The butterflies arrived with the final soft breath of May. Our all-volunteer fire department organized the expected parade with its flowered floats.
The policemen’s jazz band played Sousa marches atop a horse-drawn wagon just before twilight on the holiday our town called Decoration Day.
We all – every single resident of Eleusis – walked in procession down Main Street. Several veterans of past wars rode thick-hooved horses in a clatter along the last cobblestone street by the town green. Flags of our state and nation shared the sky with multi-hued banners celebrating the symbols of summer held aloft by the local scout troop.
We covered the Monument of the Fallen and the Brave with wreaths and ribbons. All of us sang songs that our grandfathers had once sung on the same spot.
That day, each girl in town wore a corsage made of tiny, spiky Eleusinia. These local namesake flowers — bright purple petals with a buttery center — grew in all our greenhouses by early spring. The boys helped unpin blossoms, one by one, catching the eye of each girl as we drew off her corsage. We’d fasten the flowers along strings of light and wrap them around the bronze statue of our famous Revolutionary War hero.
Local third graders freed Monarchs and Viceroys and Painted Ladies from wicker baskets.
The grownups took pictures with Polaroid cameras. Newspaper photographers would snap group shots at the precise moment when the butterflies took to the air while the children reached up as if wanting to join them in flight.
Once, my older sister got her face front and center in the Ansonia Falls Tribune after a photographer told her she should go to New York and become a model.
But who, my sister told him, would ever want to leave Eleusis?
By nightfall, our famous statue lit up in a purple haze that you could see all the way down Main Street.
Within days of the butterflies and lights – and those newspaper pictures — tourists crowded motels and boarding houses and spent pocketfuls of money in just a handful of weeks.
People came from across the country – and from across the world, too. Our community center hosted the Italian Festival, Greek Fest, the Polish-American Days, the Portuguese Fish Fry, a German Breakfast and Scottish Games.
Boats docked along river piers. Movie stars, politicians, reporters, pilgrims, and people like you or me, all came for the spectacle.
We were summer celebrities, the ordinary folk of this little town. “What’s it like living here?” “We should move here.” “Can you imagine every summer like this?” “I dread going back to the city.” “I feel like I died and went to heaven.” These were bits of what I heard if I hung around the lobby of the Hotel E, where I had a weekend job running errands for the guests – getting razors and shampoo from Higgins’ Drugstore, grabbing the local papers, a cup of coffee, running off with shirts to be pressed and shoes to be shined.
Honeymooners, too, came for weeks at a time. It was considered good luck for lovers to visit during the season.
Right on schedule, mid-June, various residents burst into new love or reignited old sparks. Husbands danced with wives on patios just at dusk. Teens walked hand-in-hand feeling love’s first grasp.
And then there was the coveted prize of the Butterfly Born.
Some couples – it was rumored – timed conception to try and hit it on the dot.
Copyright Douglas Clegg 2015, all rights reserved.
I hope to have this special short novel up and out before Christmas. We’ll see if I make it.
I’ve worked on more than a dozen different works of fiction over the past several years without bringing them out. Here and there I’ve released a few stories and my recent short novella, Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters. For various reasons, I pulled back from publication for the most part while also focusing on reissuing my backlist of 30+ books into ebook (and now, slowly, print again.)
I think it’s time for the new works to emerge. If you’re a fan of the old stories and books, I think you’ll find I’m still here with my brand of disturbing twists in these new works of dark fiction.
I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter to keep up with all this, or just return to my website regularly if you prefer.
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Every Thursday I’ll bring you a bit of a peek at old and new and upcoming stories and books. This week:
This particular book will arrive at some point in the next twelve months, a short novel (novella) of the French Revolution and two wonderful young men who have to perform what seems an impossible task.
This is not an easy story to describe. It contains elements of historical inaccuracy and abusive disregard for facts, plus scandal, sex, love, murder, vengeance, secrets, skullduggery — and even a masqued ball that might possibly make your hair stand on end.
It is also the story of Jean-Baptiste and Maroc, who’ve grown up nearly as brothers and see themselves as gentlemen of the New Order. Though they came from the filthy streets, they’ve managed to improve their situation with help from that phenomenal machine of modern production, the very harsh mistress, Madame Guillotine.
“In those hazardous days when the side streets of Paris held such street shows as That Whore, Marie Antoinette, The Cowardly Howls of Royal Dogs, and The Drawn-and-Quartered Duke of Excrement; when entertainment might mean the baiting and beating of some poor animal; when afternoons swarmed with vendors and vulgar singers and purveyors of unsavory notions; when murmurs of excitement rippled through a crowd upon hearing the beating of mallets and sawing of wood for fresh scaffolding made specially for a set of high-wigged dowagers, chained viscounts and other hapless cousins and favorites of the executed King; when all these raucous diversions existed in that magnificent but beleaguered city, an Italian showman known in the provinces as Il Dottore Mercurio and his Traveling Show of Curiosities, including L’Opera de Pupi – that is, The Opera of Puppets – tramped through the city gates.
But Dr. Mercurio was no mere puppeteer. His show consisted of strange jars filled with the pickled remains of weird, alien creatures “from Jungle Cities of the New World and Kingdoms of the Hollow Earth!” — and a troupe like none that had been seen before (so its broadsides claimed) in all of France, in all of Europe, in all the Worlds Known and Unknown.
And certainly not in Paris.
I was there — with my friend Maroc — when this particular wagon rambled into the murky squalor of my city.”
Copyright Douglas Clegg 2015, all rights reserved.
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Some days, I take my voice recorder and go outside on the patio and pace around and just chat the story out of myself.
I find talking a story out — particularly at a rough spot — breaks through some frozen river in my mind so there’s an outpouring on the page. From that, I can revise and clean it up later.
Today is one of those days.
“Write. Don’t think. Relax.”
This book means a lot to me. Pick it up where you’d like, but here’s the link for Amazon/Kindle:
(Or click the cover of the book if you prefer.)
Pressfield, a talented and bestselling novelist, has written a book on writing, how he sees it, and how he — and you — might overcome the resistance to writing.
I’ve read this several times, and I want to recommend it to you. It has gotten me out of the rough parts of writing more times than I’d care to admit. It may do the same for you.
Find out more about Pressfield and his books at his website.
I’ve been asked why I write this fiction many times, from a relatively early age onward. I’ve never had a reasonable answer — until now. The process of writing my current book, Mr. Darkness, has brought me around to it:
Whether in dreams, beliefs, thoughts, fantasies, remnant architecture of an impossible world, the haunted past or the hopeful future, we live half our lives in a dark place.
Even when our eyes are open and we’re reading or walking or working or relaxing, we also know the dark place is still there, inside us. We take it for granted; it doesn’t disturb us — for the most part.
But sometimes, it does.
The fiction of the dark is important to explore. It is us; it is part of who we are; it won’t be denied; you live within it whether you admit it or not; and even better, it can be exciting and thrilling and fun.
The ghosts of life dwell in our minds — and not in the part that looks out from us upon the daily obligations of getting on in life, the “what we do” during waking hours; although these ghosts exist simultaneous to the daylight itself and we always know they’re there.
The open-eyed world distracts us temporarily, but at some point during the day or night, we know we’ll return to the dark.
Close your eyes. Where are you? Not “where are you on earth?” but “where are you — the ‘you’ behind your eyes — when you close them?
Where have you gone? Where do you imagine the ‘you’ exists?”
It is a place of impulse, irrationality, influences of the imagination that are both ours and from others (imagined or real) who’ve influenced us (for good or ill) during our lifetimes.
Dark fiction continues to fascinate me. I felt its pull when I was very young. Despite the more sunlit reading, I’ve always loved the fiction of night, where all of us raise glimmering if imprecise lanterns to explore our own versions of the Lascaux Caves as we uncover evidence of more than what we see when we open our eyes.
There’s nothing morbid in this particular excavation anymore than there is in any archeological dig, despite the ancient tragedies and terrors and wonders found beneath the earth, under jungle vines, or buried in a mountain of volcanic ash.
Bring what resides in the dark into the light. Examine it. Appreciate it. Discover its connection to everything. Enjoy its treasures. Face its absurdity. But be sure and unwind Ariadne’s thread as you go so you don’t get lost down the spiraling avenues.
Call it horror, call it nightmare, call it fable, call it fantasy, call it irrational, call it thriller, call it psychological. All names that judge the dark, but none that adequately describe it.
And so I write dark fiction and return to the archeological dig of story to bring these shards of imagination into sunlit realms.
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Those two words are the harpies of the writing life. How much writing have you produced today? How’s the book going? Almost done? Those questions, whether from other people or from just inside my head can annoy the hell out of me.
I’ve spent my life coming up with methods for overcoming my intertia and trepidation when staring at the blank page. One little ebook that helped me is this one. And it may help you, too. Even if you don’t think you need help.
I can’t recommend 2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron enough.
This smart — and inexpensive — ebook may be some help with your writerly productivity if you find yourself slowing down, as I often do.
I’ve read this one a few times, it’s always inspiring. Grab it for Kindle.
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When I’m in the midst of writing, I take breaks and read short fiction, primarily.
Note: There is no particular order to this list. I’m jotting this down here in terms of what I look around and see, either on my e-reading device or next to my armchair.
Also, for those new to his work, try The Knife-Thrower and Other Stories.
2. Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen King. I’ve read many of these stories before, but there are a few I’ve missed, so I’m playing catch-up. I think King’s short fiction is constantly surprising and wonderful. But who doesn’t already know this? King is in a class of his own.
4. Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen. I discovered her work by way of a beloved professor in college who lived and breathed Dinesen and transmuted that love into opening my eyes to this fiction. I love her stories. Re-reading “The Deluge at Norderney,” which I do at least once every couple of years.
5. The Birds & Other Stories by Daphne DuMaurier. Another master of dark fiction, Daphne Du Maurier never ceases to surprise me. Her novels are wonderful and many are dark but with a mainstream sensibility (try Rebecca or My Cousin Rachel, which are absolutely twisted, if you want to start with her novels.) The short story “The Birds” is remarkable for many reasons and completely unrelated in most ways from the Hitchcock movie from which it was (presumably) drawn.
I hope you enjoy these recommendations. I read a little bit from each collection every day. Keeps me loving fiction to read the great stuff.
|Get Bad Karma on Amazon|
In Bad Karma, fatal attraction meets a truly gone girl when lethal beauty Agnes Hatcher escapes a hospital for the criminally insane — and goes in search of her beloved, who shares her very, very bad karma.
My novelette, Funerary Rites — now in ebook — is a dark tale of village life and a strange foreign invasion, about 40 pages if in print.
Funerary Rites was originally published in Dark Discoveries magazine in the spring of 2014, and also can be found within the mega-collection, Lights Out.
I find it tough to classify some of my work — but Funerary Rites might be best classified as a dark fable, quiet horror, and psychological fiction.
I hope you enjoy it!
DeenaWarnerDesign.com just created this beautiful new look for my website. I wanted to simplify the site a bit, for both you — and me. The Books page is flush with all the books (more upcoming, of course), and the subscribe box is now at the top of every page.
I’m planning on making this blog a bit more active in ways that I hope you’ll enjoy and value. I’ll be posting movie, book and other recommendations — and I’ll include anything in this, so if I find a great way to make a stained glass window, I’ll post about that, too.
I’ll also post some writing-related information, that I hope will be of interest to readers, and definitely snippets of books — both older titles and works-in-progress.
So please, bookmark this blog, come back often. Also, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter, plus connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I would love to hear from you.