Verdi's Supper Club," in Song of Cthulhu). An entertaining bunch was in attendance, including brother Phred and Golda. How this passle of women ended up in the bathtub, I'm not entirely sure, but watching them trying to get out of it was kind of a hoot. That's Peg on the far right and Davina in the middle.

I got dragged out to the dance floor a couple of times, which is distinctly unusual. Special occasion and all that, right? Lots of good food and drink, and I think everyone had a good time except for anyone else who happened to be in the restaurant at the time. It was all the women acting up like that, I swear it was.

It was good fun, but I'm still pining for Necon.

Tuesday, July 9, 2006
I got a call from Peg at the office this morning; she wanted me to come home to kill the thing you see on the right. It's a big fellow, needless to say — about a four-inch legspan there. Since I couldn't leave, she had to face down the beast herself. She eventually got it into an empty plastic wonton soup container, which she kept for me till I got home. Didn't really want to smush it or anything, so against my better judgment, I put it outside — which I'm not happy about because I sometimes do things out there, and I'm not real keen on having another brush with it.

It's not only this thing, though. Soon as I got home, there was a two-inch long hornet buzzing around the front porch and one of those big-ass, inch-long black ants with nasty great mandibles in the kitchen. If I see William Shatner wandering around, I'll know I've been dropped into the middle of a bad 70s horror flick, and I'll be splitting town because it means the end is near.

At least no awful CGI creatures have showed up, so it's not a Sci-Fi Channel bug emergency. Yet.

Sunday, July 9, 2006
It's been quite the weekend. Spent yesterday and today in Martinsville; my brother Phred and his girlfriend Golda came too, so we did dinner and hung out in the woods with tiki torches and a campfire, which is, as far as I'm concerned, the way to spend a killer evening. The temp was perfect and I was not subjected to any oral bug ingestion. Today, while out on a long walk, I was nearly run over by my good friends, the Albaneses, who proceeded to invite the missus and I to go swimming at "the club" and then have dinner at their place. A perfect way to cap off an excellent, damn near re-energizing weekend.

Most entertaining was checking the page for my Amazon Short story, "Sky of Thunder, Island of Blood" this morning, and finding a shag-a-licious, endorphin-bubbling killer review by Czech writer Adam Mezei. Always nice to see someone get so excited about a tale. Check it out here — and you're always more than welcome to check out the story itself, if you haven't already given it a try. It's only 49’, so you can't go too far wrong. Really. Honest!

Adam, if you're around here — you're a wild man!

Saturday, July 8, 2006
Just for shits and giggles, I watched 2001 Maniacs last night, mainly because I'm an almost-fan of the old Herschell Gordon Lewis gorefests and wanted to see how the updated version fared.

None too great. Stoopid movie, but at least some of the characters were fairly entertaining — at least on the maniac side. Alas for the poor, dull victims. Robert Englund played it up pretty good as Mayor Buckman, as did Lyn Shaye as Granny Boone. Not a smidgin of tension, but a lot of black humor that worked to varying degrees. It's hardly going to replace the old classic in any fans' hearts and minds, I'm pretty sure.

But there's some mighty fine lookin' southern belles a-hauntin' in Pleasant Valley, I can tell you.

Friday, July 7, 2006
Even having had an abbreviated work week, I've never been so damn wiped out by the job. Big ugly projects going at the moment that's taking so much toll on my eyes and wrists that I can barely function by the time I get home. Still trying to work on my newest tale, but it's slow going.

Found out from April Derleth that she's never received the correction files for Evermore Bob Smith and I had sent to Arkham House by way of Peter Ruber, their managing editor, whose health seems to be in some question after the strokes he's had within the past year. Very likely the book is going to be delayed until fall, which is disheartening when you consider how long it's been put together and ready to go. I've sent April a replacement set, which I hope will be the finishing touches, as far as our editorship is concerned.

Went all-out for dinner tonight, though. I barbecued a couple of pounds of jumbo shrimp on the grill, with some damn good east-coast NC barbecue sauce, fresh chili peppers, onions, rice, and cabbage, and it was a freakin' feast. Topped it off with a few redeyes (Mexican beer and spicy hot V-8 juice), which is a habit I picked up years ago from hanging out at the Druid Lanes bowling alley bar in Martinsville. Gawd yes, sometimes I just love livin' the good ol' redneck life.

Been reading David Niall Wilson's The Mote in Andrea's Eye, which is a pretty cool almost-SF adventure tale. Started out a little slow, but it has turned quite compelling, and I'm really enjoying it. Probably will finish it tonight or tomorrow and perhaps put up a review on Amazon or some such.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006
Okay, the old fart is officially wiped out. Went to some friends' party at midday, hung out, and ate goodies, then went to play in a golf tournament with my neighbor Paul (who happens to be the pro at the course), his wife Jamie, and their friend Megan. It was a scorcher out there, and it's been at least two years since I've played a round of golf. I sweated so much the northeastern corner of Guilford County is now under severe flood warning. There was more food after the tourney, and then some pretty killer fireworks (the shot at the left is one that Peg took). All in all, a damn good time, if exhausting.

Hope everyone had a decent Fourth of July. The only pain in the ass about it all is that I have to go to work tomorrow, and it may take this old fellow at least another day or two to recover from the freakin' heat.

Sunday, July 2, 2006
My review of Equinox has been posted at About, though it's pretty much exactly what I wrote below.

Last night, we went out with some good friends to the Chop House Grille, which is one of the local posh (read highly overpriced) restaurants, and though we had an excellent time, something I ate disagreed with me rather severely. I think it was the crab-stuffed mushrooms. Woke up in the middle of the night feeling downright sick and have been kinda washed-out and icky-feeling all day today. Nothing like paying a lot of money to come out feeling like shit.

Saturday, July 1, 2006
Just got back from the always-entertaining ordeal of taking Mr. Chester to the vet to get his regular checkup and vaccines. He is as sweet as they come and they love him down at the vet's; still, getting him into that cat carrier is always a thrill. The easiest way is to up-end it and lower him into it, but he always manages to get those back feet hung in so that you have to smush his head down to make him let go. He's in excellent health but needs a teeth cleaning. A very expensive teeth cleaning. Since the other two wildcats need their checkups and shots as well, he's going to have to settle for chicken-flavored toothpaste on a fingertip.

I'm forever behind watching new horror movies these days because I virtually never go to the theater anymore. It's just not worth paying the admission price and then being subjected to fucking commercials — not to mention morons yapping on cell phones during the picture. So the other night I watched the unedited Hostel on cable, and it struck me as worth commenting upon. So here's me comments, with spoilers.

First, let it be known I am not a fan of Eli Roth. I hated Cabin Fever about as bad as one can hate a movie; largely because of the idiotic characters. And in Hostel, I again detested the characters from the beginning of the movie. I am so utterly fed up with such shallow portrayals of young people that I could throw up behind a ball gag. Still, during the torture scene with the kid named Josh, it became damned intense; authentic and uncomfortable to watch. Easy to sympathize with the kid at a basic human level. As the movie grew more surreal — agreeably so, as it became clear that many people were apparently in on the depravity (highlighted by a Takashi Miike cameo and some truly excellent musical selections) — it actually worked as a true horror picture, and for about ten or fifteen seconds, I almost forgave Roth for Cabin Fever.

Then Hostel went completely over the top, which booted me right out of the picture. Perhaps paradoxically, I can't say I wanted to be inside it; it was too awful. Yet to be ejected by typical Roth idiocy just pissed me off. (The moment was when young Paxton, minus half his hand, feeling absolutely minimal discomfort, encountered the Japanese girl and did a snipping job of his own, with one of the worst prosthetic jobs I've ever seen).

Yet and still, beyond all that, when Paxton went after the Dutch businessman, one of the key torturers, in the end, I felt a bit of satisfaction that this was a deserved reckoning — though I wondered how he would have known the man was involved until I remembered he had seen him at Josh's "autopsy."

Hostel could have been a monstrously disturbing picture. During the first torture sequence, it hit the necessary notes. Shortly thereafter, though, it became a cartoon.

On reflection, in a weird way, I'm not sure that was utterly bad because I don't consider anything that disturbing particularly healthy viewing for me. I have a hard enough time dealing with my negative emotions at the best of times, and sometimes it feels like a picture of this sort just feeds them.

I reckon it helps me write, though. When I feel negative emotion so deeply, it has to come out. And the tale I'm currently working on addresses such subject matter. Hopefully it'll work better than Hostel. We shall eventually see.

Thursday, June 29, 2006
"Shortcuts to Oblivion," my latest entry at Storytellers Unplugged, is now posted.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Forward progress is always a good thing. Received signature sheets for the deluxe edition of The Nightmare Frontier, got 'em signed, and packed up for Chad Savage, cover artist extraordinaire. I also have one, count 'em, one, bound galley copy of the novel. If you're a real reviewer (meaning published regularly in recognizable publications) and would like to review the book, drop me a note, and I'll send the copy out to you. First come, first served.

The Shocklines listing has been updated to include the cover, as well, which is full of beautifulness.

Monday, June 26, 2006
Last night, brother Phred and S.O. Golda came round and we trekked out to PieWorks for some kick-ass pizza. We had to settle for relatively mundane toppings, though, as they've taken rattlesnake and alligator off the menu. Bummer, that.

An even bigger bummer is that Elizabeth Massie won't be making Horrorfind this year, which stinketh mightily; it won't be the same without her and Cortney. I'll probably stop at their place on the way up and spend the night, so at least I'll have some time in their company, but a Massie-Skinnerless Horrorfind is almost too terrible to contemplate.

Tonight, while my eyes are still holding up, I've set to work on my upcoming Storytellers Unplugged essay, due to spring upon hapless blog readers on Thursday (6/29).

Friday, June 23, 2006
It's been a long while since I've watched the original 1967 cut of Equinox, and only then on a very poor-quality VHS, so it was a treat to watch it and the 1970 theatrical version more or less back-to-back on DVD. The release version is a bit more streamlined, though that doesn't necessarily mean polished. It's almost as crude as the original, but with a tightened structure that is sometimes an improvement, sometimes not. It's fascinating to see how the later-filmed scenes were blended with the original, and after viewing the 1967 version, they seem terribly obvious.

The Lovecraftian element of the movie is appealing, even though it was supposedly made without any direct knowledge of Lovecraft's work. The loneliness of the movie's setting and the script's gradual revealing of dark, forbidden things conjured by a magical book certainly hearken back to Lovecraft's most notable tales. And while many compare Equinox to The Evil Dead, the two films are not all that similar — though one gets the feeling that the former might have indeed inspired Sam Raimi.

Equinox is the perfect flick to bring back memories of the good old days of Saturday horror matinees and drive-in movies. If you've never seen it, it may leave you with a totally different impression than those of us who loved it when we were kids. In fact, you'll probably wonder what the hell the fuss is about. But in its way, it paved the way for a lot of modern H/F/SF cinema, and certainly put such talents as Dennis Muren and Jim Danforth on the celluloid map.

The new Criterion Collection DVD is a little pricey, but worth every penny, far as I'm concerned. Click on the poster below to go to the site for the DVD.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Today I received the Criterion Collection double-DVD release of the stop-motion-animation-monster-horror-classic Equinox, which I gotta say made me happier than a shit fly at a highway rest stop. The package features both the 1970 theatrical release produced by Jack Harris and the original 1966 cut by Dennis Muren (which I have on a relatively poor-quality VHS), as well as a bunch of extras and a nice thick booklet that tells about the history of the movie. I loved this flick as a kid, having seen it at a weekend matinee, and I've watched it many times over the years on my nearly worn-out VHS. I checked out the original Muren version tonight, and I expect I'll watch the theater cut tomorrow.

And for the rest of the evening, it's hard at work on my newest tale, now tentatively titled, "Seen Only Dimly."

Monday, June 19, 2006

It was a long and eventful weekend, with a trip to Gainesville, GA, for my great-uncle Herbert Bell's 90th birthday. Herbert owns the 1949 Hudson (above) that was used in the movie Driving Miss Daisy (1989). In fact, two of Herbert's Hudsons were actually used on the set; one of them, a 1949 model, was used as a stand-in during some scenes. In appreciation for his contribution, in 1990, the Motion Picture Academy gave Herbert a mock Oscar for "Best Supporting Automobile."

Over a hundred people showed up for Herbert's birthday bash, including scads of aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives many-times-removed whom I've either never met or haven't seen in too many years to remember. Regardless, it was a touching event, as my wife, brother, and mom were all there as well. Since Herbert has collected many antique cars over the years, quite a few of his collector friends arrived in their antique Hudsons. The parking lot of the BPOE lodge was full of beautiful old vehicles Saturday afternoon, most looking as if they'd just rolled off the factory floor.

Spent a good bit of the weekend trekking around Gainesville, where my late grandparents lived, and reminiscing about those good ol' days with my brother, Phred. I did get to see several of my cousins whose names are also Mark; in fact, it's such a common family name that if you yell "Mark," most of the male heads will turn.

Yesterday, Peg and I went to Douglasville, GA, to visit my old college friend, Doug Craft, and his family. There was considerable imbibing. We got home this evening, and I'm dead-dog tired, so I expect I'm gonna wrap it up for the night and get some much-needed shut-eye.

Thursday, June 15, 2006
Today would have been my dad's 76th birthday; he's been gone just over five years now. It's also my great uncle Herbert's 90th birthday.

Not much reportage-worthy this week; mostly working overtime at the office and pressing ahead with my newest tale, which still has no title. Something will materialize, no doubt...

Hope the weekend will be nice and happy for all.

Monday, June 12, 2006
Huge storm last night, which killed our power for ten freakin' hours, with high winds and golf ball–sized hail. Biggest stuff I've ever seen. Dented our cars and tore up our trees and yard. Our front porch even got flooded, with the water stopping less than an inch from coming through the front door. Some fairly hairy moments there. But our neighbors down the street had one of their giant oaks fall on their house and tore up the roof of their porch. Momma nature angry.

When the power came back on, I took a break from Gamera and put on the "original" Baragon movie — Toho's Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), which is an old favorite of mine.

Got the last of the Evermore corrections packed up for Arkham House. Now it's back to work on my latest short tale.

Saturday, June 10, 2006
Yeah, I had to do it. After cooking breakfast, mowing the yard, pulling weeds, sweeping the back deck, cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, vacuuming the house (upstairs and down), getting some work in on my current short story, finishing up the proofreading on Evermore, and doing two loads of laundry, I put on Gamera vs. Gyaos (a.k.a. Return of the Giant Monsters) this afternoon. I've always enjoyed the first three Showa Gamera movies; they're silly but appealing, whereas the ones that follow are pretty much just silly. But I have a strange feeling I might end up watching them too, somewhere along the line.

Company coming over for dinner tonight. Boy, I love all this relaxing on the weekend! At least Peg has recovered sufficiently to be up for cooking.

Thursday, June 8, 2006
Another fatiguing day at the office. For me, the weekend can't get here fast enough. But I will confess that waking up to the news that the worm Abu Musab al-Zarqawi bit the big one absolutely made my day. As far as I'm concerned, he was one of the vilest bags of walking compost ever to disgrace the face of planet Earth; an inhuman piece of shit whom I hope burned prettily when the bombs took him out. Many moons ago, I viewed a few of the beheadings for which he was responsible, and they disgusted me so profoundly that if someone had given me the button to push on his sorry ass, I'd have happily done so.

There are those with whom the planet is better off without, and he was high on the list. Apologists will argue that we were responsible for him, that if it hadn't been for us, he wouldn't have had a platform. I say bullshit. He started out as a lowlife and just found a cause with which he could carry out his twisted ideas with an approving audience. I really wish I had it in me to somehow forgive and hope that his pathetic soul might have found peace, but he died in the middle of plotting ways to carry out yet more depravity, and I don't believe he (and those who followed him) could ever understand and be remorseful for the depth of suffering for which he was directly responsible. I say good riddance, and may we soon forget him altogether. He deserves nothing more than to fade ignominiously into the past.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006
Well, 6/6/06 came and went, and I made it without going to see the remake of The Omen. In fact, I suspect I'll make it for the next few months without going to see the remake of The Omen. I might catch it when it comes out on pay-per-view or DVD. I'm a big fan of the original, and I'm just not sure I see the need for another remake in a decade of little but remakes. For me, June 6 is all about D-Day, which was one of the most significant events of the 20th century. The sixth is a good day for things like The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, all of which are fantastic tributes to the men who served in WWII.

But I watched all those on Memorial Day, so I passed them up yesterday.

Instead, I started plotting a new tale for an anthology to which I've been invited to submit. Not sure what I'll call it yet, but it's dark and horrific and sort of gives me the creeps thinking about it. (Coming up with a title, I mean. Here's hoping the tale will be creepy too.)

Too exhausted from working overtime to do much else tonight, so — having gotten into the spirit with Giant Monster Gamera on Friday — I just had to put on Gamera vs. Barugon, more commonly known on this side of the water as War of the Monsters. Easily the best of the Showa-era Gameras, this one has an engaging story, with nary an obnoxious kid on the set, and a very odd but well-executed daikaiju critter (Barugon his own self — not to be confused with "Baragon" from Toho's Frankenstein Conquers the World). Some groovy 1960s special effects and one of the series' most dramatic scores by Chuji Kinoshita. Something tells me that, after this, I'm probably going to end up watching the rest of the Gameras...which would mean that Gamera vs. Gyaos (a.k.a. Return of the Giant Monsters) will be next on the daikaiju menu.

Friday, June 2, 2006
I've been all by my lonesome this week, with Peg staying at my mom's while she's recuperating from her shoulder surgery. Actually, it's kind of nice having some time alone (well, not quite alone; there are cats — and lots of bugs lately [see last month's Log for some highly gory details]). It was busy as hell at the office, but a bit more relaxing at home, since I've wrapped up my most pressing writing projects.

Tonight's movie was Giant Monster Gamera, the original black & white 1965 flick that started it all. Kinda dumb, of course, but a lot of fun, with a few decent special effects here and there.

And another edition of the log goes into the archive...

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