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…

Saturday, August 20, 2016

THE MFA DEGREE DOESN'T MATTER. THE WRITING DOES.

I feel like whenever I log on to the internet these days, or pick up a writing magazine, all I see are people complaining about MFA programs and how they are worthless and a complete waste of money when you can learn everything you do in one, not only for free, but in the comfort of your own home by yourself. Naturally, I have a lot of feelings about this, and as someone who has graduated from one (Seton Hill University’s MFA Program forWriting Popular Fiction), worked as an assistant to another (Carlow University’sMFA Program for Creative Writing), and is currently teaching in yet another one (Western Connecticut State University’s MFA Program for Professional andCreative Writing), I think I’m entitled to my opinion here…just as all of you are entitled to yours.

There’s no denying that if you want to be a writer that you (1) have to write and (2) have to read. And yes! You can do that in the comfort of your own home. I myself read about 100 books a year and write at least four times a week (if not every day), and hell, I’ve been doing all of that to some extent since I was eight years old. Do I have to pay a shit ton of money to do any of that? No, but I guess that also depends on your book buying habits and how close you are to a library.

Now what I didn’t have access to was countless resources and mentors and critique partners and networking. Sure, some of you may be blessed and be way more intelligent and extroverted than I was/am, but when I graduated from undergrad, I had no idea half of this industry existed—and I’m talking about the conferences that I attend each year, the organizations that I have memberships with, the computer software that I use, some of my favorite authors, etc. I virtually knew nothing other than I liked horror, read a fair amount of it, and published with a ton of magazines that didn’t pay me and thought that giving me exposure was good enough.

News flash—it’s not.
Get paid for your work.

So yeah, I needed guidance and I needed an MFA program to show me the ropes of publishing and introduce me to a world that I eventually became savvy in, but more than that, I wanted the attention and the hand-holding and the community because I didn’t have the confidence to write a manuscript by myself. I wanted someone standing over me with a red pen smacking me when I did stupid shit, critiquing me when I made the same tedious mistakes, and I wanted to be in an environment of other like-minded people who had the same goals as me and wanted to learn about the industry.

If I didn’t go to Seton Hill, I wouldn’t know how to evaluate a contract. I wouldn’t know how to seed out shady people who make promises to me about my writing and don’t deliver. I wouldn’t know how to find an agent, properly use a comma, write a query letter, pitch my novel, build a website, create an author platform, teach a workshop, or have met half the people I know, love, and work with now.

And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Seton Hill did for me, but regardless, wanting and learning all of that doesn’t make me pretentious. It also doesn’t make me a stupid. I got my MFA because I wanted to make myself a better writer and that was the best way for me to do it. My career goals and aspirations were worth the loans to me if I was going to be taught how to hold my own in this field, and I also wanted a terminal degree that would allow me follow my dream of becoming a professor, and you know what, all of those things happened…and more.

Seton Hill changed my life. 
  • Will I be in debt forever? No (laughs painfully), but yeah it will take a while to pay off. 
  • Was it worth it? I would sell my soul to the Devil himself to do it all over again. Shit, if they started a PhD program or fronted another certificate tomorrow, I’d be there waiting in Maura first thing in the morning.


The fact of the matter is, everyone learns differently. What worked for me may not be your cup of tea and that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean my way is wrong, just like it doesn’t mean your way is right. Maybe you can do it on your own, and if so, I tip my hat to you, but I couldn’t, and I shouldn’t get ridiculed or attacked for paying for my education. I spent 2.5 years writing, studying, working three jobs, and not sleeping for me to take that lightly or not personally. So no, you don’t need an MFA to be a writer. What you do is need is the passion, drive, and commitment to learn and do whatever it takes to make you the best writer (and forever reader) you can be, and yeah, for some people, that means going to an MFA program to hone their art.

The point is that the degree itself doesn’t matter unless you’re trying to get a job as a professor. What does matter is if you learned how to write in the program and if you did something with the tools that you were given. If you did, then your money was well spent and to some respect, you can’t put a price on that.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A SUICIDE SQUAD, EH?

This post will probably earn me my own place on a suicide squad, but I’m going to say it anyways. I’m not a big fan of superhero movies. I try to be—really. I’ve watched (and own) a decent handful of them, but for whatever reason, they’re just not my thing. Having said that though—since I’m a walking contradiction—I love Batman. Always have. He’s the one superhero that I’ve always been drawn too, even as a kid with the television series, and I think what I like most about him is that he’s in a constant struggle with himself. Sure, now there’s probably going to be a ton of people that comment on this telling me that all superheroes are struggling, but guess what? That’s fine and dandy and I salute you, but I only really care about Batman.

Fun facts:
  • I dig Batman because he’s an ordinary guy (okay, I mean yeah, maybe a billionaire isn’t ordinary, but whatever) doing something amazing.
  • I love the voice and the suit and the symbol of the bat, as well as the story behind it.
  • Bruce Wayne’s relationship with Alfred and Lucius hits me right in the feels.
  • I’ve watched all the Batman movies (except when he was fighting Superman… not sure how I feel about that one yet), and I’ve read a decent bit of the graphic novels, although not nearly as many as I probably should have because I’m only really interested in certain villains, Arkham Asylum, and the suicide squad.
  • Oh, and I’m obsessed with the Joker.

That last one is probably the most important to me when it comes to this DC franchise. The Joker is everything that I love in a villain—he’s brilliant, destructive, chaotic, and has a wicked rad sense of humor. I like the idea of him being a jokester and I will probably always have a soft spot for Jack Nicholson’s version of him, even though my heart will forever be with Heath Ledger now because when I watched that Dark Knight, my mind exploded. That was how I envisioned Gotham, how I imagined the mob wars going down, how I wanted the characters to interact and push each other, but more importantly, it was everything that I wanted in the Joker: sass, swagger, intensity, madness, and the willingness to send a message just to keep everyone on their toes.



I could write about the Joker forever, and maybe someday I will, but what’s relevant to me right now is what I just saw in Suicide Squad. Now let me perfectly honest and upfront with everyone when I say that I was pissed off about this movie as soon as I saw the trailer for it. It wasn’t anything like that I thought it was going to be, I wasn’t a big fan of the character development, and when I saw what Jared Leto was doing to my man, I about had a heart attack. BUT I figured that I couldn’t properly bitch about this until I went and saw the movie, which I did, yesterday afternoon.

Verdict: Disappointed, but not as much as I thought I was going to be.

I thought Will Smith played a wonderful version of Deadshot, and I was actually really impressed with his portrayal of him. Same with Viola Davis as Amanda Waller and Jay Hernadez as El Diablo. Count me happy—I thought their performances were vibrant, very relatable to the graphic novel series, and I believed what they were selling to me. My only complaint here is that I thought the breaking line with El Diablo should have had to be worked more---it seemed like he went from zero to 100 pretty fast at times, and sure, that might be okay for some people, but I like to see more psychological torment, especially in a character like him, who for so long, refused to access that side of himself.

I can’t talk about Killer Croc, yet. It’s too soon.
I’ve never been more disappointed with a character representation in my life.

But now we come to Jared Leto as the Joker, and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Now like I said, when I first saw the trailer, I was angry—super angry. I thought they were making jokes (no pun intended) out of two of my all-time favorite characters, and in a lot of ways, I didn’t want to see the movie because of that. So let’s start with the Joker:



  • I get that playing the Joker has to be pressure like one would believe—especially after Ledger’s portrayal of him. So yeah, if I was going to do this role, I would want to bring something completely different to the table and do my own thing with the character. And truth be told, that’s what Leto did. Is it the Joker that I love? No. But did I hate him like I thought I would? Surprisingly, not.
  • I will be honest and say that I do not like the look of mob-boss-gangster Joker. The tattoos and the grill don’t do it for me, and nor did the laugh, which I think is a pretty deal big here. Seriously, have a listen at the laughs over the years. Which one do you think is the weakest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aweuxVULizg
  • And that kind of brings me to my next point. Was I entertained watching his character? Yes. In fact, my favorite parts of the movie were when the Joker showed up and started interacting with Harley, BUT I was never afraid of him and I didn’t think he came off as crazy. Sure, there’s definitely a few nuts and bolts loose up there, but I didn’t get the loose cannon, unnerved, tormented, and genius-deviant that I wanted.
  • And hello? The smile was gone. Another one of my favorite character traits about the Joker is that no matter how dark he is…he’s always permanently smiling. The cartoon had the razor sharp giggle, Nicholson brought the stretched out smile with the prankster laugh to go with it, and Ledger had the scars and the manic hysterical giggle that made our hair stand on edge. But Leto? The laugh wasn’t there, the smile wasn’t there, and at one point, it was drawn on his face with black marker or something, and to me, that just felt insulting to the character.
    • But I’m going to play devil’s advocate here now and give them a pass. Something that I really did like in means of character development was the tattoo of the smile on his hand. I thought that worked really well with who/what they were trying to pull off with this character, and hell, it even made me smile when it first showed up. So I’ll give them some credit here. Not a lot. But some, because it still upset me.
Now for dear, dear, Harley.

Like I mentioned before, I was pretty upset when I saw how Robbie was portraying her. When I was reading Suicide Squad, I saw Harley as the perfect companion to the Joker: manipulative, insane, dangerous, and a woman of strength, power, and cunning. For those of you who know me, you know that’s what I love in female characters: someone with some bite. But was that who showed up in the film? Yes and no.


  • I didn’t hate Harley Quinn. In fact, if you put me under a lie detector test, I would have to tell you that I actually really liked her character. She’s strong, intelligent, a total bad ass, but still, calm, cool, and collected. I loved that. I dug the hair, the makeup, and even the wardrobe—which I know a lot of women will give me shit for, but the thing about this that we have to remember is Harley’s character is all about confidence. I mean, even her portrayal in the graphic series is in a corset with high stiletto books. Now mind you, I would have rather seen the actual costume because I’m a purist with these things, but I liked her look and how she wore it. In fact, they even had a throwback in the film where she picked up her jester costume and that totally made me smile. As a feminist, count me proud. But that’s the only pass I’m giving here with her looks.
    • I could go on a whole rant about the portrayal of the female form in comics, but I won’t because that’s not what this blog post is about, but I will say that the response that I’ve been hearing about Harley’s character isn’t that she’s this brilliant, beautiful psychopath, but rather that they got to see her ass for most of the movie. This is where I grow some fangs.
    • Margot Robbie is beautiful, and she looks beautiful in this film. But that’s not the point of Harley’s character, people! What I wanted to see here was an INTELLIGENT PREVIOUS-PSYCHOLOGIST LOSE HER IDENTITY WHEN TREATING THE JOKER AND THEN SEE HER TRANSFORMATION. To some extent, yeah, the movie showed me this and I liked it, but it didn’t show the struggle. I’m all about conflict, and I think that conflict has to be earned and showed for something to be pulled off successfully, and I didn’t buy it. I didn’t see the “I am woman, hear me roar” element in her, and I saw it in the graphic novel series. I saw how she fell for the Joker. I saw how she started embracing her crazy. I saw how she became strong and eventually, stood up to the Joker and told him how she really felt. That wasn’t in the movie—maybe it will be when she gets her own film, but Christ. Harley is a fucking a brilliant time-bomb. She’s not just some girl in short shorts carrying a bat. Shame on you, Hollywood. Shame.
    • *Deep breaths, Wytovich. Deep breaths.*
  • So now that I got that out, I can breathe a bit and talk about some elements I really did like. I loved how we were first introduced to her: a dancing/hanging ribbon act in her cell that she made out of what appeared to be a straitjacket. See, that’s my girl right there: graceful, beautiful, calm, and deadly. She attacked guards, had to be restrained, and all the while, she still smiled as giggled and made sarcastic comments, and she pretty much did this throughout the entire film, which I thought was true to her character.
  • I liked that she went rogue and made it very apparent that this was a girl who was going to make her own decisions, and make them when she wanted and as she pleased so high five, feminism. But while I don’t want to spoil a whole lot here for people who haven’t read the graphic novel series, while I dig the toxic relationship between her and the joker for the plot (and seriously folks, that’s what it is—a toxic, abusive relationship. Let’s not romanticize it), I think there were a lot of elements missing here that showed her strength when it comes to love and standing up for herself, and being a woman. And again, maybe that’s why she’s getting her own movie and we’ll see it there, but I missed that in this film, and that tarnished it for me.
    • Devil’s Advocate: did I hate what they did to their story line, though? No. In fact, I kind of really enjoyed seeing how the Joker and Harley interacted with each other outside of Arkham, and I liked seeing the hold she had/has over my favorite villain. Did I buy it though? Not completely.



So I have some feelings. Some of them are warranted, some of them are me bitching because I’m a purist, and some of them are legit problems that I think a lot of people would agree on when it comes to character development. I don’t think the movie was a total failure, but I don’t think that it stands up to the momentum that we had with The Dark Knight series. The vibe felt off for me, the cheesy neon colors and backdrop of the film felt weird and misplaced, and like I said, I didn’t feel afraid of these most wanted, dangerous criminals.

Except for Deadshot. I think he’d just about kill anyone if he had a legit reason to.

Overview:
  • Would I watch the movie again? Yes
  • Would I pay to watch the movie again? No
  • Should you pay to watch the movie in theaters? I would wait till you can rent it.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

HWA POETRY SHOWCASE III: MEET BRUCE BOSTON

Hi Everyone,

Today I'm interviewing the lovely Bruce Boston, a poet whom I've admired for many, many years. 
Bruce has published fifty books and chapbooks, including the novels Stained Glass Rain and the best-of fiction collection Masque of Dreams, and his work ranges from broad humor to literary surrealism, with many stops along the way for science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Boston's novel The Guardener's Tale (Sam's Dot, 2007) was a Bram Stoker Award Finalist and a Prometheus Award Nominee, and his stories and poems have appeared in hundreds of publications, including Asimov's SF Magazine, Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and The Nebula Awards Showcase, and received a number of awards, most notably, a Pushcart Prize, the Bram Stoker Award, the Asimov's Readers' Award, the Rhysling Award, and the Grand Master Award of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. For more information, please visit his website at http://www.bruceboston.com/ 

How did you hear about the poetry showcase?

HWA Facebook Page

What  is the title of your poem? Why did you decide to submit that particular piece?

"Enough." I often have trouble placing poems with sociopolitical content. The Showcase took a political poem from me last time, so I though I'd try another one.

What is your process like for writing poetry?

Haphazard and sometime hallucinogenic, followed by a severe application of craft.

Who are some of your poetic influences?

Too many to name, but I will add that many of them are fiction writers.

Who are you reading now and who/what are you looking forward to reading for the remainder of the year?

Currently reading John Dickson Carr's The Dark of the Moon, so far one of his weakest novels, and also, David E. Cowen's new poetry collection, The Seven Yards of Sorrow, quite good so far. Don't know what I'll be reading for the rest of the year. Whatever grabs my fancy and draws me in. I read eclectically, but almost always fiction or poetry. 

Are you currently working on anything that you want to announce? Has anything of yours recently been published that you would like to talk about?

My latest collection, Sacrificial Nights, a collaboration with Alessandro Manzetti, just came out. This is a poetry novella that blends the genres of horror, surrealism, crime and noir. Both ebook and trade paper available at Amazon.

I've been finalizing a collaborative collection with fellow SFPA Grandmaster, Robert Frazier, Visions of the Mutant Rain Forest, fiction and poetry, due early next year from Crystal Lake Publishing.

I've also been collecting blurbs for a forty-year retrospective collection, Artifacts: Selected Short Poem, 1975-2015, due from Crystal Lake Publishing this fall.


Finally, I've begun assembling the best of my uncollected poems for a new collection, tentatively titled Brief Encounters with My Third Eye.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

HWA POETRY SHOWCASE III: MEET MICHAEL A. ARNZEN

Hi Everyone,

Today I stole my buddy Mike Arnzen away from his computer and threw him in THE MADHOUSE with me for a short stay. Mike has been here with me a couple times now, and fun fact, has even hung out with me and explored an actual madhouse before (see: Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum). So sit back, relax, and get into minds of my one of my favorite writers!

How did you hear about the poetry showcase?

I've wanted to be a part of the HWA's support for poetry ever since I first heard the HWA was publishing these Showcases.  I'd read the previous two anthologies and was really impressed by the work they contained, and I regretted overlooking the deadlines and never submitting to them. So when I heard another one was in production, I made it a point to not let the deadline pass me by this time.  The HWA has done so much for me over the years (I've been a member since the 90s) that I am trying to give back in different ways, from contributing to books like this to volunteering to things when I have the time, like mentoring and teaching classes at StokerCon and such.

What  is the title of you poem? Why did you decide to submit that particular piece?

"The Trappings of Poetry" is my contribution to Vol. 3, and I wrote it expressly for this collection.  I feel that the HWA is doing a fantastic thing in supporting poetry, but the majority of its writers remain fiction authors (myself included); so I wanted to try to explore the horror of the format itself and try to offer a text that said something about what it is horror poetry is, as much as to try to creep out the reader.  I often see this as my mission, even if it's not so conscious: to create "horror" that by its very nature is unique to the medium that contains it. So in this case I set out to write a horror poem that could only be done >through< poetry.  As with a lot of my experiments like this, I just let the proverbial muse take over -- but then I took control back -- and the poem became an exploration of point-of-view in the tradition of Poe:  a piece about devious compulsion and sadism that -- I'd like to think -- makes you more and more uncomfortable the longer you sit with the voice of the narrator... though, of course, it's really a poem about all of us writers, and thus, the readers of this collection.
What is your process like for writing poetry?

It's very spontaneous and loose -- a kind of word jazz.  This creates a lot of sick humor and puns along the way.  And this process is similar to how I write fiction, in that I really just try to channel my unconscious onto the page first -- striving to get as close to a "dream" state as possible (the proverbial "zone") and thereby release the nightmares -- and also trying to side-step all the things inside of us that censor and control us.  Poetry is best for this because it gives you the flexibility to avoid the structures of time, space, chronology, narration, characterization -- all the "structures" that impose order on ideas.  In a poem, anything goes, just like in a crazy dream, and I love that.  Not every horror concept works this way; narrative fiction is better for unleashing surprise and really giving us a "character study" or a way of contrasting reality vs. the fantastic.  For me there's a very thin line between the two forms, though.  In fact, I'd say that the most horrifying moments in a horror story are usually the scenes or passages most akin to poetry, since the language is fraught with weirdness.

Who are some of your poetic influences?

To write this stuff, you've gotta be open to surprise discoveries, so I'm never married to just one style, just one writer, or just one pet subgenre. I'malways exploring new things and trying to put myself into literary situations where inspiration and influence will come out of nowhere and change the way I think.  So most of my influences are people who have surprised me profoundly in the past, or who continue to freak me out and shock me with something new every time.  I already mentioned Poe, who is a big one, and maybe after that I'd cite someone like Jim Morrison -- but I really have been influenced most by contemporary genre writers -- friends in the business, I suppose -- who I always spend the most time reading and studying.  People like John Grey, Marge Simon, Ann Schwader, Kurt Newton...even you, Stephanie Wytovich. I try to absorb it all and want to be a part of the "conversation" we're all having about horror and mankind.  Outside of genre writers, I've been reading poets like Aase Berg and Zach Schomberg (all the poets at Black Ocean books are tops), and listening to weird music, with or without weird lyrics.  Like, right now, I'm digging a bunch of computer game "soundtracks" and have been listening to them as ambient noise as I write.  I also just discovered an amazing percussionist named Tatsuya Nakatani who is doing some crazy things to cymbals, gongs, bowls and skins that amazes me and inspires me to try to wrestle new ideas out of the mundane tools I already use in everyday life.

Who are you reading now and who/what are you looking forward to reading for the remainder of the year?

I just picked up "Underwater Fistfight" by Matt Betts, which I'm really looking forward to reading. He tends to tackle popular culture in a witty and surprising way.  I saw that the bass player from King Crimson and Peter Gabriel's band -- Tony Levin -- has a poetry book now, so I'll likely pick that up and see what he's up to.  After discovering and writing the intro to Rammstein frontman Till Lindemann's book last year -- On Quiet Nights -- I've renewed my appreciation for what musicians are doing, even if they aren't avid readers of other poets. Their instinctive play with the sound of language thrills me.   Aside from poetry, I'm hoping to catch up with the Stephen King books piling up on my "To Be Read" stack.  I still need to read the entire Bill Hodges Trilogy.  

Are you currently working on anything that you want to announce? Has anything of yours recently been published that you would like to talk about?

I was shocked to discover recently that next year will be a decade since my Stoker-winning short story collection, Proverbs for Monsters, came out.  It's been out of print and hard to find for a long time now, and I'd been holding back on releasing an ebook --  but since it's a Stoker-winning collection, it deserves to be out there.  So Dark Regions Press and I have been working up an exciting expanded edition to re-release around the time next StokerCon rolls around!  

All sorts of other irons are in the fire right now too.  My non-fiction study, The Popular Uncanny, should be out by the end of the year.  And I recently just finished polishing up 55 stories in a series for an anthology called "555 Vol. 2" which I'm really excited about. They're microshorts, but hilariously sick.  Too soon to announce my next novel, but it's in development and so far so good!  I also think I've got enough material to put together a new poetry collection as well.  So please let folks know about my free newsletter, The Goreletter -- it's the best way to keep up to date on my work and you get all sorts of things there that you can't get elsewhere, like original art, prize books and more strange poetry. 


Author Bio:



Michael Arnzen holds four Bram Stoker Awards and an International Horror Guild Award for his disturbing (and often funny) poetry, fiction, and other literary experiments.  He holds a PhD in English from University of Oregon and teaches in the MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University.  Raw Dog Screaming Press recently published the 20th Anniversary edition of his first novel (Grave Markings, along with a decade-long collection of his micropoetry (The Gorelets Omnibus), and will be releasing his new nonfiction study, The Popular Uncanny, this October. See what he’s up to now at gorelets.com

SOCIAL MEDIA:
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Monday, July 11, 2016

SAINT OR SINNER? WELCOME TO THE MADHOUSE, PETER SALOMON.


Hi Everyone:

Today in THE MADHOUSE, I've kidnapped fellow horror author and poet, Peter Adam Salomon. Peter and I have known each other for a few years now as we both exchange and critique each other's writing from time to time, and most importantly, we both have the same twisted flair and appreciation for the dark arts, too. His latest poetry collection, PseudoPsalms: Saints v. Sinners is now running free in the (under)world, and as such, I wanted to give you all a peek behind the veil to hear a little more about his creative process and how for him, the lines between fiction and poetry are a little blurred. Enjoy!

GUEST POST:
by Peter Adam Salomon

Despite two published novels and one Bram Stoker award nomination (for ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS) in the Young Adult novel category, I still think of myself as a poet. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I’ve been writing poems since I was seven and only started writing novels as an adult. Perhaps because I believe my natural ‘voice’ is found in my poetry, in the freedom and spirit that poetry represents.

Mostly, I consider myself a poet first because I feel a much stronger emotional bond to poetry, both as a writer and a reader. With my second novel, ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS I threw out all the standard rules of fiction writing (no run-on sentences, no repeated words, no sentence fragments, etc.) and pretty much replaced them with some of the rules of poetry writing. I knew this would result in some people hating the book, which happened, just as much as I knew that some readers would love it for the very same reasons. I loved the poetry of the novel and am extremely proud of it. But it’s prose, no matter how poetic, and it left me with a burning need to write poetry again.

My first collection of poetry, Prophets, consisted of mostly old poems with only a handful of newer works. While it was rewarding to see some of my personal favorite poems in print that way, I still wanted to try to stretch my wings a little bit more. PseudoPsalms:Saints v. Sinners, my latest poetry collection (published by Bizarro Pulp Press), allowed me the freedom to do that.

While retaining a focus on the exploration of identity and self, religion/politics, and sanity/insanity which pretty much all of my writing deals with, PseudoPsalms also gave me the unique opportunity to do more than just explore the darkness and shadows I’ve grown so familiar with over the years of writing horror. As the subtitle suggests these are not all dark poems. There are glimmers of sunshine, if not outright joy and wonder, making the shadows, I think, just that little bit darker. Reaching outside of my comfort zone, into the light so to speak, forced me to improve my own writing in ways that I hadn’t really worked on before. I’d found so much comfort in exploring the shadows that all that illumination in the lighter poems I usually thought lessened the quality of my own writing. Embracing the light was more difficult than I’d expected it to be but I hope I managed to capture lightning in a bottle a few times in those poems.

When writing about those shadows, my process usually starts from a place of ‘what scares me?’ or ‘what would scare others?’ That difference (between ‘me’ and ‘others’) is what I believe enables me to write poems from different points of view, working the empathy muscle in order to attempt to understand someone else’s fears and worries. As I said: ‘attempt,’ since I’m never quite sure how successful I am but I’ll never stop trying to put myself in the shoes of other people in order to better understand the world.

When writing about the lighter things in life, my process was immediately derailed. ‘What do I like?’ Well, I honestly don’t really know most of the time. I like the shadows. Which, of course, leads me back to writing a darker poem than I’d originally intended in this particular process. ‘What do other people like?’ Well, have to admit that is a question I really don’t know the answer to.

Writing those lighter poems, therefore, presented a challenge from the very beginning. Plus, while writing them I’d find myself going off-course, adding shadows where none belonged to ‘improve’ the poem. And usually those improvements ruined the poem (though I was able to save some tangents for later poems, which was helpful, I suppose). In the end, I tried to really focus on keeping the shadows away, to really let the light shine through. To embrace, so to speak, the illumination in order for the shadows to be just that little bit darker. And to let the shadows make the light a little brighter. Or, at least, that’s what I hoped for.

Containing more of an equal mix of new and old poems (my next collection will be almost extensively new, if and when I finish it…), PseudoPsalms: Saints v. Sinners was written to be an exploration of both the light and the dark, and, most especially, of that wicked grey limbo where they meet. Sure, monsters may be hiding in the dark, waiting for unsuspecting prey, but there are monsters in the light as well. They’re just sometimes harder to see. Which, come to think of it, might make them the scariest monsters of all.


Author Bio:

Peter Adam Salomon is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Horror Writers Association, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, the Science Fiction Poetry Association, the International Thriller Writers, and The Authors Guild and is represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

His debut novel, HENRY FRANKS, was published by Flux in 2012. His second novel, ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS, published by Flux in 2014, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Young Adult fiction. Both novels have been named a ‘Book All Young Georgians Should Read’ by The Georgia Center For The Book.

His short fiction has appeared in the Demonic Visions series among other anthologies, and he was the featured author for Gothic Blue Book III: The Graveyard Edition. He was also selected as one of the Gentlemen of Horror for 2014.

His poem ‘Electricity and Language and Me’ appeared on BBC Radio 6 performed by The Radiophonic Workshop in December 2013. Eldritch Press published his first collection of poetry, Prophets, in 2014, and his second poetry collection, PseudoPsalms: Saints v. Sinners, was published in 2016 by Bizarro Pulp Press. In addition, he was the Editor for the first books of poetry released by the Horror Writers Association: Horror Poetry Showcase Volumes I and II.

He served as a Judge for the 2006 Savannah Children’s Book Festival Young Writer’s Contest and for the Royal Palm Literary Awards of the Florida Writers Association. He was also a Judge for the first two Horror Poetry Showcases of the Horror Writers Association and has served as Chair on multiple Juries for the Bram Stoker Awards.

www.peteradamsalomon.com
www.facebook.com/peteradamsalomon
Twitter: @petersalomon