Tag: horror

Winterset Hollow: A Review

As an author, every article on how to catch an agent’s interest says the number one, most important thing I can do is grab their attention and hold it from the first ten pages.  The first page, if that’s possible.  Until I read Winterset Hollow, I don’t think I’d seen an author do that more than a handful of times, yet Jonathan Durham succeeds within the first paragraph.  To be perfectly honest, he manages this trick before the story even begins with his deft use of verse from the fictional children’s book of the same name.

Without giving away too much, this is a complex tale with many layers of meaning.  Its veneer is a thin layer of “be careful what you wish for” but beneath that, it’s got a darker heart beating to the rhythm of vengeance by any means necessary.  Other themes abound, but, for me, the central was one man’s quest for who he was as a person, and how much was a gift from his ancestors.

Winterset Hollow, the children’s book written by Edward Addington, is a story in verse of a diverse group of animals living together in harmony within the titular hollow.  When Runnington Rabbit hops the hedge to satisfy his curiosity, he sets in motion a series of events that must end in death.  While the depth of story in the fictional book reminds me of Watership Down, the verse makes the somber tale palatable in a way only good verse can. I’d love to see Durham complete that work and publish it separately; his poetry is really that good.

Eamon, Mark, and Caroline in the “real” world, each resemble one of the four bloodthirsty fictional characters that leapt from the pages of their favorite book bent on bloody murder, and it is only the bond of the three that offers them any chance of surviving Barley Day. But more than that, Eamon must lean on the teachings of an unbalanced father who abandoned him in the forest, coming to terms with what the man did to prepare him for such a day as this.

Not every character gets their moment in the sun the way Eamon does, yet we learn so much of the antagonists—Runny, Finn, Bing, and Flack—and their motivations, it’s difficult to hate them as they hunt and kill those who came to honor them.  It’s this depth of character that makes Winterset Hollow so wonderful a read; every motivation for good or evil is plausible and understandable.

There’s a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming until I was over three quarters of the way through the novel, and that revelation is one final push for Eamon and his last act.  The only issue I have with the writing are the number of miraculous escapes Eamon has from what even he sees as certain death, each time musing on its meaning in relation to his life.  Once is enough.  More than that is overkill.  Aside from this one niggle, though, the novel is brilliant and deeply affective.  This is one that will stay with you for days or weeks after you turn the last page.

Ever feel like you’re screaming into the wind?

Sometimes (and by that, I mean all the time) I wonder what I’m doing all this for. It’s not like people really care about what I write–and that’s okay… no one cares about what most people write. There’s a reason for that. Two, really. One is time. Most people these days just don’t have enough of it. The second is due to Sturgeon’s Law–80% of everything is crap. People know this instinctively, and budget their time accordingly. They stick to the writers they know and like and are often unwilling to take a chance on anyone new. Hence the reason most sales of new writers go to friends and family, and usually only the one time. Even your friends figure out quickly enough whether or not you’re someone they’re willing to add to their list of “writers”.

With that in mind, I offer a little story here for you to dip your toes into the icy river of my words…

An Illusion of Night

by Clancy Weeks

Everything leaked—the window, three bulkheads, seals, and the port reaction chamber; the worst were Will’s head and Paul’s own abdomen, and the second he plugged with two quick squirts of Heal-It.  There was nothing he could do for Will, and Lena had trapped herself in the airlock.  Next up was the port engine before their universe went boom, but unless he got into an EVA suit soon, it wouldn’t matter.  Paul’s trachea burned with every icy breath, and the ship’s alarm faded with every second; in moments, hard vacuum would reduce it to a vibration he could sense only through his boots.

He ran to the nearest locker and shrugged on the suit, ignoring pre-check protocols.  The collar on the helmet clicked home when he gave it a quarter turn, and air flowed instantly to his aching lungs.  Before he could descend the ladder to the port engine, a fierce rumble vibrated up his boots, through his legs, and into his brain.

“God da—”

***RESET***

“I’m not goin’ in there.”  Will shook his head violently, the white-knuckled grip on his weapon never wavering.  “Why me, anyway?”

Paul eyed him with a frown, then pasted a smile on his face.  “Because you’re the better shot.”  Without waiting for further argument, he opened the hatch and shoved the boy through, dogging it closed behind him.  The kid stared through the porthole with wide eyes, then spun at a sound from the darkened depths of the hold.

One, two, three shots rang out, vibrating the floor plates under Paul’s boots.  There was a short, high-pitched scream, and a bucket of blood splashed over the porthole.  The beast that had once been Lena had just pureed Will, then pressed a leathery snout against the glass and licked it clean.  Paul pointed his weapon, hands shaking, and blew the glass out with a single blast, accomplishing nothing more than enraging the creature.  She bashed the door, and Paul retreated.

Not fast enough.

The metal screamed, and the door popped open like a can of biscuit dough.  She gripped the ragged metal and pushed the door wide; head and body revealed an inch at a time.  Paul fired into her abdomen and head with no effect, and she lunged and seized him around his chest.  She tore the rifle away, taking most of his right arm with it.  He cried out in agony, his vision blurry from pain and rapid blood loss, but clear enough to see her mouth open wide.  Rows and rows of glistening teeth awaited, and he smelled Will’s blood on her hot breath as she—

***RESET***

The upper half of Will’s body exploded in a fountain of gore, bits of bone and brain raining over Paul’s head.  The creature lifted Lena high into the air, its roar of rage shaking the ground, and he shouldered the weapon and prayed this time his aim was true.  He took a deep breath and pulled the—

***PAUSE***

Dr. Jackson lifted his hand from the control panel and rubbed his temple.  The power of the machine humming through every surface faded, then stopped.

“Why did you do that?”  Inspector Janet Hardison stood on the other side of Paul’s body, studying the holo-field over his head.  “We’re close.”

“He’s spiraling, Detective.”  He shifted from rubbing his temple to scratching the five o’clock shadow on his cheek.  “The longer he’s inside, the greater the chance of trapping him in a loop.”

Janet rubbed the side of her nose with a forefinger.  “I think we were close a few iterations back.”  She frowned and furrowed her brow.  “Can you re-run from there?”

“Yes, but—”

“Do it.”  Her tone left no room for argument.

“How long do you plan to continue?”

She sneered.  “The man murdered his wife and son, Doctor.  I want that confession.”

“How long?”

Janet straightened.  “As long as it takes.”

***RESET***

Will’s body lay splayed on the ground, his head a mess of red oatmeal, while Lena screamed under the weight of the bald man with all the tattoos.  A wave of déjà vu washed over Paul as the other bikers struck him over and over with their lead pipes.  How many times had he been here?  A thousand?  Two?

Blood poured from a deep cut on his forehead into his eyes.  They burned and blurred, but he refused to close them.  One leather-faced animal wound up like a major leaguer and—

***RESET***

Cover reveal…

Just a quick note to show you guys the cover to my first horror novel, The Ward. I plan to release this in both print and Kindle formats in February. I’m also trying a new size format for this book, making it more like something you’d find in a bookstore–something a bit more pocketable.

Comments are welcome!

Novel excerpt–The Ward

This is my first horror novel and will be out next month. This scene isn’t scary, but it is momentous…


The storm raged through the night, the wind and driving rain a thunderous white noise drowning the bitter thoughts in my head like a bag of kittens thrown from a bridge; it was the first good night’s sleep I’d had in months.  While most people hated or feared the powerful storms that lumbered across the Gulf Coast, I’ve always found them comforting.  Storms in Southeast Texas—what we lovingly refer to as “the Golden Triangle”—are usually brief torrential rains that roll overhead like a runaway freight train.  Some, like last night’s, drift across the sky’s arch in a lugubrious crawl, dumping an ocean of water, scouring the landscape; clearing it like a house painter preparing for a fresh coat.

Continue reading

Who the hell am I?

And why should you bother reading my books?

It’s a long and winding road (apologies to the Beatles), beginning when I was nine and wrote a (*ahem*) “novel”, which I immediately mailed out to either DAW or Tor. I wish I’d kept the rejection letter because they obviously knew they were dealing with a very young Sci-Fi fanboy. I wrote little after that, but became a voracious reader, then turned my attention to music. I won’t bore you with the details, but I ended up earning my D.M.A. in Music Ed. and Conducting, also spending my time teaching band for over 20 years. During that time, I also published over three dozen works for wind ensemble and orchestra.

Once I’d decided to do this writing thing full-time, my amazing wife dove into the deep end with me and became our sole support. Scary, right? More for her than me. I’ve published a few shorts–one in Analog–but most of my time belongs to the novels. I just have too many ideas to set them aside while I write a short. I do keep doing them, though, whenever I’ve finished a book, or kicked it out of the nest to fly on its own. I also still write music, having just picked up a commission for a large work. I’ll be damned if I know how I’m gonna shoehorn that into my schedule, but what the hell?

The only Con I hit regularly is Comicpalooza, and only because it’s close to home in Houston. I encourage people to contact me, and not just because writing is a lonely business. But, yeah, that’s some of it.

Looking forward to hearing from a reader or two in the future!

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