Monday, November 21, 2016

GETTING SNOWED IN AT THE MADHOUSE WITH MARIA ALEXANDER

Hello my bloody little snow bunnies,

The first snowfall of the year has fallen in Pittsburgh, and as such, I thought that it would be the perfect time to sit down and have a chat with my lovely friend, Maria Alexander, about her debut YA novel, SNOWED, recently released from Raw Dog Screaming Press.

So grab a blanket, sneak some whiskey in your coffee, and bundle up, because it's about to get cold in the madhouse, and when the heat goes off in the asylum, there's no saying what people will do to stay warm.

With frostbite,
Stephanie M. Wytovich
-----

Guest Interview: Maria Alexander
via Stephanie M. Wytovich

WYTOVICH: Hi, Maria! It’s looks like it’s winter over in your world now, and I’m super excited to jump into your most recent publication, especially as someone who is already a fan of your work. Can you tell us a little bit about SNOWED? What inspired you to write a young adult novel this time around?

ALEXANDER: In late 2012, I was inspired to turn my highly successful flash fiction piece, “Coming Home,” into a novel. The protagonist needed to be a teen because teens are at that age where they can see adulthood on the horizon but they’re still clinging to fairy tales. For various reasons, that seemed to be the perfect balance for Snowed. But as I wrote the story, and then the sequel, Inversion, it became quite clear that I’d found my voice in YA. Parents and teen readers alike told me that my writing was very realistic, very exciting. I could already tell something huge had shifted for me. I think you’ll see what I mean when you read it. It’s definitely my best work to date by far.

WYTOVICH: Which character do you feel like that you have the strongest connection to and why?

ALEXANDER: Definitely Charity Jones. When she walked into my daydreams, I just loved her. She’s not perfect, but she’s strong and smart in ways I wish I’d been when I was her age. Her parents are very different than mine were, and I think that makes all the difference.

WYTOVICH: Regarding your writing process, what do you find was the biggest challenge with this project? What was the most enjoyable?

ALEXANDER: Honestly, this book and its sequel have both been the greatest joy I’ve ever had writing. The biggest challenge was actually the physical act of writing. My hands were disabled as I wrote the first draft, which meant I used Dragon NaturallySpeaking to complete the manuscript. It wasn’t the first time I’d been disabled, nor was it the first time I’d used Dragon, but I was still scared that I’d never be able to type again – or do many other things, for that matter.

WYTOVICH: How would you describe your writing style to those who are new to your work? Did you feel a noticeable change in your voice or style with writing a YA novel? Or was it just a shift in content and language? 

ALEXANDER: I’ve always described my writing style as prose poetry, but everything changed when I started writing YA. Literally. Charity reads the way a teenager speaks, and that’s totally unlike anything I’ve written before. Since she’s a very smart girl, I give her some leeway to come up with interesting phrases, but I stayed faithful to her, which is why I think she appeals so strongly to teens of all genders. The definition of YA is one teen telling another his or her story. I wrote from a young teen’s point of view in “Though Thy Lips Are Pale,” but that protagonist is NOT talking to another teen. There’s a profound difference. In YA, you’re telling a story that appeals to teen interests and concerns, which can be alien to adults. While adults will remember what it was like to be a teen and embrace the story, you need to stay true to your core audience.

WYTOVICH: Who are some of your influences in the YA genre? Where did you find yourself pulling inspiration from? Any favorite books/authors that you found yourself faithfully picking up?

 
ALEXANDER: Phillip Pullman is probably my biggest influence, although JK Rowling and Nancy Holder follow closely on his heels. After I wrote Snowed, I started watching MTV’s Teen Wolf. I was thrilled to see how much Snowed felt like Teen Wolf, which is crazy popular with teens. Snowed isn’t horror per se, but it’s really dark and the friendships are as close-knit and intimate as those in the show. I think there’s huge crossover potential in the audiences.

In a weird way, Twilight was probably the biggest influence because I was trying to create something totally unlike it. As a result, I wound up breaking almost every “rule” in the YA genre. I didn’t realize how many rules I’d broken until I started following the “Brooding YA Hero” account on Twitter. I was talking to Miri, one of my teen beta readers, about it when I said, “I broke a lot of rules in Snowed, huh?” She replied, “Yeah, but it’s awesome!” And, man, you should have seen the enthusiasm from my teen readers. I’ve put up some of their “blurbs” on my website.

WYTOVICH: What do you hope that readers gain from this book?

ALEXANDER: Their money’s worth. And a thirst for the next two.

WYTOVICH: Did I hear rumors of a sequel?

ALEXANDER: Hells yeah. Inversion is almost done. It’s an even bigger rollercoaster ride, if that’s possible. And after that will be the conclusion, Ashes of Angels. I already know the broad strokes of that tale. The world I’m creating is certainly big enough for spinoffs and short stories. I’m looking forward to it all.


Author Bio:

Maria Alexander is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Mr. Wicker. She’s been publishing short stories and poetry since 1999. When she’s not slinging a katana in her Shinkendo dojo, she’s being outrageously spooky or writing Doctor Who filk. She lives in Los Angeles with two ungrateful cats, a Jewish Christmas caroler, and a purse called Trog.

Short Pitch:

Teen engineering prodigy, Charity Jones, is a skeptic who learns she should not only believe in certain Christmas myths, but she should be afraid of them.

BUY THE BOOK HERE.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

DAVID E. COWEN BRINGS SEVEN SORROWS TO MADHOUSE

Hello my lovelies,

Here in the madhouse today, I have my friend and colleague, David E. Cowen. David and I met for the first time this year, and in Vegas nonetheless, after we had spent the better part of a few months working on the third installment of the HWA Poetry Showcase together. At Stokercon, I got to chatting with David about his book, The Seven Yards of Sorrows, and told him that it was a must read for me, and after thoroughly enjoying it for his dark delicacies, I invited David to come visit me in my ward and have a chat about his book.

So sit back and relax--I've postponed all treatments until after story time.

With needles and blood spots,
Stephanie M. Wytovich
____

This book started with a lawsuit over the ownership of a grave site at one of the oldest cemeteries in Texas located on historic Galveston Island. My work for one set of kids from a first dead wife trying to prevent the children of a second wife from burying the second wife in the same grave as the first forced me to visit the cemetery and learn some of its history. Established in 1839 between 40th and 43rd Streets on the main road onto the Island these six small blocks are the final resting place for over 10,000 souls buried in three layers and comprising seven distinct yards within the wrought iron and concrete walls and gates. The first layer holds those who were lost before and during the Great Storm of 1900 which killed over 6,000 people on the island. The entire island was raised and those without relatives or money were lost to the anonymity of the lowest level. In 1932 the Pauper’s Field was filled in and resold as “new plots.” Over the past twenty years some of the broken stones of the first layer have been discovered and brought back to the surface.



The cemetery is filled with elaborate crypts, stones and beautifully carved angels and figures all weathered from almost two centuries of exposure. In the fog this is a very spooky place. Over the years I took my camera to this yard during Fall and Winter fogs and in the Spring when the grounds are overtaken by brilliant wildflowers; life abundant in this granite field of sorrows. Reading the names of the lost, some born in the late 1700s, I saw hints of the hidden and forgotten stories of lost love, regret, heroes unsatisfied with their loss, scoundrels and victims of war, storms, yellow fever and murder.

The dark and foreboding photographs that emerged from my lens inspired me to write this book. Hundreds of hours of research went into learning the history of many of the individuals buried there. I researched the documented past and compared it with local legend finding the horrible truth of so many deaths. Using historical fiction and poetic license The Seven Yards of Sorrow tells the story of these lost souls. Watching over all of them is a mysterious caretaker who has bound these souls within the walls of the yard. Neither heaven nor hell are within their reach as they lament the paths that brought them to this state. In this volume the reader is challenged to live the lives and horrors of these ghosts still lingering from the late 19th and 20th Centuries. The stones and angels, seemingly tortured and corrupted by the veil of dolor in these grounds also engage in a bitter dialogue with the caretaker in a series of poems interlaced amongst the stories of the dead. The ultimate question for the reader as you read these dialogues is deciding which is the Light and which comes from the Dark.


A few selections from the book, which can be purchased in hardcopy here, and electronically, here.

(chorus of the lost 1)

the aroma of faint smoke
bleeds onto the damp stained stone
tears flowing from the faces of cold angels
etching the lines of the years

do they weep for those who sleep
or those who have yet to wake?

a marble child
faced smoothed featureless
clings to the winged arms
of a stoic archangel
motionless markers of loss

sweet child
the century you did not witness
would have brought you here regardless

there are those who sleep
ignorant
like logs in water
ignoring the ebb of the flood

we others walk
awoken from the cascading veil
of dark dreams
to this place
this yard of no hope
heaven and hell beyond entry
souls confined
to the wet gates
of this enclave.

we know the spot
where what we were once
was laid
the symbols of belief mocking us

did you believe
that there was no sin
which could immolate you immortal soul?
did you believe that you would be resurrected
to sunshine and joy?
did you believe?
walk and weep
in the dripping dew

_____________________________________

(the horror)

there is a scientific explanation for everything –

methane building from the wasting of corpses
combined with extreme heat of a Texas summer sun
all contained in a concrete box
erupting
breaking the door once bolstered
with plywood to keep vandals out
there is always an explanation
science can provide

I cannot be contained

vandals
the flood
the wind
the internal pressure of heat and moisture
there is a scientific explanation
for everything

except for me
and now I am out

the body of the dog in the lane of stones
a shriveled stray cat found in the weeds
the drained carcass of the drunk
come to the yard to rest against the crypt walls
all can be explained

I eat because I hunger
I hunger because I eat

everything unexplained
is a truth waiting to be revealed
the ball lightning
hanging in the kitchen
as a child watches his mother
consumed by white light
the voices whispering
in bright vapors
hanging over a moon washed tidal flat
the figure in the doorway
only seen peripherally
dissipating as soon as the head turns
to focus on the blur
bringing the cold shiver

all can be explained

if I was not meant to be
then why am I

each time the sun fails to rise
over the eyes
of a sleeper
each time the night perpetual
swallows another old man
crouching in the corner of a dark room
fearful of the shadows
the light will cast
there is an explanation

there is also
the hand that reaches
to feed on the fear
to lap the liqueur of last breath
the lips that kiss
the trembling face
lusting for daylight
then sucking the essence
of light
from inside

despite the explanations
the robed ones with the black beads
sprinkle holy water over the doorway
rub ashes and ointment
at the re-sealing of the opened door
soothing the nervous onlookers

this void vessel
that binds me again to this yard
will open again
it will always be that way
because I wait behind the door
pushing

all within the realm
of modern explanation
as those who know
avoid the walkway to the repaired crypt

_____________________________________

(the grieved lover)

gentle
I begged them
removing your covered body
from your last bed

they obliged me
until
the undertaker
humorless in the years spent
with the dead
told me

the gentle woman of lace
was a man in her place

he accused
they all accused

how could I not have known

she was so shy with me
she never allowed me
we had separate rooms, beds and bath
after 35 years I did not know
how could I
forcing me to spend my nights
in the red lights of the rooms of sin
to satisfy me

they seemed to understood
this flower of the tea rooms
so prudish
so easy to blush
could hide from me and all men
the true sex
underneath her skirts

the women felt sorry for me
some even offering me
what they thought I longed for
unrequited for so long
only to be rebuffed by my grief
and pronounced shame

I lied
and if damned
I damn the gods
that cursed me
to live here without you

I loved you
loved the feel of you
inside me
the taste of you
I knew who you were
for 35 years
of pretending to the world
of pretending to enjoy
the diversions of Market street

to awaken next to you
birds clattering in the fall leaves
the tall palms singing
with the rising zephyr
was all I ever asked of life

the true curse of my current station
they would not place you in this hallowed ground

I wait to find your face
waiting for me
on the other side of the iron gates

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

On Traveling: Attending #DogCon5 with Raw Dog Screaming Press

This past weekend, I drove to Milton, Delaware to spend the weekend with my RDSP family at our annual event, DogCon. This year marked our five year anniversary with the conference, and every year that I attend, I find myself more and more thankful that I met Jennifer and John. You see, one of my favorite parts about being an RDSP author (and fan, and editor) is being able to be a part of the fabulous community of readers and writers that they have gathered over the years. That alone was why I didn’t mind leaving my apartment early Saturday morning and driving six hours to the beach house only to come back home the next day, because in the end, I got to see what has very much become my extended family, and no amount of distance can keep me away from spending time with such lovely people.

Now I focus on this sense of community because writing is an extremely lonely career. Essentially, we sit in a room and talk to ourselves and our characters for hours on end most days out of the week, and to a degree, where we’re out in the real world not writing, there is a definite sense of guilt that we should be composing and inventing instead of having fun. That’s why these gatherings are so important. Not only do they serve as beautiful and energetic creative boosters, but they let all of us reconnect and hug each other and tell each other stories about life and fantasy while being supported and encouraged in our creative endeavors and day-to-day life.

For instance, when I walked into the house, I was immediately met with hugs and laughs (and booze) and I instantly felt refreshed and awake and so unbelievably happy. I got to chat about upcoming projects, listen to some manuscript pitches, meet new friends and catch up with old ones, drink whiskey in the ocean with Jim and Janice Leach, laugh until I felt my abs with Blake Burkhead and William Hamilton, and have a slumber party with my girl, Jessica McHugh, where we stayed up laughing most of the night and were only summoned in the morning by the delicious smell of bacon.


In addition to an unforgettable Cards Against Humanity game with the crew, and a lot of cackling and debauchery with Arnzen, Jennifer also provided us with fabulous meals, a warm environment, and then introduced us all to the ever-fabulous Beverly Bambury, who gave us marketing and publicity tips and was just an absolute joy to be around and get to know.


J. L. Gribble and I also got to represent at the Reader’s Choice Award ceremony, where my selfie-partner and dear friend, Matt Betts, took the belt for a second time. I’ll be passing it along to him at our Halloween poetry reading at Alter-Ego Comics later this month…where we’ll be dressed as a zombified version of The White Stripes singing Blue Orchid, er, I mean, talking about monsters.

All in all, the trip was a blast and I’m so happy I went. I’ve been juggling a lot lately and making a ton of new and exciting adjustments in my life, and this trip just solidified the fact that surrounding myself with people who make me happy is an absolute blessing, and necessity, in life. I’m so happy that I got to see all of you and that we got to spend some much-needed time together. I want to give another big thank you to Jennifer and John for everything that they do for us, and for the press, and say how much I personally appreciate it.

Just please don’t let Joe run around in that morphsuit again.

Monday, September 26, 2016

WARNING: PODGES ATTACK MADHOUSE

Hello my bleeding beauties:

Today in the asylum, we're talking about the podge craze that is sweeping the horror market. Sloane Kady's artwork is gorgeously creepy, not to mention expertly and uniquely crafted, as well as one-of-a-kind, so naturally, we had to scoop her up and take a peek inside her head to see what makes her, and her dashing little ladies and gents, tick.

So sit back, bite your bit, and tune in to a world of art, horror, madness, and dolls.
Because it's about to get all kinds of Child's Play up in here.
----


WYTOVICH: Hi Sloane! So I recently just treated myself to one of your beautiful handmade horror podges and I’m just over the moon in love with little Borris. What got you interested in art in the first place, and where does your background begin with it?

KADY: I’m so happy you love Borris! He’s a handsome guy.

I came out of the womb with a crayon in my hand. Art has been my passion since as far back as I can remember. As a child, I was always drawing and creating. While other kids fantasized about bicycles and Barbies, I wanted so much to learn to paint and sculpt and sew and crochet and just…everything. My mind was always reeling with new ideas, but it wasn’t until I was in my teens that I discovered my taste was a bit different.

I remember sitting in math class in my freshman year of high school, and my teacher (also the football coach) asked if there were any artistic types in the class. Thinking nothing of it, I raised my hand and waited for the coach to bark at me.

“You,” he said, pointing at me. “Mr. (I don’t remember his name—the art teacher) asked me to keep an eye out for some students he could use for a project. Make me something right now.”

I had no art supplies on me at the time, so thinking quickly, I pulled a Tampon (un-used, of course; I’m not THAT extreme) and two paperclips from my backpack. Under the skeptical eye of the coach, I straightened the two paperclips and inserted them through the middle of the Tampon, fastening them into legs. I drew a face on one end of the Tampon and left the tail loose on the other. I walked up to the coach’s desk and set the mouse down, waiting for him to kick my ass out of class. Much to my surprise, he LOVED it. I was immediately sent to the art class and was told what I’d earned myself. A week later I was painting a mural on the side of a gas station, having my photo taken by the local newspaper. I never did see the article, but I’m sure it made no mention of how I happened upon the opportunity.

It would be years before I’d find my footing as an artist, but this was when I first discovered there were other people who shared in my quirky taste, artistically speaking, and who wanted to see more of what I had to offer.  

WYTOVICH: What gave you the idea to start creating these adorable little monsters and where can readers purchase them at?

KADY: I started making felt stuffed animals for my daughters a few years back. While they were cute, they lacked a certain something. Precious foxes and kittens; no blood and horror. Not really my jam. But my girls loved them, and people reacted really positively to the photos I posted online.

Over the years, I had seen various types of horror dolls and always loved them, but my plate was full. I just didn’t have the time to experiment. After the release of my second novel (the beginning of summer), I had some extra time on my hands, so I pulled out my sewing machine, bought some quality materials (no craft felt to be seen), and set out to make a stuffed horror doll. I had already dabbled with sculpting and had made several polymer art dolls, but this was totally different. I had no idea how the finished product would turn out, but I was immediately hooked. Much to my astonishment, my very first podge sold within hours of making it, and I haven’t looked back since. I’m stunned at the evolution these little creatures have gone through just in the short time I’ve been making them.

You can find my podges on my Etsy shop (Podges tend to go quickly—I’m always trying to play catch-up with my inventory): https://www.etsy.com/shop/SloaneyBoloney

WYTOVICH: Can you talk a little bit about your process and how you get your ideas, the materials you like to use, etc.? How often do you make new podges? Do you take requests/commissions?


KADY: Many of my ideas come from my daughters. They love to draw up ideas for podges and then see what I do with them. Several of my sold podges were designed by my tiny humans. My lovely girls aren’t quite as dark and twisty as their mama (though they’re on their way), so I add all the necessary snakes, snails, and puppy dog tails.

My process is somewhat similar to that of my paintings and drawings, though it’s definitely more technical. When I paint, I completely lose myself in my work. Fingers working, mind free, I get into the zone of whatever music I’m listening to at the moment and just enjoy the journey. With my podges, I have to be very precise with measuring, cutting, placement, sewing, and staining. But make no mistake; I’ve got my horror movie soundtracks playing, which afford me the ability to completely immerse myself in my work. Music is as necessary a part of my creative process as the tools I work with…unless we’re talking The Carpenters, A.K.A. the gateway to Hell.

As for my favorite materials…well…I’ve got a ton of favorite materials, but I’ll just talk podges for now. I love fabric—rich, intricate, high quality fabrics (I’d be nowhere without natural bull denim and high-end upholstery/curtain fabric), high quality thread (Gütermann), wooden buttons, Dye-Na-Flow for staining, Golden High Flow acrylics for painting, various crochet threads for hair, but above all, my sewing machine. It’s a beast and the perfect tool. Thank you, Husqvarna Viking. (No, I’m not getting paid to say that. I just dig their shit.)

Podges take A LOT of time. I’d love to make one every day, but I’m currently making approximately two a week. I actually just dipped my toe in the commission pond. We’ll see how it goes and whether or not I’ll continue with it, but I’m always interested in hearing requests. If something’s up my alley, I’ll give it a go, so long as I feel confident in my ability to knock it out of the park.

WYTOVICH: What do you think is unique about your work that makes it stand out?

KADY: Buyers want something that isn’t readily available in stores. For reasons I can’t begin to fathom, podges aren’t sold everywhere. I think people also like the combination of cute and horrifying. There’s something appealing about a revolting creature that’s also precious enough to cuddle with. Horror fans in particular get all kinds of excited when they see my interpretation of their beloved movie villains. All of that aside, I put a lot of work into each piece, and I’m dedicated to quality. Each podge is a piece of art, and I’d like to think that’s what is so appealing about them.

WYTOVICH: Why horror? What about this genre specifically draws you to create with a dark edge?

KADY: I love everything horror! Always have. From the time I was tiny, I adored horror films. I’ve always needed my art served with an edge, be it music, films, books, art, etc. While other women curl up on the couch and watch romantic comedies, I play horror films when I want to relax and feel at home. When I was eight years old, I wrote to Cassandra Peterson (Elvira Mistress of the Dark) to tell her I wanted to be her when I grew up. Unfortunately, I was never endowed enough to fill such big…shoes.

So, what draws me to this genre? It’s fun, bold, and gritty. There’s nothing mundane about horror, and it allows me the freedom to experiment in ways other genres wouldn’t tolerate. It’s also honest in a way other genres aren’t. That’s the logical answer, the part I can explain. Then there’s the innate. I’ve no idea why I’ve always been drawn to horror, but it comes as natural as breathing.

WYTOVICH: I know that you also like to work in other mediums as well. Can you give us a snapshot into your art life and talk a little bit about your other work with painting and drawing?

KADY: Like I said, I’ve been drawing since I was old enough to hold a crayon. I began painting in my early twenties and shortly thereafter began working with an art manager. The whole situation fell into my lap, and while it was a tremendous learning experience, I hadn’t yet found myself as an artist/painter. I wasn’t proud of what I was producing. I was terrified of color and had zero confidence in myself, so I played it incredibly safe and colored within the lines. My paintings were dreadfully boring. Average pieces to go with average beige waiting rooms. Barf!

Shortly after my last gallery showing, my husband got new orders and we were off to Cape Cod, where I became pregnant with our second bundle of joy and put painting on the back burner.

As years went by, I kept up my art but never really found my place within it. My family was complete and that’s where my heart was (and still is, but the kiddos are older and don’t always want their mom following them around all day—I don’t know why; I’m totally rad). Along the way, my heart took another detour, and to make a long story short, my writing career began.

I spent years writing, writing, and writing some more, perfecting my craft and finding my role within it. Then began the submitting process, and before I knew it several of my short stories had been published and I had two novels under my belt. Writing is where my focus remained for many years.

Art always called to me, begging for attention, but HELLO, I was busy pursuing my other childhood dream, becoming the next Stephen King-ette. I worked incredibly hard to become successful and only dipped my fingers in paint, picked up a pen, or turned on my sewing machine when time allowed, which wasn’t often enough. But my soul was beginning to wither without art, so I decided it was time for a change. After the release of my second novel, I settled on giving art my undivided attention, which meant putting writing on hold. As any writer knows, this is much easier said than done.  

From sewing, to paintings, to drawing, to sculpting, to crocheting, to the miscellaneous, I work with all mediums, so long as they afford me the ability to unleash my creativity in a bold way. While every day is dedicated to family and home, once everyone’s off to school and the house has been tended to, it’s time for mama to have some fun. Some days are dedicated to podges, some to acrylics, some to watercolors. It depends on my mood at the time, but podges are in high demand and usually take a front seat.

I’ve definitely grown into a bold woman and artist. One of the greatest gifts age has given me is confidence. 
Where I used to use beige, I now use neon pink; where I used to write with a passive voice, I now cut out my heart and let the reader watch it bleed, and what used to be forgettable art pieces are now vibrant expressions of the wonderful chaos in my head.

Each and every piece in my shop will be daring…and probably a bit dark and twisted (with the exception of my Expression Series, an exploration into the mysticism of womanhood—which just got picked up by a wholesale distributor). My art is a celebration of the woman I’ve become and the even wiser woman I hope to grow to be. It’s a celebration of an artist who found her way and who colors way outside the lines, scoffing at the conventional restraints society has placed upon women. I adore what I do, and I hope people enjoy my work, but if not, fuck it. I’ll still go on, happily creating my macabre little things and living in my dark, happy world. I’ve never compromised for anyone or anything nor do I intend to.

WYTOVICH: In addition to being an artist, you’re also a writer and published novelist. Can you tell us a little bit about your work in the written world and describe your style for those who haven’t read your work yet?

KADY: My style is dark and brutally, unabashedly honest. I think that sums up my writing, both in style and subject matter. My short stories are all tales of psychological horror. Irreparable Deeds, my first novel, is a thriller, and Sleight, my latest novel and baby, is an edgy literary fiction drama with deep veins of madness.
My writing is where I expose myself, where people get to know what makes me tick. I’m an introvert. You won’t catch me chatting over Starbucks coffees and matching yoga pants with all the PTA moms. I keep to my own little table, and while I love fiercely and with unbridled loyalty, I don’t extend a seat to many people. My writing is where I’m forced to unearth pieces of myself that would otherwise go unseen—and that is what we call catharsis.

My goal has always been to write with honesty. We go throughout our lives bullshitting one another; passing vacant smiles, nodding along to small talk, exchanging pleasantries that hold no weight. We live in a plastic world, dressed up to look pretty, but we’re void of substance. I won’t write unless I can write with reckless abandon and without fear of the reaction. My words aren’t easy to swallow and the subject matter is abrasive, but that’s why my readers love my books. They’re real. They’re honest. If ever the day comes when I consider everyone else’s feelings before writing, I’ll personally nail the coffin in my writing career. Until then, I’ll never be able to give it up. Just like my art, it’s an extension of me, an essential element of what makes me the woman I am. My husband and our daughters are my pillars, my bones, my heart, my soul. My writing and art flesh me out.

WYTOVICH: Speaking of writing, I love how your artwork is marketing with backstory to the doll’s life, death, creation, etc. To me, it made me feel like I was buying something that had some spirit, and for a creepy doll lover like myself, that really made the art standout as something special. What gave you the idea to start adding biographies to your dolls?

KADY: They deserve it. It’s as simple as that. My art dolls take so much time to make and they’re so expressive. They deserve to have their own stories, as opposed to just a stock number and title. While I’m making them, I truly think about their history and how their afflictions have molded them, no pun intended.

WYTOVICH: Do you have an artist statement or philosophy that you tend to work by? What kind of message are   you aiming to send/make with your work in the arts?

KADY: The world has enough beige walls and forgettable bookshelves. We’re a zero-calorie world. Buy art that moves you, disturbs you, inspires you—something hearty and chock full of ooey-gooey fat. Read what stirs you and breathes life into an otherwise ordinary moment. Do these things, and I promise to keep creating books and art of distorted beauty. After all, honesty, even at its most raw, looks kind of beautiful if viewed in the right light.   

WYTOVICH: Okay, I have to ask! Who is your favorite podge so far? And what about him/her/it makes him/her/it standout?

KADY: Impossible! I don’t have one favorite. But I do have a handful of favorites. Thus far, my favorite podges are Borris (not just blowing steam up your ass), Phoebe Nuttlebonkins, Ferdie, Michael Myers, Horned Harriet, and The Babadook. As for why these are my favorite, well, color plays a role in that, as does attire. I adore Michael Myers, but that’s because my all-time favorite horror movie is Halloween. I love Borris because he’s a sweetheart. He might be creepy, but he’s totally happy about it, and I’m down with that. I love Horned Harriet because she’s one sassy broad. I mean…come on! You’ve got to have some piss & vinegar in your veins to pull off beaded tassels. And I love Babadook because I really deviated from my typical routine with him. Instead of letting the fabric and stitching do all the talking, I had to use paints. Babadook was a blank canvas. Black and white fabric with no depth or personality. I used light washes of acrylic paints to create a sketch-style finish, something that would resemble the children’s book version of The Babadook. In the end, it turned out really well.

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

BREAKING BONES IN THE MADHOUSE WITH PAUL MICHAEL ANDERSON


Happy Sunday, Darklings!

Today in asylum, I'm interviewing fellow Dark Regions Press author (and friend), Paul Michael Anderson. Paul's collection, BONES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN, is coming out this October, and is currently part of the DRP Campaign that is running. If you're interested in supporting the campaign, you can preorder his book and grab a ton of other deliciously terrifying goodies, too. Click HERE to check it out and in the meantime, take a dip in the hydrotherapy tub and read up on our little chat between your ward comes back for you. 

Don't worry. 
It will be our little secret.  

WYTOVICH: Tell us about your collection. What inspired you to compile it and how did you do so?
ANDERSON: I could be all author-ly and what have you but the truth is a lot simpler and a lot less (hopefully) pretentious: I wanted to do a collection because, partly, of Fountains of Wayne and because I couldn't remember my own goddamn bibliography.  

I have a website, called The Nothing-Space (plug time! paulmichaelanderson.wordpress.com); it's a little blog-thing just to have a webspace with my name on it.  In any event, when I was getting the stuff all set up, I had to do my bib...and I couldn't remember all of it.  This sounds more impressive than it is.  I started publishing regularly in late-2010, with a smattering of things previously (like, literally, a smattering--like three pieces, I think) and I'd published, by this point, northwards of 20 and southwards of 30.  Not a lot, but enough that this story or that thing kept slipping my mind.  And it annoyed me.  I'm a bit anal-retentive about organization.

Related to this is that I'm a big fan of Fountains of Wayne, a pop-rock group most famous for their 2003 hit "Stacy's Mom", but had been around since the mid-1990s.  In 2005, they released an album of B-sides and demos called OUT OF STATE PLATES and, in the liner notes, the lead singer wrote, "We had to put all these things somewhere."  

That attitude fueled the initial drive for the book, but I tucked the idea away into the back of my head until it became available.  BONES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN doesn't collect ALL my stories--the really early stuff and a handful of other things--and it isn't chronological by any stretch of the imagination, but it has my favorite stories; the stories that either show what a "Paul Michael Anderson story" is (if, really, there is such a thing) or does something that surprised or entertained me.  

WYOVICH: In regard to your writing process, what do you find is the hardest part? The most enjoyable?
ANDERSON: The hardest part is getting that first hump.  The second day of work.  Before I sit down, I have a what-if in my head--like, 95% of my ideas are situational and I just write myself out of whatever box I'm in--and a title.  These are the key and the lock and will get me to sit down and write that first night--between 1,500 and 2,000 words.  

But it's the second night that's the hardest. I always try to leave at a good spot, but some first nights you just run out of gas, y'know? It doesn't happen AS MUCH anymore, but I used to have files littered everywhere of opening scenes that I love, but never went anywhere.  

Anymore, I try to stack the deck as much in my favor as possible. I tend to think about stories as I fall asleep--my version of counting sheep, which doesn't say much for my work; thinking about upcoming scenes and dialogue and if I left any holes.  It keeps me jazzed for that idea.  Whenever I sit down. I always edit the last bit--an idea I got from Jack Ketchum and Craig Spector--to get myself back in the groove.  Usually those two things help, but until I start adding new words, it's a special kind of hell.

The best part is when I figure out what I'm talking about.  Like I said, I always start with a situation, but 
that's not enough for me, right?  I need a little heart there.  One, it makes the more character seem more real to me; two, it can drive the narrative.  Once I have "real" characters, their flaws become apparent to me and, really, it's our flaws that drive a lot of our decisions.  

But heart always give subtext; some abstract topic that I have in my head will come out.  In a story like "The Agonizing Guilt of Relief", I wanted to discuss those moments where there's nothing but helplessness, where every decision leads to another dead end.  How do you cope with that?  How do you answer that problem?  Once I nail that down--usually between first and second draft, but sometimes while initially writing--it's like I threw some nitrous in an engine.  It's fucking awesome.   

WYTOVICH: How would you describe your writing style to those who are new to your work? 
ANDERSON: Uh...I don't know?  "Horror" immediately pops to mind, but that brings with it connotations of ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedly beasties.  Three of the stories are science-fiction sendups (albeit with an alien creature treated as god and another about a malfunctioning software); two are straight mainstream pieces ("Agonizing Guilt of Relief" and the title novella "Bones Are Made to be Broken").  I would describe them all as horror-ish.  Horror with heart sounds awful, but I wrote one story--"All That You Leave Behind"--with the direct purpose of using an awful situation to both horrify and reduce the reader to tears.

WYTOVICH: Who are some of your influences in the genre?
ANDERSON: In genre?  Richard Matheson, early James Herbert, Harlan Ellison, Jack Finney, Ketchum, Shirley Jackson, Joe Hill and Stephen King (obviously).  

But I read a shit-ton outside the genre.  Lev Grossman, Richard Kadrey, and Neil Gaiman fulfill the fantasy aspect.  Sarah Vowell--her first three books, anyway--for her turns of phrase.  Richard Stark and Elmore Leonard and Shane Stevens for crime.  George Carlin.  Willliam Gibson's Sprawl trilogy.  Charles Bukowski's poetry.  

WYTOVICH: Besides your collection, what other books in the DRP campaign are you most looking forward to and why?
ANDERSON: Well, I've read a shit-ton of your poetry, so I'm looking forward to seeing your prose-work.  Getting out of the perks, it's more about specific writers and stories than the actual books.  I'd love to see the post-apocalypse stories in RETURN OF THE OLD ONES. Even though I'm in it, I want to see what other people wrote for YOU, HUMAN.  I always half-assedly write for a specific market--like I'll like a theme, but I never say/think, "Oh, I'm gonna be in that", even if I'm invited in.  So, I'm always curious to how I stack up against other people--am I in-line, or did I go deep off into left field (which is the case, I think, with my story in CHIRAL MAD 3, but the theme was loose enough that it still works and, anyway, Michael Bailey liked it).  I want to see Josh Malerman's piece, as well as Lucy A. Snyder's and John Skipp's.  


AUTHOR BIO: Paul Michael Anderson's stories and articles have appeared in anthologies, magazines, websites, and podcasts.  He lives with his wife and daughter in northern Virginia. Follow him on Twitter @P_M_Anderson. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

BLESS ME MY SINS: THE EIGHTH CAN BE YOURS THIS WEEK!

Hello Dark Ones—


Today in the MADHOUSE we’re chatting about Hell and everything that it means to me. As most of you know, my novel, The Eighth, is to debut from Dark Regions Press on October 4th, and as such, my editor, Lynne Jamneck, and I had a nice conversation about the project and what’s all in store for you all soon. Check it out below, and if you're still curious and itching for more once you've finished, head on over to the Dark Regions Press Campaign and preorder the book. And if you really want to secure your place in the circles with me, pledge at the Choose Your Deluxe Edition level, and you'll receive an early e-book copy of my novel this week!

Bless me my sins..
Now let's set this page on fire.



JAMNECK-The Eighth comes across as a kind of Romantic paean to Hell; can you tell us about the inspiration for the story and the influences that shaped it?
WYTOVICH-My entire life, people have told me that I’m obsessed with death, with darkness, when actually it’s quite the opposite; I crave life to an almost lethal degree, but I’ve been in situations where I’ve stared down the reaper and had to wipe the blood from the floor, too. In my experience, it’s always through evil that we somehow find the good, both in others and in ourselves, so I wanted to create a story that focused around the broken and what happened when they found something, or someone, they thought could put them back together again. In my world, the light is the dark, Hell is the least of your worries, and when push comes to shove, my characters learn that sacrifice hurts a lot less than the love they’ve been holding onto.

Because after all, what is love other than vulnerability, weakness?
The answer? It’s everything.
The real threat, my friends, is hope.
And that’s what wrote this book.

JAMNECK-Tell us a little about your writing process; does it vary much
according to what you're writing, e.g., poetry, short fiction or novel-length work?
WYTOVICH- My process for writing fiction and poetry is quite different; in fact, believe it or not, I actually have to write poetry in order to write my fiction.

When I sit down to work on my poetry, I write words and phrases, titles and emotions, and then I start to string them together by looking at art, reading through my notebooks, or listening to instrumental music. I really enjoy classical works, especially when they’re done in violin, so a lot of my poetry has a hauntingly romantic feeling about it…even when I’m draining someone of all their blood. My main goal is always to find the beauty in the horror, even if the definition of beauty is somewhat skewed from popular opinion/belief.

Now the process for my fiction is greatly dependent on the above. I was never one to favor outlining, but now with working full-time and editing, too, if I don’t plan ahead of time, I’ll never get anything done. Once I have the idea for the chapter down, the first thing I do is write the poetic version of it. Why? Because fiction is really intimidating to me. If I put it in poetic form first, it doesn’t seem as hard to tackle. because in a way, I’ve already met it head on, plus, at that point I have the turn-of-phrase and emotional intensity that I want behind the scene. After that, it’s really just expanding and filling in the details, all of which is done to music that I carefully pick, put together on a play list, and listen to on loop the entire time I’m writing.

JAMNECK- We seem to be in an exciting time now where genre fiction is beginning to appear all the more frequently in so-called "literary" work. Do you think this is an intentional shift as a result of genre-fiction's popularity in mainstream media? Or are writers, on the whole, becoming more open to the idea of incorporating genre elements in literary work?
WYTOVICH- I’m not quite sure. For the past two years I’ve worked in that scene at my day job, and to me, it was very apparent that literary writers wanted nothing to do with writing or embracing anything with genre/speculative elements…even when it was so blatantly obvious that they were working on and/or publishing horror. To me, I think there is still very much a divide, which is a shame because horror is a literary genre, and a lot of literary works have disturbing, horrific themes that bleed between the pages because let’s face it: life is scary and people do bad things.

I do think that the media is becoming more accepting of the blend, and to me, that’s a real treat to see, even though I still would be hesitant to introduce myself as a horror writer to a lot of publishers/agents outside of our community because of the stereotype that is still placed on our genre. For instance, do I think it’s safe to say “Hi, I’m a dark fantasy writer?” Yes. Hell, I might even say “Hi, I write psychological/religious thrillers.” But if I say horror? I might as well have a bucket of blood dropped on me because now, all of a sudden, I’m Carrie, not a female who has been working and publishing professionally in the industry for five years.

It’s a battle, for sure, but we’re making progress, and I see that and acknowledge it.
I just don’t think we’re all quite there yet for horror.

JAMNECK-In addition to writing, you are also a professional editor and a
lecturer with an MFA degree. When you consider your own experience, what do you see as some of the biggest stumbling blocks for both aspiring writers and writers in general?
WYTOVICH- I think the biggest problem that I see when I’m teaching or editing is a fear for telling the story that the writer wants to tell. I say that with a lot of confidence because that was me, too. My second mentor, William H. Horner, taught me to cut the cord and dive in no matter how much it hurt and no matter how scared I was of what people would think of me. In other words, he taught me to turn off the metaphorical editor and just write because writing made me happy, not because it was something that I was hoping to get published or get a good mark on. Because of him, I went from writing 20 pages a month, to 60-70 pages a month in one semester’s time. He taught me that the first person I needed to write for was myself, and that made all the difference in the world to me because it took off the pressure of making everyone else happy. I mirror a lot of my teaching off of how he worked with me because without him, I would have not only dropped out of graduate school, but I probably would have quit writing, too. Will is pretty incredible like that. I owe him a lot, and I try to pay it forward by being that person for my students and clients today.

JAMNECK-What are you currently working on; any exciting projects in the works?
WYTOVICH-I’m just finishing up my fifth poetry collection as we speak, and last week I started a very exciting project that I’m just thrilled to be working on with Mercedes M. Yardley and Brian Kirk. It’s a deliciously grotesque and beautiful story, and I think it’s going to break a lot hearts…and bones.

Plus, there’s the sequel to The Eighth.
But that’s a story for another time…