Sunday, December 22, 2013

52 Books to Madness: My Yearly Challenge

Every year I challenge myself to read 52 books and I'm happy to report that I met and exceeded my goals once again (and still have a few days left to possibly squeeze one more in).

Here's the list:
  1. Smoke by Ellen Hopkins
  2. How to Write Horror Fiction by William F. Nolan
  3. The Thief of Always by Clive Barker
  4. Women by Charles Bukowski
  5. The Art of Description: World into Word by Mark Doty
  6. Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes M. Yardley
  7. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  8. Back Roads & Frontal Lobes by Brady Allen
  9. Booklife by Jeff Vandermeer
  10. The Strangers by Mort Castle
  11. Mama Fish by Rio Youers
  12. Vampires, Zombies and Wanton Souls by Marge Simon
  13. Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum
  14. The Body by Stephen King
  15. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  16. Daughters of Lilith by Donna Lynch
  17. Death Perception by Lee Allen Howard
  18. Westlake Soul by Rio Youers
  19. Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi
  20. The Colossus by Sylvia Plath
  21. I'm Not Sam by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee
  22. The Crossing by Joe McKinney
  23. Erotic Poems by e.e. cummings
  24. Totems and Taboos by Jason V. Brock
  25. A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson
  26. Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau by Martha Ward
  27. Dark Duet by Linda D. Addison and Stephen M. Wilson
  28. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  29. Tearstone by David L. Day
  30. What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson
  31. Days of Reckoning by Chris Stout
  32. Lover Enshrined by J.R. Ward
  33. Revising Fiction by Kirt Hickman
  34. Mastering the Techniques of Teaching by Joseph Lowman
  35. The Writing Class by Jincy Willet
  36. Gone South by Robert R. McCammon
  37. Boy's Life by Robert R. McCammon
  38. The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall
  39. Red by Jack Ketchum
  40. The Writing Workshop by Alan Ziegler
  41. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein
  42. A Haunted Love Story: The Ghosts of the Allen House by Mark Spencer
  43. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  44. Ashes by Donna Burgess
  45. The Pact by Jodi Picoult
  46. The Monstrance by Bryan D. Dietrich
  47. Ladies' Night by Jack Ketchum
  48. Weed Species by Jack Ketchum
  49. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
  50. The Devil's Wine by Tom Piccirilli
  51. Perfect by Ellen Hopkins
  52. Fallout by Ellen Hopkins

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


“Dragons do not cry. They control their emotions. That is what all dragons were taught, but I am now the only one alive to remember this lesson.” 
Cover Art by Allie Raines Now for sale at Amazon
What does it mean to be a human?  Meet Vincent, a most unusual dragon who has been trying to avoid answering that particular question for thousands of years, ever since his kind banished him and forced him to spend the rest of his life as a human. When a new love arrives unexpectedly, Vincent discovers that the only way to find happiness is to revisit his violent past and to confront his uncertain future. Haunting, heart-felt, and sometimes funny, Vincent discovers that even through tragedy, the things we most often try to avoid are those that make us whole.
What others have said ONLY HUMAN takes you on a journey through Vincent's past lives and loves as he navigates his present incarnation and the darkness that follows him throughout the ages.
-Heidi Ruby Miller, author of Greenshift
There's lots to love about ONLY HUMAN: action, mystery, secrets revealed and redemption. Add to that dragons (who doesn't love dragons?), wicked bad guys and an all-too-human narrator who will win your heart...the strongest element of this book is the love story...This is an epic, timeless story and a small intimate one at the same time. Dip your toe in, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
-Jennifer Barnes, editor at Raw Dog Screaming Press
Purchased and enjoying!!...AND I had a dream I was a flying dragon last night! It was awesome!
-Amazon Reader
Watch the trailer below
For fun
Who would play the characters in the movie version?
About Me
Mike Mehalek writes fast-paced lyrical books that can be enjoyed with one reading but have enough substance for re-reading. He brings stories to life that demand to be told, regardless of the hopes/dreams/fears/desires of his characters-the Story first-always the Story. 
He'd love for you to visit him at his blog, Writing is Tricky
or on Twitter @mikemehalek
If you'd like to join his email list, please email
with like to join in the subject line.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Patient: Stephanie M. Wytovich
Illness: Sin
Treatment: Hell

I spent a lot of time thinking today and yeah, as a writer that’s normally what I do every day, but today was different. Today, I didn’t just think. I figured some stuff out, too. You see, when I finished my thesis novel, I thought the best thing that I could do for myself was to step out of Hell for a little while. I needed to spend some time away from the The Seven, take a break from the fire, and stop breathing in the ashes. I didn’t want to constantly think about pain, about empty hearts, and what happens when we don’t go after the people that we love. I wanted to bury my demons for a while, and with them, their stories, their thoughts, their pasts. I wanted to look towards the light, to start a fresh project and meet new people—new characters—characters that would teach me different things about life, about love, about happiness and pain.

But you know what? Life made more sense to me when I was in Hell. So I’m going back, back to the fire, back to the circles, back to death, to pain, and to sin. I’m re-marrying an old idea and taking the Devil’s hand one more time.

And since I came out swinging once, I think I can do it again.

So here’s to Deadly Sin, to embracing your demons.
Here's to regret, to redemption, to not stopping until your heart can feel something again.
But most importantly, here's to sin.
It’s going to be one Hell of a ride.  
Want to follow my sins?
Facebook: Stephanie M. Wytovich
Twitter: @JustAfterSunset
Pinterest: Stephanie M Wytovich, board "Deadly Sin"
Spotify: "Deadly Sin" Playlist

Friday, November 29, 2013

MADHOUSE POEM: Psychiatry for the Lonely

Patient: Lonely
Illness: Heartbreak, Doubt
Treatment: Psychiatry Appointment
Case Number: 173 "Embrace Your Madness"
Residing Nurse: Hysteria

Psychiatry for the Lonely
By Stephanie M. Wytovich

If you didn't have to be invisible,
If you didn't have to hide,
If you were with someone,
Someone who let you
Be you:
Crazy, wonderful,


If you didn’t have to be covered in dust,
If you didn’t have to be covered in cobwebs,
If you were loved by someone,
Someone who understood the
Darkness in
Your soul:
Your sad, scary


If that someone related to the madness
If that someone saw your beauty
And loved the death in your eyes,
If that someone loved
Your faults:
Your addictions, your sickness,
Your slurs,
And shakes.


If you let yourself fall in love
Instead of in suicide,
Instead of in loneliness,
And let that someone      
Save you:
Chaotic, intense,
Blissfully neurotic,
That it's possible to break your restraints
To walk out of solitary
Out of lockdown
And open your heart,
Your broken,
Bleeding, needing
Now tell me,
Tell me how that makes you feel.

Monday, November 11, 2013


**A genre poem mixing Tim Burton/Danny Elfman favorites: The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, and Sleepy Hollow.
There’s a Bride in My Hollow Nightmare
by Stephanie M. Wytovich
I hear that Jack is looking for his Sally,
crawling through the pumpkin patch,
a holiday king trapped in a twisted square
of curled cliffs illuminated by Oogie Boogie’s
moon that shines with skeletal grins and
stitched-up smiles.

I hear that Ichabod is looking for his Katrina,
walking through the hollow, his back to the
horseman as he scours the woods with no
fear of the Hessian’s curse as he battles in blood
for the white witch’s affection.

And I hear that Victor is looking of his Emily,
running through the afterlife and drinking
with skeletons as he hums his piano duet
to the remains of his day as he waits for his
dead bride’s kiss.

But is Sally looking for her Jack,
beating against Finklestein’s iron
door with a pile of Frog’s Breath and
Worm’s Wort in her arms to knock the
madman out so she can climb out the tower
and run to her Halloween prince?

And Is Katrina falling for her Ichabod
drawing the evil eye under his bed
and planting spells and curses in his jacket
pocket to protect him from harm, to keep him
safe as he battles his demons and recovers
from his scars?

And is Emily dying for her Victor,
crossing realms and drinking poison
in order to make the man she loves,
the man adores, happy once again while
she drifts towards the sky and spreads her wings
to swallow death’s sweet embrace?

Yes, I think that Jack needs his Sally.
and that Katrina needs her Ichabod,
and when the duet is over, when all the
booze is consumed and the symphony done playing,
I think that Victor needed his Emily and now
I see no nightmares in this Christmas
no corpse brides at this wedding,
and when one love—one skeleton,
one scientist, one innocent—finds their
doomsday match—their doll, their witch,
their bride--I can guarantee that no
one is sleeping in the hollow, and that no
amount of reanimated body parts or twice-dead
vengeances will ever again keep them apart again.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Patient: Stephanie M. Wytovich
Illness: Madness
Treatment Round: 2

Something interesting happened two weeks ago.
Something chaotic.

It was Hysteria.
She went away for a little bit.
But now she's back.
And crazier than ever.

We've been working together on a new project--one that I'm really excited about--but she's different this time around. Last time when we walked through the asylum together, she explained to me what was going on, introduced me to patients, and told me their stories. She was patient, she listened, she let me ask questions. She held open the doors to solitary and helped me relax when the lights began to flicker. But this time...well, this time, she walks--no runs!-- forcing me to chase her, to challenge her, to find her. And sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. There are no lights, no moments of peace. This time it's just energy. Pure, pulsing, electric energy.

So get ready for the shock treatment...

Because I' going to tell you a secret.
This time around,
We're turning the asylum inside out.

So sit patiently in your cells
and trust that we're working,

And in the meantime:
Here's a music video by the band In This Moment, called Adrenalize.
A reader showed it to me the other day (Thank you, Michelle!) and it suits my muse well.
Hysteria loved it.
In fact, she's still screaming about it,

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cover Reveal: Wasteland Blues by Scott Christian Carr and Andrew Conry-Murray

Of Mice and Men Meets The Odyssey in a Post-Apocalyptic Future
Having only ever known the uncivilized wake of nuclear and biological apocalypse, three friends and their wheelchair-bound hostage set out on a perilous fool’s mission--to cross from one side of the devastated United States to the other, in the desperate, half-believed hope of finding a rumored haven. 
Spurred by a dark vision and the murder of their father, rageaholic Derek Cane and his over-sized, simple-minded brother, Teddy, flee the only home they've ever known, a struggling shantytown on the edge of the vast Wasteland. Heading ever eastward, they are accompanied by their friend, John, an orphan brought up by a fanatical religious order, and Leggy, a crippled old drunk who brags that, in his youth, he once traversed the Wasteland as a scavenger.
Cover Art by Bradley Sharp Post-Apocalyptic novel  coming from Dog Star Books in March 2014

Saturday, November 2, 2013



To me, being a paranormal investigator is very much like being an actress, and I play the part, dance the dance, and sing the song with my dark muse, Hysteria, as we travel the states in search of new patients to put in our asylum.
And I take my best friend, Crystal Vines, with me as well.
I mean, someone has to hold my hand when the lights go out and things start to move.
Last night, we traveled to Hill View Manor for a 10-hour investigation. Now neither of us like to work with a lot of equipment, but we do carry around flashlights, a tape recorder, and a notebook wherever we go. Crystal usually talks to the spirits and works with the EVPs, while I tend to photograph the building and scribble down poetry and notes for research. In fact, this is how Hysteria started in the first place. She was a collection of scribbles and pictures that I put in my notebook while looking for ghosts, but then she became very much alive...and we've been inseparable ever since.
Which is kind of funny because it's the same situation with me and Crystal. We originally became friends after investigating Moundsville Prison together and since that night, we've been attached at the hip, looking for ghosts and going on adventures. And the best part about our friendship, is that there's no denying that when the two of us are together that things start to happen. Things that don't always make sense.
Kind of like last night.
Neither of us had a good feeling about the basement, but yet we spent a lot of time there, sitting in a completely pitch-black room that was used as overflow for the patient’s belongings when they died. It was filled with suitcases, photographs, clothing, old mattresses, stretchers, doctor notes, sheet music…you name it. We each found a chair, sat down and took a couple deep breaths. Then we turned off the lights.
10,000 + people died in Hill View Manor.
They were embalmed within the building and buried in the cemetery out back, sometimes 3-4 bodies deep. These people—these patients—had nowhere to go but Hill View for they were mentally unstable, in critical care, or homeless. And they were standing all around me, and all around Crystal, in that room.
You see, the funny thing about darkness is that once you adjust to it, it’s its own kind of light. You can still see, and what you see is a different kind of blackness. Shadows moved in front of me, Crystal had a conversation with a male patient who communicated with us through a series of knocks and flashes of light, and then when the activity started to still, we went next door to the boiler room, where we met George.
Now George used to be a maintenance worker at the manor, and his blood runs black and gold for the Steelers. Sounds great right? For me, yeah. I'm a Steeler fan. For Crystal, not so much. You see, Crystal is from Louisiana and a die-hard Saints fan. George did not like that.  Was definitely not a fan. We chatted him up for a little bit, walking in and out of the boiler room, before we simply stopped and listened for about 15-20 minutes.
Everything was quiet for a while, but then George started to come around again.
I invited him to sit next to me, and within moments, something brushed my hand. I jumped and went to motion for Crystal to take a picture but couldn’t see her. Something tall, and something very black, stood in front of me, blocking my vision of her for about 5-10 seconds before it disappeared. My jaw about hit the ground and Crystal started to laugh.
Yes, she laughs at the activity.
I scream.
Crystal has been investigating since 2006 and she said that in that short amount of time when we invited George to come out and sit with us, that she’s never experienced a cold spot as intense as what we felt. A breeze blew down the hallway--enough to move my hair--and something touched her hand as well.
Can I prove any of that to you? No. And I can’t because the second I tried to take a picture of the black mass that stood in front of Crystal, my phone shut off (it was 53% when we walked down there).
The rest of the building was pretty quiet that night but the two of us still roamed the church, the embalming room, the graveyard, and the patient’s rooms. We sang “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” to one patient, took a nap in the family room, and then walked down a disturbingly-wonderful hallway where a little boy’s spirit remains. As neither of us are big fans of ghost children, we decided to leave him and his toys behind.
But why Stephanie? Why would you not play with the ghost boy?

Well, he was dubbed the Angel of Death, only appearing to patient’s days before they passed away. The patients would rant and rave about a little boy that would come visit them in their rooms, and frankly people, I don't need any more nightmares.

I already have Hysteria.
Cut me a break.

Overall, as a fan of haunts and abandoned buildings—especially hospitals—I was very impressed and loved the feel of the place. The building itself was beautiful, and the rooms and curtains that surrounded the beds, were pure magic for a horror writer. There were several times where I even stopped before going into a room full of white, moth-eaten curtains and thought, Stephanie….this is why people die in horror movies. You yell at them when they walk in these places, remember? And then I naturally put on my brave face and went in.
Because when you investigate, you act.
You become someone that’s not afraid to push through barriers and try to find answers.
You become someone that is daring, courageous and willing to take a risk.
It’s a performance.
And probably my favorite one to act out.
***Interested in meeting Hysteria for yourself? Find her here!