Thursday, October 29, 2015

DOGCON4: Philadelphia, PA

It seems like it was just yesterday when I was standing in Jen and John’s kitchen, covered in marshmallow as I tried to bake treats for the first DogCon with Heidi Ruby Miller. Three wonderful and productive years have since passed, and as I write this, I’m slowly recovering from DogCon 4, which took place in Philadelphia, PA. I say recover because during this trip I went to prison, looked at dead things in jars, won a championship belt, became a bridesmaid, and caught up with old friends while making new friends in the process.

William and I left fairly early in the morning for what would be our first road trip together as a couple. I baked muffins, he picked me up in in a spider costume, and that, my friends, pretty much describes our relationship in a nutshell, but I digress. We got into the city later than we expected because the Pennsylvania Turnpike is actually the 10th circle of Hell, but what awaited us in the city was well worth the wait.
We ate at one of Bobby Flay’s Burger joints because I think William would have had an aneurysm if we didn’t—but jokes aside, my guy has good taste (I mean, obviously). My burger was heavenly and I’m now 100% #TeamFlay. We’ll definitely be visiting his restaurant in Vegas in May when we’re in town for StokerCon.
^^ Can you keep a secret? Good. Now don’t tell William, but I think I’m going to make our anniversary dinner reservations there. Shhhh.
Afterwards we met up with Joseph Bouthiette Jr., Kaylee Stebbins and Josh Myers, all of who I met for the first time, despite being friends with them online for years. That, though, is one of my favorite parts about conventions: meeting new people. Josh and I immediately became BFF’s based on our mutual love of Archer, and Joe and Kaylee were two of the most lovely and hysterical people I’ve met over the years. Instant friendships are my favorites, and I’m already counting down the days until we cross paths again.
I also got to spend the evening catching up with two of my dearest friends, Kristina (Kat) and Austin. Kat was my roommate in college, and we hadn’t seen each other in two years, and after lots of laughing and crying and merrymaking over the weekend, she asked me to be one of her bridesmaids next year at her wedding. I love you, Kat. I’m so happy that you’re happy and I can’t wait to stand by your side and make you laugh at inappropriate moments while you’re trying to seriously start your life as an adult.
Austin, who I haven’t seen for six years, introduced me to his lovely girlfriend, Rain, told William a lot of embarrassing stories about me in college (all of which were true) and the whole trip with them was just a riot. Kat and Austin celebrated with me, watched me almost die of food poisoning, hugged and kissed me goodbye, and in those moments, it’s pretty cool to know that I have people like the two of them in my life. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that distance doesn’t mean anything when you love you someone. Here’s to forever friendships!
 The next morning, William and I woke up and met the RDSP crew at Eastern State Penitentiary, something that has been on my bucket list for probably about five years now. Anyone who knows me will tell you that one of my absolute favorite things to do is explore haunted/abandoned prisons and asylums, so this was basically heaven for me, and the fact that I got to cross something off my bucket list with William by my side was a moment in and of itself.  The tour was amazing, and I took lots of notes and pictures for my current WIP, The Color White. A big highlight for me here was seeing Al Capone’s cell, as well as listening to Arnzen tell me that clowns were going to jump out of the walls at any given moment.

After breaking out of prison, William and I got some grub—and a pretty bangin’ hot/hard cider-- and headed off to the Mutter Museum. As you can see, my game plan for seduction is pretty strong. I like to romance my man by first taking him to prison, and then follow it up with a nice visit to see some deformed medical oddities that have been soaked in formaldehyde and stuffed into jars. William and I had a blast here and if that, in and of itself, doesn’t say love, I don’t know what will. We say some fascinating medical equipment, I got shot and had my arm amputated, and then we played with plush body parts and diseases for a while as we laughed over which harmful malady we could give to each other for Christmas.
After the museum, we went and grabbed some coffee and walked around the city a bit. It was wonderfully relaxing and one of my favorite parts of the trip with William. We made our way over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where we saw Thor, a skateboarding dog, and the Rocky statue. I lost a bet I made with William, he laughed at me a lot, and then he posed on the steps like the champion he is. This also is pretty standard for our relationship. Laughing makes me happy, and William makes me happy, so the two of them together is pretty much all I need.
Later that evening, the RDSP authors were scheduled to read at PhilaMOCA. Prior to going there, William and I went back to the house where I practiced my reading for him. I’m usually not one to share anything that I write until the moment that I’m either on stage or turning something in for publication, but with William, it’s easy because I trust him and I know he’ll be honest with me. That’s a good feeling to have, I won’t lie, and that moment where I was reading, and he was listening to me on the porch is one that I’ll keep in the memory box for quite some time.
When we got to the venue, I listened to all of my fabulously talented colleagues read from their work, and as always, it was great and equally inspiring. I read a poem out of Hysteria, “The Color White,” and then followed up with the first chapter of my novel in progress: The Color White. Sounds crazy? Well it was. They certainly don’t call me the light poet. Bring on the darkness and fill it full of madness, my friends. And if the night couldn’t get any better, I ended up winning the Reader’s Choice Award for Mourning Jewelry and I about had a heart attack. Former champion and current selfie partner, Matt Betts, gifted me with the belt which I will hold on to—and wear (everywhere)—for the next year. A big thank you to Jen and John for everything that they do—both for me, and for the press—and an even bigger thank you to all of my readers. None of this would be possible without you.
The night ended with me dying of food poisoning. So we’ll skip over that.
Sunday rolled around faster than usual, but was still a full day nevertheless. William and I LOVE It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia so stopping at Mac’s Tavern was an absolute must on our to-do list. We brunched hard there with some Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s and then we hit the road for New Hope, PA, for the final event at Farley’s Bookshop: D.Harlan Wilson’s book launch for BATTLE WITHOUT HONOR OR HUMANITY, VOL 1. RDSP also put into action a story swap that had us all laughing until we cried. The highlight here for me was Arnzen reading my poem “Head Banging” and me reading his piece “The Bleu Man Group.” From now on, Arnzen and I are only reading each other’s work because it was too damn funny, so prepare yourselves accordingly.
Saying goodbye is always hard, but it’s a necessary evil. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again, hopefully sooner rather than later, but in the meantime, thank you all for making this past weekend such a wonderful experience for me.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Confessions of a Writer Tag

I was tagged by fellow author, J. L. Gribble, to complete a 20-question survey designed to get to know authors in the blog-o-sphere. For the original post on the tag and the participation guidelines, go here.
Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?
I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was in third grade and my game plan has never wavered. As long as it’s fun, I’ll keep doing it. I have no intention of stopping.
What genre do you write?
Horror. Dark Fantasy. Erotica.
Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?
My current WIP is The Color White, which is the novelization of my poetry collection Hysteria: A Collection of Madness. It goes throughout the poems and tells the story of Samantha Irving and how she became my muse of madness.
What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?
I wrote a story about a little girl whose mother was tortured and raped by a traveling vampire clan. I wrote this when I was in middle school and my teacher turned me into the guidance counselor to make sure “I was okay.”
I hope they read Hysteria to see that I grew up to be a very sane, and calm-natured adult.
What’s the best part about writing?
What’s the worst part about writing?
What’s the name of your favorite character and why?
Hysteria. She was the first character to speak to me, and even if it was in absolute madness, she’ll always be my number one girl…and not just because she locked me up in an abandoned asylum for a night.
How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
I write at night—always have, probably always will. I also don’t hold myself to a strict schedule, because when it feels too strict, I get anxiety over it and then my words don’t work. I try to write something, even if it’s only a 100 words, every day though.
Did you go to college for writing? Or if you haven’t been to college yet, do you plan to?

Yes, I got my BA from Seton Hill University (SHU) in English Literature and Art History. I then went straight to graduate school at SHU and obtained my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction, where I studied with a concentration in Horror and Dark Fantasy.
What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors, or grammar errors?
They all pretty much make me want to rip my skin off, but if someone uses exclamation points like they are periods, it makes me want to punch a hole through my wall.
What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
“People are assholes. Do what you want.”
What advice would you give to another writer?
Don’t stop. Even when it seems like it’s all bullshit, don’t stop.
What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
I don’t follow any sites religiously, but I enjoy the hell out of Chuck Wendig’s blog.
Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
I like to travel, cook, and read.
And drink wine.
I really like to drink wine.
What is the best book you’ve read this year?
This is a tough one. I’ve recently read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson and that book rocked my gothic little soul, so I’d have to go with that.
The Martian by Andy Weir and You by Caroline Kepnes are definite runner-ups, though.
What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?
I really enjoyed SPRING, directed by Justin Benson and .
What is your favorite book or series of all time?
Misery by Stephen King…you dirty birdie.
Who is your favorite author?
Classic: Edgar Allan Poe
Contemporary: Jack Ketchum. He’s unapologetic with his writing and he grabs me by the heart in a way that no one else does, although Clive Barker is a very, very close second.
What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
I’m working on a novelization of my poetry collection Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, titled The Color White. I’m also working on finishing up two poetry collections, Default Black and In This Prison of Cumulus.
Where else can we find you online?
  • Facebook:
  • Twitter: @JustAfterSunset
  • Instagram: SWytovich
  • Blog:
  • My publishers, Raw Dog Screaming Press and Dark Regions Press