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Busybody

That would be me. It's been a long week, considering it's only Tuesday. Last night, I finished up an essay for an antho called Do Not Read! and began work on a new "big" project with a tight deadline. Worked very full days at the office, and then even snagged a couple of caches yesterday and today.

And a big sigh. I just got a notice from my Web domain host that I need to renew the domain name (www.stephenmarkrainey.com) or it will expire in five days. I renewed it for three years last month. I'd be so thrilled if I didn't have to go through this with them every year...

I sleep now.

Bloodbath

By day, I work for an educational publisher, and in past years, it has been less subject to extremes in the economy than many others, since the education field is such a crucial one—indeed, one of the few that is supposedly relatively stable, if not growing. However, the publishing business overall has tanked badly, and we are still exposed to much of that instability. Yesterday, almost a fifth of the staff at my workplace was cut loose, including my partner in the typesetting department, with whom I have worked for going on ten years now. She’s got lots of health problems, and for those who were let go yesterday, their insurance coverage terminated at midnight last night.

The only option for most of them is COBRA, which is horrendously expensive. However, in this case, the timing of Obama’s stimulus package being passed may have been propitious, since now the government will pick up about 60% of the COBRA premium.

Even then, for most of them, it will be a monumental struggle to stay afloat. And the company cutting staff just means that much more money coming out of the economy than going into it, thus perpetuating this evil cycle. I absolutely understand the personnel cuts; if the business tanks completely, and puts the lot of us out of work, it’s all that much worse. Still, this is a bitter pill to swallow. In some respects, I am grateful to still have a decent job. But overall, my mood is this:

I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.

How wonderful it would be to have the answers and the means to implement them. But our problems are so widespread and so complex—thanks so much to corporate greed—that it’s going to take more a change in mindset than infusion of money for the real recovery to happen. As we’ve dug ourselves in deeper and deeper, the glowing horizon keeps getting farther and farther away.

Our company move was necessary, I’ve no doubt of this. But I hope that, at the end of it all—not just for our business but across the board—no one is going to end up rewarded for making “tough decisions,” when the consequence of this “tough” decision-making is financial devastation for so many talented and undeserving individuals. If they are, then the negative cycle will not have been broken but perpetuated. And that’s the last thing any of us need.

The Unthinkable...

...is exactly what I'm thinking. It's still a ways off yet, but eventually it's going to have to happen.

My next computer might be a Mac.

There, I've thought it, I've said it, and I meant it. There was a time that there wasn't a chance in hell of this ever happening, but apparently that time is past. Newer Macs appear to be what the machines should be, instead of machines full of wasted potential. The notion bears further investigating, but the very fact it's in my head is quite the novelty.

Specifics of Mac and PC issues aside (I use a Mac at the office and a Windows PC at home), I have to say, it's the Mac's advertising campaign that first got me thinking about it. Mac ads are clever and feature readily identifiable characters. They give you a tantalizing little peek at what the Mac can do.

Then there are the Windows Vista ads. What the fuck are those? To whom are they trying to appeal? Beyond that, what the fuck are they saying—and what are they trying to sell? Gracious me, those Vista ads couldn't sell a calculator to a technology geek who'd been abducted by fundamentalist Luddites and thrown into a computerless cave in the Mojave desert for a couple of years. No, I'm not kidding.

I mean, what the hell is this?

To top it all off, I might even get my Mom a Mac. I'm not kidding about that, either.

So, anyway, that's what I'm thinking about.

Happy freakin' Valentine's Day, by the way. (No, I'm not a fan.)

A Weekend at Stately Wilson Manor

Spent a very pleasant long weekend in Hertford, NC, visiting writing- and now geocaching-cohorts, David Niall Wilson and Trish Macomber, as well as their family of critters and young 'uns). Headed out on Friday morning with Mrs Death, snagging lots of geocaches along the way; ate and drank very well, as we usually do at Stately Wilson Manor; hunted more caches; and watched Deathrace, the recent remake of the cult classic Deathrace 2000. I'm not really a fan of the original, but the new one is okay. It stars Transporter guy Jason Statham, who proves that you can get by just fine without a lot of hair. Most notably, I rediscovered the fact that it's crucial to keep a lot of energy in reserve at Stately Wilson Manor, for their youngest, Katie, will run rings around you, the dogs (Gizmo and Ginger) will outtalk you, and Mr. Wilson will out-zing you. Oh yeah, there's lots of wit zinging around Wilson Manor, which is always my favorite part.

Coming home, Mrs Death and I found another 28 caches, making a trip total of 55. My favorite was one we didn't actually find. We were hunting near a cow pasture, and the whole herd came plodding down the hill to see what we were up to. I said, "Look, dear, honey bunches of steaks," which they didn't seem to like very much. I mean, they just kept looking at me with their big brown cow eyes. I almost hate to eat them now. Actually, I hope this bunch were milk cows, so that they may live long and prosperous lives, but if not, I bet they'll be delicious.

Pictures follow. Click on 'em to enlarge.


"Look, dear, honey bunches of steaks!"



Golden Corral



Near the "Battle of Windsor" cache, Windsor, NC



Fluffy, the Destroyer of Worlds' twin



Shadow Slayer and Damned Rodan at "A Cache With a View"



Clan Wilson

Who Could Resist...

...picking up a copy of a magazine of literary criticism whose cover lists "Torture, Cannibalism, and Necrophilia" as one of its features?

That would be the latest issue of Dead Reckonings (#4), edited by S. T. Joshi and the very late Jack Haringa (who was murdered so ignominiously on a great many blogs last year—many of which were collected in the volume, Jack Haringa Must Die, released last May by Merricat Publications).

It's probably my all-time favorite review zine, despite its thoroughly dead co-editor. With issue #4, I have special reason to be fond of it, since reviewer Matt Cardin tackled Other Gods, in an article called "Sometimes You Just Have to Gush" (which also covers Michael Shea's The Autopsy and Other Tales), and the title says it all. Mr. Cardin does indeed gush a little, but his review is thoughtful and balanced. He does call a spade a spade; when something falls flat for him, he up and says so, just as he absolutely ought. But with Other Gods also receiving other good reviews and having made the preliminary Stoker ballot, I feel like it is getting some positive recognition. That's particularly gratifying to me because the book is, after all, a fair sampler of the written work I've labored so hard over for the past twenty years.

Mercy, how life does go by.

My favorite Cardin quote of the review: "I finished the book feeling as if I had been processed through the kaleidoscopic imagination of a born storyteller. Other Gods is a superb example of what this sort of long-term collection is good for: It plainly highlights the author's long-running thematic obsessions and shows him circling back to revisit and reshape the concepts, tropes, and emotions that inspire him."

Note: Cardin's gushing article is the not the one about cannibalism, torture, necrophilia, etc. etc. For that, one must read on...

On the Trail...

...wooded, urban, and everything in between. It's been a great weekend for geocaching. Yesterday, Mrs Death and I spent the afternoon in Winston-Salem hunting mostly urban micros, but we discovered a few nice, wooded parks, with full-sized hides as well. We then headed over to the "Adult Swim," a fun social event at the Mellow Mushroom restaurant in downtown Winston, with about 40 cachers in attendance. Afterward, we moved to the Foothills tavern a short distance down the road and mingled a while.

Today, I headed out to conquer a fairly terrain-intensive cache called Terrainasaur, which was very aptly named. I took a few shortcuts that turned a plain old Terrainasaur into a Terrainasaurus Rex, but...as Bobby Goldsboro said...what the heck. It was a damn fine day out there.

Today's find was #982.



The Mellow Mushroom: Mrs Death, Tokyo Tako,
Mr and Mrs Spring1, and some dude



Mrs Death at a neat little historical landmark in Winston-Salem


A beautiful, obviously haunted house we passed in Winston


Terrainasaur: One of the creeks I ended up plowing through this afternoon


Terrainasaur: An odd little wigwam near the second stage

Remembering DARK SHADOWS at Fearzone.com

The past couple of weeks, Greg Lamberson of Fearzone.com has been interviewing me about Dark Shadows: Path of Fate. It's interactive and in-depth, and I really enjoyed doing it. I hope the positive energy shows through.

Check it out here: www.fearzone.com

Picked up four new caches after work this afternoon, which leaves me 41 before hitting the big 1K. Now it's back into the dark world of the short story I'm working on....

There and Back Again

Last night was such a beautiful evening, I couldn't not go out into the woods geocaching. About 10:30 PM, I took off with my caching pal, Ethan (Sneaky Bulldog), and we ventured out into the great beyond to claim a few finds. Yep, we snagged the ones we were looking for, but in the process had to pass through a dense pine forest full of spiders, which gave even the one of us who doesn't ordinarily mind spiders (which is not me) a touch of the shudders. Thousands of little glowing eyes in the beam of my headlight, and there we were traipsing amongst them. (Silly humans.) Took a close look at a few of them, and they were not necessarily small and innocuous. Think Shelob.

Then it was up fairly early this morning for a day-long trek over to Archdale with Mrs Death and our friend Beth (UNCGBogTurtle). We were mostly after quick park-n-grabs, but at Creekside Park, we got out and hiked a good ways in very picturesque surroundings. We ended the evening with dinner at Rearn Thai, which really hit the fiery spot after long day on the go.

I'm up to 952. 1K, here I come.

Now I'm tired as fire and contemplating sleep. Not sure I have the energy left to get to the bedroom, so if you hear a thunk and the text goes wonky...that was just my head hitting the keyboard.

I sleep now.


Howya! Mr. Rodan caching at Kersey Valley


Success! UNCGBogTurtle and Mrs Death signing the log


The "dam" at Creekside Park
If you're an active member of HWA and would like a comp copy of my short fiction collection, Other Gods, drop me a note, as Dark Regions still has a few copies available (mark-at-stephenmarkrainey-dot-com).

Here's the preliminary ballot. Note: Only active members of HWA are eligible to vote on the Stoker Awards.

Superior Achievement in a Novel

Coffin County by Gary Braunbeck (Leisure)
The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford (William Morrow)
Ghost Walk by Brian Keene (Leisure)
The Reach by Nate Kenyon (Leisure)
Duma Key by Stephen King (Scribner)
Johnny Gruesome by Gregory Lamberson (Bad Moon/Medallion)
Water Witch by Deborah Leblanc (Dorchester/Leisure)
Bad Moon Rising by Jonathan Maberry (Pinnacle)
Dead and Gone by Harry Shannon (Delirium Books)
The Price by Alexandra Sokoloff (St. Martins)
The Man on the Ceiling by Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem (Wizards of the Coast)

Superior Achievement in a First Novel
Bestial: Werewolf Apocalypse by William D. Carl (Permuted Press)
Apricot Brandy by Lynn César (Juno Books)
Midnight On Mourn Street by Christopher Conlon (Earthling Publications)
Veins by Lawrence C. Connolly (Fantasist Enterprises)
Eternal Vigilance by Gabrielle S. Faust (Immanion Press)
The Gentling Box by Lisa Mannetti (Dark Hart Press)
Monster Behind the Wheel by Michael McCarty and Mark McLaughlin (Delirium Books)
Frozen Blood by Joel A. Sutherland (Lachesis Publishing)
Crimson Orgy by Austin Williams (Borderlands Press)

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction
"The Lagerstatte" by Laird Barron (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy)
"The Shallow End of the Pool" by Adam-Troy Castro (Creeping Hemlock)
"Miranda" by John R. Little (Bad Moon Books)
"Redemption Roadshow" by Weston Ochse (Burning Effigy)
"The Confessions of St. Zach" by Gene O'Neill (Bad Moon Books)
"Orpheus and the Pearl" by Kim Paffenroth (Magus Press)
"Behold the Child" by Harry Shannon (Brimstone Turnpike)
"Just Like Hell" by Nate Southard (Thunderstorm Books)
"Population Zero" by Wrath James White (Cargo Cult Press)
"Orgy of Souls" by Wrath James White, and Maurice Broaddus (Apex Book Company)

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction
"The Last Word" by Maria Alexander (Sins of the Sirens)
"Mama Strangelove's Remedies for Afterlife Disorders, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mother Death" by C. Dean Andersson (Brutarian)
"Consumed" by Michael Louis Calvillo (Horror Library Volume 3)
"Petrified" by Scott Edelman (Desolate Souls)
"Mechanix" by Christopher Fulbright (Bound for Evil)
"The Lost" by Sarah Langan (Cemetery Dance Publications)
"The Dude Who Collected Lovecraft" by Nick Mamatas, and Tim Pratt (Chizine)
"The Haven" by John Palisano (Horror Library Vol. 3)
"Turtle" by Lee Thomas (Doorways)
"The Blog at the End of the World" by Paul Tremblay (Chizine)
"Those Eyes" by Mark W. Worthen (Thinner Than Mist)

Superior Achievement in an Anthology
The Undead: Headshot Quartet edited by Christina Bivins and Lane Adamson (Permuted Press)
Like a Chinese Tattoo edited by Bill Breedlove (Dark Arts Books)
Horror Library, Vol. 3 edited by R. J. Cavender (Cutting Block Press)
Abominations edited by Tim Deal (Shroud Publishing)
Beneath the Surface edited by Tim Deal (Shroud Publishing) Unspeakable Horrors edited by Vince A. Liaguno and Chad Helder (Dark Scribe Press)

Superior Achievement in a Collection
The Number 121 to Pennsylvania by Kealan Patrick Burke (Cemetery Dance Publications)
Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales by Fran Friel (Apex Publications)
Just After Sunset by Stephen King (Scribner)
Little Creatures by Michael McCarty (Sam's Dot Publishing)
Other Gods by Stephen Mark Rainey (Dark Regions Press)
The Autopsy and Other Tales by Michael Shea (Centipede)
Sheep and Wolves by Jeremy C. Shipp (Raw Dog Screaming Press) Fourtold by Michael Stone (Baysgarth Publications)
Gleefully Macabre Tales by Jeff Strand (Delirium)
Ennui and Other States of Madness by David Niall Wilson (Dark Regions Press)

Superior Achievement in Nonfiction
Shadows Over New England by David Goudsward, and Scott T. Goudsward (BearManor Media)
Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller (McFarland)
Spirits and Death in Niagara by Marcy Italiano (Schiffer Publishing)
The New Annotated Dracula by Leslie S. Klinger (W. W. Norton)
Beauty and Dynamite by Alethea Kontis (Apex Publications)
Cheap Scares by Gregory Lamberson (McFarland)
Zombie CSU by Jonathan Maberry (Citadel)
Modern Mythmakers by Michael McCarty (McFarland)
A Hallowe'en Anthology by Lisa Morton (McFarland)
The Book of Lists: Horror by Amy Wallace, Del Howison, and Scott Bradley (Harper)

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection
The Nightmare Collection by Bruce Boston (Dark Regions Press)
The Phantom World by Gary William Crawford (Sam's Dot)
Virgin of the Apocalypse by Corrine De Winter (Sam's Dot Publishing)
The Flayed Man and Other Poems by Phillip A. Ellis (Gothic Press)
Attack of the Two-Headed Poetry Monster by Mark McLaughlin and Michael McCarty (Skullvines Press)
Ghosts of Past and Future by Darrell Schweitzer (Borgo)

Congrats and best wishes to everyone on the prelim ballot.

Dare to Hope

I expect just about every blogger on the InterWebz is having his say about today's inauguration, so here's my little contribution to stew.

(I'm backtracking here; I wrote much of the following using a lot of collective "we's". That's a mistake. I have substituted a few "I's" for a number of them. Otherwise, I would have reason to doubt my own honesty.)

This is a cynical nation, and it's no wonder. Near as I can tell, irresponsibility, divisiveness, and caustic rhetoric have all but replaced thoughtful, rational discourse across the entire socio-political spectrum—to the point that it seems everything, from the most urgent national/international summit to the weekly Boy Scout meeting down the street, is stalled in a gridlock of negativity. Wherever I am, in virtual space or real space, it's absolutely pervasive. People thrive on conflict, no matter how counterproductive. And since we are wired into the world's conflicts via every conceivable form of communication from the time we get up in the morning till we hit the sack, our senses are overwhelmed. It doesn't take much to short-circuit us because our circuits are overloaded.

In some respects, we are experiencing trauma. Certainly not like in so many other places. Here, we're not being shelled daily. Most of us are not facing a murderous famine that's the result of both nature and human depravity. We don't suffer under a theocracy that oppresses women and ferociously punishes dissent with corporal and capital punishment. Still, there is trauma. It's insidious. It's the cancer of chronic frustration.

Much of my personal frustration comes from the fact that the world is too small to process comfortably anymore. There's no over there left; the land across the water is my own backyard. And so many of the dire things I witness daily have nothing to with my choices. Constantly, I witness the consequences of greed, irresponsibility, and arrogance of a relative few, about whom I can do little or nothing—other than accede to so many demands to clean up their mess—to the point that that, instead of pulling myself up and out of it, I adopt a victim mentality.

A grave mistake.

(I think I can comfortably add a few "we's" here. Because I know there are an awful lot of others like me.) We are a people desperate for a breath of hope. We are mad as hell and don't want to take this anymore. We're dying for the medication that will bring down our collective blood pressure.

Whether real or illusory, Obama represents something different to a nation burned out with the garbage we've immersed ourselves in—unwillingly and all too willingly—for decades, and particularly for the past eight years. His words ring with common-sense truth. He gives the impression of integrity. His dynamic delivery lends credence to the idea that we can overcome the cancers of chronic frustration and cynicism.

The question that now stands is this: will he, can he, deliver? The problems he faces are BIG, and I feel it is a fatal mistake to place too much faith in one man, whatever his position of power, whatever his true intentions. People fail, and after the period of orientation, I fear that many who support him now, all too quickly disillusioned, will not just be watching for him to fail (eagerly watching, at that), but willfully placing stumbling blocks in his path.

That's the cynic returning. No. It's the realist returning, but I believe that realism and cynicism are all too closely entwined. But for today, I see people daring to hope. They make me dare to hope. Whether I personally believe the new president's words or not, those words—and his presence—have generated what I fervently hope will be a long-lasting wave of positivity powerful enough counter widespread negativity. To turn frustration into inspiration. Pessimism into productivity.

What I dare to hope for is that Barack Obama will just be a good president.

And please, please, pardon this cliche, but I see no good way around it. (Mind you, I love Rush but I hate this song—except for the message of its opening lines, which to me, have strong meaning.)

"And the men who hold high places must be the ones who start
To mold a new reality closer to the heart."

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