Sunday, October 07, 2018

Interview Re: My Edgar Allan Poe story

Steven R. Southard, who's a fellow contributor to the new collection Quoth the Raven, that's out today in paper and ebook editions, was kind enough to interview me about my contribution to the collection.

You'll find the interview at his blog, Poseidon's Scribe, along with interviews of many other contributors to the collection, which reimagines Edgar Allan Poe's tales and poems for the 21st Century.

It's always fun to do interviews about a new project. I find the introspection driven by questions often brings up something new.

I'd forgotten how rich and deep  Poe's influence on me had been, even though I mention him every month in my mystery class.

I was reminded of my high school days, a teacher who encouraged me and much more.

Hop over and have a look and check out the great titles from Steven's pen as well.

RIP Scott Wilson

Actor Scott Wilson has died. The Hollywood Reporter's obit is here

I learned of this via Barry Gregory of Ka-Blam Comics who was hoping to see him at an upcoming convention. Wilson was the veteran of many crime and genre films.

I never met him or interviewed him, but it’s one of those “celebrity” deaths that truly makes me feel sad. I re-watched his film debut “In the Heat of the Night” recently.

Apparently that led to his casting as killer Dick Hickcock in “In Cold Blood.” That film in turn gets a meta nod in the slasher send up ”Behind the Mask,” one of many turns on the road to The Walking Dead.

It’s as the troubled astronaut who provides the spiritual mystery at the core of William Peter Blatty's The Ninth Configuration where he really caught my attention.

The mournful theme song, San Antone, from that film came to my mind as I read Barry’s Facebook post.

RIP Hershel. We'll miss you.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Book Cover Reveal: Edgar Allan Poe Collection Quoth the Raven

The thrill of having something new come out never gets old, I must say!

My short story "A Cooler of Craft Brew" will appear in the new collection Quoth the Raven from Camden Park Press.

The cover is a bit of all right, designed to capture the spirit of the time of Edgar Allan Poe with just a hint of the modern since the goal of this anthology is to offer stories and poems that celebrate Poe in the 21st century. Its official release date is Oct. 7, 2018, anniversary of Poe's mysterious death. And just in time for Halloween.

My story focuses on a "Florida man" and offers just a hint of why all of those Florida man headlines reporting strange and bizarre behavior occur.

Pre-order links (updated as they come):


Barnes and Nobel:;jsessionid=5D277E15B09B559849E035C80DF05247.prodny_store01-atgap01?ean=2940161916940


Friday, August 24, 2018

A Scotland Tour: The Hermitage Walk

When we first talked of visiting Scotland, I thought of castles. I like castles.

I like touring ruins really, looking at fragments of the past, imagining with awe the reflection of a thousand years. I incorporated Irish ruins Christine and I visited on another trip into a novel, and I thought more ruins would surely inspire fresh ideas.

Yet as we made our way along our tour, things other than castles kept capturing my attention. Things older I suppose.

Near Dunkeld, we stopped at The Hermitage, a path created by a duke in the 18th century on behalf of a bard named Ossian, apparently a blind bard, though the epic poems attributed to him were penned by a later writer named James Mcpherson.

I got kind of a non earworm as I walked the path under towering fir trees, struggling with a misremembered lyric because I kept thinking I was in a forest cathedral. It's Dan Fogelberg's "Longer" I was trying to summon up. That mentions a "mountain cathedral," I think.

But forest cathedral applied with a sunny Saturday afternoon's rays filtering through branches and leaves. While the trail is old, the forest had a primeval feel. That's the real connection the Fogelberg tune makes, a "forest primeval."

It was an accurate one there amid ancient trees and stones erupted from somewhere deep in the earth.  and just like being on the deck of a ship looking across a vast ocean, everything else seemed far away, not gone but compartmentalized for a while.

We made our way over a stone bridge and on to Ossian's Hall overlooking a waterfall on the River Braan, listening to roar of the water flow over more of those ancient stones. 

And we sat on stones as well and contemplated for a while and felt our calm restored in spite of the turbulence of the universe. There's more in the world than we sometimes see. 

It's waiting silently, while the things that clamor for our attention fill our view. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Scotland Tour: Visiting The Crannog Center on Loch Tay

On a drizzly morning with enough chill in the air to require my light rain jacket, we walked across a wooden bridge of small, uneven logs and stepped into a shadowy room accented with the smell of wood smoke. 

Would it be a cliche to say it was like stepping back in time?

The Scottish Crannog Center near Aberfeldy, Perthshire, was an early stop on a Scotland tour for Christine and me recently, and it was the first real indication the trip truly was going to be immersive and educational. I had two upper-level British history classes in college, taught by a brilliant scholar, but I'd never really delved deeply into Iron Age Scotland nor heard of crannogs, dubbed artificial islands and constructed on Scottish lochs.

I got a bit of a campfire storytelling vibe as we stepped into the re-creation and sat around the fire pit that would have been kept active at all times in an original crannog.

The early dwellers would have told stories no doubt. There religion's not known, but it might have been element-oriented.

The site's host went on, explaining the underwater archaeology that led to the reconstruction and the work that would have gone into original construction.

The posts, tree-trunk-thick, which supported this structure on Loch Tay would have been driven into the loch's clay bottom and twisted using hand holds to sink the points in and gradually to let the clay close around them.

Then the artificial island would have been built up using wood from a nearby forest. The reconstruction uses thatch that would not have been so easily accessible to the Iron Age dwellers, but a modern supply offered a way to re-create the general look for the site. 

Our host took us outside after that to a number of stations, demonstrating the grinding of grain and the use of a lathe. 

Then he successfully managed fire using wood shavings and primitive tools, something I never managed with a flint and steel set as a Boy Scout.

I hadn't expected the stop, had flipped past it on the itinerary. I'd come to see castles and ruins, but I was glad we'd landed here.

Glad for the glimpse, glad for the understanding of what day-to-day capabilities a person of the time would have had to possess. 

Butcher, baker, builder, woodworker, fire bringer. The Iron Age person would have had to have been all, the host said.

It gave me a vibe I can't quite put into words, an insight and connection to those long-ago people, a vague sense of time's passage though time is impossible to truly perceive. It was long ago, and they were smart, resourceful, brave. 

They perhaps didn't know there were warmer lands or sunnier climes, so they shaped lives as they could. As do we all. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Crossroad has issued the trade paper edition of Disciples has been issued. It features a slightly different cover design with the new look of the O.C.L.T. series logo.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Biblioholic's Bookshelf - The Sorcerers - an Avon Satanic Gothic by Dorian Winslow (Daoma Winston)

Titles from Avon's brief Satanic Gothic line from the early '70s are pricey these days. I found an OK copy of this title for a decent price.

Dorian Winslow is a pseudonym of Daoma Winston, who passed away in 2013. Here's the Washington Post obituary detailing her career.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Having a Sip of The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula

Fortunately, BBC 4 radio allows streaming outside the UK. Just in time for Halloween, I gave Hammer Horror's The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula a listen.

Endeavoring to do things right, I closed my eyes and tried to immerse myself in the world, created from a Hammer script by Anthony Hinds for the Christopher Lee Dracula series. It was abandoned in favor of Dracula A.D. 1972

Re-imagined as Unquenchable with Mark Gattis directing, it proved to be an interesting experience, and I think I was successful in maximizing my immersion. I read of the Hammer films in The Monster Times and Famous Monsters of Filmland as a kid, long before I got to see any of them on late-night TV, so I have experience in visualizing the stories.

For the audio, I was quickly back in a Hammer Dracula world as soon as a young British woman named Penny just made it aboard a departing train, on her way in search of a cooler spot in 1934 India. A least that's what she claimed, upon meeting a pair of Indian teens and an Indian businessman.

It's pretty quickly clear Dracula's alive and embedded with an ancient Indian cult who are helping supply him blood as they plan rituals and nefarious activities.

The plot moves pretty fast with Penny and Prem, the young Indian man, working together to unlock Dracula's secrets and of course, survive, and it builds to some rousing moments and an appropriately chilling ending.

There's a bit of an in medias res feel, but then that's not unusual for a 90-minute feature that has to convey back story and character in fast order and get things rolling.

I enjoyed the aural descent into dark caverns and through twisting passages, and I was OK with the portrayal of the Count, though some reviews seem to complain about a lack of development. You mileage may vary, as with much of horror.

Though it's narrated by the great Michael Sheen, that's where my disappointment kicked in, that it was narrated at all.  Some of the voiceover sounds like it's straight from the original screenplay, perhaps a bit of preservation-thinking at work. That sometimes reminds that it's from a screenplay, a little like the Blacklist Table Reads.

It might have been more fun to let everything come to us by way of dialogue and effects, but it wasn't truly a spoiling impact.

Overall, I'm glad I got a chance to drop back into something almost part of the Hammer cannon. Apparently it'll be online another 28 or 29 days. Put it on while you wait for trick-or-treaters.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Slow Glass, Ash and Me

Christine had said often as our cat Ashley showed signs of age and decline that he might not be with us much longer. I didn't argue, but I compartmentalized the concern and focused on taking care of him and just sharing the world with him.

Ash was not given to reach out with a paw and grab your arm for attention as our other cat, Oliver, is wont to do. He'd sit on your lap quietly in the evenings, facing away. Or he'd call out from the edge of the bathtub in the morning a minute before the alarm went off, hoping to have the tap turned on to a trickle so he could drink fresh, directly from the faucet.

In the days after his passing, I've found myself racking my brain, dredging for memories, specifics, wanting to hold on and realizing so much of life is day-to-day routine, and it's sometimes hard to pull moments from that. 

As mentioned in an earlier post, Ash showed up just after Hurricane Rita sent wind and rain into Northeast Texas in 2005, so he was with us 12 years. At first he was not adopted. At first we ran a newspaper ad seeking his owners. He'd been neutered and cared for at some point but later neglected it seemed. 

While we waited for someone to turn up, he stayed outside, and feeling vulnerable since he was blind in one eye; he'd sequester himself in the woods just on the outside of our wooden fence. If we stepped out the back door, he'd slither under the fence and charge to greet us. 

Those little mad runs are etched in my mind as are other moments, but I guess in grief in the desire to find all of 12 years immediately, I was hit with frustration and a lot of things including Rod McKuen poems resurfaced.

"The mind is such a junkyard," McKuen wrote in one poem, and I can confirm that. Sometimes I can watch a show I saw in the '60s and recite next lines. 

For other things, like a cool autumn evening sitting on a patio in Texas with Ash at my side, the mind's a little harder to access without things to jog it. 

Of leaves and memory

"I remembered today, that among the silly things you saved was a brown-and-yellow leaf. I shook out every book I owned to find it. Still it's lost..." - Another McKuen poem.

I read McKuen as a teen, disregarding teachers who dismissed him and longed for me to read Shelly, Browning or T.S. Eliot. Perhaps the lines were maudlin and purple, but the introvert I was, struggling to wrangle the depths of my feelings and contemplations, found resonance.

And that line came back to me. I've felt like that, doing the same seeking of intangible moments. I had to comb my office for a disk of photos. I had tucked it into my backpack during Hurricane Irma in case we had to evacuate here in Orlando. I took it out again before heading to Vegas, again to keep it safe, but I failed to tuck it back into the CD file box again with useless game disks that no longer work.

Finally I turned it up and fired up an old laptop and looked through snapshots and video clips.

I was reminded of a Marvel comic magazine I read for a while as a kid, Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction. It adapted Bob Shaw's "The Light of Other Days" then used the concept from that story, slow glass, as a framing device for future issues of the anthology comic.

With slow glass, instead of looking straight through a pane, light passes through slowly. A piece of glass exposed to a brook where deer come to sip and birds flutter, would reveal the scene much later when it emerged. 

Put a glass by a brook, then take it home and weeks later the scene would play again before you.

I pulled up images and video clips, pursing something similar, a return to moments when Ash was young and spry, always in what Christine referred to as His Own Ashley World but ever sweet-natured, affectionate, of course curious.

In Unknown Worlds, a gangster who sought to preserve his wife's memory, used slow glass to capture a day of her on the beach before murdering her in envy then wept when learning the emerging image would last only as long as she was originally exposed to the glass. 

What we have
Photos last a little longer, but I was struck by the sense of futility. Photos last longer, but they are still imperfect in their way.

Yet wonderful. 

I found video of Christine opening a present one Christmas, and Ash came bounding into the periphery, chasing a toy, flicking it under a china cabinet then following it as far under as his size allowed.

A snapshot of Ash sitting on a cat tree, his ever-quizzical expression aimed at me and directly into the camera lens.

Another snap of Ash standing on an afghan, frozen in the midst of a ritualistic stomp he did, mixed with a periodic miaou.

Video Ash in the yard, not doing much.

It was not enough of course. Nothing is enough in the loss of a pet or a loved one, but bittersweet is what we have. 

Nothing fully calls back all the memories you're chasing. As McKuen noted, the mind recalls "candy bars but not the Gettysburg address, Frank Sinatra's middle name but not the day your best friend died..."

But memory helps and images and video do their best to bring back the light of other days even if sometimes things are just a little blurry.

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