Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Year's Resolutions: More Creativity, More Books, and More Traveling



As we shovel ourselves into 2018—and yes, I mean shovel because I literally have a mountain of snow at the bottom of my driveway and the blisters on my hands to show for it—I wanted to talk about some of the goals I’m setting for myself this year, mostly so I have something else to hold me accountable. Plus, I quite like the idea of New Year’s resolutions because this time of year always feels like a rebirth to me, a chance to start over, try something new. The energy is intoxicating, and I’ve really taken the bull by the horns this year with the intentions I'm setting for myself.

Over the past six years, my entire life has been all about writing: the next book, the next poem, the next conference. It’s been a beautiful journey and one that I don’t plan on abandoning any time soon, or ever really, for that matter, but I want to stretch my creative wings and try some different avenues this year, mostly to shake things up and continue learning the business. As such, I’ve vowed to myself that I’ll have Hysteria, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Brothel available as audiobooks this year, and I’m happy to say that Brothel is already live onAudible, Amazon, and iTunes. The rest are in various stages of production, but I hope to have them all out to you soon as well.

Last year, I also finished a chapbook of poems that I’m currently submitting to a variety of literary markets, and I’m about a third of the way through an apocalyptic science fiction poetry collection that I’m particularly excited about. I’m shooting to sell/publish the chapbook in some way this year (possibly even as a limited edition release), and I’m working towards finishing up the other collection, too. Typically, I don’t consider myself a science fiction writer, but I’m enjoying playing in another genre and bringing horror to it as well. I’m also working on a variety of short stories to finish up my collection Inside the Skin Bouquet, and I plan to continue working on fiction as my primary focus this year.

Outside of writing (even though everything always comes back to it eventually), I plan on working on a variety of other goals that I’ve set for myself over the years, but never really finished. I’ve wanted to learn how to crochet forever, and *thankfully* I have beautifully talented friends who have been giving me tons of advice, sending me tutorial videos, and even sitting down with me and literally making my hands go through the motions so I can learn (thank you, Maureen!). I’m working on a massively chunky scarf right now and I’m finding the entire process of it very relaxing. I’m excited to keep working at this, because eventually, I’d really like to make my own clothes, or at least spruce them up with some embroidery, etc. So yes, 2018 is the year of crocheting for me, and then eventually I’d like to move on to embroidery and quilting. 

Another resolution I’m holding myself to is to read more classics. For the past few years, I’ve read 100+ books a year, but even still, there’s so much I haven’t read, and I often joke around with Dennis and tell him that I’m just going to die next to a pile of unread books, hence why I’m always in such a rush to read everything. But I do find myself falling behind as there are a lot of books that I should have read (especially as a literature professor and a horror writer) but haven’t, so I plan to rectify that. Plus, for those of you keeping tabs on the Five Books I Lied about Reading post I made a few years ago, I still have some work to do there, so it’s a work in progress.

Other than that, I plan to travel more (we're looking at doing Northern Europe this summer), and I want to get Apollo into his last round of advanced training so we can move forward with him becoming a therapy dog. I also promised myself that I would start printing out pictures from the past 5+ years and work on my adventure photography book, so that's on the to-do list as well. Overall, I think for the most part that these are obtainable goals, so I'm hoping for a year full of good books, comfy scarves, Icelandic memories, and a well-behaved puppy.

What are your plans for this year? 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

LIVE: SHEET MUSIC TO MY ACOUSTIC NIGHTMARE TAKES THE STAGE

Hello Readers and Fiends:
My latest book of poetry, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, is now available for purchase via: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Raw Dog Screaming Press. For more information about the collection--and to hear what people are saying about it-- please check out the summary below, and as always, if you've picked up the book or plan to read it, I'd love to hear from you on Goodreads.
Book Summary
Roll the windows down, wipe the blood off your cheek, and turn the music up. Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare by Stephanie M. Wytovich is a collection spattered with dirt and blood, sage and corpses. The poems inside are confessionals and dirges, their stories the careful banter of ghosts and sinners over tequila at the bar.
These pages hold the lyrics to the beautiful grotesque that Wytovich is known for, but here she writes with a raw honesty that we haven’t seen from her before. This new direction takes readers to hospital rooms and death beds, shows the mask that was skinned off her face time and time again. There’s a brutality to her lines that cuts with the same knife she fantasized about, her blood and tears mixed in with stanzas as she talks about suicide and abuse, heartbreak and falling in love.
Written during a time when the road was her home, these poems were sung under the stars and screamed in the woods, carved into trees. They are broken bottles and cigarette butts, stale coffee and smeared lipstick, each its own warning, a tale of caution.
Listen to them carefully.
They very well might save your life.
What They’re Saying
“Like a candy apple wrapped in razor wire, Sheet Music will make you bleed with every bite, but you won’t be able to stop….simply outstanding.” —Maria Alexander, Bram Stoker Award winning author of Snowed
“…a mixed tape of atonement played along a roadway of righteous sin, where the crimson line of the horizon is either the dawning of redemption or the pyre of bridges set aflame. One cannot learn to write with such brutal honesty as Stephanie M. Wytovich, it must be earned. And the lessons hurt. This is the raw voice of angst and alienation from one of the most esteemed authors of dark poetry, operating at her peak of ability. Strap in and hold on. It’s a harrowing ride.” —Brian Kirk, Bram Stoker nominated author of We Are Monsters
“You might think you know what you’re getting into with this collection of haunted road trips, erotic regrets and dangerous, devious desires, especially if you’ve read Wytovich’s other books of poetry. But this Acoustic Nightmare feels far more personal and profound than her earlier dark works…” —Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning poet, and author of Grave Markings
“Wytovich gives the reader an enticing mix of poems written as personal confessionals…Check it out!”  —Marge Simon, co-author of Satan’s Sweethearts
“A heart-juddering ride along serpentine nightmares paved with intimate evocations of self-torment, poisoned kisses, and lying tongues.” —Erik Hofstatter, author of Rare Breeds

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Be Still, My Crabian Heart: An Interview with Erik Hofstatter


Hello Friends:

Today in the Madhouse, I'm happy to host my lovely friend, Erik Hofstatter, and chat about his latest book release, The Crabian Heart. Erik and I, despite the ocean between us, have become fast, dear friends over the past two years, and it brings me great pleasure to host him here today, because this book (along with his next release, Toroa, which I penned the introduction for) is a real treat, albeit a heartbreakingly beautiful one. Filled with sea metaphors and delicious bouts of body horror, this is a story that questions as much as it answers. 

I do hope you'll give it a try, but until then, let's get talk writing.

With seashells and pincers,
                                                                                                                             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 at its most literal and figurative heights?

The story was inspired by a brutal heartache and takes place in Dover, England. It documents the arrival of two refugees. A mother and her teenage son. Both are trapped in a political limbo for the duration of their asylum claim. The boy spends most of his time on a local beach, where he befriends a destitute girl called Enola (alone) and gradually falls in love with her.

I think in its literal sense, the piece explores conflicting views on immigration in the age of Trump and Brexit, but also deeper, more primal instincts such as the mechanics of love. Figuratively, it represents our fear of loneliness and the ultimate quest for acceptance.

What was your favorite part of the story to create and explore, and then to play devil’s advocate, what was the hardest for you? Did you find any of it cathartic to write about, and if so, in what way?

The entire process was cathartic, yes. A form of self-therapy. When I began to outline the story, I wanted to explore the psychological impact immigration has on a child (based on my own experiences) so I designed a plot where Aleš finds a crab on the beach and decides to keep it as a pet. Each morning, the boy discovers small incisions in his forearm. The mother suspects self-harming due to isolation and laments for his detained father, but in fact, the incisions are created by the knife-wielding crab while he sleeps. That was the original outline, or part of it. But then I was plunged into emotional maelstrom by the sudden departure of my fiancée. After five years together, she decided that we were no longer right for each other.

I’ve always been a naïve romantic, a prisoner of my own heart. She was my true love and I literally went from getting married in couple of weeks to being all alone again. I was devastated. I lost seven kilos, my hair started thinning, and I’m still reading self-help books six months later. To preserve my sanity, I immersed myself in writing.

As I wrote, my feelings drifted further and further from the outline. I surrendered to the pain in my heart and allowed it to produce an entirely different interpretation. It was astonishing. A tsunami of words from an uncharted ocean. I think I reached my creative peak with The Crabian Heart.

My favorite part to explore was the dysfunctional relationship between Enola and Aleš. To expose the ugly side of love and shatter his childish naivety. As for the hardest, the story is semi-autobiographical. The arrival in Dover, the hotel, detainment of my father─all true. And there is of course my own heartbreak. Some of those memories were difficult to excavate.

Alright, let’s talk crabs (ha). What made you pick this crustacean (or creature) to write about?

I think the idea was first conceived when a friend of mine showed me a viral video of a crab, wielding a knife in its pincer, and advancing at the camera holder as if threatening to stab him. The clip had a somewhat comical effect on my pal, but I was fascinated. There was a story, begging to be told.

There is a heavy influence of body horror in this book, so I’m wondering who your influences are in that respect, and most importantly, what your favorite body horror example is in horror. For me, most of my favorites exist in Cronenberg land.
Agreed. Cronenberg is a legend. I was brought up on films like Scanners and The Fly. As for the transformation in the book, it just flowed─there was no particular inspiration. But some of my recent favorites and fine examples of body horror include American Mary, Tusk, Spring, and The Skin I Live In.

I really enjoyed the sea metaphors in your book. What draws you to the ocean and what does it represent to you in this piece specifically?

The deep sea is rich with mysteries. Majority of people have a fascination with the unknown. I don’t have a logical explanation for the metaphors. Escapism, I think. That’s why I’m so proud of this story, from a creative perspective. The changing colors of the ocean and how they respond to one’s heart, women with pincers, the sacrifices made in pursuit of eternal love─all dictated by my fractured heart instead of brain. Most of my stories involve excessive plotting, so this was a refreshing (but equally distressing) change.

But as for the representation, we live in a damaged world. Existence is pain. I aimed to tell a tale where the ocean represented a gateway into another realm. An idyllic realm where pure, eternal love existed, and was rewarded. An Atlantis for the broken hearted. A place I long to see.

How would you describe your writing style to those who are new to your work? Do you find yourself evolving as a writer? And if so, in what ways?

A friend and fellow author described me as a “schlock” horror writer (she made comparisons to Brian Keene), but I haven’t read any of his books yet so can’t say if that label is accurate or not. I tend to write about urban horror and the human experience. As for evolving, yes, absolutely. I think my skill as a storyteller constantly grows and I strive for my book to be of higher quality than the last.

Usually when I write, I drink coffee, sometimes wine if I’m feeling crazy, and on occasion, I’ll reward myself with M&Ms after a certain word count. Do you prefer coffee, tea, or booze when you write? Are there any rewards you give yourself as your move along in the drafting stage?

I tend to drink black coffee when I write, but it depends on my mood, as I often switch to green or rooibos tea. Booze restricts my writing. It limits my concentration and I end up staring at a wall, questioning my life choices, rather than spitting out words on the page. I postpone the alcoholic reward until I have the final product in my hands. Then it’s time to surf giant whisky waves.

What books are sitting in your TBR pile?

Master of the Moors & Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke, Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist, A Kiss of Thorns by Tim Waggoner, Furnace by Livia Llewellyn.

What is next in store for your readers?

I intend to go on a hiatus for the remainder of the year, so I can emotionally recuperate, but a short novel (Toroa) will be published in spring 2018 via Sinister Grin Press. 

Bio: Erik Hofstatter is a dark fiction writer and a member of the Horror Writers Association. Born in the wild lands of the Czech Republic, he roamed Europe before subsequently settling on English shores, studying creative writing at the London School of Journalism. He now dwells in Kent, where he can be encountered consuming copious amounts of mead and tyrannizing local peasantry. His work appeared in various magazines and podcasts around the world such as Morpheus Tales, Crystal Lake Publishing, The Literary Hatchet, Sanitarium Magazine, Wicked Library, Tales to Terrify and Manor House Show. Other works include The Pariahs, Amaranthine and Other Stories, Katerina, Moribund Tales and Rare Breeds. 

Blurbs:

"...the emotional tug that The Crabian Heart exerts on the reader is palpable. The Crabian Heart is also a coming-of-age tale, one that resonates with the pangs of unrequited love. And as such, it concludes, like all great coming-of-age stories, with a very difficult and painful realisation for the love-struck main character. By the end of its 100 pages you will find yourself both haunted and moved by Hofstatter's evocative writing." - Starburst Magazine 

"I like this little collection a lot. Definitely a case of bigger not always being better. Hofstatter could have watered this down with more words, but that would have taken the impact out of the stories. I also like how he slips a lot of important messages into his work. For example "people are scared of what they don't know...or understand," says Enola, as she and Ales walk along the beach. Zsofia tells him that life is a gamble and his mother points out that the powers that be make the rules that govern us and we have to go where they tell us to. Ultimately, the decisions of what we do are ours." - Hellnotes 


Find him at:
Twitter: @ErikHofstatter
Facebook: Erik Hofstatter
Instagram: @ErikHofstatter