Thursday, September 21, 2017

Alice in Wonderland and My Top Five Favorite Fantasy Movies

I collect editions of Alice in Wonderland, and this week, a rather exciting addition to my display showed up in the mail for me. While we were at dinner the other night, Dennis found a copy of the book with illustrations by Salvador Dali to commemorate the story's 150th anniversary. Naturally, I had to have it, and honestly, the book is absolutely gorgeous and I highly recommend it if you're interested or a book collector, like myself.

This alone got me thinking about fantasy and how that while I'm drawn to horror, there's no denying that I fell down the rabbit whole with fantasy as a young girl and have been smitten by the genre ever since. I love the idea of make-believe and fantastical places and creatures. I was--and remain to be--fascinated by mythology and fairy tales and the concept of folklore. I used to pretend there were monsters and fairies under my bed and play under there for hours. I had imaginary friends that I chatted with and fought with and quite honestly, scared the hell out of my parents with, but what I'm getting at here is that I was always somewhere else, the girl with an imagination too big to be contained in one room. I needed worlds to disappear to, to play and get beautifully, wondrously lost in. 

Even thinking about these memories makes me smile, and as such, I wanted to share with you my top five favorite fantasy movies, Alice and Wonderland excluded because honestly, there's no competition there. She's my girl and everyone needs to smoke hookah with an existentialist Caterpillar at least once in their life. 

1. Pans Labyrinth: This is one of my most favorite movies and the soundtrack is utterly gorgeous; I write to it often. Here, Ofelia, the stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into a dark, yet beautiful fantasy world complete with one of my favorite monsters. This movie speaks to me on so many levels because every child wants to be the chosen one, the one who has this secret destiny waiting for her just around the corner. Ofelia escapes the tragedy of the world around her by falling into legend, and as a result, we get to see how the light in the darkness, the life in all this death. 

2. Labyrinth: Ah, the goblin king. What a great story, and you can't beat David Bowie showing up in your bedroom to grant your wishes and take your little brother away. The characters are great--shout out to Ludo, who is my favorite!-and Jim Henson really went above and beyond here with his puppets. I remember watching this for the first time clear as day.

3. The Wizard of Oz/ Return to Oz: A classic at its finest, The Wizard of Oz is a staple in my family. I swear my dad can recite the entire movie by heart, and the lot of us practically raced to the theater when Wicked came to town. As a kid, I loved the journey and world building that the story lets us be a part of--the Emerald City always my personal favorite-- and the Wicked Witch is just a hoot. In fact, my brother was terrified of her for a very long time when we were kids. But as I grew up, I grew to appreciate the books as well and the depth of Oz and the cities beyond it made me fall in love with it even more. 

When I saw Return to Oz, I actually quite liked it better and yes, that's partly due to the fact that it picks up in an asylum and Fairuza Balk--who I love--is Dorothy. Throw in a headless queen and a giant pumpkin though and it's damned near impossible for me not to fall in love.

4. Bridge to Terabithia: This book broke me and the movie did a good job of salting my wounds, too. I love stories where worlds are built as a way to cope with stress, depression, or tragedy, and this book hit those points hard. I love how it details friendship through a world built around trolls, monsters, and ogres. After I read this book, I went outside with my neighbor and we built our first fort in the woods. 

5. The Dark Crystal: First things first: Fizzgig is my spirit animal and probably my favorite creature of all time. If ever I connected with something, it's that feisty little fella. But jokes aside, I love how dark yet spiritual this move is. The prophetic nature of it and the Mystics paired with the grotesque nature of the Skeksis is alluring and trippy and I love how crystal healing and chaos magic comes into play here. Plus, Aughra- Keeper of Secrets is sassy and funny as hell and that's what I have a Pop Funko of her on my desk.

NOTE: Hat tip to pretty much everything that Roald Dahl ever created. I devoured: James and the Giant Peach, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and The Witches as a kid. In fact, The Witches absolutely terrified me, and after a recent viewing of it, I can see why. Hell, it still scared me.

Also, a shout out to The Spiderwick Chronicles.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

BUILDING PUPPETS IN THE MADHOUSE: AN INTERVIEW WITH DANGER SLATER

Hello Friends--

Today in the MADHOUSE, I'm interviewing Danger Slater about his book, Puppet Skin. I remember first hearing about this book from John Skipp on the Three Guys with Beards podcast, a weekly show were Christopher Golden, Jonathan Maberry, and James A. Moore 'get together to discuss popular culture, books, movies, and whatever else crosses their minds.' The idea behind it--middle school children earning their marionette strings at graduation and being turned into puppets--was fascinating to me, and the uncanny grounding that it had immediately caught my interest. It's been on my TBR pile for some time now, and boy am I glad I finally got to it! I'm very much looking forward to checking out more of Slater's work, and I urge you all to do the same.

With puppet feed and nightmares,
Stephanie M. Wytovich

Tell us about your book. What gave you the idea to create this world, and in your opinion, what does it represent?

I have no idea where this or any other idea comes from. You know how it is. Or maybe you don’t. I don’t know. But for me, random shit passes through my head all day like white noise on the radio, provoked by all manner of catalysts. So it’s not just snippets of stories, nascent and half-formed, but it’ll be like ANYTHING at ANYTIME. I look at my cat and think: Catto Blatto Farty Fatto. It’s nonsense, so most of it floats on by. No worries. But every once and a while I’ll fixate on something. And, even rarer than that, it’s starts getting bigger and bigger. Snowballing. And then, all of a sudden, oh look, this idea is the size of a book now!

That said, Puppet Skin is about a world where all human children are turned into wooden marionettes on the day they graduate middle school, converted into wood in a violent and disgusting process that involves attaching strings that hang down from the sky and fill the person up with ‘puppetfeed.’ It’s a book about growing up, and all the terror that brings!

Can you talk a little about Hannah’s character? I really loved the dichotomy that you let her have because while she’s rebellious, she’s also obedient, and I’m curious how you found the balance with her as she fights the concept of getting her strings.

I didn’t think finding a balance was all that hard. You can be rebellious and obedient, in turn. As Walt Whitman wrote “I am large, I contain multitudes.” No opinion, no experience, nothing is absolute, and no singular decision can encompass the entirety of ‘you.’ This is especially true as a teenager -as Hannah is in the book- when you’re really in the process of exploring all these avenues within yourself. People think school is all about learning how to do math and reading The Scarlet Letter and shit (and it is a little bit about that stuff, sure) but it’s also where you learn if you want to be a part of the system, or be outside it, and where disillusionment and liberation come at you in a steady stream. You gotta ask yourself: does “growing up” mean acquiescing to someone else’s version of adulthood? Is this inevitable?  For some of us, and I include myself in this lot, growing up is an unending process. Perhaps it’s my providence as a writer -or at least, a task I’ve opted to take on- trying to understand why, even when the answer is and will remain ineffable. So yeah, I just tried to imbue Hannah with all of that. Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.

What was your favorite part of the story to create and explore? Did you find any of it cathartic to write about, and if so, in what way?

I put a lot of myself into my characters. Part of the joy of writing this book was figuring out where the pieces of Hannah (a teen girl) and me (an adult man) intersect. My thought was, if I could hone in on that, on the similarities between her and I, then her struggle should be relatable to just about everyone. I remember asking a fellow writer, Jessica McHugh (who writes a YA book series, among other things) about writing a teen girl character. I’m like, “What do teen girls talk/care about?” and she was just like “I dunno dude, same shit as everyone else.” Haha. That advice was very helpful to me, because it was so obvious! Hannah’s struggle is the same as my struggle is the same as yours, though the circumstances may vary, the emotional core or want/need/fear/success a universally human experience.

Personally, puppets (mannequins, dolls, you name it) really freak me out. I thought one of the scarier parts of the book were Hannah’s interactions with her parents because her Mom came off as very flat (which, duh? She’s a puppet), but her dad was almost non-existent, literally there to go through the motion and only come alive when spoken to. It was almost like a case of the body snatchers for me, and I found it very impressive the way you pulled that off but still managed to create this parental relationship with Hannah and her parents throughout. Having said that, what part in the story was the most difficult to write and how did you power through it?

Most difficult….hmmmmm….I guess, the most difficult thing is trying to answer this question. Haha. I don’t know. It’s all difficult. And at the same time, it’s not. Out of everything I’ve ever written, this came out the easiest. This might be because it was the most personal. And if you’ve read the book, you know it kinda wallows in this gray area between hope and despair, so trying to keep in that headspace for the eight months or so it took to write the book, was not necessarily a pleasurable experience, but it was a cathartic one, so I guess it’s a wash.  

I thought the infection scenes were some of the more powerful parts of the book, and they really stood out to me as this mishmash of body horror meets creature feature fiction. As such, I’m kind of curious…why puppets? What fascinates or repulses you about them, and do you have a favorite story or movie that you found particularly influential for this book?

I mean, why not puppets? It’s perfect for the metaphor and they’re creepy as fuck. The book couldn’t have worked any other way.

I’m a big fan of body-horror in general, and the more visceral the better. Stuff like Cronenberg’s The Fly  or Carpenter’s The Thing, stuff where you can’t trust your own body, or the bodies of people around you. But I also like campy stuff too, with a bit of humor, like the stuff you find Troma putting out. And if we’re talking movies, there is, of course, people like Charlie Kaufman and the films he wrote that, while not horror, really cut to the core of what being human means, which in itself can be quite horrifying. Sometimes the scariest stuff isn’t the monster that lurks in the dark, it’s knowing you’re all alone, and there’s no such thing as monsters. I guess the idea is, hopefully, taking all these disparate elements and figuring out what to use and where and when to see if I can’t build something exciting and original on the shoulders of the greats.

How would you describe your writing style to those who are new to your work?

I write like a trash can full of fireworks going pop-pop-pop-pop.

What is next in store for your readers? Have you considered writing a sequel to Puppet Skin?

A sequel? Hell no! Everything that this story needed to say has already been said, and unless someone hands me a big wad of cash, I’m personally not interested in revisiting it. That said: SOMEONE HAND ME A BIG WAD OF CASH PLEASE.

Up next, though (Nov. 2017, Fungasm Press) I have a book called He Digs A Hole, a domestic body-horror story dealing with marriage about a man who wakes up one night and decides to cut off his hands and replaces them with gardening trowels and begin digging an impossibly deep hole in his own backyard, much to the chagrin of his wife and neighbors. And that’s just the first chapter. 

Who are some of your influences in the genre? Do you have any writing rituals that you tend to follow either before/during/or after you write?

I like to write first thing when I wake up while listening to music, really loud. I have a playlist I’ve been building for years. It’s got almost 900 carefully curated songs, things that mostly either give me an emotional reaction (I love female vocalists like Amanda Palmer and Regina Spektor) or like, really loud abrasive punk stuff that gets me all jacked-up. But I’ll mix it up with movie soundtracks, EDM, folk, hip-hop, and whatever the fuck else that happens to speak to my soul. I’ll find my fingers typing to the rhythm of the music sometimes. It’s preeeeeetttty cool.

What books are sitting in your TBR pile?

I just started reading The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. She’s just the goddamn best. I didn’t discover her until recently (I mean, I knew who she was, but I had never read her until recently). I haven’t checked out that Handmaiden’s Tale TV show they based off her book yet, but far as I can tell from the commercials, it looks pretty neat. After that I was thinking of rereading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, which I haven’t read in probably 15 years, but remember really enjoying. The last two books I finished were The Big Meat, by Carlton Mellick III and The Warblers by Amber Fallon. Both excellent.

If you could give one piece of advice to new writers, what would it be?

If you ever win $20,000 on a scratch-off lottery ticket, you should throw a party so massive that you spend the whole thing in one night. Then, the next morning, when you wake up all red-eyed and hungover, if you’re really serious about this thing, start writing a book.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A FINAL NOTE TO MY NANA.

When I was little, my grandparents used to watch me while my mom and dad were at work. I have letters that I used to write my Nana and practically have her signature memorized from all the cards I've saved over the years. There are countless pictures of me sitting in my Nana’s laundry basket and smiling, and if I close my eyes, I can almost hear her say “how can a little girl sleep so much?” and then bring me pancakes while I watch cartoons in her bed.

Baby Stephanie and her Nana
When I think of her, I think of hot chocolate and freshly made cookies, clip on earrings and big, beaded necklaces, and the way her hands used to hold mine in the hospital room when she was scared. I think of her trying to teach me how to cook and then giving me a plate of meatballs and telling me to go watch the news with my pap because I was measuring everything wrong, and I remember the first time I baked cookies with her—early on when she was first diagnosed with dementia—and how her cookies were triple the size she used to make them. She’d get angry but then laugh really hard at the baking sheet, and god, her laugh was magical. A big, full body laugh that just lit up the room.

I remember playing bingo with her in the kitchen while we watched The Price is Right and she’d make me a bologna sandwich for lunch, and I remember asking her how to speak Polish and then her trying to teach me a few words here and there while we sat together on the porch swing outside. My love of flowers stems from my grandparents and the beautiful garden they had together, so when I see hydrangeas, I will forever think of her, just like how when I see roses, my granfather is the first face in my mind.

We used to spend every Christmas day at my Nana’s, so when it snows, I’ll think of her then, too, along with all the polish food she’d make next to my pap’s freshly grown beets and my demands for her potato salad. 

At dessert, she’d fill the entire dining room with her cookies, and it was always a hard decision trying to figure out which one’s were worth the calories that night—but it was never really a problem because she’d send all of us home with a box of cookies and a few nut rolls for good measure.

I don’t have to tell you, but I’m really going to miss her baking.
There is a love and a comfort in your grandmother’s cooking that can’t quite be measured my anyone else.
Like Mother like Daughter like Granddaughter

I could go on and on for hours, but what I’m getting at here is that I think I’ve been really blessed in life to have the relationship I did with my grandmother. We would go Christmas shopping together every year and when I got Edgar, I immediately got in my car and drove the hour it took to get to her house just so she could see all his puppy wrinkles. She was an extraordinary woman who loved her family and traveled the world and the memories we share are endless. In fact, I can’t think of a single event that she missed, whether it was my softball games (rain or shine), or my graduation days (high school-graduate school). I don’t know if she ever understood what I do or write exactly, but that didn’t stop her from coming to my poetry readings and meeting my friends and colleagues while I got my horror on. Every time that I went to see her, she’d ask me if I was still writing, if I was teaching. I would always tell her yes, and she would just brusquely say “good,” as if that was the only thing that mattered.

But my Nana had been sick for a long time and the past two years have been heart-breakingly difficult for all of us. In a lot of ways as I get ready for her funeral this afternoon, it’s like I’m mourning the loss of her for a second time. I’ve sewn imaginary curtains with her in the hospital room and whispered names under my breath so she could remember them and not be embarrassed. I’ve gone and sat with her and laughed while she told me about how handsome Eric Dance is and then proceeded to blush when he came on the screen, and I remember bringing her a huge bouquet of blue and gray flowers and then her yelling at me for spending money and shoving a ten back in my pocket.

Whether it was at the hospital, the house, the nursing home, or the hospice, I always tried to tell her how beautiful she was and how much I loved her because I never knew when the last time I would see her would be. She would blow me kisses and then kick my ass in rummy, because no matter what stage of Alzheimer’s she had, that woman could play cards and she was fierce.

We did have one conversation that I’ll never forget though, and it was in the hospital after her first fall. I was holding her hand while they were putting a catheter in and she looked at me and said “Stephanie, I’m so sorry you have to watch your grandmother die,” and my heart just broke in half.
I tried my best not to openly weep, and I held her hand and told her that I loved her and that there was no place I would rather be than next to her, that she spent her whole life taking care of me and now it was my turn to hold her when she was scared and love her like she’s always loved me.

And then she smiled with tears in her eyes.

Me and Nana, Christmas, 2014
Nana,

I will never, ever forget that moment, and I wouldn’t trade a single moment that we spent together, good or bad, sick or healthy. I know that you’re going to look beautiful today and mass is going to be gorgeous tomorrow. Dennis is going to cantor, and I know you only met him twice, but he’s that handsome guy who gave me the ring you thought was pretty, yeah? Well, he has a beautiful voice so I’m happy you’ll finally get to hear him sing.

Mom and I are going to do the readings and then I have something special planned for you at the cemetery. I think it will make you smile.

Oh, and try not to clean everything in Heaven, okay? I’m sure God has everything under control. Oh, and say hi to great-grandma for me. I saw a picture of her yesterday and you look just like her.

I love you so much.
See you soon. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Five Movies That Ruined My Childhood

Greetings Horror Fans,

I recently got back from seeing IT the other night, and holy shit was it fantastic. Not only did it exceed my expectations, but it really gave me a lot to think about it terms of 1) why this movie/book is so terrifying and 2) why this movie/book is so successful. I love everything about the story from the concept of fear being individualized, to the family dynamics it explores, to Pennywise the Dancing Clown luring Georgie down the sewer. 

But this post isn't about why I loved It. 
This post is about the movies that ruined my childhood.

Now let me be frank--I was way too young to be watching any of these movies, but you folks know me, and some of you even know my family, so none of this should really surprise you. We bleed monsters and madmen here in the Wytovich clan. Having said that, the fear that this movies instilled in me at a young age not only shaped my phobias growing up, but they also fascinated me, hence one of the many reasons I grew up to write horror. So before I start the list, I want to thank the writers and directors of these films because without them, I would be entirely too normal and life would be very boring. 

1. Salem's Lot by Stephen King; Tobe Hooper (1979)

I can still vividly remember watching this in the basement with my mom. She was ironing and I was curled up on the couch, my eyes glued to the screen as Danny Glick came to Mark Petrie's window and asked to be let in. Growing up, I had a love/hate relationship with vampires because while I was completely enamored by them, they also scared the shit out of me. I had two windows in my bedroom growing up, and this movie made me check that they were locked each night...and sleep with the covers around my neck.


2. Pet Sematary by Stephen King; Mary Lambert (1989)

This was the first book that I read by King, and I remember reading this one in my bedroom and staring out the window at our shed. We had our own little pet sematary back there, complete with my goldfish (Cory, Shawn, and Topanga) and most recently at the time, my rabbit, Fluffy. Now Fluffy was my first pet, and she died a truly horrific death, one that I still see in my nightmares on occasion, and god dammit if after reading that book and watching that movie if I didn't think she was going to come back like Church did and eat me alive. To this day, I still don't like going near the shed at my parent's house, and we rarely, if ever, bring up Fluffy anymore.


3. Arachnophobia by Dan Jakoby, Al Williams, Wesley Strick; Frank Marhsall (1990)

I have yet to watch this movie in its entirety and I probably never will. If anything is responsible for my crippling fear of spiders, then this move is what's to blame. And yeah, yeah, I know. B-Horror at it's finest and all that jazz, but I will never forgive my dad for calling me downstairs to see that spider attack the girl in the shower. Literally, every day when I wash my hair, I think of this scene. Little did I know that in a few short years, I'd be reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and dealing with a whole different mess of problems...


4. Tremors by S. S. Wilson, Brent Maddock; Ron Underwood (1990)

This one actually makes me laugh a lot when I think about it, because I can remember being in my Jasmine pajamas and jumping on the couch with my dad while I played 'sandworm attack' in the living room. I was terrified to walk on the floor after watching this, so my dad pushed the couches together and set up chairs so I could still play. When it was time for bed, I merely crawled across the couches and chairs until I got to the steps and went to my room. The fear didn't last long, but man do I remember being sure I was going to be sucked into the floor that night.



5. It by Stephen King; Tommy Lee Wallace (1990)

There are countless reasons why this movie scarred me as a kid, and as a result, I wasn't able to watch the entire movie until I was in my early twenties. I remember coming downstairs and asking my dad what he was watching, and before I knew it, a fucking clown was climbing out of a shower drain and trying to eat Eddie. Jesus. As if I already wasn't afraid of getting attacked by a mutant South American Spider, now I had to worry about Pennywise the Dancing Clown trying to lure me in a sewer, which ironically, I still can't walk over today without having a mini panic attack. Also, if you're keeping track, Stephen King has a solid 3/5 here and therefore wins the title of responsibility for my childhood nightmares.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Seton Hill University Mass Book Signing Tomorrow (Friday, June 23)

Hi Everyone--

I'll be signing books tomorrow, Friday June 23rd from 7-9:30 p.m. at Seton Hill University. In addition to Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, and An Exorcism of Angels, I'll also have my Bram Stoker award-winning collection, Brothel, available, in addition to my debut novel, The Eighth.

Please see below for the official press release.
I hope to see you there!

Public Book Signing Hosted by Seton Hill University June 23

GREENSBURG, Pa. – More than 40 authors will participate in the In Your Write Mind book-signing event on Friday, June 23, from 7-9:30 p.m. at Seton Hill University’s Performing Arts Center, 100 Harrison Ave., Greensburg. The event is part of the 18th annual Writing Popular Fiction Workshop, “In Your Write Mind,” sponsored by the WPF alumni group.  The event is free and open to the public.

All authors participating in the In Your Write Mind book-signing event are published writers who are current students, alumni, faculty members or guests of Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction program. The authors write in a variety of genres, including mystery, romance, young adult, and science fiction.

Authors of note include Victoria Thompson and Jen Brooks.

“I love participating in the IYWM booksigning each year,” said Thompson, bestselling author of the Gaslight Mystery Series. “What a great opportunity to talk with fans and see what other writers are doing.”

Jen Brooks, author of In A World Just Right, which was named one of VOYA's top YA science fiction/fantasy/horror books of the year, says, "I love this event because the authors exhibit a truly wide variety of genres and publishers, and all have a local connection through SHU. I'll be signing books, talking writing, and listening to readers brainstorm what worlds they would create, if they had the power.”

Seton Hill’s unique Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction program teaches students to write marketable novels in popular genres like mystery, romance, science fiction, horror and fantasy. Additional specialties include literature for children and adolescents, and cross-genre blends like romantic suspense or young adult mysteries. Students attend two weeklong, on-campus residencies each year to master the core elements of fiction writing and effective marketing and to gain inspiration from faculty mentors and special guests, all published authors in genre fiction. Established authors mentor students one-on-one as they work toward completing a market-ready manuscript from home. Readings, classes and online discussion about the history, trends and techniques of genre fiction add depth to the student's experience.   For more information about the Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill, visithttp://fiction.setonhill.edu or contact Seton Hill’s Office of Graduate and Adult Studies at 724-838-4209.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Five Ways NOT to Market Your Book

It’s no secret that marketing your book is hard, especially when the market is already saturated with novelists, both traditional and self-published, playing the part of the artist, the agent, and the publicist. The good news is that there are infinite ways to market your author platform and your product while still maintaining your personality and morals, but there are a handful of mistakes that most first-time writers make when trying to market their book to a publisher or to their community.

  • Don’t mass-market your book to your email list. Email is already a dodgy subject with most people because they feel like they get too much. Spamming their account won’t play favorably for you, and it will most likely lose you a potential reader right of the bat. Instead, start a newsletter or add an email sign-up option to your website and give people the option of whether or not they want to receive information about your writing directly in their inbox.
  • Don’t private message all your Facebook friends that you have a new book out. In addition to this being extremely unprofessional, it’s also distasteful because it’s obvious that it’s a mass message and again, it wasn’t prompted by the reader himself. A way to counteract that is to host a book party on Facebook and invite your friends and family to that instead. This gives the information without making it seem forced, and it also gives them to option to join or not, while at the same time, making them feel a part of something.
  • Don’t make your book the first reason you contact someone. If someone gave you their business card at a conference or convention, or invited you to be their friend on social media, don’t write them and include all the information about book and writing career. Instead, email them and say that it was nice to meet them—include the location you met them at—and that you look forward to seeing and chatting with them again. If you have a website, feel free to include it in your signature as a way to get the information out as an option without appearing forceful.
  • If the publisher is not accepting manuscripts, don’t send yours regardless of what their guidelines say. An editor’s time is very far and few between, and if a writer isn’t able to follow the guidelines for that they’re looking for, changes are they will pass on the manuscript without as much as a second glance. If you’re interested in submitting but a house is closed to submissions, feel free to send them an inquiry. Questions are always welcomed!
  • Don’t hand out copies of your manuscripts unless someone asks for it. If you want to have your book on your table and available if someone would like it free, that’s fine, but don’t put it in someone’s hands, leave it in the bathroom, or on top of someone’s car.

More often than not, the best way to market and sell your book is to ask yourself what you personally look for as a consumer. How do you find out about new releases? What tactics have worked for your friends in the business? If someone tried to market their art to you this way, would you be responsive to it?  Once you answer those questions, do what feel right, and most creative, to you. Remember, selling your book is a great way to network in addition to get and maintain readers, so be confident in your product while selling it in a kind and respectful way. Your future sales will be sure to thank you!

Monday, May 8, 2017

5 CHILDREN'S BOOKS FOR KIDS WHO LOVE THE FANTASTIC

A week or so ago, I worked in the children's department of Barnes and Noble for the night and I had a blast reading with the kids. It was refreshing to see so many of  my old favorites still on the shelves, and what was particularly cool for me was the amount of books that now catered to children who had more magical interests. And yes, right now I know you're all shaking your head, but I'm serious! When I was little, I wasn't a fan of princess books or your regular run-of-the-mill little girl books. I wanted to read about monsters and witches and fantastical creatures, and to prove that, even my I Spy book was the spooky night version! Having said that, other childhood favorites were: Room on the Broom, and Strega Nona. And I'd be absolutely remiss if I didn't add my all time favorite children's book (which I still own and keep with me in my apartment): The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.

Since it's been a while since I've read any of these books though, I wanted to catch up on what was out on the market these days, and to my excitement, I found quite a few that would have worked well in the Wytovich Household:

Here are my five recommendations this week:

Hey! That's MY Monster: This adorable little picture book talks about how the boy is upset that the monster under his bed--who helps him sleep by not letting him get out of bed at night--is moving on to now help his younger sister.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend: What I loved so much about this book is the spin that it took on the imaginary friend story. Usually we have a child that is creating one, or looking for one, but in this case, the imaginary friend hasn't been assigned a child yet, so he goes looking for his best friend himself.


The Chupacabra Ate the Candlelabara: A fun book that teaches cultural legends in addition to relaying the message that just because you've been taught to be afraid of something, doesn't mean that it's scary. It put a lot of emphasis on learning to get someone before passing judgment.

Vampirina at the Beach: This would have been perfect for me as a child, especially because I'm so pale and was already being nicknamed vampira from a young age. This little number shows the whole monster gang having a fun day at the beach. The art is amazing, as are the characters and the way they interact with one another.

Dragons Love Tacos: This one made me laugh because the entire premise of the book is how much dragons truly love to eat tacos...as long as they aren't spicy. The best part? A sequel to it just came out, too!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

STUCK ON GLUE: AN INTERVIEW WITH CONSTANCE ANN FITZGERALD

Good morning, fiends!

Today in the MADHOUSE, I'm sitting down with Constance Ann Fitzgerald, author of Glue, and all around badass woman. Fitzgerald is the editor/curator of Ladybox Books, a zine maker, and the author of the bizarro novella Trashland A Go-Go. She grew up in central Arizona and has spent the last decade crawling northwest. She currently resides in Portland, Oregon where her happiness is wholly contingent upon whether or not there is a dog in the room.

When I first heard about Glue, I was really excited because everyone kept saying this book will break you and I love a good book that peels back the skin and reveals one's scars. Glue certainly didn't disappoint, and not only was I completely taken with it, I sat down and read it in one night during a thunderstorm. It was heartbreakingly beautiful and I truly can't recommend it enough.


"Glue is a meditation on grief and addiction, the loss of loved ones, and our incredible power to rebuild ourselves after everything falls apart. Heartbreaking, honest, and all-too-human, Glue is one of the most powerful books of the year."

As someone who has gotten more and more interested with creative nonfiction lately, I wanted to interview Fitzgerald about her process, how she collected her memories and translated them to the page, and furthermore, what writing this did for her, and for her readers. I hope you find her answers as inspiring and beautiful as I do, and I hope that you treat yourself to her book. You won't be disappointed and I'd be willing to bet that you'll find something out about yourself between the pages, too.

With coffee and honesty,
Stephanie M. Wytovich

WYTOVICH: Tell us about your novella. Is it based on true events, and if so, how was it to write about something of that magnitude that is so close to the chest? Furthermore, when did you know that you were ready to write about the subject at hand?

FITZGERALD: Unfortunately, yes, it's a true story. At least as true as it can be from the perspective of one person. Writing about it was difficult, but therapeutic and necessary. It's all I could think about for years whenever I wasn't actively doing something, so I started writing my thoughts down in notebooks and (mostly) in the notes section of my iPhone. 

I never said "this hurts, I'm going to write a book about it." I just realized one day how much I had written about it and that I had enough to compile into a short piece. I didn't know how long or what it was even going to be. Originally it was going to include some other subjects too, but I realized those were separate projects and really would have taken power away from this story that really needed to be the main narrative.

WYTOVICH: I love that you chose to write the story in second person point-of-view. How and why did you decide to write in that viewpoint over the others?

FITZGERALD: I wrote Glue in second person because that's how I write to myself when I'm writing in my journal. That's how I've written to myself most of my life. When it's just for me, it can sometimes drift back and forth between first and second person, but it's predominantly second. While piecing this together, I only had to adjust a few sections tense wise, which I really only did to make it cohesive. I figured it would place the reader smack in the middle of the events because it was happening to YOU, the reader, and not to ME, the author.

It also allowed me to put a little distance between myself and the story so I could actually spit out some of the more difficult scenes. 

WYTOVICH: How did you decide on the title, Glue


FITZGERALD: Man, titling this book was really fucking hard. I had no idea what to call it. Even my editor, Cameron Pierce, who is a title wizard, didn't know what to call it. We batted around and rejected several titles, and were in the middle of edits, when I was walking to work and listening to Nirvana's "Dumb." 

I've loved Nirvana since I was a kid because my older sister was a big fan.
The part of the song where Kurt sings "my heart is broke, but I have some glue" played and I realized that there's an entire section of the book that's kind of a riff on that idea.

Originally I wanted to just use the full lyric and make it one of those super long titles. While tossing that idea around with J. David Osborne at a reading a couple days later, he suggested that I shorten it and just call it "Glue,” which is really for the best since Courtney Love/the Cobain Estate is pretty litigious and apparently the copyright laws about lyrics are kinda tricky. 

I'm too poor to get sued.

WYTOVICH: What was your favorite part of the story to create and explore? Did you find any of it cathartic to write about?

FITZGERALD: I guess my favorite part was writing the crazy stories my dad tells me because they are insane, but 100% true. 

I also really loved writing about my parent's wedding. I was looking at some photos and picturing them and their special day and their love and no matter how sad it makes me, it makes me ten times happier because they had it. They found each other and built a really great life together and I think that's really the best we can ever ask for. 

Writing all of it was cathartic. It was difficult sometimes, but even those parts felt a little better once I'd written them out. 


WYTOVICH: What part in the story was the most difficult to write?

FITZGERALD: Almost all of it. Pretty much any scene where anyone is in a hospital bed stuffed with tubes. If I never have to see another person i love in that state it will be too soon. Going back to that and "being there" again to write about it was less than desirable. 

WYTOVICH: What does this book mean to you on a personal level, and what has the response been with your readership?

FITZGERALD: Not to sound totally up my own ass or anything, but on a personal level this book means absolutely everything to me. The fact that I get to share this with people and that anyone wanted to publish my bummer of a book means so much. I'm very grateful for that.

I've seen instances of others telling their more difficult stories and it made me feel less alone and I kept saying that if I could do that for even one person, it would be worth broadcasting my guts. 

The response has been incredible. I've gotten really great reviews and that's more than I could have asked for. But more than that it's the private messages from people telling me they cried or they know how this feels, or thanking me for making them feel less alone in their grief, and some of my favorite authors telling me how much they liked it. That kind of thing means more to me than sales or any starred reviews. 

My absolute favorite response was my dad calling me and telling me he spotted a typo and then calling back half an hour later to tell me to send him a few more copies. Then he took a break from reading it because it was obviously difficult for him. (I called him before it was released and warned him about it because I didn't want to blindside him with it.) When he finished it he called and told me I did a good job.

And then asked me to not write any more sad books.

WYTOVICH: In respect to your writing process, what do you find is the hardest part? The most enjoyable?

FITZGERALD: I think that most difficult part of my process is motivation. I can be really undisciplined. I'm not someone who sets aside time to write every day and does it. I've tried that, but if there isn't anything there then I just end up hating whatever I force out or dicking around on Facebook. 

But once I have something in mind, when I have a goal and I know what I'm doing it flows out and it's all I can think about and lord help whoever is trying to come between me and putting down those words. 

I think the most enjoyable part is the feeling of accomplishment when whatever I’m working on is done and I start sharing it with my inner circle or writing group to get feedback. I enjoy seeing what other people think I meant vs what I was actually saying and seeing how they match up.

WYTOVICH: How would you describe your writing style to those who are new to your work?

FITZGERALD: That's such a tricky question! 

I've been focusing on creative nonfiction lately, so what I do now is really just try to be honest. I want to create a distinct scene for the reader and show them exactly what I thought and felt through somewhat sparse prose. 

WYTOVICH: Who are some of your influences in the genre? Do you have any writing rituals that you tend to follow either before/during/or after you write?

FITZGERALD: Influences include but are not limited to: 
  • Juliet Escoria 
  • Leesa Cross-Smith 
  • Amy Hempel 
  • Elizabeth Ellen 
  • Kevin Maloney 
  • Samantha Irby 
  • Chelsea Martin 


Rituals are tricky because sometimes I get possessed and just start spitting words. When I'm doing it on purpose it's usually my cluttered desk facing the window, a giant mug of coffee, maybe some snacks, and some music that is good/I love, but not too distracting. It varies depending on my mood and what I'm working on. Offhand I really enjoy writing to The Ravonettes - "Lust Lust Lust" and The Velvet Teen - "Elysium"


WYTOVICH: What books are sitting in your TBR pile?

FITZGERALD: GUH. I actually ended up reshelving some because the pile was getting crazy, but some of what still remains: 
  • Angel Meat - Laura Lee Bahr 
  • Person/a - Elizabeth Ellen 
  • Door - Leah Noble Davidson
  • Gutshot - Amelia Grey 
  • Bang - Henry Rollins 
  • The collected works of Scott McClanahan vol 1 
  • Girls to the Front - Sara Marcus 
  • Something To Do With Self Hate - Brain Allen Ellis 
  • Freak Show - James St. James 
  • Currently reading: A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness - Amy L Clark/Elizabeth Ellen/Kathy Fish/Claudia Smith 


WYTOVICH: What is next in store for your readers?

FITZGERALD: I'm working on a collection of stories about the other side of my family because they are a batch of completely insane and awful women (and my sister, who is a gem), some poetry zines, and whatever else burbles out in the meantime. 

WYTOVICH: If you could give one piece of advice to new writers, what would it be?

FITZGERALD: I think that when we start writing we start because we have something to say. Once we start being heard, there is this internalized pressure that can be really terrifying and maybe even hinder the voice we so badly wanted to share. Don't do that. Just keep shouting. 

Follow her work at: 
Twitter/Instagram: @constanceannx3