Wednesday, August 26, 2015



The Madhouse is at the altar this week, as we at Raw Dog Screaming Press are happy to announce that we've signed poets, Jim and Janice Leach, for their collaborative poetry collection, Till Death: The Horrors and Happy Afters of a Long Relationship. This collection is set to debut in mid-2016 and it details the ups and downs of a 32-year marriage as these poets talk fear, romance, and sex with no boundaries, limits, or filter.

Want more? Here's a interview that I did with Jim and Janice to give you a sneak peak into their process, their influences, and how their manuscript came to be.

1. What is the title of your collection and how did you come up with the name?

Jan: “Til Death” is that super creepy line from traditional marriage vows that brings up mortality right in the middle of a wedding celebration, like it’s the best possible outcome for a relationship. “The Horrors and Happy Afters” part is our attempt to be honest about what comes before that “blessed” conclusion. Relationships are not easy or fun all the time. We’ve survived some hellish times together, some that have come our way and some that we’ve caused.

Jim: Our poems explore the “Happy Afters,” not the “Happily Ever Afters” because the bad days just keep coming (chuckle). There should almost be a PG-13 sticker on this book. It’s not a pastel fairy tale. There are some really dark themes and let’s say “coarse language.” But that’s what a marriage is like.

Jan: It’s not for kids.

Jim: Oh what sweet irony there. Janice and I were married when we were 19, when we were kids. We had no idea what the FUCK we were getting ourselves into. To me the phrase “‘Til Death” also relates to something I realized only recently. Nothing, absolutely nothing in my life has consumed more attention and work than this marriage. Our relationship is quite literally, my magnum opus, my life’s great work.

Jan: Awww. Me too.

2. What was the inspiration for your collection overall?

Jim: One of the inspirations, for me at least, is the album “Shoot Out the Lights” by Richard and Linda Thompson. The songs alternate between the two songwriters, each one sharing about how hard it is to live with the other person. But the very last song on the disc is “Wall of Death,” a song they sing together in tight harmony.

Jan: You know what a “Wall of Death” is, right? It’s that caged motorcycle sideshow stunt, where the driver steers the bike and the rider stands up on the seat, balancing while they ride around and around. It’s showy and thrilling because it’s dangerous!

Jim: The point of the song -- and the record, I think -- is that it is incredibly difficult to live with another person for an extended period of time, but despite those perils, the thrills are worth the risks. It’s the most interesting thing you can imagine doing with your life, so you choose to ride on the wall of death together. The irony is that was the last record they made together before their divorce.

Jan: “Wall of Death” was actually our theme song for a while.

Jim: From the very beginning, we’ve had one song or another that sort of sums up how our relationship is going. The first one, I think, was “Stay with Me” by Genesis, back before they sucked.

Jan: You’re so judgey.

Jim: For a good chunk of time it was “In Spite of Ourselves,” a duet by John Prine and Iris DeMent. “Have You Seen the Stars Tonight?” by the Jefferson Airplane...What are other ones, dear?

Jan: Most recently it was Muse’s “Madness” because holy fuck, our lives were pure madness at that point.  And that’s a really cool song too because it brings out the seductive side of madness. Who would want to walk away from that excitement? But we also started this collection around our anniversary last year, like wouldn’t it be cool to collect 32 poems about us--

Jim:-- One for every year--

Jan: --And it grew from there. At first the number seemed too big, but then, it was too small. We had too much to say.
Jim: Oh, oh, oh and another influence, not just to this collection but to our marriage has got to be the Addams Family. Specifically Gomez and Morticia, that utter insane amor fati. “Tish, you spoke French…”

Jan: Our home decorations have rather an Addams family vibe. A morbid-chic, vampire-whorehouse / mortician-hoarder thang.

Jim: Indeed.

3. How long have you been writing poetry? What is your background with it in terms of education, experience, etc.

Jan: I’ve written poetry all my life. There’s juvenalia in the file cabinet that probably should be shredded, but given my filing system, no one is in danger of uncovering it. I wrote the first poems that I am still pleased with as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan.

Jim: Yeah, Janice was always the poet in our relationship. I always felt like the amateur--

Jan:-- the nubile apprentice--

Jim: So to speak, yes. I also took poetry writing classes at University of Michigan, but I always considered myself the playwright of the team.

Jan: Every marriage needs a playwright, right?

Jim: At least to script the arguments. But seriously, Janice won an award for her poetry. An Undergraduate Hopwood Award which was a moderately big deal, right?

Jan: Aww, you remember! The award was a confidence booster for sure. What’s also funny though was the number of poems we were both able to pull from the archives-- so secretly Jim’s been a poet all along too.

Jim: We were both English majors, and poetry has just been part of what we do. Rather frequently, when we have folks over for drinks, there’s a point late in the evening when everybody starts quoting their favorite poems, like a nerd rap battle.

4. Where have you previously published your poetry?

Jim: You really want that sad litany of dead literary magazines?

Jan: We could just say “We’ve published in select venues.” (grin) Seriously though, we’ve had poetry published in cool places like Grimcorps, Necrotic Tissue, Quick Shivers, Christianity and Literature, Daughters of Sarah, the Old West Side News, and the Huron River Review...  Recently, Jim had his poem “Flora and Fauna” accepted in the HWA Poetry Showcase, so that’s cool.

Jim: I’m absurdly proud of that poem. It’s about werewolves in spring… sort of.

Jan: But this isn’t technically the first poetry “work” we’ve co-written. (smirk)

Jim: Egad, you don’t really want to bring that up...

Jan: When Jim was working at a photocopy shop back when we were first married, we made a xeroxed chapbook which we passed off as cheap Christmas gifts.

Jim: Let’s just say that’s a real collector’s item.

5. Who are your influences?
Jan: I enjoy poets who explore the domestic realm, among other topics. Long time favorites of mine include Jane Kenyon and Molly Peacock as well as Margaret Avison and Edna St Vincent Millay.
Jim: I know the poets I like reading; I don’t know exactly how they’ve influenced me. Baudelaire and William Burroughs. Carolyn Forché and Sylvia Plath, Jim Daniels and David Budbill, Wendell Berry and John Donne. Paul Celan and Rilke. Oh, and Eminem and Stevie Wonder. And Ginsberg and Patti Smith.

6. What is your writing process like?
Jan: Well, we did something different with this collection.
Jim: That’s right. We approached it from the beginning knowing the pieces would have to fit together, that it would be a whole work

Jan: So we gave each other assignments and topics as well as dares and deadlines. We exchanged poems at the early draft stage, and we revised each other’s work far more than we have done previously. We’ve written together for years. We run two websites together and most of that writing is collaborative. But’s that’s nonfiction. Poetry is a different animal however.

Jim: I tend to be more formal, or at least formally-flavored. But Janice has a more free spirit (grin).

Jan: The poems that resulted are a nifty blend of our styles and preoccupations.

Jim: Writing this book has changed my writing process, probably permanently.

7. What are you most excited about with this collection in particular, i.e. what was shocking or surprising to you while you were writing it?
Jan: Purposefully writing “not nice poems” was incredibly liberating for me. We made a pact to go deep and be candid even about the most painful topics. The context of this collection gave me permission to delve into my dark side, into our dark side.
Jim: Exactly, sort of like good therapy. Writing this book was a relatively safe playground for us to work through some pretty dark shit.
Jan: But you’re generally more comfortable with darker themes.

Jim: That’s true, and what was surprising to me was how much tenderness and love kept popping up in the work. I mean, none of it is going on a Valentine’s Day card… but there’s a lot of romance.

Jan: And sex.

Jim: Boy howdy is there sex!

Jan: But that’s not shocking. You don’t stay married for 33 years just to fight.

Stalk the Authors:

  • which celebrates Midwest Snob Horror. Jim writes as “Doktor Leech the Leech Doktor” and Janice as “Elsa L.”
  • which is about urban simplicty, DIY culture and the remarkable amount of stuff that can be accomplished in 20 minutes a day.
Jim Leach writes darkly speculative poetry, fiction, and drama and is a contributing editor to the website which is celebrates Midwest Snob Horror. He also contributes to the site 20 Minute Garden. com which suggests another of his other interests. His work has most recently appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Hellnotes, and the HWA Poetry Showcase II. He collects masks, brews his own beer, and lives with his childhood sweetheart in a lightly haunted house in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Jim’s Instagram: @GrimGnome13
Jim’s Pinterest: Cosmognome
Jim’s website:
Jim’s facebook:

Janice Leach is a master gardener and professional pie baker who credits her 1st grade teacher with kindling her love of writing. She and her tinker soulmate live in Ann Arbor and raise a rollicking kitchen garden near a 100 year old lilac.  She edits Quick Shivers, an annual anthology of 100 word stories based on nightmares for Cosmonomic Multimedia and is a contributing editor to and
Janice’s Twitter: @JanArbor
Jan’s Pinterest: janarbor
Jan’s facebook:

Monday, August 24, 2015

Dear Diary—I’m tired and that’s okay.

I can remember being eight years old and writing “By Stephanie M. Wytovich” on the spiral notebooks that I kept hidden in the back of my closet. These were the same notebooks that I taped together before I went to college, and the same notebooks I burned shortly after beginning my freshmen year. Those books held my secrets, my heart, and my most personal confessions, and after a while, I knew I had to burn the past so I could build a future.

You see, I've never been the type of person who can "wing it." I don't like not having a game plan because there's too much that I want to do in life and life is already too short to not spend time doing what you love. That's not to say that I don't turn off auto-pilot every now and again, but for most of my life, I've been very strict with myself.

I double-majored in college and didn’t have the typical experience that most college students do. Instead of partying on the weekends or going bowling during the week, I stayed in my room writing and studying horror. I submitted to magazines, I watched horror movies, I aced my exams, and then on my breaks, I’d go home and work. For most of my life, I’ve had three jobs and I’ve worked too many hours while juggling too many projects, and by the time I finished my undergraduate degree, I’d had three internships, a list of publications—some of which I was even paid for—and was on my way to study renaissance art in Italy.

After that—literally, as in a few days after I got off the plane—I started graduate school. I was back at Seton Hill full-time while working three jobs and barely sleeping. I was drinking between 10-12 cups of coffee a day to stay awake and work, and most days, I’d fall asleep covered in books at my writing desk. In the time it took me to write my thesis—a full-length dark fantasy novel—I also wrote two poetry collections and started editing for Raw Dog Screaming Press. In addition to all of this, I was applying to university jobs, trying to find an agent, working on my CV, and genuinely, just trying to keep my head above the water.
I've said "no" to most things, and most people, most of my life.

I drank so much coffee and pounded so many energy drinks in college that I destroyed my digestive system, and had to adjust my entire diet after my gallbladder basically exploded and had to be removed.

I've turned down vacations, I've walked away from sure-thing jobs, and I've ended relationships all because they weren't part, or refused to be a part, of the one thing I wanted more than anything in my life: writing.

I didn’t get a full-time job until about eight months after I graduated. That's eight months of feeling defeated, depressed, and completely at war with myself for giving up everything. I had a 70k + bill looking at me straight in the face, my car gave its last breath, and I still had to come home to my parent's house every day and live in a room that I outgrew seven years ago. When I got the job offer at Carlow, I accepted, packed my bags and moved out, all while doing my best to take care of myself while still working three jobs in addition to editing and writing. Let’s not even take into consideration that I was licking my wounds through all of this after a particularly brutal summer on my heart...
But now after all that time:
  • My novel has sold
  • I’m teaching at Seton Hill and Carlow University.
  • And I have a full-time job that lets me live a life that for the past 10 years, I didn’t allow myself to have.

And you know what? I’m finally happy--blissfully so--but I'm tired. And I’m allowed to be tired. I didn’t allow myself to really sleep for ten years because I worked my ass off trying to independently build a life for myself, and now that I’m finally settled and happy and working on goals and publications with a creative freedom that brings me joy instead of stress, for the first time in my life, I’m taking care of me. I don’t want to live a stressed-out life anymore. No more three-job tango. No more anxiety. No more four travel mugs of coffee for breakfast. No more fear for when the student loan bill comes in. No more chain smoking at 3 a.m. to stay awake or crying in the bathroom because I only got two hours of sleep the night before and it physically hurts to stay awake....No. For the first time, I want and can have a little bit of peace and stability in my life. And you know how I’m going to do it?

By going to bed at 10 o’clock.
And not giving a single fuck about it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015



The Madhouse lurks in the shadows this week, as we at Raw Dog Screaming Press are happy to announce that we've signed author/poet, Cynthia Pelayo, for her poetry collection, Poems of My Night. This collection is set to debut in mid-2016, and is a mixture of the dark and the haunted, the romantic and the imaginative.

Want more? Here's a interview that I did with Cynthia to give you a sneak peak into her process, her influences, and how Poems of My Night came to be. You can also find her on Twitter (@cinapelayo) and on her website:

1.      What is the title of your collection and how did you come up with the name?

The collection is called Poems of My Night. The collection is a response to a collection of poems by Argentine short story writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges called Poems of the Night. Borges was born in 1899 and died in 1986. He’s well known for his collection Ficciones, his literary criticisms, and his stories of mirrors, labyrinths, dreams and libraries. I took each of Borges’ poems in that collection, as well as beyond, and responded to each poem. I suppose it’s my one-sided conversation with Borges. Borges was fearful of reflections, his own especially. I suppose, in a way, this is me holding a mirror up to Borges who holds a mirror up to me.

2.      What was the inspiration for your collection overall?

My father. Chicago. Inner city life. Horror. Fear. Borges’ Poems of the Night deals with themes of death, blindness, darkness, and fear. Borges went blind in later life, and my father lost sight in one eye after a second stroke. I was terrified by the possible loss of my father, and each day I live with this fear that one day he will not be able to see me, because of his failing sight. Thinking back to Borges and mirrors, I’m believe I’m my father’s mirror in a sense, all children are. My father came to live in inner city Chicago in the 60s and this city it doesn’t just get under your skin it consumes you. I can’t shake this city away from me. It’s a horrible place sometimes, but I am who I am because of it. I can’t shake her from me.

3.      How long have you been writing poetry? What is your background with it in terms of education, experience, etc.

I’ve been a published journalist since senior year in high school, so almost 20 years. I remember writing poetry then and my teachers being horrified over my poetry. One teacher, Mrs. Grinnage, took me aside and told me “This is very dark,” and it was her way of telling me not to do it anymore, and I stopped.  I felt like I had done something bad. Looking back, I don’t think she was upset with me, I think what I wrote just genuinely frightened her.  

After a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism at Columbia College I worked as a journalist. Journalism pays you, but not so much with money. I pursued a Masters of Science in Marketing and entered the field of marketing research. I still wrote journalism, writing about inner city crime. After arriving to a highly charged scene, where the police had shot and killed a former gang banger I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. Maybe I got PTSD from it all, but I just couldn’t interview another homeless youth, or gang banger, or arrive to another scene where yet another kid was dead.

I decided to revise my writing and become more of a creative non-fiction writer. I pursued a Master of Fine Arts at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where I hoped to write creative journalism. While there my writing kept going into fiction, and I was not a fiction writer at that time, but ultimately my writing told me I was a fiction writer, a horror fiction writer and a poet.

I still write articles, but they are more creative pieces. My main focus, in terms of my writing, is on my fiction and poetry.  

4.      Where have you previously published your poetry?

My fiction and poetry has appeared in the Horror Zine, Danse Macabre, Seedpod Publishing, Flashes in the Dark, Blood Moon Rising, Micro Horror and more.

My novel, Santa Muerte, was published by Post Mortem Press in 2012 and the sequel is scheduled for a 2016 release.

5.      Who are your influences?

We horror writers and poets are all children of Edgar Allan Poe, so of course the father. I’m heavily influenced by Borges, and Borges was influenced by Poe. A few other influences include Emily Dickinson, Emily Bronte, Mary Shelley, Federico Garcia Lorca, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter, Carlos Fuentes, Agatha Christie, Junot Diaz, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Neil Gaiman, and Studs Terkel.

6.      What is your writing process like?

I have a two-year-old so writing only happens when he is asleep. It’s difficult for me to write with noise in the background. I prefer it to be completely quiet. So I write either very early or very late. I outline, somewhat. My outlines are sparse and I tweak them as I go. I can finish a first draft fairly quickly but I edit quite a bit, going though several versions before I’m happy with a project to submit.

7.      What are you most excited about with this collection in particular, i.e. what was shocking or surprisingly to you while you were writing it?

Of all that I have written this is the most personal. I didn’t intend it to be, but that just happened. In this work you will find me, you will find my father and mother and their history, you will find the despair of this city, and some of it’s black history as well. Of course you’ll find gaunt-faced ghosts, the devil and death. I’ve spent many nights sitting outside in this city, looking at people, watching and wondering who they are and what are their stories. There is good here, and wonder and beauty, but this can be a difficult place to live. I’m lulled to sleep at night by shouts and sirens, cries and gunshots. This is my inner city home however, this wonderful and sometimes terrifying place full of good and evil.  
Author Bio:
Cynthia (cina) Pelayo’s first novel Santa Muerte (Post Mortem Press, 2012) is an International Latino Book Award winner in the category of Young Adult Fiction. The sequel, Santa Muerte: The Missing, will be released in 2016. Pelayo is also the owner and publisher of Burial Day Books. Her short stories have appeared in The Horror Zine, Danse Macabre, MicroHorror, Seedpod Publishing, Static Movement, Flashes in the Dark, among other publications. Her nonfiction work has appeared in Gozamos, Time OutExtra Bilingual NewsVenus ZineFNews, Atlas Obscura, and The Richest. She lives in Chicago with her husband and her son.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

There's a fistfight in the madhouse!


The Madhouse is in the boxing ring this week, as we at Raw Dog Screaming Press are happy to announce that we've signed author/poet, Matt Betts, for his poetry collection, Underwater Fistfight. This collection is set to debut in early 2016 and is a mixture of SF, Fantasy, and Horror. It will tug on the [bizarre] heart strings of monster fans and siren hunters alike, so if you're up for a battle of oceanic wit served with some tidal waves of dark humor, then this is a collection not to be missed!

Want more? Here's a interview that I did with Matt to give you a sneak peak into this process, his influences, and how Underwater Fistfight came to be.
1.      What is the title of your collection and how did you come up with the name?

The new collection is called Underwater Fistfight. I’d really loved that title for a long time for some reason, but could never write quite the right piece for it. I’d always intended it to become a metaphor for the struggle to create poetry. A poem to illustrate the difficulty in creating viable art, but I couldn’t make it work? Imagine! Early on, I tried to conjure the images of the undersea battle in the James Bond film Thunderball, and the strange battle between the undead and a shark in the movie Zombi 2.There were spear guns, bubbles, fish. Kelp? There may have been kelp. Just couldn’t make it as fun as I saw it all in my mind. So it ended up as a pseudo-educational introduction to the collection as well as the title.

2.      What was the inspiration for your collection overall?

I’m a pop culture junkie and I’ve always loved science fiction, fantasy and horror. Underwater Fistfight is kind of my thank you to all those amazing directors, actors, writers and creators that made such amazing films as the original Godzilla, The Blob, Them! and others. Growing up, it was a labor to get to watch them. Way back then, with no cable or internet TV, we had to rely on whatever the TV antenna would pick up. There were maybe three channels we could get normally, but if we adjusted the antenna just right, we could pick up channels out of Detroit, Ft. Wayne, Dayton and Columbus. Of course, they could still turn blurry and fade out, turning snowy at the worst possible times. Certain stations had a monster feature on weekends and that was the only way for me to see so many of those old movies. I have fond memories of that struggle to find the odd and the unusual, and they show up in my work.

3.      How long have you been writing poetry? What is your background with it in terms of education, experience, etc.

I’ve been writing poetry for about 12 years or so. I took a few classes way back in college, but I didn’t really receive the encouragement I needed at that point. I was trying to branch out from what we were learning in class and the professor was not really interested in the forms or subject matter that made me interested in poetry, namely horror and sci-fi. Believe me, I know at that point I wasn’t writing any classics, but I enjoyed stretching beyond what was handed to us in class. When we did critique sessions, I remember getting a good reaction from the other students to what I was doing, but I just couldn’t get the professor to give me any sort of direction.

I gave up writing altogether for a number of years, both fiction and poetry. It wasn’t until I moved to Columbus and joined a writing group that I really got serious about it again. I read a lot more of the classics, picked up some ideas from conferences I attended and I went to readings. At one point, I was co-hosting a monthly poetry reading at one of the libraries.

It wasn’t until I attended a conference here in Columbus that I learned that speculative poetry was a viable form of the art. It was a revelation to me that I could write poetry and flash that dealt with monsters, robots and other themes I enjoy. I also love to work humor into my poetry and fiction. I find it’s an effective way of getting a message across in a sneaky way. I really hadn’t felt that comfortable trying to use humor in poetry before that. Really that conference opened up a whole new world for me.

4.      Where have you previously published your poetry?

My work has appeared in Star*Line, Kaleidotrope, Illumen, Dreams & Nightmares, The Rhysling Anthology, Ghostlight, The Book of Tentacles, Red River Review and a few others. I self-published my first collection of poetry, See No Evil, Say No Evil a few years back and it was picked up by Alliteration Ink.

5.      Who are your influences?

You know, there are a lot of poets that I really enjoy. Some I like to read, some I really prefer to listen to when they perform their own work. But I think one of my favorites is former Poet Laureate Billy Collins. I think what I love about him is that he makes his work seem incredibly easy. When I first started writing fiction back in college, I loved Stephen King because his stories seemed so simple, so easy to write. Same goes for Collins. Their work seems so homespun and light, that I assumed I’d be able to do it immediately. Not true (in the case of King or Collins) unfortunately They both have a careful measure of what they’re doing and how each word or image will impact their reader. It’s hard work to get everyone to follow you where you want them to go. It takes work to seem that effortless.

I was introduced to Russell Edson’s work at Bowling Green’s Winter Wheat conference years ago, and I really fell in love with his style and weirdness.  

Other influences? Well, I mentioned that my eyes were opened to new possibilities in poetry at a conference. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Mike Arnzen and Timons Esaias were the ones that gave me that shove. They both write amazing poetry, and Arnzen is the poster child for gleeful creepiness. Bruce Boston accepted my poem, Godzilla’s Better Half, for a Star*Lines prose poetry issue, and it later went on to be nominated for a Rhysling Award. He’s had an amazing career with a number of my favorite works.

6.      What is your writing process like?

Chaos. Chaos is a process, right? I suppose it is the way I do it. I take ideas and collect them in notebooks, on my cellphone, on scraps of paper, etc. and I let them kind of ferment there. They take a while to form, but one day that idea starts pushing its way out. I suddenly have to sit down and write it immediately. Many times, that piece comes out really close to how the final draft is going to look. In some ways, it’s a lot like my fiction process. I’ll write a paragraph, word for word, in my head. I’ll do it over and over so that I have each line perfectly (more or less) ready, so that when I put it into a Word document or on paper, it’s pretty much been worked and reworked. It’s a great way for me to reclaim commute or drive times. I practice some line or stanza in my head until I think it’s ready. When I finally have time to write it down, it’s well on its way to being complete.

7.      What are you most excited about with this collection in particular, i.e. what was shocking or surprising to you while you were writing it?

I really enjoyed putting Underwater Fistfight together. The pieces were written over a number of years and yet I was surprised by how some of the same themes and ideas kept cropping up in my work. And I’m always surprised by the odd places I find inspiration, you know? There are pieces that came from watching a Kids in the Hall sketch, from the unnamed townsfolk in Jaws, I wrote “Notes on Ordering a Deathbot by Mail” based on a G.I. Joe action figure, and a number of pieces were inspired by 80s cartoons. It’s not like I set out to write pieces about them, they just happen. And I think my best work comes naturally from the pop culture I’ve absorbed over the years.
Author Bio: Ohio native Matt Betts grew up on a steady diet of giant monsters, comic books, robots and horror novels. Matt’s speculative poetry and short fiction appear in numerous anthologies and journals. He is the author of the poetry collection See No Evil, Say No Evil, the steampunk novel Odd Men Out and the urban fantasy Indelible Ink. Matt lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and two sons.
Twitter: @Betts_Matt