Saturday, December 29, 2012

HUNTER FOUND INSANE AFTER SQUATCH HUNT

PATIENT: SCOTT WYTOVICH
ILLNESS: SQUATCH HUNTER

CASE 174: HALLUCINATIONS
RESIDING NURSE: STEPHANIE WYTOVICH

For those of you that are unaware, I do, in fact have a brother. For years, I've been trying to keep him safe and out of The Madhouse, but like so many other helpless souls, he too as begun to submit to the delusions and hallucinations of the clinically insane.

On Friday, December 29th at approximately 5:17 p.m., I found him wandering the woods in a deranged stupor claiming that he uncovered one of the biggest mysteries our world has yet to see. I'm placing this video in his file for further reference and observation, but I believe its contents have been tampered with by the same madness that has taken my poor sibling's mind.

But how does one treat such an ailment? Hydrotherapy? Seclusion? Many options come to mind, but I'm confident that Electric Shock Therapy will be quite useful in erasing the demons that run through his mind.  The young man is clearly plagued by the musings of childhood stories, and one does have to wonder if the parents are to blame...or if this instability is genetic.

Our parents have yet to make contact regarding Scott's whereabouts, but not to worry. I have dear brother locked up in restraints, sleeping comfortably in his padded cell. After all, sisters do know best.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE MADHOUSE: PATIENT BETTS


PATIENT: MATT BETTS
ILLNESS: WRITER

When did you start writing? Why did you pick the genre you write in?
I’ve been writing since I was pretty young but I only got serious about it in the last 10 years or so. My mom showed me a book she found that I made when I was in elementary or middle school or something. It was a horrible Scooby Doo rip-off (but then isn’t all writing?) featuring a haunted house and ghosts and stuff. No big dogs, though.
I am kind of all over the place as far as the genres I write in. I do a little horror, some science fiction, some fantasy. I was really into the old black and white horror movies when I was a kid and I still am. I really prefer those old films over a lot of the horror movies that are out there today. The old ones were all about the mood, the atmosphere, the characters, rather than a gross out. I think those movies gave me a really strong foundation for my speculative fiction.
I saw Star Wars in a theater when it first came out. I was pretty young and it left a big impression on me. I had never seen anything like it. It scared the crap out of me. Droids and Wookies, spaceships and lightsabers-it was all pretty amazing for a kid my age and it made a lasting impression on me. I want to be able to write stories like that. Stories that are thrilling and unexpected and that readers remember long after they put it down. Not asking much, am I?

Where do you get your ideas from? Do you journal at all?
I don’t journal, really. I keep notes on my iPod, and I have a few pads of paper around to jot ideas.
It’s difficult to say where the ideas come from. I’ll just get an image. Sometimes that’s the beginning of the story, or the end. It might just be a line or a character sketch. It can come from a song or a movie I’m watching. I might just take the note down and forget it for a while, but I have to write it down at that moment or I’ll lose it.
My kids do give me inspiration sometimes. I wrote a poem when my oldest son was a baby, and it grew into “The Night Godzilla Dumped His Chick” which was nominated for a Rhysling award. It started as an observation that he liked to knock over blocks, and grew into a story about Godzilla destroying Tokyo. It just happened.
 
What's a normal (writing) day like for you?
I really don’t have a normal writing day. I have two young kids, and that really doesn’t allow for much of a normal schedule. I write where I can, when I can. I can try to plan out a block of time, but it doesn’t always hold up. I write large chunks in my head and keep building on those while I’m driving until I’m happy with it, and then I write it down when I have a chance.

Favorite author or book? Who are you currently reading?
I have a few favorites, and it’s really hard for me to pick just one. I always end up walking past my bookshelf a few days after I answer this question and finding a half a dozen writers or books that I should have included.
I love Stephen King’s work. Elmore Leonard is awesome. “Out of Sight” and “Get Shorty” are two of my favorite crime novels. For steampunk, I like “Boneshaker”. I love Sara Vowell’s “Assassination Vacation”. Caleb Carr’s “The Alienist” and “Carter Beats the Devil” by Glen David Gold are both way up on the list of my favorites.

Do you prefer writing poetry or prose? Why one over the other?
I write both and I really don’t prefer one over the other. They’re both extensions of my creativity. Novels and short stories are great because you have time to reel out the plot and show off your characters, whereas poetry makes you do so much in a very small space. I really love writing very short poetry and making it work and have some impact.
The first time I wrote a novel, I would work on poetry whenever I got struck with writer’s block. When I got stuck on the poem, I’d switch back to the novel. Same with short stories. One would work off the other. Anything that got my creativity flowing was a good thing. I’m fond of telling the story of a comedian I interviewed in college that gave me that advice. He played piano, acted, did stand up, and wrote. He gave me the good advice that you don’t have to be good at just one thing. They all feed off of each other creatively.

Do you write in silence or with noise (TV, movies, music)? 
Noise. I have to have noise. Usually I have music on, but sometimes I’ll have the television on if I’m working at home. It has to be something upbeat and fast to keep me writing and keep me distracted from the outside world. If I’m writing in a coffee shop or somewhere I don’t want to listen to the store’s ambient music. It generally doesn’t cut it. I have to have something else.

Do you have any weird habits when it comes to writing? Do you type or write longhand?
Like I said, I write some notes longhand, but for the most part I use the laptop for my writing. I keep a file on my laptop through Microsoft OneNote with pictures and character sketches and maps and so on, that I can sync with my iPod, so I can look at those things, or add to them anytime I want. So if I have a sudden idea for a good line, or for a character, I can jot it there and have it waiting on my laptop when I’m ready to write some more.
I don’t think I have any particular quirks when it comes to my writing. If I’m at home and I’m really on a roll, I’ll get out my favorite ballcap to write. It’s from a TV show called “Homicide: Life on the Street” and has the word Homicide in big white letters across the front. I don’t know. It feels like it keeps me moving along. Other than that and having to have music, I don’t think I have any real rituals or anything.
 
Would you consider yourself a Plotter or a Pantser?
Ah, that age old rivalry! When will those two learn to get along? I don’t really do that much in the way of detailed plotting. I know where I’m starting, I have a good idea where I’m ending, but the rest is pretty much up in the air.

What do you think is the hardest aspect of the craft?
The hardest part of writing is finding the time, really. The toughest aspect of the craft itself, I think, is plotting. Keeping all of those strings pulled tight and making sure none of them come unraveled is tough, especially in a novel with so many point of view characters. For someone like me (who just admitted to writing by the seat of his pants) sometimes the long view is hard to think about.
Another thing that’s tough about the craft is revision. I’ve always tried to get away with as little as possible, but I finally woke up and saw the value in rewrites and being open to opinions I don’t really agree with about my writing in order to make it better.

Current Projects?
Well, I’m thrilled to say my first book in coming out from Dog Star Books this summer! It’s called “Odd Men Out” and it is a steampunk/alternate history story.  It was so much fun to write and it’s actually kind of fun to revise. I’m nearly through the edits on that, and I’m a decent way into writing and making notes on the follow up to it in the series.
I have a poetry collection out and we’ve talked about doing a second one, so I’ve been gathering material for that in all of that glorious free time I have. It’ll happen, I’m just not sure how soon.
Finally, I have some short stories that I’m not terribly serious about, but that are lingering in the back of my mind.

How do you balance being an editor and being a writing (Or double jobs, being a mom, etc.)
It isn’t easy being a rodeo clown, a world-renowned chef AND a secret agent, but somehow I manage. Actually, it is tough working a full-time day job, writing and trying to be a good dad to two kids. In that equation, being a parent will always win out. It means working late on my writing, missing a little sleep (or a lot of sleep). Sometimes it means writing while the kids nap, or while they’re watching TV. But, the family always wins. My wife is great and helps me find time to write when things are slow at home.
Also, I’ve developed a means of writing big chunks of the story in my head during my commute. I will write the same sections over and over in my head until I have it memorized so then when I sit down to write, I have a huge amount of a story or chapter all ready to go, and I can just pour it out without really thinking.

What do you think people expect from you with your writing? EX: Can they always count on a good gross out?
I have to inject humor into just about everything I write. It just has to be there. I think so much of life has little humorous moments, that to leave them out would be weird, even in my poetry. I’m also a big fan of action movies and I think that also permeates my work. I like to keep things moving in the story and I love to take the reader on an exciting trip with the characters.

Advice for aspiring writers?
Some of the best advice I got was to read everything you can get your hands on. Become as knowledgeable about your genre as possible, certainly, but make sure you read outside of it as well. Read whatever. Pick up a popular book that you would never touch and read it. Find out what makes it popular, or read one that got terrible reviews to find out what went wrong. It is almost impossible to hurt your career as a writer by reading someone else’s work, as long as you go into it objectively.
Next? Be willing to really hear the criticism of your work. You may not make every single change that is presented to you, but you have to be open to changing everything about your book. There can’t be any piece of your finished manuscript that you won’t listen to suggestions on. Every beta reader and critique partner comes to your story with a different background. They may just have a point about something you hadn’t noticed when writing or editing your novel. If you aren’t willing to make drastic changes and hear some scary suggestions from your beta readers, then all you’re looking for is a pat on the back. And that isn’t going to improve your writing.
Lastly? Revise. Rewrite. Revise. Rewrite. Look at your chapters. Are they in the right order for maximum impact? Can you tell the story another way? Do you need more points of view? Or fewer? Take these all into consideration and try rewriting the chapters and characters that don’t work from another angle. Keep doing it until it sounds right.
 
BIO: Matt Betts is a former radio personality whose fiction and poetry appears in various publications, including Kaleidotrope, eSteampunk and the Triangulation:Taking Flight anthology. Eventually his robot army will be complete, but for now it’s just the Roomba and a homemade Twiki.
 
He blogs at www.mattbetts.com, Twitters as @captplothole and does interviews and other stuff for Shock Totem Publications (www.shocktotem.com). His book of speculative poetry, See No Evil, Say No Evil, can be found at www.happybotgardener.com. His novel Odd Men Out will be released by Dog Star Books in the summer of 2013.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

PATIENT THOMAS DOES ART IN THERAPY WARD

PATIENT: SCOTT THOMAS
RESIDING NURSE: WYTOVICH

Over the past few days, Thomas has been working in the MADHOUSE and exhibiting tremendous improvement over the crippling diagnosis that has been posing a double threat to him: WRITING AND ART. My only concern are the faces he's creating...

It's as if they see right through me...

Haunting me...




Monday, December 17, 2012

INCOMING PATIENT: SCOTT THOMAS

PATIENT: SCOTT THOMAS
ILLNESS: WRITER AND ARTIST


Scott Thomas is the author of 8 short story collections, which include Urn and Willow, Quill and Candle, Midnight in New England, Westermead, The Garden of Ghosts, and Over the Darkening Fields. He is also the author of the fantasy novel, Fellengrey.
 
Fellengrey is a nautical adventure set in a fantastical world reminiscent of 18th Century Britain. It follows the sailing life of Lt. Hale Privet as he battles villains, deals with the effects of magic, and finds himself smitten by a lovely lass. Included in the book is an introductory tale about an unfortunate coxswain named Mill Burnshire who finds himself shrunken to the size of a child and trapped on an island he cannot leave.
 
He has seen print in numerous anthologies, such as The Years Best Fantasy and Horror #15, The Year's Best Horror #22, The Ghost in the Gazebo, Leviathan 3, Otherworldly, Maine, and The Solaris Book of new Fantasy. His work appears with that of his brother Jeffrey Thomas in Punktown: Shades of Grey and The Sea of Flesh and Ash. Scott and his girlfriend Peggy live in coastal Maine.


**TAKE YOUR PILLS, SCOTT. YOU'RE DRAWING DEMONS**

I'm a big fan of etchings, particularly in charcoal and paper. To me, there is such a raw strength that jumps off the page when you look at them, and when Scott draws something like a demon coming out of the ground, it really looks as if it's crawling off the page. His work is very memento mori which is Latin for "Remember your mortality / Remember you must die." I saw a lot of skeletal work and framing when I visited Italy, and when I see these guttural images of ghastly women and born-again demons, it's striking and horrifying, but not in a Halloween sense. Scott brings life to death on the page and his ethereal symbolism leaks through his characters. It's beautiful in a Gothic sense. A tragic sense.

I don't want to go all art critic on my readers (because the patients get restless if I wander too long) but the image to my right is what I envision nightmares to be made of. Scott's biography tells us that he's well versed in the genre of horror and fantasy, and from what I've seen, the man knows what it means to build terror out of dreams. When you see a piece like this with a woman bearing her nakedness against the offset of a flowing, gossamer gown as she's being ravished by demons, it's hard not to wonder what sin she's being punished for. What story we're not allowed to know. Her eyes are blacked out, and her hair is being swept off the page as if someone is yanking her away from us...as if we can't stare at her for too long.  It's haunting and it makes me want to take that chance and here that story.

These two images spoke to me the most as I sifted through Scott's marvelous collection. A true talent in both the worlds of literature and art, I expect to see more of him in the MADHOUSE. And as a special treat for all my well-behaved headcases, I'm going to be showing his artwork in WARD C for the rest of the week. So do feel free to pop back in over the next couple of days to see some more of Scott's work.

Until then, look for Fellengrey published by the craziest crew of them all: RAW DOG SCREAMING PRESS.

And as always...
Stay Scared.

Stepahnie M. Wytovich
 

Monday, December 10, 2012

PIN HER DOWN: JESSICA MCHUGH

PATIENT: JESSICA MCHUGH
ILLNESS: WRITER

When did you start writing? Why did you pick the genre you write it?

I've always been a writer. When I wasn't assigned short stories in school, I was writing poetry or songs. And I always played make-believe, which is essentially the same thing without putting pen to paper. When I was nineteen, I start writing seriously. Even though it was only for myself at that time, I did it every day. And because I worked in a boring perfume kiosk, I wrote all day, too.

As for genre, I love playing around in speculative fiction, but I don't like to stick to a specific branch of spec fic. I may head into a story with a certain genre in mind, but it can easily change-or more often, it blends into other genres that emerge during writing. It all depends in which direction my characters lead me.


Where do you get your ideas from? Do you journal at all?

Inspiration is everywhere. Walking down the street, hanging out with friends, dreaming: all of these things and more can be the impetus for an amazing story. I just live my life and let the ideas find me. I don't journal, but if I have a particularly intriguing dream, I will write it down. My novel "Rabbits in the Garden" came almost entirely from a dream.

What's a normal (writing) day like for you?

As I have a full time job, I have to sneak in my writing time. I write over breakfast and coffee, during my lunch break, in the bathroom, or when I'm simply walking down the hall. Once I get  home, I focus on one project for a few hours in my Writing Hut, but since I refuse to allow writing to consume my entire home life, after a few hours in the Hut I come downstairs to hang out with my awesome husband and work on a different project; one that requires a little less concentration.

Favorite author or book? Who are you currently reading?

My favorite author is Ronald Dahl, especially when it comes to his short story collections. I absolutely love his wit and macabre sense of humor. Currently, I'm reading "The Hunt" by Joseph Williams, who is a fellow Post Mortem Press author. I'm really enjoying it so far, but as I read before bed, I hope it doesn't get to scary! Although I'm a horror writer, I get nightmares from other people's horror novels.

Do you prefer writing poetry or prose? Why one over the other?

I prefer writing prose, but I do love writing poetry. I take part in Wireman's Poetry Night every month at a local bar called Cafe Nola, so that encourages me to continue writing new poetry. But if I slip for one month, Wireman is very cool about allowing me to read flash fiction or novel excerpts. I look forward to it every month, being immersed in that wonderful community of writers and musicians. It has been a wonderful addition to my writing life.

Do you write in silence or with noise (TV, movies, music)?

It depends. I can write in the cacophony of bars and restaurants (and often do), but if I'm in my living room with the TV switched on in front of me, I have trouble concentrating. That didn't used to be the case, but as I've gotten older and it's become more appealing to relax after work instead of well...work some more...I find myself choosing to lounge. So, if I'm home, I really need to shut myself in the Writing Hut with only music playing. And it has to have no lyrics, or be in a language I don't understand. I usually opt for opera or the "Epic Soundtrack" station on Pandora.

Do you have any weird habits when it comes to writing? Do you type or write longhand?

I write everything longhand in my garbled language known as "McHughrish." When I have a notebook and pen in hand, I feel akin to my inky forebears. It's more a visceral experience for me, and the words come easier- often to the point where my brain moves faster than my hand and the words blend into each other, hence McHughrish.

Would you consider yourself a Plotter or a Pantser?

For me, it depends on the novel. As each novel is a different animal, each one needs a different approach. How I start depends completely how I feel about the story and main characters before the pen ever touches paper. Most often, I'll write a mini outline of the first few chapters and let the characters lead me through the story from there. There may come a point in the ink fever, usually around halfway, that I stop and say, "Okay, where am I going." Then, I outline until the end.

What do you think is the hardest aspect of the craft?

Time. You have to make time to write, and as you get older, it becomes a lot more difficult. Inspiration is limitless and potential story lines are everywhere. It's time and endurance that run short.

Current Projects?

I'm working on a YA series centered on a girl named Darla Decker. The first book "Darla Decker Hates to Wait" about her first year in middle school is complete, but I want to finish writing the second book before I send out any submissions. With that, I'll also be editing my historical fiction "Verses of Villainy" and my alternate history novella "The Maiden Voyage."

How do you balance being an editor and being a writing (Or double jobs, being a mom, etc.)

I balance my full-time job and my writing life by forcing myself. I don't give myself the choice. I wish writing was my full time job, but it's just not possible yet. Until that time, I just have to suck it up and do my best when it comes to both. But when everyone asks me about "my job," I always say I'm an author first.

What do you think people expect from you with your writing? EX: Can they always count on a good gross out?

I think most of my readers expect a least one character they love to hate. I love writing villains and flawed protagonists. It's my job as a writer to make the reader identify and/or feel for every character, and I get a kick out of making the reader twist their ideas about good and evil until a supposed "evil" character becomes one of their favorites.

Advice for aspiring writers?

Write whatever the hell you want. Do it often, and do it with passion. I believe it takes years to find a strong voice and create excellent stories, so start now. I've been writing seriously since I was nineteen years old and didn't attempt to get published until I was twenty-five. It's strange; I didn't even think about publication.  All I thought about was writing. I worked a shitty restaurant job where I wrote instead of taking people's orders properly and prayed to be sent home from work so I could get back to writing.

Was I poor? Yes. Did my roommate get pissed at me a lot? Yes. Did I drink too much. Oh yeah. Did I lose a boyfriend in the process. You betcha. But I also created worlds and characters and voices that have helped me becomes a better writer.

Please don't think I'm telling you to mimic what I did. In fact, I hope you don't. But it's so important to have passion and to take the time to learn the craft before throwing yourself into the publishing world. Get used to spending a lot of time in the land of make-believe. Really think about who your characters are and how millions of readers will be able to identify with each one. I know time is difficult to find, but you NEED to find it. Live life, meet people, OBSERVE people, and make your stories rich. To me, passion and time are the most important aspects of writing. To produce good fiction, you need to have both. One alone won't cut it.

Fortunately, I see people do it all the time. I do it. Working mothers do it. People who juggle two jobs do it. If you make a little time every day and you're passionate about writing, your stories will come-and the world will be better for it.

Bio: Jessica McHugh is an author of speculative fiction that spans the genre from horror to alternate history to epic fantasy. A prolific writer, she has devoted herself to novels, short stories, poetry, and play writing.  She has had twelve books published in four years, including the bestselling "Rabbits in the Garden," "The Sky: The World" and the gritty coming-of-age-thriller, "PINS." More info on Jessica's speculations and publications can be found at: http://jessicamchughbooks.com/.

FROM JESSICA:

"If you dig sex, drugs, and rock-n-bowl, check out my newest novel from Post Mortem Press. A gritty coming-of-age story, PINS follows Eva "Birdie" Finch as she joins the crazy world of stripping in West Virginia.  Low-self esteem makes her very nervous about stripping for strangers, but it becomes even harder when her fellow dancers start turning up dead.  It's available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and pretty must all the biggies. You can also find it at: http://www.postmortem-press.com/. Make sure to check out their other books too, especially the newest anthology, "Fear the Abyss." It contains stories by Harlan Ellison, Jack Ketchum, Michael Arnzen, and some other really amazing writers. I have no idea how my story "Extraction" squeaked in. ;) Actually, it's one of my favorites. Check it out! And as always, THINK IN INK!!"

Monday, December 3, 2012

THERE'S A MAD ONE IN HERE: CHRISTOPHER SHEARER

PATIENT: CHRISTOPHER SHEARER
ILLNESS: WRITER


• When did you start writing? Why did you pick the genre you write it?

To answer this question—the first one—I’m going to have to tell you about my grandmother, because she’s really where it all began. She was a special woman and one hell of a “writer.” At 17 she won the Atlantic Monthly Young Writer Award and she made her living as a librarian and a professional storyteller, which I imagine is a perfect job. She travelled the world, and people paid her to tell them stories. She didn’t write anything down; she just made it up on the spot, and she was a master at it. She became friends with many of the best writers of her time, genre writers, because those are the stories she loved (as an aside, after she died, I went through her libraries—yes, there’s more than one—and she had all the classics out to be seen, but behind them she had mysteries and sci-fi and horror and fantasy from way back. Books by Algernon Blackwood, Lovecraft, old, old Poe collections, Chandler, Hammett, Paul Cain, L. Sprague de Camp, Ted Sturgeon, A.E. van Vogt, Asimov, Bradbury, Lester del Ray, Arthur C. Clarke, and on and on). She was friends with and a contemporary of people like Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson and Harlan Ellison, and Rod and Carol Serling, who were guests at my parents’ wedding. She was Rod’s boss at the Dayton Public Library in Dayton, OH, when he was struggling to sell anything, and was a librarian at Ohio State, which is where she met Ellison. I don’t know the story behind the others, but it doesn’t matter. She was one of those people who had so much life inside of her that it spilled over. You just wanted to be around her, or at least I did. And then there were the stories. God, she had stories.

The happiest memories I have are of me, maybe 2 or 3, small, running into my grandparents’ room with a book and asking her to read to me. She never read the story as it was. She’d read a sentence or two and then she’d take it wherever she wanted it to go, but the best part was that at some point, she’d stop and she’d say to me, “then what happens?” And we’d go back and forth making up stories for hours, all while grandpa grunted and complained. It was the best time I’ve ever had. That’s where it began, with her in that room.

Now, when did I start publishing? Well, we moved around a lot when I was growing up (probably around 40 different places before I was 10), so I was never in any school for very long, but I remember writing and drawing comic books and taking them to school to sell, and people bought them, which I think is strange and wonderful. My first “sale” came when I was ten. My brother and I had moved in with our mother, and things had settled down. My teacher at the time wanted us to write a story, and I did, turned in late, as all my work was, but I did. She read it and somehow it ended up with the local paper, who published it and paid me. It wasn’t much, I don’t think. I can’t remember for sure, but they printed the story, and then it was reprinted by the local high school and then in a collegiate journal. Then two poems followed. My dad was a minor poet, part of the “dirty realism” movement, and I wanted to be like him, so I tried. They were published too. Then the bullying started big time, and even some of the teachers got in on it. I didn’t write anything for publication for a long time after that.

Years later, out of school and working on the fringes of the music industry, I just looked around and knew I wasn’t happy. All I wanted to do, and when I think about, all I ever wanted to do, was write stories. So that’s what I decided to do. I went back to school and took a creative writing class, where I wrote four stories. Three ended up being published (the fourth will never see the light of day—it’s Lovecraftian, and I don’t want to play in anyone else’s world). The first was to a now defunct ezine called Demon Minds (there’s something else with the name, but it’s not the same). That story won their reader’s award and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The other two were published in literary journals and both won Penn State University’s Best Short Story Award, which I won three times in my three years there.

As for how I chose the genre, well, if I’m honest, I don’t know. I could speculate about the horrors of my childhood, at least the first ten years—and it was truly horrifying—or go on about my grandmother’s influence, but I don’t think that’s it. I just write what I write, and I’ve published stories as literary, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery. I’m known, I think, as a horror writer, but I don’t know that what I write really is horror or really is any of those genres. It’s something different, and it’s just me.

• Where you get your ideas from? Do you journal at all?

I wrote an essay recently as part of Fantasist Enterprise’s “Awakenings” series (http://fantasistent.com/2012/10/18/all-the-stories-i-remember/) about this. For an in-depth answer, you should go there and read it. In short, however, I’ll say from everything.

I do not journal. I did when I was younger, in my musician days especially.

• What’s a normal (writing) day like for you?

I’m not much of a sleeper, getting maybe four hours a night. Usually I’ll read a few hours before work and then I’ll write when I get home until I go to bed. When I was finishing the rough draft of my novel, however, I wrote every minute I could—including a few days that began at 4am and ended at midnight without a break.

• Favorite author or book? Who are you currently reading?

My influences are legion, and I could go on for days. Some highlights would be Charles L. Grant, T.E.D. Klein, Charles Beaumont, Bradbury, Brian James Freeman, Gary Braunbeck, Tim Waggoner, Robert Aickman, Tom Piccirilli, Glen Hirshberg, Shirley Jackson, Arthur C. Clarke, David Mitchell, Cormac McCarthy, Henry James, Steve Rasnic Tem, Joe Lansdale, David Goodis, Harlan Ellison, George R. R. Martin, T.C. Boyle, Ray Carver, John Cheever, Flannery O’Connor, Martin McDonagh, Shakespeare, Dickens, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Hopkins, Philip K. Dick, Dennis Etchison, Sarah Langan, Tim Lebbon, James Morrow, King, Raymond Chandler, Heinlein, Daryl Gregory, Robert McCammon, Dan Simmons, Larry Connolly, Ron Malfi, Rio Youers, John Dixon, Norman Prentiss, Norman Partridge, Michael Marshall Smith, John Connolly, and the list goes on. I’m a big fan of the magazines Fantasy & Science Fiction, Cemetery Dance, Black Static, Interzone, Subterranean, Weird Fiction Review, and I read just about every story printed in each.

As for what I’m currently reading, I’m co-chair of the 2012 Bram Stoker Award Jury for Long Fiction. I’m reading for that, which means a lot of novellas. Some highlights from this year have been Ron Malfi’s The Mourning House, Ray Cluley’s “I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing,” “Sandition” by Helen Marshall, The Men Upstairs by Tim Waggoner, Torn by Lee Thomas. Right now I’m about halfway through The Underdwelling by Tim Curran.

• Do you prefer writing poetry or prose? Why one over the other?

I prefer writing prose. My poetry has been well received, but it makes me feel like I’m emulating my dad, which I don’t want to do.

• Do you write in silence or with noise (tv, movies, music)?

Silence. Hearing the words and the sounds of the words is as important to me as their meaning. I say everything as I write it, and I’m constantly going back over everything, reading it aloud to get the sound right. I couldn’t do that—at least not effectively—with something playing.

• Do you have any weird habits when it comes to writing? Do you type or write longhand?

No weird habits, but would I necessarily think anything I did was weird? That’s an interesting question. No. No weird habits.

• Would you consider yourself a Plotter or a Pancer?

I’d be bored if I knew what was going to happen. I don’t plot.

• What do you think is the hardest aspect of the craft?

Starting. I’ve never found any part of writing to be difficult. It’s fun. Even editing is fun for me. The only thing I struggle with is getting my ass in the chair to do it, especially if I’m not in the middle of something. To remedy that, I’ll often end a day in the middle of a sentence or even the middle of a word. Then I’m ready to go the next day.

• Current projects?

I’m editing a novel right now and always writing stories.

• How do you balance being an editor and being a writer? (Or double jobs, being a mom, etc.- apply to your situation)

As with everything else in life, I just do it. One of my great influences on the way I live my life is Jean-Paul Sartre, who said that people are only what they do. So I do. 

As for how I handle being a mom, I don’t know. It’s amazing that I can pull it off. ;-)

• What do you think people expect from you with your writing? EX: Can they always count on a good gross out?  

If I was writing to gross someone out, I think I’d quit. That holds no interest for me at all. William Faulkner said, “The only thing worth writing about is the struggle of the human heart.” Harlan Ellison called it “People.” Philip K. Dick said it was “What it means to be human.” I think they’re all saying the same thing, and I agree. I want to write about those times when people have to face something inside of themselves and either choose to overcome or accept or embrace it, or not. That choice, that moment, that essential human struggle. That’s what interests me. What causes that to come about could be a million things, and I’d like whatever it is in my stories that brings about that “struggle of the human heart” to be something new, something the world hasn’t seen before.

As for what people expect, I don’t know, and I don’t care. I’m writing the stories that are mine to write.

• Advice for aspiring writers?

Read, know your genre, ask questions, write. You need to read so that you know what’s been done and also how to write: how stories are put together, how to reveal something, how to hold back, how to do pacing, when to do something, when not to, etc. You need to know where your genre’s been so that you know where it can go. I don’t want to read a Lovecraftian story. If I want Lovecraft, I’ll read Lovecraft. Same with anyone else. He’s just a very tired example. You need to do your stories, not someone else’s. You can only find your stories by writing, and you only know what is truly yours by reading everyone else’s. And ask questions. When I was beginning, I received a lot of advice from Brian Freeman, Tom Piccirilli, and Glen Hirshberg because I asked, and that continues. I ask questions all the time, and writers are usually great about telling you what to do, just be suspicious when they tell you what not to do.
 

BIO: Christopher Shearer’s writing has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Big Pulp, Horror World, the charity anthology Dark Light, and many more. In the past five years, he’s received 3 Penn State University Best Short Story Awards, a Demon Minds Best Short Story Award, and 2 Pushcart Prize Nominations. He works as an editor with Cemetery Dance Publications and is a featured book reviewer on FEARnet. In addition, Chris is co-chair of the 2012 Bram Stoker Award Long Fiction Jury, and an MFA candidate in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program, mentored by Tim Waggoner and Lawrence C. Connolly.

It’s Christmas time, so I’ll plug two charity anthologies:

The first is Hazard Yet Forward, which includes my story “A Feast in Dreams.” The proceeds of your purchase will go toward helping my friend Donna Munro, who is battling breast cancer. It includes authors like Michael Arnzen, Lawrence C. Connolly, and Nalo Hopkinson.
 

The second is Dark Light, which includes my novelette “Long Wait.” The proceeds of your purchase will go to the Ronald McDonald House. This anthology’s TOC reads like a who’s who list of modern horror including Steve Rasnic Tem, Tim Lebbon, Tim Waggoner, Gary McMahon, Lisa Morton, Graham Masterton, Joe McKinney, Ray Garton, and on and on.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

URGENT NEWS: WYTOVICH HIRED ON IN REAL MADHOUSE

WESTON, WEST VIRGINIA:

Well it’s official. Saturday evening was my first night of training at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum as a Paranormal Investigator and Tour Guide.  I got there around 6:30 p.m. and left around 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning. I had the pleasure of meeting some more patients- some nice, some not so much- which is always exciting, and I got to learn how to use some new equipment, such as a spirit box, which we got some decent activity on.

I don’t want to tell you a whole lot about my experiences there, mainly because I want you to stay curious and intrigued. And mostly, I want you to…

JOIN ME IN THE MADHOUSE.
 
Don't worry though.
Crazy is the new sane.

Stay Scared,
Stephanie M. Wytovich

Thursday, November 29, 2012

MADHOUSE GETS NEW PATIENT: BRIAN COTTINGTON

PATIENT: BRIAN COTTINGTON
ILLNESS: FILM 

1.      When did you start getting involved in the art? Where did you study?

I had been involved in art period since I was able to hold a pencil in my hands.  As a kid, I would draw and paint pictures of everything from superheroes to monsters.  When I was in high school, I was heavily involved with Manga and Anime.  I loved the visuals that Anime had with movies like Vampire Hunter D and shows like Dragon Ball Z.  At that time, I was convinced that I was going to be a animator and draw anime cartoons for a living…. that all changed when I took a TV/Video class in my senior year. 

In that class, I learned what video production was and got my hands on all the modes of production: pre production, production, and post.  I loved every minute of it even when everyone else in the class viewed it as a blow off class. 

During the latter half of my senior year, I had to come up with a project that I had to complete in order to graduate.  I had written the paper for the project at the beginning of the year; it was on the existence of ghosts through scientific means.  Up until the TV/Video class, I was under the impression that I would perform a ghost hunt as my project.  Then one day I came up with the idea of making a Hollywood styled interpretation of ghosts in a short 15 minute film called, “Banshee.” 
 
I was still relatively new with video and had never actually shot anything that was a narrative.  So I spent weeks writing the script for Banshee in study hall.  The story was a simple one:  A murdered Irish immigrant girl haunts the house of a boy and slowly kills off each of his friends until they finally must confront each other and do battle.  Sounds really cool except that most it was chock full of plot holes and half of the footage that would help explain elements of the film were never in fact shot.  I ended up breaking every single rule in the book of filmmaking for the worse.  A friend of mine who acted in the film was electrocuted and stung by a bee in the same day.  I was convinced at that point that the film was cursed, but the damage had been done; I had caught the film bug and knew that it was what I wanted to dedicate my life to doing. 

After two years at a community college, all the while making another short film called, “Batmen”.  I ended up transferring to Robert Morris University for their Media Arts-TV/Video program.  It was primarily based around creating TV production, but the elements were the same for creating short films.  I got heavily involved in the campus TV station; first working on their variety show called, RMU Live, and working my way up to Co-Producing a film review/comedy show called Prime Cuts Theater.  For 2 years, I wrote, edited, starred, and produced Prime Cuts Theater, ultimately making it one of the most popular shows on RMU TV’s line up.  All the while, I still made short horror films that kept getting better and more sophisticated with each one. 

When I graduated RMU, I entered a market where there were ZERO job opportunities.  I started doing freelance video for a bit, which was paying off but not in the way of real money.  When I was at RMU, as much as I enjoyed my time there, I saw that there were some things that I disagreed with when it came to teaching of some subjects.  I found that freedom to teach advanced techniques to those who wanted to try it were not encouraged.  So I decided that teaching film and video would be something I could do along with making my own films.  So I enrolled in Chatham University’s MFA in Film Program with a desire to improve on my ability to tell a story visually.  I had learned a lot of technique at RMU, but content and storytelling was not thoroughly explored.   

2.      Where do you get your inspiration?

A lot of my inspiration comes from other horror films as well as my own experiences.  I believe that nothing is ever truly original.  It is all a matter of how we construct the pieces in our own way.  For example, “Tablet of Tales” is very similar to Dr. Terror’s House of Horror.  The twist ending and structure of the stories are almost identical.  The only difference is how I interpret the elements left behind by a movie like Dr. Terror. 

The current film I’m writing, pulls a lot from the possession movies of the 70’s and 80’s.  It’s all about putting your own spin on it. 

3.      Do you write your own scripts? If so, what’s your process? Do you compose somewhere special? Routine? 

I do write my own scripts.  I have a love/hate relationship with screenwriting.  There are times when I will stare down at my notebook and absolutely nothing will pop up.  Then there are other times when it feels like something else is at work moving my hand and filling my mind with these images of horror.  Moments like that are the “high” that I get from pre production. 

I used to think that I could write anywhere; that was proven wrong by a recent trip to Florida.  I was on a beautiful beach during the day, writing away at a vampire movie idea I had when I was back in PA.  Everything I wrote sounded great when I was in Florida, but when I came back to PA, I saw that it was complete and utter shit. 

That is when I thought about all the times I wrote scripts and realized that they were all written in dark and dismal locales.  Tablet was written in a very dark basement apartment.  So I ended up finding the perfect location in a 24 hour laundry mat near my apartment that was equally dark and dismal as most laundry mats tend to be.  So that has become my writing location. 

Typically what I will do for process is write a character sheet for each character listing all the details physical and emotional for that character,  outline each scene with some dialogue and maybe a few details like location and some camera movements, then take the outline to a program called Final Draft and actually flesh out all the details of the screenplay there based on the outline. 

4.      Favorites in the field:  Clive Barker.  I respect the man for his ability to truly tap into all forms of creativity.  From literary, fine arts, theater, and film.   

Sam Raimi:  I love the fact that this guy made a short little 10 minute horror film (Within The Woods), funded an indie feature based on that short that ultimately has become one of the greatest horror films on the planet (Evil Dead). 

Wes Craven:  Not only did he create one of the most terrifying movie monsters, Freddy Krueger, but his films and screenplays are smart and based on real horrors with his own twist to them. 

5.      What are some of your habits while shooting?

I found out a long time ago that to be successful at filmmaking; you need to be organized.  While shooting, I always storyboard each and every shot in a notebook along with creating a shooting schedule and list of each an every shot that needs to be covered for the day.  While I was shooting Tablet of Tales, one of my actors who had been on a bunch of indie shoots marveled at how organized the production was. 

6.      What do you strive for with each piece? Would you say that your audiences knows you for a particular effect? Gross-out? Violence? Etc.? 

With each film I strive to be one step closer to the film coming off as something Hollywood would make.  It isn’t in an effort to be anything like the quality of stories in Hollywood’s films, it is a matter to no longer have an audience look at the film and say, “Ah well its an indie film, you can expect a mistake like that.”  My desire is to create terrifying stories that can give Hollywood a run for their money and show that the genre can go much deeper than they are taking it. 

Ultimately while I do want my films to stand side by side with Hollywood caliber aesthetics to an audience, I do not make my films for audiences.  I make them for myself.  If audiences like them, great.  If not, I really could care less. 

I’d say I’m probably known for my lighting, use of color, and visual effects that I incorporate into my films. 

7.      What is a normal day like for you while you’re shooting?

There is no such thing as a normal day.  Typically, I don’t sleep that well the night before the shoot.  I usually will make sure I have everything I need for that day’s shooting ie: props, lights, camera equip, makeup, etc.  Day of we usually congregate at the location, go over the scenes for today and just dive in.  Depending on if the actors need to warm up or not, I try to hit the harder shots first so that the rest of the shooting day goes by easier.  All this of course usually gets thrown out the window more times than not.   

8.      What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working with my partner, Johnny Daggers on the first puppet/animated short from DaggerVision Films called, “Mo Anam Cara”.  We are currently in the pre production stage, designing sets, and planning what crew we will need to make this film a possibility.  We are anticipating a spring time date for us to actually start shooting.  Both Johnny and I are extremely excited that we have Doug Bradley (Pinhead from Hellraiser) on board to be our narrator for the film. 

Aside from that, I have been working on the untitled demonic possession script that I mentioned earlier.  That screenplay will ultimately be DaggerVision Films first feature length horror film. 

9.      What’s your favorite movie and why?
 
I have two favorite films for two different reasons.  Hellraiser has always been a huge favorite of mine.  The cinematography, characters, makeup all hit a deep vein in me that I see myself constantly going back to whenever I envision how my films should turn out. 

The second film that ties for number 1 is a little indie horror film by Lucky McKee called, “May.”  I love that movie because of that characters and the story.  I was always the outcast and am a romantic at heart so seeing Angela Bettis’ character struggle and fail to find someone to love ultimately drive her insane hits a spot where I can sympathize with her. 

10.  Do you do any still photography work?

I did do some still photography work when I was at RMU.  I loved the process of black and white photography.  But with the current film work and radio show, there has been less and less time to do any of that. 

11.  Favorite and least favorite part about the field?

Favorite part has to be the pay off you get when you see your name up on the screen and people actually enjoying your work.  When I premiered Tablet of Tales in February, I had roughly 40-50 people in attendance and you could see them visually tied into the film.  It is a high like no other. 

Least favorite part has to be egos.  There are a lot of people in this industry who let their egos drive them.  They feel that everyone is out to get them or that they have to be better than the next person.  Filmmaking is an art of collaboration.  Egos just get in the way. 

12.  Do you just work in horror? If so why? If not, what other genres to you work in?

I do work primarily in horror but I do love other genres.  I just haven’t yet made a film with those other genres.  Superhero movies are a favorite of mine, along with gangster films and odd-ball comedies. 

13.  What do you feel film should VS what it is?

That is actually a really good question.  I feel that film should be about the story.  I think there are too many movies out there that use gimmicks like throwing in excessive amounts of nudity, gore, visual effects, etc.  Now I do not have anything against any of these elements, but I feel that story, and only story, should dictate what gets thrown in the mix.   

14.  How can you tell when a piece is finished?

It is hard to tell when a piece is finished.  With digital technology, you can potentially never be finished.  I usually take a break from editing and come back to the film about 2 days later and just watch it all the way through.  If I come out of it thinking more about the story and the interaction with the characters, as an audience would, and less about technical problems that I can fix, than I have a good idea that the film is pretty much done. 

15.  Advice for aspiring artists?

The only advice I can give is to do your own thing.  Borrow from what you can borrow but ultimately put your own spin to it.  Also, you are your best salesman.  To survive in this industry you have to be the equivalent of a carnival barker because if you aren’t willing to go to bat for your work, no one else will. 
 
**Be sure to tune into DaggerVision Films Horror Talk Radio!  Broadcasting Live Friday Nights at 10pm on spookshow.tv then podcasted on the following Tuesday. 

**Tablet of Tales can be bought online at www.daggervisionfilms.com

**More info on Brian Cottington can be found at www.briancottington.com

 

Productions:
 
Director:

Banshee (2004)

Batmen (2006)

Lights…Camera…Kill (2007)

Taken (2007)

Prey of the Vampire (2008)

Fever (2008)

Journey into the Necronomicon (2009)

Out of Bullets (2009)

Carnage (2009)

Where Once Poe Walked (2009)

I Stand (2009)

Sins of the Heart (2009)

Artist Block (2009)

Powder Keg (2009)

Undead Forgiveness (2010)

Nightmare (2011)

Atrocity Exhibition Opener (2011)

Tablet of Tales (2012)

Atrocity Exhibition Opener (2012)


Editor:

Samhain: Night Feast (2010)

Caustic Zombies (Current)

Mo Anam Cara (Current)
 

Special Effects Makeup:
 
While the City Sleeps (2011)

Death From Above (2011)

Devil’s Playground (2011)

 
Crew:
 
Prohibition Documentary (2009)

Scientastic Pilot (2010)

Flour Baby (2011)

Gearheads (2012)

Bio: Brian Cottington has been involved with film and video for over 5 years.  He has written and directed over 10 short films  and edited countless projects both personal and freelance.  


He became a part of DaggerVision Films during its infancy.  As detailed in many interviews, Brian came across a craigslist ad posted by Johnny.  The ad talked about needing an editor for the short film, Samhain: Night Feast.   Brian was responsible for giving Samhain its gritty, dirty, grindhouse look as well as creating the opening title credits for the film.  The film not only established DaggerVision Films, but also established a life long friendship.

Brian is also heavily involved in the Pittsburgh Art Scene; working with galleries such as Most Wanted Fine Art, The 48 Hour Film Project, and designing video installations for Morose and Macabre's Annual Atrocity Exhibition 2 years running. Brian's favorite horror movies are a tie between Hellraiser and Lucky Mckee's May.  He currently resides in Pittsburgh with his cat, Selina.