This was my first official author photo, and coincidentally all my official photos were taken the same day by photographer Cynthia Woodard. It was used for a couple of my books. Within a few months of this I met my soon-to-be husband. Life changes quickly at certain crossroads of life.
How the years do roll on, yet when this was taken I had no idea how they would go.
For aspiring writers or anyone interested, this book by Chuck Palahniuk so far is hilarious and feels very honest. You can pick it up at any number of bookstores, but here’s a link to Amazon for the ebook, audiobook, or hardcover.
Reading a lot of Ruth Rendell’s fiction lately. I highly recommend these collections. I feel an affinity for the kind of psychologically dark fiction about human nature in these books. I think you’ll enjoy them. These are Amazon links but I think you can find these at most bookstores.
My favorite of this group is The Copper Peacock and Other Stories, which is linked here to its audiobook (which is excellently read by Penelope Keith). But you can also find a hardcover and paperback via secondhand markets.
Click the covers to go check the books out on Amazon. I am in awe of her writing.
Did you miss my poetry collection, The Poisoner’s Garden & Others? The poems in it are mostly stories within meter and rhyme, and all of them run dark & deep. Persephone, who lives in our garden in winter, plays a pivotal role in the title poem from the collection. Here she is in a photo from January 2020:
Here’s a round up for top ten bestsellers of my novels. The surprise for me was number 9 because…well, it’s a recent book that’s only been out for a few weeks so far.
What I know about my readers: they’re intelligent, they’re discerning, they enjoy smart horror, fun horror, complex fiction, simple fiction, characters they can love—or love to hate. They want fiction of breadth and depth. They’re evenly distributed among any number of groups and genders, and range in age from 16 to 87. They are the best, in my opinion.
Thank you for continuing to read my fiction, whether in print or ebook. Click the titles or images to learn more about them.
2. Red Angel
4. Night Cage
5. Goat Dance
7. Night Asylum
9. The Faces
by Douglas Clegg
Copyright 2019 Douglas Clegg. All rights reserved.
Winter oh Winter
What beast are you sending
Whose eyes shine like moonlight,
Whose hunger, unending?
In those dreadful dark hours of nights in December
When the last of the fireplace logs turned to ember,
When the world slept, innocent, each house full of snores,
With locks on the windows and bolts on the doors,
A dangerous creature, in those distant antique times,
Set his sight on bad children from various peaked climes.
His strange name was Krampus and goat-like was he,
With horns long and twisted and all brambly
His face so disturbing it could stop a fast train
(If trains there might be) but let me explain:
This occurred long before your birth, unaware,
In an age when dim candles lit up the dark stair.
Before the before, far beyond “long ago,”
When half the known world lay smothered in snow,
When night fell like a hanged-man to the arms of the Reaper
And the blanket of winter grew thicker and deeper,
When starlight might shiver, when moonlight would shatter,
When nothing that — now — really matters, did matter;
When your great-great-great-grandpa had never been spoke-of
When trains trailed dresses (which you dared not make joke-of).
In this wintry darkness, the Krampus went feral,
Hunting horrible children — and schnapps by the barrel.
(Yes, this creep called Krampus, who could be so malicious,
Loved peppermint schnapps, which — in truth — is delicious.
I myself might drink one — maybe two at the most —
Just to raise glass to Krampus and offer a toast.)
But the one thing that Krampus loved more than his drinkage
Was stuffing his baskets with brats full of finkage
Naughty and thievin’, these children were legion
You could find several hundred in the Frost Forest region.
In one such tiny village, ‘neath a mountain of ice,
Lived a bad little girl who was not very nice.
That’s what the town’s fathers and mothers opined,
And even her sisters said she was unkind.
Ask any wise cousin, they’d all sing the refrain
Of how Gerda was awful, a lost cause, a pain.
And pity her parents, poor souls, saints preserve us,
For Gerda made all of her neighbors quite nervous.
Yes, Gerda von Tremble was naughty, they said,
‘Cause she didn’t play girl games — she stood on her head.
She ignored all the rules, had no manners to speak of,
And perfume was the last thing our Gerda would reek-of.
She preferred to climb rooftops, race braggarts by sled,
Find homes for stray cats or read books — on her head.
(By the time this began, she’d read most books in town)
She wore rough lederhosen, but never a gown.
A thief among thieves — what, did I not mention?
But stealing itself was not the intention.
She wanted to read all the books that she’d heard-a;
When bookshelves went empty, folks all knew that Gerda
Had been sneaking around through window or attic
Or sometimes by front door (to be less dramatic)
Lifting latch, pushing window, or stealing the keys
To tiptoe ‘cross floorboards to find libraries.
She’d pick through each bookcase (a felonious act!)
And crack open bindings none before her had cracked.
She felt a book couldn’t breathe till someone had read it
And no one else read much in town (there, I said it.)
Though each would pretend they’d fondly perused ‘em,
And truly, truth was that these tales just confused ‘em.
But they loved placing books, like gems, behind glass
In locked-up old chambers where no one might pass.
And those in the village who should’ve been smarter
Would hoard all their books (sometimes in the larder)
And use them as doorstops or else for their kindling
When winter grew darkest and fuel was dwindling.
They loved blaming Gerda if she wasn’t around,
That awfully rude girl, famous all over town,
This subversive wild child who should go play in traffic —
Though her memory for books was quite photographic —
She could recite Beowulfand Wagner’s Götterdämmerung;
Why she could sing all the parts from Ring of the Nibelung.
Yet…there was one thing that Gerda could never remember:
That Krampus grabbed children on nights in December.
Townsfolk figured Gerda was that devil’s main choice,
She couldn’t sit still, wouldn’t lower her voice,
Plus she had the bad habit of speaking her heart
But beyond the pale, what set her apart,
Was she gave not a fig for others’ opinions,
They were sure she’d be captured by one of his minions.
Of course, Krampus had minions — how else could he creep in
The thousands of homes with bad children asleep in?
He had little goblins, quite disgusting and gnarly,
Some were called Smites, others just “Charlie,”
And they all had their baskets and maps and their orders
To steal awful offspring across several borders.
Off they’d fly after midnight, through a long winter’s eve,
Grabbing Slothbert, Grizzelda and Mean Little Steve,
And Chair-Kicking Hannah and that rude boy named Horace,
And Rupert who sang out of tune in the chorus,
And Gretel the foul-tongued while her weird brother Hap
Couldn’t find his way home ‘less you drew him a map,
And let’s not forget sloppy-dressed young Alouicious,
Who’d spent half of his life breaking fine china dishes,
Or Dreadful Diane who, no saint, liked to wheedle,
Or Gaspar the Cruel, killing bugs with a needle,
And what of Wild Matthew with soul disagreeable,
Or Devious Ginny with crimes unforeseeable,
And then there was Violet who looked sweet as pie,
But whose stink was enough to make angels cry,
And her brother, Mad Willy, who beheaded each doll,
Or their friend, Spitting Alice, whose name said it all.
But that’s only in one town ‘neath tall cliffs of ice.
In the Frost Forest region, few children were nice.
There were thousands of baskets and sacks at the ready,
For Sally and Susie and Jerry and Freddy,
And Pierre and Marie, Rafael and Lavinia,
And several bad tots on a trip to Sardinia,
And those in Bavaria, or in Italy’s boot,
To the east, to the west, north and south, what a hoot!
As nasty old elves raced town, city, and campus
Representing their notorious chieftan called Krampus.
They’d hunt all those children lurking late on the stairs,
Or those up till all hours who liked to split hairs;
Those who drew things they shouldn’t across just-cleaned walls,
Or cheated at marbles, ran amok in the stalls,
Or lied to keep secrets — which could be just as bad
As making up stories to bring cheer to the sad,
When they should’ve been doing things good children do
Like nodding to grown-ups or tying a shoe,
Or repeating their lessons — it goes without saying —
Or going to bed when they wished to be playing,
Or hushing when hushed when all grown-ups were shouting,
Or believing in nonsense when they should’ve been doubting.
On coldest of nights, well you’d guess who’d go searchin’:
That infamous Krampus, to capture each urchin.
Yes, Krampus and minions flew, bats from a mine,
Their sleds drawn by beasts of horrific design,
And they’d park at the peak of each roof — or below —
Trailing nightmares in their wake, in the snow.
They’d jimmy the side doors or draw back the sashes,
Or creep down the chimneys past ember and ashes.
In the darkest of hours, they snatched children and fled
To the terrible snow-covered Mountains of Dread
Which rise high in the Alps where no birds even fly
No trees grow in snow there (they don’t even try),
Where the sun will not offer a warm glance of noon light
And even the moon regrets casting her moonlight.
Now I must interrupt, please excuse this digression,
There’s one little thing; I should make a confession
Although this is a secret that only the Good have,
I doubt that you’d know it — though, clearly, you should have.
There’s a method for keeping our Krampus at bay
Every good child’s aware that the only safe way
Is to whisper a strange rhyme and gaze in a mirror,
And then turn it around to the wall, out of fear,
And what was the rhyme you might ask? Well, I’ve said it
More than a few times, myself, though I dread it.
It goes: Winter oh Winter
What beast are you sending
Whose eyes shine like moonlight,
Whose hunger, unending?
Winter oh Winter
May this mirror imprison
All Krampus’s servants
From darkness arisen.
You say it three times, you repeat it precisely.
If you’ve behaved very badly or not-very-nicely,
You stare at your reflection while you keep repeating,
Until you see shadows — behind you — retreating,
You turn the wide mirror to wall, straight around,
Or by long icy fingers, in the night, you’ll be found;
While left in your bed, in your place, a strange doll
Made of twigs, but it won’t look like you, not at all.
Now most awful children never hear of this rhyme,
Or how to perform it at precisely what time,
Or they leave out the part about turning the mirror
And soon after, the goblins of Krampus creep nearer,
But I’m sure that you know it; of course, yes you do,
Because it’s only the naughty who haven’t a clue.
Those despicable brats were lulled into a trance
With a wink, and a nod, and that cold Krampus glance,
Into suitcases, baskets, sacks, and some trunkage,
The boys and the girls were tossed with a clunkage.
They woke up to darkness and shoved at each other,
Didn’t matter if friend, cousin, sister, or brother,
This one blamed that one and that one whined loudly,
And one or two brats wept profusely – and proudly.
With baskets all brimming, in one special sack
Lay Head-Standing Gerda way at the back,
While others shoved wildly and carried on weeping,
She felt her energy was best saved for sleeping.
When she awoke to the shouts and the rages
Of all of the children, beside her in cages,
Why, the tantrums they threw! The words that were flung!
Who would’ve thought they’d have known such language, so young?
But far from the entrance to Krampus’s lair
Were strung thousands of cages, hanging, mid-air
And each overstuffed with the children dispatched,
All of whom were surprised they’d been easily snatched…
Except Gerda, who had a good trick to beat this:
She’d read about Krampus in a scholarly treatise.
This strange, obscure theory had once caused quite a scandal
It proposed singing music written chiefly by Handel,
While other operas and arias likely would charm him,
One needed a choir to completely disarm him.
So, as Gerda listened to the howling conniptions
She distinguished an A sharp with glottal transitions,
Spitting Alice could carry a tune most unique
And Mad Little Willy hit notes like a freak.
Our Devious Ginny gave a three-octave range
While Wild Matthew, who wept, sounded notes very strange.
Dreadful Di shattered glass with the notes that she hit;
Cruel Gaspar proved basso profundo, a bit.
Gerda knew if she could get all to listen ‘fore long
They could put dreaded Krampus to sleep with a song.
A natural leader, Gerda grabbed the attention
Of those terrible children so used to detention
Who annoyed their elders but this time were wiser
They knew Head-Standing Gerda was a good organizer.
So she conducted their cries into notes soaring higher
From what she remembered of Handel’s Messiah
And from there onto Wagner, from him to Rossini,
On Mozart, on Bizet, on Verdi, Puccini,
They belted the notes Gerda’d assigned ‘em,
And soon Krampus, on ice throne, turned ‘round to find ‘em.
He said, “Such lovely voices! Haven’t heard this in years.
These whiny brats’ music brings peace to my ears.
It reminds me of centuries past with my mother
Who lullabied me and my annoying twin brother.”
(For yes, Krampus has a sibling, quite famous, it’s true.
He’s named Claus Von Der Sinter – or Santa, to you.)
And soon, this mellifluous off-key chorale
Lulled Krampus to dreamland (boosting Gerda’s morale).
Then the minions, they melted, all these Charlies and Smites,
Into little ice sculptures and sharp stalagtites.
With Krampus, asleep, on a soft pillow, a-snore,
While his captives sang Lucia de Lamermoor.
Then, Rafael and Lavinia, strong for their ages,
Managed to break all the locks on all of the cages.
Stealing toboggans and skis from the old creature’s hoard,
They raced to the slopes, overlooking a fjord.
Thousands of feet down, it seemed such a risk…
But they all reached their homes in time for some sweet lutefisk.
You’d think our smart Gerda would demand some reward
Or a key or maybe a ceremonial sword.
The grown ups tried to thank her for saving their kinder
Before Gerda’s hearth fire had burned down to a cinder.
They said, “What kind of gift would your heart most desire?”
Gerda thought for a second as she stood by the fire.
“Well, I’d like a good book that I haven’t yet read
With a quiet, warm place
To stand on my head.”
Now, you may wonder:
Did Krampus awaken?
Would some terrible vengeance on Gerda be taken?
But no, my friends, Krampus slept for nights right on through,
Perhaps for a year — or a century or two.
Only now, he’s awake, and there’s nothing left for us
But to learn that strange rhyme (or else Handel’s fine chorus).
So repeat after me if you’re bratty or rotten
Stare in a big mirror, this must not be forgotten:
“Winter oh Winter
What beast are you sending
Whose eyes shine like moonlight,
Whose hunger, unending?”
Copyright 2019 Douglas Clegg. All rights reserved.
I invite you to find out more about my upcoming novella The Faces and preorder it if you’re so inclined.
Want to get the short story chapbook of “Belinda in the Pool” exclusively signed or signed & inscribed to you?
➡ Order two or more print books from the Signed Books area.
➡ Let me know at the time of your order if you’d like your books flat-signed by me or signed and inscribed to you (or to someone else). You can make note of this when you buy your books.
➡ I’ll include a signed (and inscribed to you, if you wish) bonus short story chapbook of “Belinda in the Pool” when your order goes out to you.
➡ This is in print only and U.S. only. The reason for that is here.
➡ Offer ends soon.
➡ Want to resell it on eBay someday? Ask for it flat-signed in that case.
There you go! Hope you take advantage of this offer. The unsigned chapbooks sells for about $13 right now.
Have a great autumn!
Stories are often born in the places where your mind lives in contradiction or even open rebellion to the world in which you interact. This may be escapism for some, anger at injustice to others, a deep well of imagination for others. They can take many forms.
All my stories are based in some ways on something I’ve experienced in life — or something that’s befallen me or someone close enough to me that it elicited an emotional response from me.
But the writing itself begins when a face, a person, and then a character or two somehow arrive.
Sometimes, stories come from dreams, also, or noticing something during the day that brings with it a sudden sense of absurdity in the realm of social interaction, perhaps the artifice of how we all get along.
Having said that, none of my stories are “autobiographical,” by any means, at least in the strictest sense. I delve into the deep well of dreams and fears with a reimagining of reality along those lines, with regards to story.
My goal is to erase most of the kernel on which a story is based so that it becomes something more important than “what happened,” or “how it felt,” and becomes meaningful beyond a day or a moment or a glance.
I’m finishing a novelette (or short novella, depending on your hair-splitting) called The Faces which begins with an anonymous stranger eavesdropping on the conversation of a young man in his late twenties with a woman of similar age as they mention an upcoming party that this young man named Harold doesn’t wish to attend.
The story came from the edge of dreams for me, speaking of that street corner.
Not quite dreams; just the point where you’re about to plunge into the depths of sleep — the part of falling asleep when your eyes have only recently closed and your lids are darkened shades upon which upcoming dreams might be projected even while you’re still aware of an itch on your skin or a sound elsewhere in the bedroom.
I stood on a busy street corner waiting for the light to change when I glanced over in the crowd of people now walking with me at the crosswalk to the other side of this wide boulevard.
I zeroed in on one particular person in the crowd as if he (or she) was more interesting than any of the others, perhaps even someone familiar. Almost immediately this person stopped as the crowd moved on. The person turned and looked at me and froze in place while her or his face (depending on the night) began to melt and twist into a grotesquerie.
This has happened more than five times, let’s say, although I didn’t count up the nights. Not consecutive nights, either. A man or a woman, young or old.
Each night I opened my eyes within seconds as if I couldn’t take the transformed face any longer. Was I scared? Unnerved?
Why? Was I afraid I was losing my mind a little? Why that face? Why that strange feeling of familiarity when the person stopped and stared at me?
Why did I not continue following the crowd across the street? Why wait with this newly-born gargoyle in the dream? It was nearly cartoonish, that magma flow of face that continued to twist and transform as if there’d be an end-face, a visage finale, of a monstrous sharp-toothed fish from the deepest trench of the ocean?
Nearly around the same time I saw a photo of someone wearing a costume of an old time cartoon character. This made me think of something that was both hilarious and deeply disturbing.
The story’s first 10 pages raced out of me after that. I knew the meaning in the horror of that briefly recurring pre-dream.
Hoping to get the story out soon to my Patreon.com/DouglasClegg group. You’re invited to sign up over there if you think you might enjoy some pre-publication stories over the next 12 months.
Hope to see you there,
So I was up at 4 this morning and began finger-stomping on the Underwood Champion. Working on two different projects today, one of them being a novelette (which may become a novella) called The Faces, to be released via Patreon’s membership well-before it’s published.
I wrote or edited between 4 to 9 a.m., then hit the sack in my polyphasic sleep lifestyle, up again just after noon. Mostly tackling some business issues since then. Writing fiction ain’t all fun and games — there’s the publishing side, too.
Here’s some of the rough draft opening of The Faces. Want to read the whole thing in its pre-publication period? Be sure and become a member of my Patreon group. For all the details, click here. And yes, I’d love to see you over there.
“Fills me with dread,” came a voice in the midst of the sudden quiet of the coffee shop.
If you sat nearby you might glance to the next table over and notice the man who said this —late twenties, well-dressed in the forgettable office attire of the moment, hair smoothed back from ears, clean shaven.
From the outside, he looked anything but dread-filled.
This was Harold, allegedly full of dread yet looking perfectly normal, generally happy, possibly in his prime of life but with a smudge of despair around the eyes.
Beside him, Margaret, white streak through her thick black hair, ivory cable-knit sweater with her mother’s pearls hanging down, just enough make-up to look as if she had none, a nearly-drained mug cupped in her hands.
“Don’t look. Seriously, don’t. I think we’re being watched,” he said.
“Here we go,” she said.
“If I had a dime for every time you said that…”
Someone did in fact glance over at the two of them, but who it was Harold couldn’t say. The stranger seemed familiar yet not at all. Harold wondered if this might be a forgotten classmate from college or someone noticed for no particular reason in a crowd downtown or from the bus or at his barber shop.
He rarely forgot a name or face, but couldn’t place this one at all. Perhaps someone of note? Politician? Local celebrity? Someone from a morning news show?
Harold would’ve examined the stranger’s face a bit longer but Margaret tugged him back to their purpose.
“It’s a Halloween party, which means costumes and masks,” she said. “We have forty minutes before the junk shops close. Shall we allez?”
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Excerpt copyright 2019©Douglas Clegg. All rights reserved.