Monday, August 27, 2012

A Game of Thrones: Blood of my Blood to Daenerys

The first novel that was assigned in my Contemporary SF and Fantasy course was A Game of Thrones: Songs of Fire and Ice. I was really excited that this book was on our reading list, not only because it’s been on my to-read shelf for far too long, but because I’ve heard wonderful reviews about it from writers, as well as readers, and my curiosity was definitely peaked. I’m happy to say that my expectations were more than met and that I think this novel has and will play a pivotal point in my career as an author. George R.R. Martin, all I can say is well done (and that’s because I’m speechless).

I write horror (and I love it), but I respect the HELL out of Fantasy and when I’m not reading about ghosts and demons, I’m reading about magic and faraway lands. Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite may have been the book that turned me on to the horror genre, but J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter made me a writer. I think it takes a wonderfully talented individual to build a world that makes me want to believe it’s real and out there and Martin did that. I want to go to Winterfell. I want to ride with the Dothraki, party with the Imp, and hold Valyrian steel in my hands. I want to sleep next to a dragon egg, walk across the wall, and play with a direwolf. But more than anything, I want to read the second book. Soon.  

There are so many aspects of this novel that I would love to go into detail with such as world building, micro- tension, multiple point-of-views, etc., but one character stole my interest. Not young Bran, nor Arya (although I did love her spunky kiss-my-ass attitude), or Sansa (I hope someone spikes her), nor Tyrion (my second favorite), but none other than Daenerys. When I landed on her chapter, I felt as if I had to take my time with it. Like a lover, she demanded my attention and I refused to focus on anything else but her.

To me, Daenerys was an especially fascinating character study because she is what I want my character to be. Daenerys may have had the blood of the dragon in her, but in the beginning of the novel, she was a quiet, timid girl that I had no respect for her. She let her brother Viserys abuse her and belittle her. She took his words as daggers and let him sell her off to the Dothraki without so much as a fight. And why? So he could rule as the rightful heir, not her. But the day she married Khal Drogo and became his Khaleesi, I watched her carefully as she grew into a Queen…and start acting like one.  The quiet girl that feared her brother’s wrath, that couldn’t stand up for herself, that cried the first time she was taken was gone. In her place was a woman who accepted the seed of the Dothraki, ate the heart of a stallion to keep her son strong, and used her voice to stand up to Viserys. She sent men to their death, saved women from rape, and danced in the dark with Maegi. She fell in love, mourned for the dead, and gave birth to dragons. Daenerys is strong female character that fought and earned every ounce of my respect, and blood of my blood, sun of my stars, moon of my life… she deserves it.

So how does this reflect upon my character? Well, anyone that has read my manuscript, including myself (countless times) can and will tell you that my main character is very unlikeable. At first, I thought this was a huge problem (and I’m not saying it isn’t), but Daenerys was as well and she grew into a strong female of worth. She showed her weakness and embraced it with her head hung down in shame, but she grew into a warrior and growing is the main transgression that has a character as to make. Martin proved that you can create a character that is unlikeable in the beginning, only to have you lay down your sword for them in the end. It’s a difficult dance but he’s proved to me that it can be done and I’ve made countless notes and flagged paragraphs upon paragraphs on how he did it. I’m not saying that it will work, but I have some pretty good ideas on how to shape Rhea’s character growth.  All I needed was a dose of fantasy, the howl of a direwolf, and the screams of the Dothraki to get me going.

Plus, a little dragon’s breath never hurt anyone….much.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Part 1: Hunting Ghosts in West Virginia

I recently investigated the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville, WV with the paranormal team, Louisiana Spirits. Built in the style reminiscent of a gothic fortress, complete with turrets and battlements, we stood in front of the stone castle that claimed a recorded 998 deaths. Nicknamed “The North Side of Hell,” this Moundsville prison was listed as one of the top ten most violent correctional facilities in the country.

But this is not a history lesson. If you’re curious about learning more about the prison’s blood-soaked background, I’d highly recommend a tour of the facility. However, we are here to talk about ghosts. Stocked with equipment such as Thermal Cameras, a K-2 meter, a digital EMF meter, and an Olympus digital voice recorder, we roamed the prison grounds with our eyes and ears open for signs of the dead.

We started our investigation with a tour of the penitentiary so that we could learn its history and its tragedies.  Our guide equipped us with names, locations, types of deaths, and short cuts…all which aided in our investigation later on. We arrived around 11:30 p.m. and stayed until 5:30 a.m., using each moment to study, learn, and understand the ways of the prison and its inhabitants…and I assure you, there are many of them.

We spent a great amount of time in the original cafeteria, which leads into the hallway where sightings of the infamous Shadow Man have been caught on tape. Aside from a few noises here and there, I was upset that I didn’t feel or record anything of concrete value there despite the stories of the rooms immense activity. I even sat in the hallway waiting for the Shadow Man for 20 minutes only to be left alone in the dark with nothing but a wandering mind to instill fear. For what it’s worth though, the kitchen area was a completely different story.

While I personally didn’t hang around there long enough to attempt to get a recording, the atmosphere was enough to convince me that I wasn’t alone. The air was thick with tension, and my chest tightened the moment I walked into the room. I immediately became claustrophobic and the temperature rose, forcing me to take off my sweatshirt. I felt threatened, smelt smoke, and refused to be left alone, and once our guide started telling us the history of the room, my suspicions were confirmed.

The kitchen area is said to be a violent, malevolent room. People have said that they’ve smelt sulfur upon entering it, and that scent is common when spirits are trying to manifest themselves. EVP recordings have picked up the words “legion,” “devil,” “demon,” and “666,” and when asked if there was a demonic spirit in the room, the K-2 meter shot up and fluctuated between 7 and 10. Our guide said that he had done several sittings in the room, and that he actually witnessed facial manipulations with the people he was with via a spiritual attachment upon members in the group. I’m all for walking with the darkness, but when the darkness turns evil, I tend to leave.

The more I walked the grounds and heard the stories, the more fascinated I became with the prison. The amount of violence that took place there, not only between the inmates, but at the hands of the doctors and wardens literally shocked me. You hear about torture in books and watch it in movies, but let me assure you that its completely different when you’re standing in front of an electric chair or looking at the tools used for the “Kicking’ Jenny” or the “Shoe Fly.” These men were beaten, raped, starved, and executed…some twice because they wouldn’t die. The spirits that walk those halls are angry and trapped. Their souls left to wander the same cell blocks were they were tortured to the brink of insanity and left to die.

But what happened when insanity didn’t kill them? When it merely clung to them like a wet blanket, clouding their minds with hallucinations and nightmares?

Why they entered the Psych Ward of course.

Those that know my writing and my fascinations in the horror genre will tell you that I’m obsessed with the insane. The idea of psychological horror intrigued me enough to work on both a novel and a poetry collection voicing the rants and ravings of mistreated patients and the doctors that abused their power with them. When I found out that there was not only an infirmary, but a psychiatric ward as well, my heart all but jumped with joy. I finally had the opportunity to see the rooms and the equipment that I was writing about… and lucky for me, I even got to meet some of the patients. But that's a story for another night. Until next time...
Stay Scared, 
Stephanie M. Wytovich

Picture 1: Courtesy of DarkWhite Arts Photographer, Melanie Stone
Picture 2, 3, and 4: Courtesy of Crystal Vines, Investigator with Louisiana Spirits

Thursday, August 16, 2012

All Aboard the Train to Hell

All Aboard the Train to Hell
By Stephanie M. Wytovich

When Rhonda asked me to be a contributor to the blog train, I was all but too eager to say yes. Niteblade Horror and FantasyMagazine has been one of my guilty pleasures for a long time now, and it’s an honor to help celebrate their five year anniversary.

Last year I was lucky enough to be picked up by magazine for my poem “The Cheater,” and that publication marked a very special time in my career as a poetess. I constructed the poem during a rather dark time in my life and when I saw how well received it was amongst my readers, I felt encouraged to continue probing the blackness that swirled around in my head. You know the term “rose-colored glasses?” Well, I like to tell people that I look through the same lenses…it’s just that mine are spattered with blood.

You see, I’ve always been fascinated by insanity, but I’ve grown tired of all the serial killer books where the plot starts to fade after the fourth kill.  So I asked myself, if I were to write a book about psychosis, how would I do it differently?  The answer of course, thanks to Niteblade, was to introduce a variety of characters with different neurosis to keep my audience guessing. Hence my latest project, Hysteria.

Hysteria is a collection of dark poetry that explores the demons within us all. Here you’ll met Con Artists, Stalkers, Murderers, Psych Ward Patients, and Nurses.  You’ll hear stories of obsessions, fetishes, and oddities. Learn what it means to be watched. To be hunted. To be damned.

Sparked by an idea and encouraged by my readers, I owe the inspiration to my collection to a single poem, “The Cheater,” and to Niteblade for having faith in me as a poet. I encourage all of you to help me in congratulating them on five years of success in the publication industry, and to pick up a copy of their magazine next time you need something to read. Just know what you’re getting into, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In the mean time, check out “The Cheater,” and do me a favor.
Stay away from the chainsaws, ok?  

The Cheater
By Stephanie M. Wytovich

You want my bloody kiss
Stop denying it
Accept the crimson red
Smear it all over your face
Lean into it
Suck on my lip
And savor the bitterness
Of your lover’s death

You see,
I loved her gently
Moved inside her easy
Made love to her
With a chainsaw
And watched the life
Leave her eyes
Don’t worry though,
She suffered.

First Published by Niteblade Horror and Fantasy Magazine in 2011
Previous Circle of Hell- Marge Simon
Next stop in the underworld: Alexandra Seidel